Monthly Archives: October 2015
“It always seems impossible until it’s done” ~ Nelson Mandela, Freedom Fighter/Politician
There comes a time when we must make decisions in our lives. Crossroads present themselves in a sea of uncertainty. Sometimes decisions are quick and without thought. Others linger for weeks and plague mental patterns day and night. If we value change or growth, these moments come with some frequency. These decisions mould us, shape our present reality and the roads which bring us to the next junction. We are never the same person twice. The goals which we once had years, months and even weeks back, may seem like frivolous bothers in the present. They look like minor deviations from the whirlwind of our daily lives. However, everything culminates during daily micro-decisions to bring us to new avenues of opportunity.
Letting worry take over and cloud your modern reality is a needless distraction to the bigger picture. I’m sure we would find it hard to look back and remember with fondness on our most recent worries. It is much easier and positive to look back on moments of nostalgia, even if they weren’t that great at the time. On a bicycle journey, there is a surplus of time to think. I’ve put in a great deal of time contemplating and arrived at a few conclusions. They are apparent in my present state. If you want something bad enough, you’ll chase after it, I know I have. The end is not reached with the rabbit, but only leads to another series of holes. Enjoy the hunt.
“Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that’s the inheritor of our fear. Let him not love the earth too deeply. Let him not laugh too gladly when the water runs through his fingers, nor stand too silent when the setting sun makes red the veld with fire. Let him not be too moved when the birds of his land are singing. Nor give too much of his heart to a mountain or a valley. For fear will rob him if he gives too much.” ~ Alan Paton, Cry, the Beloved Country
It was an early morning entrance to Botswana. Another country with new sets of rules and geography. For the first time in months it was flat. I entered from the Plum Tree border station and rode on fumes to Francistown. Relaxing in the shade I made a forward plan towards South Africa. With the wide shoulder and a relatively uninteresting section of road ahead, I decided to make my break. Putting in my longest day in Africa of 176 kilometres from Francistown to Palapye I arrived after dark. Setting up my tent on some crusty ground, I cooked some tasteless pasta and it was lights out. The next day, it was up early again as I skidded off towards the South African border. There was no service stations until I reached the border over a hundred kilometres away. Drinking orange Fanta out of coolers from the side of the road, I spent my last bit of money on a fly covered bun with warm cream inside.
If you are wondering, why all the hurry? It was because I was running behind schedule for an important meeting on the horizon. My girlfriend and family were coming to visit. They were due to arrive in Johannesburg in just a matter of days. Every moment counted to get me there on time. I returned the bottle of Fanta and slugged my way to the border. Crossing into South Africa felt like I was returning to civilization. There were functioning stores in each town with a wide selection foods and affordable delights. South Africa is the most developed country, given most respects, in Africa. I quickly felt at home and the welcoming nature of the people. I saw the first McDonalds since Egypt and to say I didn’t order up the ubiquitous ‘Big Mac’ meal would be a lie. Sometimes on trips like this, that little bit of familiarity can go a long way to make you feel at ease. When everything is always new and unknown, those little pieces of the known go a long way.
Rolling into Lephalale, I was searching for a local campsite when a man almost backed his truck into me. After he saw me and we chatted a moment, he asked where I was headed. I explained my plan of action and he invited me to stay in one of his guesthouses for free. It ended up being my own apartment with hot water, kitchen and laundry. Cycling dreams are made of this magic. My new friend, Victor, introduced me to the welcoming nature of South African people. After I was rested up he invited me for a breakfast before I was off riding again. We had an instant connection and some inspiring chats. The local newspaper showed up and an impromptu interview took place. They sent me sailing with a happy first impression and a bag full of food. That night I slept on the soft green grass of the local golf course amid warthogs and skittish little monkeys.
“Travel is more than a seeing of sights. It is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” ~ Miriam Beard, Author
On route to Johannesburg a friend I had met in South Korea named Dene, had arranged for family members of her husbands to host me. They picked me up and took me off to their farm. Jaco and Jessie gave me the first taste of true South African ‘Braai’. You can read more on the process and style HERE. It is basically barbecue, but treated with a sport like seriousness. They even have a ‘Braai Day’, which I will get into on a following post. In any case, my first experience was a beautiful appreciation for food, as I slowly began to put on weight. One of the most amazing things they did for me while I stayed with them was returning my shoes, that were nearly headed for the garbage bin, looking brand new. At this point I only had one day to make it to the airport in time to meet my girlfriend. Jessie offered to take me most of the way into Johannesburg. I left feeling like I was part of the family and a warm energy bubbled inside. I made it to the airport with 20 minutes to spare. Cutting it close to say the least. I rubbed my burley face wishing I had time to shave.
