Overpowered by Emotions
So close, yet so far, I had intended on riding into a different country via Kasane (a very unique area where Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia meet) yet am suffering some extreme setbacks, throwing a huge wrench into plans – initial period of grief and panic subsided quickly – ‘Don’t worry, this is why you are doing this Dave, nothings meant to go smoothly forever’). The last 2 kilometres felt like jelly as I headed towards the first grocery store I could find and looking down at the rear wheel the reflective sidewall wiggled much more than I was accustomed to. I examined the rear wheel and noticed that what I was expecting occurred – more broken spokes! Obviously I didn’t tighten and true the rear wheel properly and managed to knock off 2 more on opposing ends rendering the bicycle unusable.
Getting here from Nata was fantastic – good weather, light winds, and a decent set of roads with minimal traffic. Road construction is being performed on Highway A33 for nearly the entire stretch sometimes forcing you onto a temporary road where it can be quite narrow in some stages. Since noone was working I rode on the newly constructed road as much as possible to allow the big trucks heading from South Africa into Zambia and Congo easier passage. They noticed, giving thumbs up out the window or friendly toots from their horn. It’s barren territory – the next village is 220km away and passes through many forests and nature reserves. Police officers warned me at the checkpoint to not pass through due to threats of lions but I shrugged it off and proceeded, stopping 105km in finding a familiar green tub where I would be able to restock on water. A few tents were set up in the area, with noone inside and I figured it would be best to move forward, not knowing if lions or elephants visit there at night. No sign of the monstrous poops on the side of the road but I wasn’t willing to take chances. A few hundred metres brought me to a man who was sitting on a makeshift swing made out of a palette who advised me this is where I needed to sleep for the night, as the next possible spot was 70km ahead. He mentioned that it was a work camp for the highway workers who have been camped for nearly 3 years and took me to the back where a well organized community was setup with private rooms made of sheet metal, pieces of wood, and a shade area that housed a large TV inside of it. He left but offered the key to his house for me to use the stove and boil tea, and also provided a shower for me much appreciated after the past few days of sweaty riding. Cold – but I don’t expect anything more in Africa.
The sun sets quite early in this part of the world, by 7pm even though we are in full on summer here, so I retired to bed on New Years Eve by darkness startled by seeing a flashing light in the protected shade area. I introduced myself and found out it was the night watchman who patrolled the area and was in charge of locking the fence surrounding the village. “Don’t worry – you are safe here from the lions” in a sort of broken english and speak that sticks clearly in my head days later. I finished off the book I was reading and settled off to bed wondering that if the pieces of animal intestines hanging from a line directly above my tent were going to attract animals, when I heard the deafening roar of a lion in the distance. They are very real and certainly in the area, yet I went off to sleep deeply until being startled awake by pots and pans sometime in the night from children running around the makeshift village screaming Happy New Year in their own language. They would roam from house to house until the resident woke up and shoo’d them away, and obviously weren’t aware a visitor was there, otherwise they would have come alot closer. I said my goodbyes the next morning to the few that were there (most of the village was off in town celebrating New Years) where instead of saying your welcome, they thanked me for arriving and being a guest. Nice.
Easy riding into the village, Pandamatenga often being broken up by having to stop for large herds of elephants running across the road. I wasn’t going to take any chances with riding past them until they were way out of the way from my last experiences with them and managed to pull off the headstand of all headstands with one in the background. Panda doesn’t have many stores, and I stopped for a Coca Cola at the first one I saw before moving forward to the gas station. I was running very low on food, realizing that I had left in another village my Spaghetti that I was hoping to eat the 3 day stretch making breakfast lunch and dinner into a shove peanut butter and jam into your mouth and ration half a loaf of bread until you are really hungry type situation. I hung around the gas station for a while resting while the female manager talked to me about my travels, where I had hoped to buy some more food. Unfortunately they didn’t accept credit cards, their ATM was broken, and I had spent my last Pula on Coca Cola. She offered a shower for me, cold water, and even fixed a plate from the take away for me, before telling me that she would like to buy me some pasta. It gets better – after showing me where the police station was, she said that I would be better off just staying where I was and could pitch a tent on her land, as a nightman regularly patrolled and that it would be safe.
