Another poorly timed update


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Morning Mist

Morning Mist in Divundu Namibia on the Zambezi River

A Congratulations should be handed of down to me of sorts – specifically for worst blogger of the year in 2015. Another 3.5 months has gone by and I’ve travelled 2700km by bicycle, 30000km by plane, and 3000km by car in the process. 3.5 months can quickly turn to 6 months, so I better buckle down and just get this committed in writing before the next stage, otherwise I’m apt to forget (more).

 

Botswana Entrance

Entrance to Botswana from Namibia

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Hello from South Africa, 40km south of Johannesburg to be exact. You can probably guess that I did make it here with the bicycle, which is true, on one gear, save for a 100km cheat session at the end being picked up in Pretoria and taken down to where I’ve been staying with an acquaintance, now friend who I’ve been conversing with over the years. When I last wrote I was feeling the pressure of having to catch a flight a few weeks ahead in the future, with a wrinkle in the overall daily riding resulting in the loss of being able to shift via the twist shifter on my Rohloff internally geared setup. I kept it in the middle gear (7) for 98% of the time, only getting off the bike to manipulate it when I came to the rolling hills of South Africa. It wasn’t so bad, most of Namibia and Botswana is flat, so I just kept my head down and moved forward.

 

Typical in Botswana

There are really no fences in Botswana. Elephant, Cattle, Goats, Donkeys everywhere.

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I had ridden through the Caprivi strip (now “Zambezi Region”) before a year back so there wasn’t much “newness” to it, other than a planned destination in Divundu, a short 30km from the Botswana’s border. To my dismay, the person managing the lodge had moved onto other places, so after a short 3 day stay I continued forward seeking out new experiences. Border Crossings are easy in this region, and you can get away with joking, waving your arms without any threat of being taken aside for a bribe or pointless delays. There is a National Park that one has to cycle through with lions prowling on the side of the road and a tonne of elephants, and I was denied entry on the bike. I made a stink, tried to get the guards name so we could talk to his supervisor, but since it was early in the day, simply opted to just put my bicycle in a truck and travel metres down the road with Safari Viewers who let me off as soon as we were out of sight of the guard station. There were no lions, no elephants or anything fierce to worry about. Those types of experiences frustrate me greatly – on one end I can see their standpoint, but at the same time I tire of trying to stress my point that I’m going from A-B through a Nationally marked road with no other options to get to the destination. I’m not stopping to take photos, push the animals buttons, or intentionally put myself into Danger. I’ve yet to ever see a lion sitting on the side of the road during mid day – they retreat to shady areas as any creature with sanity would, when temperatures are well above 40 degrees.

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What a pig.

Botswana I last visited in 2011, and it seemed more of the same – friendly people, prices for lodging and campsites jacked up to near obscene rates, but with the trade-off of nice roads. The last time I went through I hadn’t tried any of the beers as I was on a self imposed sobriety kick and looking back at that I probably should have done it again. The beer is terrible. I remember a blogger writing years back that Botswana is a good place to let the liver rest – and I quickly went back to a Coca Cola/Water intake after trying to unsuccessfully trying to find happiness in the alcoholic options. Botswana has a pretty good education rate, so stopping to talk to people usually goes a few steps above the typical “Hi how are you, I’m Fine” conversations you find in more northern countries, with the bonus of not being pestered for money at every stop as well. Rest stops dot the sides of the roads every 20km or so, however for the most part they haven’t seen maintenance in years, often covered in cattle excrement, thorns, and broken pieces of concrete with iron bar jutting out of them where the benches used to stay.

Not an Inviting Rest Stop with Poop everywhere

A most inviting Rest stop.