Seeing a familiar person on a trip such as this can do more than you know. I didn’t need to introduce myself or be that guy on the bike. I was simply able to be me. With my family and girlfriend, Eliza, it was just like old times, only we were in South Africa. After a day of rest we went out on safari. Something I had only done by the seat of my bike all through Africa. Now I was the person that rolled past people in the big vehicle as hundreds of white kneed tourists had done to me throughout Africa. Only this safari was more than about just seeing herds of zebras and spotting lions. All down Africa I had thought about it carefully. On the top of a mountain just after sunrise I asked the love of my life to marry me. Slipping the ring onto her smooth trembling finger I felt all the world coming together. Looking up to see the tears in her eyes what I saw was my soulmate. The woman I would spend the rest of my days with. I am not sure what I said as the morning sun swallowed us up on that rocky outcrop. Nothing else mattered in that moment. Without the careful planning and help of my parents I couldn’t have pulled off the proposal. I am so glad we were able to share in it together.
“You must regard this deviation from plan as part of the adventure that you sought when you decided to embark on it in the first place…Absence of certainty is its essence. People…who choose to shun the mundane must not only expect, but also enjoy and profit from surprises.” ~ Adam Yamey, Aliwal
After a few days of wonderful wildlife, relaxation and full stomachs, a tearful goodbye was on the horizon as I prepared to get back on the bike. I knew saying goodbye to my parents would be tough, but seeing my new fiancée off was going to be even more difficult. I wanted to quit. I said that I had come far enough. That the end of Africa was achievement enough. I had accomplished more than I ever thought possible. I should pack it all in and call it a day, when I reached the southern edge of Africa in Cape Town. Eliza said that there was no way I was quitting. As hard as that may have been for her to say, it wasn’t what I wanted hear, but what I needed. She could have been selfish and let me take the easy way out. I could have quit right there at the airport and boarded a plane anywhere else. But I returned to my bike knowing I wouldn’t see her until I reached the finish line back in Canada, thousands of kilometres away.
Knowing everything I already do about life on the road, it would have been the easy way out. Returning to a life of comfort with vegetables in the crisper and 600 TV channels, would be ideal for a time. But, that route would have haunted me in years to come. Like a puzzle missing the final piece, I would only see that hole. The rest of the picture would be forgotten. Eliza could see this. As much as she may have wanted me to quit, she supported my dream without a doubt. This is what every man wants. To feel the support and understanding of his mindless plight. To be there for him when the future he presents is a bit hazy. She looked into my eyes and beyond the shadowy thunder that is my mind, she saw something more. On first day I ever met Eliza, I told her that I would ride a bicycle (which I didn’t even own at the time) around the world. She never thought I was joking and she stuck by me through all of those distant nights. If I were to quit now, it would be breaking the very first promise ever I made to her. Now, that is something I could never live with.
*The rest of the South Africa story will continue in the next post along with adventures through ruggedly beautiful Lesotho and eventually to the stunning coast of the Garden Route towards the end of Africa in Cape Town.
**Please continue to help support funding for the new schoolhouse in Esinoni, Kenya. We are less than $1,600 away from reaching our goal. Which is so amazing! Thank you for the surprise early donations from some of our supporting schools back in Eastern Ontario. You guys rock! CLICK HERE TO DONATE.
***To follow along with daily photo updates from my phone through the South American section of the journey link to my Instagram by CLICKING HERE.
“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by.” ~ Robert Frost, Poet
When the first light kisses the misty dawn I shift like a waking baby. My internal metre begins to tick. I flip my hood down and shake off the pieces of the night. Rolling on my side I check the time. The same as always. I rise with the sun and burn with the heat it brings. Peanut butter on dry bread and a slug of water that tastes of old taps. The parts go back to their places. The puzzle melds back into 4 bag shapes and a cylinder. My tent, my home. Unzipping my window to the world I feel the first cool respite of the day. Spitting my toothpaste and giving my face a wipe, I set off again. Another day that promises nothing but new. The world changes slowly for me, but provides solace in the slow brew that bubbles before me. The result is anything but disappointing. Each place offers up a different flavour. It is up to all of us to order it the right way. See it the right way. Let it invade your senses. Let it poison you with the glorious magic it holds. Feel the earth, soak in the sun and slight of the wind. We are the fabrications and combinations our favourite dreams. Trace the light home.
