Bicycle set up

This is another over spoken topic on cycling long distances. Let me throw in my uneducated opinion.

When I was young I just jumped on any bike and started peddling. I remember riding my Dads 29er single speed with a big dynamo light on the front, when I was 7 years old. That meant I could not sit on the saddle and had to slide over the bar from side to side to peddle. That got me to my friends house and the shop. Then it was my brothers bike and he was five years older than me. Nice little 24er single speed which was very responsive. Then I got my first bike which was a road bike with 10 gears. In today’s terms we might refer to it as a gravel bike. This thing went any place dirt track, ramping and tarmac. It was a 26er Raleih and I was eleven so I had to grow into the bike.

So bike setup was not high on my priority list as most bikes did not fit me. Those days I never got back ache, numb fingers, numb toes, neck pains and sore knees. Having said that when you are young you are very rubbery and flexible. As time goes on and you get a little older these things start to become a problem.

When I did my first tour of Zimbabwe and Mozambique I discovered some of these wonderful feelings. That bike was a 26er and a little small for me. The numb toes and bloody knees from falling in the road were new experiences for me. This was also the first time I had ridden with cleats. This new scientific development in my riding gear had started me on a whole new way of looking at what relay happens when riding.

Lets touch on a few important points. My brother in law Casper Bardenhorst a Top South African MTB rider said ”Where you come into contact with the bike is where you should pay the most attention”. So I will break this into: Handle bars, peddles and saddle.

Handle bars

I will not tell you what is best for tour or endurance racing. I feel each rider must get up on his faithful steed and see what makes him comfortable. Also what comforts he is willing to sacrifice for speed or heavy load of luggage. Things to look at are the height of the handle bars to the saddle. Remember racing road bikes have a rule that bars are below the saddle to get a more aerodynamic position. This can cause back pain if remaining in this position for a long time. The older you get the less flexible you become thus as you get older it is better to start raising the handle bars. There is a price to be paid with more wind resistance. I believe you ride to enjoy riding. Remember when there is more body weight pressing down on your hands there is also more pressure on the nerves in your wrists. This can cause numb fingers.

Hand position is important. I have put grips on to force me to keep my wrist straight to take pressure off the nerves in the wrist. I tend to be lazy and bend my wrists. This also means the brakes and gear leavers need to be in position so that you do not have to bend wrist or move hand around to operate them. Then there is the selection of handle bars. For racing and smooth gravel drop bars are often preferred. They give you more hand positions and less wind resistance. MTB flat bars can have bar ends added to give more hand positions. Tri bars can be added to take weight off hands and better aerodynamics. They also give you more hand positions.

 

A good pair of gloves with a gel pad can take some of the vibrations off the hands. Then there is also a need for good winter gloves. Or water proof gloves as there can be quite a wind chill in the wet weather.

Saddle

Probably the most important is to select a saddle that is designed for your sex and body weight. Woman have wider pelvic bones thus need a slightly wider saddle than men. This makes sure the pressure is placed on the right place on the tender parts. There are saddles with groves and spaces in the middle which supposed to reduce pressure on the prostrate. I cannot tell you what I think as I have never used one. There are leather and synthetic saddles. I do not care which one. Just do not try to save pennies as it could cost you lots of pain. I landed a Giro italia on a 50% off sale and that was one of my best things I did to my cycling comfort. So if you go cheap look for a saddle that is high end and wait for a special. There is lots of talk about Brooks saddles. However last time I rode one was when I was a child. These leather saddles can take your body shape and be adjusted to fit you.

Remember those terrible cycling bibs. I thought men look discussing in them. Turns out women like looking at men with them on. I even said ”you would never find me wearing one”. Well I now wear them and enjoy my cycling far more. These need to fit tight to keep the pad in the right place. If the pad moves around you will get saddle sores. Longer rides need better quality shorts. They can be very pricey so read a lot of reviews before purchasing. I read a review that compared imported and locally made. The review gave each a score of 1(bad) to 10 (Very good). I found they had a review of a bib that got a 7 out of 10 that was locally made and it had a higher score than some imported bibs. So I ordered over the internet two from Enjoy fitness in Cape town. Then when I wrote to the company after I finished my first Trans Afrika and thanked them for a saddle sore free race of 2800 km. They wrote back and thanked me and gave me a bib of one grade better plus a cycling shirt with the South African flag on it for free. So when I rode my second Trans Afrika I rode in their bib and shirt. It was even more comfortable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remember the saddle setup is also of importance. I have read a lot of things about saddle setup. They talk of all sorts of measurements. So to get your saddle close to right position put a level on it. Then sit on it to feel what it feels like as each manufacturer has slightly different shapes that press on different parts of the tender areas. Then the rail under the saddle can move the saddle closer or further from the handle bars. Remember the best fit should be done by a professional. Height of saddle can be done by getting a formula off the internet and measuring from your groin to the floor when standing. After doing this get on your bike and ride. To high and to low makes your knees pain. So even if you have done the measurements you will have to adjust a little up or down. When you change your bib and shoes that will also change the height of the saddle.

Peddles

Here you can select from flat to cleats. Some people find on long rides their toes get numb.Now you need to find out why this happens.