Other than the gear shifting issue, I had another frustrating failure, although I was able to make it all the way to South Africa before replacing – My right pedal started to feel resistant about 1800km away from Joburg – Seemingly the bearings had gone on them (not bad as they’ve lasted 35,000km) and I was thinking it would be a trivial experience to replace it and keep moving. I was proven wrong, after travelling through village to village, city to city searching for bicycle parts. The problem is here in these Southern countries is that bicycles are incredibly rare to see. Central Africa is where it really starts to pick up. I ended up just stuffing a bunch of grease and dropping oil on the pedal and changing the pressure of my foot when pedaling and by the time I made it to Botswana’s capital city Gaborone I figured it wasn’t worth it to replace and just opted to pick up some stuff when I was back home in Canada. My sleeping mattres also developed a fault where the inner chambers seperated and created a rather large bulge making sleep difficult. Exped sorted me out with a replacement and I’m sure it’ll give me a good nights sleep again. Also, I’m now moving with a pannier that has a huge hole in it. I was being careless and opened up my bag to fetch some biscuits during a rest and neglected to close the top when riding again. I suppose I ashed a cigarette right into the top of it. It wasn’t until I smelled burning fabric I noticed that my toilet paper was on fire and the side of my pannier was melting!. It’s going to make for good stories – so much for waterproof panniers again.
Healthwise, my back was a bit sore from the riding, but the real problem was my big toe. I hadn’t looked at it in a while and it was giving me some problems since the day I left. Now looking back I remember letting my kickstand land squarely on my toe. I didn’t look at it for about a month and then gave some TLC to it in Ghanzi. It was black, blue, green and when I touched it, made a sort of “belching” sound. Obviously things were damaged, so I peeled up the nail, but some antibiotic cream on it, krazy glued it back on and then once back in Canada peeled it off slowly and it’s in the process of regrowing back.

 

Not so good for Tires

Main culprit for punctures. These things are strong enoug for flesh stitches.

Once I passed the city of Ghanzi (where I had passed through in 2011) I was on the long, windy, sandy stretch crossing through the mighty Kalahari desert. Each day was a challenge with the weather conditions, and worse, trying to find water. With villages more than 20km away from the main roads I was more often than not flagging down truckers for some donations of water, even though whenever I could source it I was carrying 14litres. On one of the toughest legs, a 280km stretch had me run out after 180km and spend the next day drinking juice from tuna cans, and even going as far as finding moisture from green Tabasco sauce. It’s been known as a pretty notorious stretch by many people in the country, and I think would have been a lot easier to go westward bound as opposed to the eastern direction I had chosen. Because of this headwind though, my bicycle had never been cleaner, being lovingly sandblasted by the grains of sand constantly in the air gusting at speeds of over 45km/h.
Facing some disappointment when reaching junctions where I had planned on riding through due to their dirt track potential showed that there has been an incredible amount of work done to see rural areas paved with tar over the past few years. Some of the roads I travelled would see less than 5 cars pass me in a day which made for great riding.

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I had always wanted to visit Gaborone, and was mildly surprised to see a clean, orderly capital city with lots of green space, museums, and a good mix of services and entertainment. It took me a few days to get into it, but instead of a planned 3 day stop over, I extended it to 10 meeting some good people in the process, and proceeded to plan for my upcoming trip over to Canada, along with ordering spare parts and goods so that they could be there when I arrived. The only thing that I found disappointing about Gaborone, which is completely out of their control was the water restrictions. They’ve been under drought conditions for 3.5 years, and it was very apparent when whole areas of the city suffered loss of services for 3-5 days at a time. The problem was very apparent when I accompanied some friends to the 50th anniversary of the Gaborone Yacht Club. Not a drop in sight, and showed that people were in dire states when looking at the bulletin board plastered with “Kayak for sale! Sailboat for sale! Price Reduced” all over. Let’s hope for some rain in the area, but it seems the whole world is getting unique variants of weather these days.

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Hare Krishna Temple in Gaborone

It wasn’t 20km into South Africa till the hospitality showed its head. I found myself constantly being flagged by drivers, and even a supported wagon for cyclists on a race being given hints and advice on routes, and even a few donations of tubes and slime for the bicycle. I had forgotten for so long what this country was like since the first entrance was so long ago, and I was going through quite the other set of changes of culture at the same time. Incredibly scenic, more first world than third world South Africa has a huge amount of area to explore, to that which I will be doing further. It’s still got that very present divide between the white and black people, and I still find 70% of the white people incredibly and shamelessly racist with their commentary – which still saddens me greatly. I’m not in the mood to debate people’s viewpoints anymore so just smile, nod, move on and find softer conversation to partake in. I actually made it to Johannesberg even with my extended stays in cities 12 days earlier than planned, so spent the time relaxing, eating, and meeting new friends.