Crossing into Mozambique was a downhill of new proportions. The landscape was different and so was the demeanor of the people. A friendly welcome or wave followed my passing along the relatively quite roads. Obscure Mozambique with distinct homes, beautiful mountains and a wind that followed me. It blew like a dragon as I lost altitude towards Tete. The capital of the western region promised to show itself soon. At times this region is known to be a bit rebellious, but I never witnessed anything but good people.
In a small town I repaired my creaking bicycle. Two more broken spokes and a hammer to the rear axel. Cringing in desperation, I watch as my bike was put to pieces once again by a mildly intoxicated man. Off towards dusty Tete while I sipped cool Litchi soda from random coolers on the road. I loved the local vigor and salesmanship. These guys made a tough job interesting and fun. Sorry, I don’t need a red bull at 8am, but I appreciate your enthusiasm.
“Go to Mozambique! As long as you don’t expect to find flawless infrastructure, just go. Because this is a country where people have not quite grown accustomed to tourists. You still feel a genuineness that no longer exists in countries where tourism has been industrially developed.” ~ Henning Mankell, Writer
From Tete I made my way back up slow mountain climbs. The road I was on slowly stalked higher on route to Zimbabwe. Beautiful villages punctuated the landscape with Baobob trees splayed along the road. It was quite hot and isolated distances made me feel very small. Spending the first night camping with a local family was humbling as we shared a pack of cookies and laughed at my pasta dinner.
I reached Zimbabwe on my fourth day through Mozambique. I only had a transit visa so moving those pedals to the Zimbabwe border was very important. Crossing into new territory once again I grabbed a bit of food and put my dormant American dollars into an accessible location. Zimbabwe was one of the places I had read a great deal about. The fall of the African bread basket is no secret and if you talk to locals it almost came overnight. Inflation into the billions and general panic. I’m not going to get into specifics of Zimbabwe history, but if you want to read more CLICK HERE. People were displaced, lives changed forever and an economy that was once quite strong, crumbled to nothing. Even to this day they hang upon infrastructure of a different day and that moment in the sunshine. Things are changing with the influx of American dollars and investment, but it is a long hard climb.
On route towards Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, I gawked at amazing rock formations and sped along with long metre long grass on both sides. The images you have in your mind of Africa, well this is it. Baobob trees, golden tall wild grasses and burning miraculous sunsets. The best sunsets I have been witness to in Africa and quite possibly ever, have been during those Zimbabwe days. Each day I rode into the dark. The sun set at 5:30 which made for long days on the bike into order to make ground during those African winter days. The sun seemed to plummet below the horizon as I pushed on during the last moments of daylight.
One night I found myself stuck in the pitch black looking for somewhere to sleep. Pulling into a local home after a tiring day I asked for a place to camp. The man welcomed me warmly but said he was unable to host me and I must stay with the chief as dictated by local law. Tired and dirty I agreed. We walked through back bush roads and up a steep hill. I was sent from house to house like a dirty torch. At one point it looked a bit bleak but I was not worried and mainly exhausted as we tramped around the one track trails. Looking up at the moon I felt that this situation was way too normal for me. A search through back country in the dark for a safe patch of ground to pass the evening. My typical is slowly decaying into obscurity I thought.
A few days ride brought me into Harare and a well deserved day off. On route I saw people going shopping with wheelbarrows and entertaining mini bus decoration with names like ‘Hot Stuff’, ‘Falcon’ or ‘Shady’. Yes, there is nothing more I would love than taking a ride in a sardine stuffed van labelled ‘Shady’. I arrived with a wonderful host named Keith. He did a bang up job of pointing me towards a proper bike shop where I had my rear wheel rebuilt. We ate as much food as I could handle and the guy even offered up his own bed. We chatted of cycling adventures and of Zimbabwe. I had my first taste of Biltong, which you can read about HERE. It can be related to a style of beef jerky taken very seriously in hese parts. As African capitals go, I found Harare very quiet to cycle into. Upon asking about this phenomenon, I found people simple didn’t have the money to put gas in their cars. Life can be tough in Zimbabwe at times.
