The Decay of Normal: Adventures through Mozambique & Zimbabwe
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org or message Dorothy directly at email@example.com.
***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!
Posted on October 8, 2015, in Adventure, Argentina, Around the World, Botswana, Charity, Cycling, Food, Free the Children, Inspiration, Motivation, Mozambique, Thoughts, Travel, Zimbabwe and tagged Adventure, Awesome, Bicycle, biltong, Botswana, change, Choose your adventure, Cycle Touring, Cycling, danger, Decline, Dreams, Excitement, Explore, Facebook, fear, Freedom, fun, happiness, highway, Inflation, Inspiration, Instagram, Kindness, Money, motivation, Mountains, Mozambique, nature, Oneadventureplease, Our World, People, Politics, Robert Frost, Thoughts, Travel, Travel Photos, travelogue, Travelpics, Twitter, water, Zimbabwe. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.