Failed Synmat 7

Exped the Synmat 7 had, one hump? Failed Mattress again. Made for interesting sleeps!

I haven’t been back to Canada since 2011, and only then was a brief visit – so this was well overdue. Flying out of South Africa taking a brief stop in Germany brought me back to First World immediately – every single one of my credit/debit cards were frozen, making for some stressful moments upon arrival to Canada where I didn’t even have a dollar to get on the train, couldn’t rent a car as planned, throwing wrenches in plans for a 2 week road trip. Family came through and helped me out while I waited for replacement cards to be issued and I went on a whirlwind trip visiting friends, seeing places that I hadn’t seen since I was a youngster, and trying to take in just how much Canada has changed. For one, prices have increased on near everything on average 30%. No longer will I be bitching about the costs of Africa anymore, as it seems here with the strength of the US dollar everything’s become a sweet deal. The South African Rand and Zambia Kwacha are at the lowest they’ve ever been, and still falling – with Zambia’s dropping over 250% at one point in time in the past 6 months. Second, holy structure! This is a good thing and a bad thing. Thing’s work, service is efficient, and if you have a problem, it gets resolved properly and effectively. I couldn’t imagine trying to sort out 5 different bank cards failing at once in Africa, it would be months before everything was back on track but in Canada – 3 business days. Highways were in good condition, food was fresh not rotting in the markets, Internet access is everywhere (oddest one for me was seeing it offered in private taxis!), and the structure of work, and play is very apparent. So much it made it difficult to see some of my friends along the way due to their work commitments. I also had to deal with some formalities (unblocking certain bank accounts that froze, passport renewal and drivers license, personal taxes) and expected a 3 week process to get all sorted, but found that with processing times being speedy I had sorted out all of my errands in less than 5 days. After 4 weeks I was ready to come back to Africa, looked into changing flights, but found cost to alter was just too extreme, so sucked it up, relaxed, actually watched TV for the first time in over 15 years, and tried to find my groove in a country that once was home. I still don’t have a verdict on how I feel about it, and need to get back on the road. All in all, was fantastic to see friends, have my family back together (I can’t remember when my immediate family has all been together in one room, likely 2001), and even met new friends and explored areas where I had never been before. I’m not going to write off going back to stay, but I do know that the cities aren’t for me. Purely for traffic, land cost, and the scatteredness steers me away – where I’d opt for a smaller (50,000 or less people) community instead.

Laughing Man

Laughing Man (men?) in Vancouver, Canada.

Purple Evening Dresses

BC Parliament Buildings at 5am

Vancouver Skyline

My how you’ve grown. Vancouver Skyline

Richard and I

A sorely missed mate.

Did a Hell of a lot of Eating

Did a Hell of a lot of Eating (and drinking)

Family Reunion - Immediate Blood

Family Reunion – Immediate Blood – Haven’t all been together since at least 2001?

Matthew and I

A cherished mate.

Random ExplorationTitleOn a BoatRandom ExplorationRandom Scenery

So which brings me back to South Africa. I stocked up on parts over in North America and now have a few extra tyres, repaired my GPS which had started failing, new pedals, brought over my cables for the Rohloff and even ordered a new twist shifter which had compltely worn smooth. I figured I could do the replacement myself, but upon inspection it was worse than I had found. Bolts had seized, and the old shifter wire had unravelled inside the components damaging the actual external gear mechanism. Disapoointed that I couldn’t solve it myself, a quick drive over to Bruce Cycles (the only Rohloff Distributor in all of Africa) put me back in place along with a changing of my brake cables for good measure. I even bought a couple spares from them should I experience problems in the future, but you know Murphy’s Law, everything will be fine otherwise. The bikes in great shape, the only uncertainty would be my front chainring is pretty worn – although it will last another 5000km that I have planned before I hang up the bicycle for an extended period and sort out this new stage of life called “settling.

Really? How to enforce in Africa?

Really? How to enforce in Africa?