Safe it was, with many locals coming to talk to me throughout the remainder of the day, where while pumping my stove the pump cup became stuck and I was left with little to no pressure, barely able to get any water boiled for dinner and breakfast. Not in the mood to deal with it I went to sleep intending to fix it in the morning. No such luck, and off I went with no canned food and lukewarm coffee knowing that 110km into Kasane was going to be a hungry one. I couldn’t take the pangs of hunger by 10:30 and stopped wanting to fix the stove once and for all. The rubber grommet keeps coming off the pump shaft and getting stuck in the bottom, so fishing it out with a rounded object is a frustrating task, it came right off again when I reattached it to the shaft, when I noticed that there were not one, but two grommets stuck inside the chamber! How I managed to leave one in there is beyond me, but I managed to fix it for likely the last time before the rubber will start to crack and disintegrate if I have to perform surgery again. Food sorted out I started riding again, again having to stop for Elephants, and this time a large family of Giraffe crossing the road, and running on either sides of me. What an experience, such unique looking animals which were very scared of a strange being on a moving object with two wheels. I marvelled at the experience for a kilometre before being stopped by a man on a motorcycle, as he explained he was traveling for the past few months with 5 friends, filming the experience, yet had seperated due to rifts and different mindsets. I told him I had ridden with a largeish group in the past and even with one other person and how things can be trying and difficult. His family soon appeared in another vehicle as they had all met up in nearby Livingstone, Zambia and celebrated the holidays together. The family was filled with questions, offered a bag of cookies, drink, some homeopathic tincture for Malaria, and some Pula to get me across the border. They told me stories of stopping for many cyclists and other travellers to hear their stories, and told of a woman who crossed africa on a Tractor – cool stuff!
Back to the broken spokes. I went to the Spar to get some food and wondered what I should do from this point forward – Stores not open as it was a holiday I managed to sniff out some open wireless networks and was surprised to see a handful of users who had registered for BicycleTouringHub, and a few emails – one that caught my eye was a man who read my website and noticed that my stove and spokes had broken claiming he had spares for me. I responded back quickly wondering where he actually was, finally reading another email that was sent by him that he owned the same Bicycle and was based out of Gaborone 1000km from here. I wrote back accepting the offer of the spare spokes and explained how my situation had gone entirely pear shaped from the previous posts, and we conversed via email trying to find a way to get the spokes over to me – He wasn’t comfortable with the Bus, and said he would look into a Post Office to Post Office transfer early tommorrow morning or a courier – I hope it works – I can’t ride this bicycle any further without damaging it more, and it is likely that I will have to replace many more spokes due to the stress and damage I have already caused. It looks as if I’ll have to do an overnight maildrop soon from the UK – a costly expense, but my own damn fault for not covering the 7 P’s (Proper Prior Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance!).
I saw a group of Police Officers, explained my situation and asked them where their office was so that I could pitch a tent. They said it was 2km down the road, so I dawdled not wanting to push the bike that far when I noticed a young security guard patrolling the shopping centre. I told him flat out I was having bike problems and going to pitch my tent here, and showed him where I thought a good spot was. When he said it was OK he also mentioned that maybe it was better I came back to his place with him. Uneasy as I had never been in this situation before I accepted cautiously and walked back 2km with him through a maze of shacks and houses, where he introduced me to the 20 people that lived with him ranging from 8 years old to 38. Mother and Father had passed away, and they were all sticking together all putting in their income to make sure they could all live a happy life. They provided me with a private room where I could place my bicycle with even a key if I so wished to protect my belongings before inviting me outside to talk about my journey and tell them stories. They were beyond excited a visitor with staying with them and many crowds of locals came by after they had heard I had arrived – Their comment was that they thought the tourists did not like them as all they did was go to the Lodges and not venture out into the townships and villages. I taught one of the boys how to use some video editing software, how to DJ (after I was asked if I knew Justin Bieber!?!?) and many photos with smiles were taken. Many questions of Canada was asked, and many questions of Botswana and life was asked on my end, while we enjoyed dinner, and I even had a chance to wash up. I’m pretty overtaken by emotions by the warmth of this family –”We are glad you are experiencing Africa this way!” and the events of the past few days. If the remainder of Africa is anything like this it’s going to be hard to leave.
Distance Travelled: 209.79 km
Distance Ascended: 400 m
Distance Descended: 426 m
Energy Consumed: 9,081 calories
Overall Cost: $-8.51
Longest Day: 2012-01-02 – 115.76 km
Most Climbed: 2012-01-01 – 220.00 m
Most Energy Burned: 2012-01-02 – 5108.00 calories
Most Expensive Day: 2012-01-01 – $ 0.94
Click to show Daily Statistics
Maps and Elevation Chart