2011 was awesome – What started off on shaky ground due to some very bizarre health issues I decided that the best course of repair was to get on my bicycle – mysteriously 5 days into riding through areas of Canada I hadn’t yet explored it went away as quick as it came on. Let me never go through that experience ever again however. I managed to ride a little over 12,000km through 6 countries – small amount but I also took some time off to stop at some music festivals, head back to Vancouver, Canada to see some friends and family and prepare for the next leg of the journey – heading through Africa, which I’m a little over 15% through so far. That is an arbitrary number however – Each year I make a list of places that I wish to see and visit, and what turned out out of the entire 2011 is that I visited 5 locations out of 64 partially due to my lack of wanting to follow maps, plans, and just general meandering. The deviations were worth it – I managed to make long term friendships with a handful of kindred spirits around the world and regret nothing. I’ve overcome fears of areas that I once were deathly afraid of, dropped any of my reservations of people and cultures (thanks North America and Media for spending 33 years burning nonsense into my brain) and expanded my technical skills extremely to the point of where I was able to design and build a huge project that is going to assist Bicycle Tourists worldwide (Are you sick of hearing about it yet? Just wait, tomorrow a post will get auto published detailing what it is!)
Riding into Maun on Christmas Day was easy, dodging goats, horses, mules and cattle on the road with minimal traffic. In fact a nice wind settled behind me getting me to the city core right before a major rainstorm came down – Seriously cats and dogs falling from the sky on this one, and I’m glad I didn’t have to grunt my way through it. I wasn’t able to line up a Christmas Dinner, but found solace at the Police Station and after eating a couple handfuls of cookies I slept until the morning, starting my quest to find a replacement for my broken spoke. Unfortunately since it was a holiday my efforts were fruitless, and I had to hang around a few more days until shops started to open. Waiting 3 days while camping at an open air church quickly drained momentum and it became all too easy to sit on my butt at a coffee shop and not do anything productive. Perhaps I needed the rest. When the shops opened up I found replacement spokes and some bicycle parts at a discount store with many parts imported from China. Of course the parts were too long and wouldn’t fit my bike, however in the days prior Friedel from Travelingtwo contacted me and offered a suggestion on how to make an emergency spoke, taking a longer spoke and bending the end into an L where it could hold pressure for the time being. It worked and is holding until I can find a mail drop a sufficient distance away to support the delayed mail service that exists here in Africa.
Leaving Maun brought another challenge – Brenna’s bearings went on her rear hub, and without the tools to fix it, she had to hitch a ride. Looking at it it was apparent the hub was destroyed and not salvageable (once your bearings fall out, you are pretty much sunk due to the wear that the remaining bearings cause on the race). The only bicycle shop that we are aware of is south by 800km in the capital of Gaborone. it’d be slightly easy to call them up, order a new wheel and have it couriered up however her thinking was to hitch the way there. Sounded like a mess but I wasn’t going to argue with the logic as everyone has their own ideas on doing things. So the separation occurred and I headed further east 100km in order to stop off at the last village before heading into the Kasani Savannah where lions roar loudly, elephants stomp forcibly, and leopards slink around softly. Really.
Want proof? I can now say that I’ve been charged by 2 different animals in my life now, first the Bison/Buffalo in Northwest Territories Canada, and now 2 elephants while traveling through a national park (the highway cuts through). I was riding down the road hearing thunderous sounds from a rapidly darkening day with 70km remaining in my ride when I spotted movement about 2km ahead of me. Of course my first reaction was to set up my video camera, and pull out my still frame camera for the experience. As I road my eyes registered that it was 2 large elephants, dark in colour and BIG – huge tusks protruding from them, and standing by the side of the road. No cars in sight, and the closer I got I started snapping photos and getting some good video. It was when I was about 20 feet away from them when one of the elephants flared his ears out, stood on his hind legs and bellowed a deafening sound, shooting dust and dirt off of him while the 2nd turned around before they both started running towards me. FUCK! i yelled and road away as fast as possible, heart feeling like it was on the other side of my body, lasting for 20 minutes afterwards. I managed to get the majority of it on video, but likely would have been better if I had the camera mounted to my helmet instead of my handlebars, as the good part shows me veering erratically and pedaling as fast as possible away from them. Scary experience, but cool for you to read I suppose. I’m quite worried about the next 3 days (300km) while I head to the border of Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia as it is very barren, no services, and known for wild game everywhere. Crossing my fingers I don’t run into lions, but will search out some explosives like firecrackers before I leave this village of Nata. Am sure my Thorn Nomad would act as a great toothpick for the lions after they gobbled me up and had my flesh stuck in their teeth.
I’m delaying my visit to Zimbabwe for a few weeks, wanting to head north and take a loop through the country again heading west before dropping into Zimbabwe from the North – I’ve been flabbergasted by the amount of donations I received from readers for the Zimbabwe clothing fund, and there is still time for more I would say. I’m excited to take an awful lot of pictures and share many smiles with the children. My time is short here right now though, so we’ll leave this as the last post of 2011 and see you in the new year. Wherever you are be safe, don’t drive when intoxicated, and for the love of gosh watch out for the lions.