“The economic and social decline of Zimbabwe is shocking and appalling. Life there is unrecognisable from that of the recent past. Each day is a struggle for basic survival.” ~ Lucy Powell, British Politician
I bid farewell to yet another awesome host and rolled downhill out of Harare. The road was recently resurfaced and I smiled on long hills in the shining sun. Even with a late start I had a mildly Olympic day and pushed on quite far. At sunset I was taking a picture when a man pulled up in his truck and asked me if I wanted a place to stay. I jumped at the chance and not long after I was at another family home, sharing stories and eating steak. My goodness. The kindness of some people cannot be accurately described. This family was even in the midst of moving their home I later found out as we unloaded a very heavy stove from the back of a truck. They still had the time to host me, ask questions and poke fun at my extremely sun burnt nose. For the first while they called me Rudolph, to my dismay.
In the morning I hitched a ride with their son up the road after they insisted I stay for breakfast. Hard to refuse. The following night I slept at a lion park. I nearly gave myself a scare as I rolled in at sunset to the sounds of lions in the distance. I stopped to ask a car if it was safe to be on the road but they blew by me in a cloud of dust. Turns out the danger was only small and I camped behind a huge fence in the park. After complementary coffee, an apple and a nice conversation with an elderly man in the morning I was off on my way to Bulawayo. I floated along windy roads towards Botswana.
“Having travelled to some 20 African countries, I find myself, like so many other visitors to Africa before me, intoxicated with the continent. And I am not referring to the animals, as much as I have been enthralled by them during safaris in Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. Rather, I am referring to the African peoples.” ~ Dennis Prager, Radio Host
The night before I arrived in Botswana I camped at one of the oldest schools in Zimbabwe with a beautiful church in a place called Plum Tree. I had a prime tour from the gym teacher on his summer holiday. The school began long ago with only a few boys. In the centre of the college sized campus are reconstructions of the original classroom huts. The gym teacher had overheard my conversation with a surly women at the only local guesthouse in Plum Tree. She was asking far too much for a bug infested room with no water or electricity. He took me off her hands as we talked pleasantly about the history of the school. When we arrived he introduced me to his three sons and wife who lived with him at the school. A peaceful evening and a lucky last day in Zimbabwe. Botswana waited ten kilometres down the road.
“A face is a road map of someone’s life. Without any need to amplify that or draw attention to it, there’s a great deal that’s communicated about who this person is and what their life experiences have been.” ~ Chuck Close, Photographer
As I navigate around the world, I pour over my maps. Places are never as how I imagine them in my minds eye before I arrive. I turn those pinpoints on maps into faces, friends, photos and memories. Throughout my journey I have always said that it has never been about getting to a particular place, but about the people and moments in-between. Those lives that intersect for minutes, hours and days. We are brought together by the road. Now these places are more than just nameless voices on a map. They have image, shape, colour and life. We are all connected by the roads that lead us home. Pieces of our everyday normal connect us. They weave the web that keeps us all together. By focusing on our inner drive we can achieve what we are all looking for. However, we cannot do it alone. Dreams are not solitary. We are a social beings and our hopes sometimes need a helping hand. These dreams will only remain figments until we are stubborn enough to act. Chase that golden sun home.
*We are less than $2,000 away from achieving our goal for the schoolhouse in Esinoni, Kenya. Together we can make dreams of a safe education a reality. CLICK HERE TO DONATE.
**At the moment my mother (Dorothy) is in the process of giving presentations about my ride at home in Canada. The presentation focuses on motivating people to follow their dreams, explore the world and educates about the power of social energy. Highlights also include updates and information on my charity with Free the Children and how you can become involved in giving children the opportunity to have a safe education. If you are a school or organization and would like to arrange a presentation in your area please contact myself at email@example.com or message Dorothy directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
***I’ve now made it to Buenos Aires after finishing the long road through Africa in Cape Town. It was beautiful, difficult, heartbreaking and inspiring all in one. Updates and thoughts on my final days through Africa to come from Botswana, SounAfrica and Lesotho. I look forward to this new leg of my journey. It is always tough to get started again. A new continent, new language and people. But, I ride on with enthusiasm for all that lays ahead if me. Check for updates on Instagram and watch my route unfold. Thank you for all the support!