 

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I plan on leaving the Joberg area and heading down to vsit “The Mountain Kingdom” Lesotho, which should offer some pretty breathtaking cycling through 3000m mountain passes, and then head over to the coast of the Indian Ocean. I haven’t seen the Indian Ocean in 2.5 years so this will be a welcome site for some swimming and relaxing. Riding the coast north will take me into Swaziland, a small monarchy which from based on experiences from friends offers a more traditional African environment that one would see in more northern areas of the continent before heading back into Mozambique for round two. I’ve never been to the capital city of Maputo, and am eager to visit based on my strengthening of Portugese speaking over the past few years. The beer there I recall being the best I’ve ever had in my life, so this is the primary driver into going back, where I’ll ride near 2000km through the country to get back into Zambia. Estimated Arrival into Zambia will be February 15th, where I hope that the power situation (I am still hearing reports of 14hour rolling power cuts per day) will be better, and then figure out the whole earning money thing. I’ve sent some of my leftovers in Canada over ahead of time, mostly some clothes, kitchen supplies, and even a few drum machines and music synthesizers to keep myself occupied, hoping to not fall into self destrcutive repetitive habits. Am a bit nervous to actually commit to stopping willingly, but I need to realize that this isn’t the “end”, just a pause. I’ll still travel, but I think 3 month burst are more suited for me now a days as oppsoed to long hauls for years at a time.

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Will do my best to update a bit more on this next leg!

Here's the proposed 4700km route back up to Zambia.

Here’s the proposed 4700km route back up to Zambia.

Elevation Chart

Totals

Distance Travelled: 1731.08 km
Distance Ascended: 4,210 m
Distance Descended: 3,947 m
Energy Consumed: 77,806 calories
Overall Cost: $253.58
    Food: $96.08
    Drink: $48.75
    Lodging: $86.29
    Transport: $0.00
    Entertainment: $21.62
    Equipment: $0.82
    Misc: $0.00
 
Longest Day: 2015-08-22 – 143.62 km
Most Climbed: 2015-09-09 – 865.00 m
Most Energy Burned: 2015-08-22 – 6730.00 calories
Most Expensive Day: 2015-08-13 – $ 64.36

Click to show Daily Statistics

Date
Location
Distance (km)
Cost ()
Map
2015-09-10 Rustenburg, ZA 66.21 $3.36 Map
2015-09-09 Swartsruggen, ZA 100.31 $3.81 Map
2015-08-29 Gaborone, BW 28.11 $17.07
2015-08-28 Middle of Nowhere, BW 78.32 $10.19
2015-08-27 Kanye, BW 124.89 $61.12
2015-08-26 Middle of Nowhere, BW 100.94 $0.00
2015-08-25 Middle of Nowhere, BW 101.84 $5.82
2015-08-23 Kang, BW 124.21 $17.37 Map
2015-08-22 Middle of Nowhere, BW 143.62 $0.00 Map
2015-08-17 Ghanzi, BW 80.00 $34.84
2015-08-16 Middle of Nowhere, BW 107.37 $0.98 Map
2015-08-15 Sehithwa, BW 110.73 $2.56 Map
2015-08-14 Nokaneng, BW 123.64 $4.72 Map
2015-08-13 Sepupa, BW 99.53 $64.36 Map
2015-08-10 Divundu, NA 96.80 $25.07 Map
2015-08-09 Omega, NA 124.56 $0.78 Map
2015-08-08 Middle of Nowhere, NA 120.00 $1.53 Map

Maps and Elevation Chart



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7 comments

  1. Monte
    November 23rd, 2015

    Welcome back. I think you owe me.. A visit.


  2. Penny Kemert
    November 23rd, 2015

    Nice Dave, but did you have to describe your toe in such detail? Yuk. Hopefully see you on the road. Xxx
    P,S. St Louis is good on a hot day.


  3. November 23rd, 2015

    Culture-shock sure sounds like a bitch. So now what?!?


  4. Idan Tembo
    December 7th, 2015

    I love the family reunion picture. What a great family you have Dave.


  5. Shelagh Conroy
    February 12th, 2016

    We did have a family reunion at Christmas 2003, including extended family


    • February 21st, 2016

      Right you are! Christmas! I had forgotten that one! Still – 12 years a heck of a long time 🙂


      • Peter France
        September 7th, 2016

        Dave, you are where and how etc, is this site still being updated ? Writing this in September 2016 and even klicking on the facebook symbol on this site does not do anything, So where ( on the internet ) are you ?
        Take care, Peter France


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