Flat peddles are handy for if you are ridding steep hills and need to hike a bike up a mountain or put your foot down fast and often. If you are going to slow up the hill it might just be easier to get off and push or carry the bike. Then a good pair of walking shoes will help. The other choice is the older you get the easier you tend to fall and a broken hip or shoulder blade does not mend to easy. My boss now uses flats after he fell with cleats at the age of 60 and had to have a hip replacement. He has not stopped riding.

Cleats are another whole science. Lets put it this way I like them because on bumpy roads my feet do not slip off the peddles. When you need a little more boost you can press down and pull up. When on a long ride and the muscles get like they do not want to work anymore you can change your muscles that are doing the work, by let them rest. You can pull or slide your foot in a different way and change out the muscles that are working. Remember on short rides you can use your normal shoe size. On long rides the foot swells from the muscles working out and can slow the circulation in the foot if shoe is to small.

Socks are also very important. Winter socks warm you up and summer they over heats your feet. These can also be one of the best investments for a pleasurable ride. I have used plastic bags on the feet to stop the wind chili in winters mornings and take the bags off in the heat of the day. That way you do not have to carry lots of luggage.

Well this turned into a monster read with very little facts. What works for one person may not work for another. I just tried to give you a vision of what may help.

 

Water and energy drinks

I have read in a number of places that people are not finding the right method of hydration or energy supplements. I am no doctor or pro trainer. However I will give my personal feeling and experience. There are two experiences I have with this. One is cycle touring and the other is endurance racing. There is a huge difference in these two categories compared to short MTB and road races. On the short race you can almost make a magic mix of energy and re-hydration that will fit for all races you normally do. However the long road has a different set of challenges.

When touring or endurance racing you are often challenged with space to carry enough of all the magic powders to mix to keep you going. When they run out they are also not readily available along the track/road. Also the flavors of all these artificial powders stays on your tongue and after a few days it feels like you have been dragging your tongue along the ground for kilometres. This is why you have to look at a different stratagem.

I now have settled down to the following stratagem:

  1. Carry some Re-hydrate sport packets for when the heat draws the water out your system faster than you can replenish the water. This can be life threatening. For this I have one 750 ml sport re-hydrate bottle mixed on hot days.
  2. Have a plain water bottle to rinse mouth out and keep mouth moist.
  3. Energy is always taken in by eating solids. That way you can balance your hydration and nutritional needs seperatlly.

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Let me look at these individually.

Re-hydrate sport is light and compact and can be pushed into all the small gaps between all your other kit. These drinks can be tempting to drink to much when you are feeling thirsty. If I have drunk to much during the day my body naturally balances out this in the night when I sleep. If I wake up in a sweat and all my clothes are wet. This is the way the body gets rid of all the water it did not need. Then I know I should take it easy on the re-hydrate. This can help you also make the re-hydrate go a lot further resulting in you not having to carry as much with you. Dehydration can be very dangerous in hot climates so be prepared when planning your trip. There are also natural ways around over heating and loosing water from your system. These can be cooling down under a tree, wearing long sleeves to protect from the sun, taking a swim in every river you cross or splashing water over you (water can be in short supply) and cycling in the night. Some of these options are not on for endurance racing so may have to use re-hydrate or cycle at night.

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Plain water bottle is the best and main hydration method to use. This can be filled at any time from backup water supply bladders or local water sources.

You do not have to wait till it is empty to make a mix so when you stop it can just be topped up. I like to have a bladder in a frame bag so can just take a sip when you want. In hot climates I fill this with ice blocks at any shop I can find.

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If you can keep the water cool it helps to cool you down. Bottles in bottle cages are exposed to the heat off the road or environment can become like tea, making you more thirsty. However if it is hot the water in the pipe coming from the frame bag can get hot and make you feel more thirsty. There are insulated sport drink bottles that can be used to keep water cool.

Energy or nutrients as solids are wonderful. They can be timed to the need. For example on the long road you see a big mountain a head. Pull out a high energy bar or fruit before accent to give you a burst of energy to take it on. This takes practice to get used to when to use it. The body can tell you what is the right time and how long it takes to be released into the blood stream. These energy and nutrient solids have to be sourced along the road. This way you do not have to carry so much with you. If you are going to be touring in Africa or Europe it will be good to get an idea as to what the local supplies are. Then practice with them a little before the time. I like suckers or sweets that can melt in your mouth slowly releasing energy over a long time. Even a mouth full of plain water with them can turn it into a refreshing cool drink.

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Safe water to dink is also a challenge to get hold of. You can filter water for piece of mind. Treat it with chlorine. UV treatment is also available or just buy some water. This is another discussion. Here are a few photos. Happy cycling just get out and find away to get out.

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Run away to Africa-Ria Savane and Home

There are men that go out deep sea with dugouts that use meal bags for sails. They go so far out to sea to fish they become little specks out there. You can see them with binoculars. They fish with the big boats that are trolling. They have no life jackets, no safety equipment. Amazing they do not fall out when they stand up and cast nets or use fishing lines as the water swells up and down.

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Here I spend a lot of time with a wonderful couple from Zimbabwe. They went through the war of independence all the years through the economic crash. Now the new economy with US$ that they try not to put in the bank in case it gets taken by the government. They say us South Africans must stop South Africa from going the same way as Zimbabwe. South Africa is the only thing that keeps their country going so it is important that we get it right.

Chatting with this couple I learned a lot about surviving in Africa under tough times. For the safety of the couple I will not go into details. Topics such as economic survival, Health care, enjoying the environment, social networking, business methods and bribery. After it all they love Zimbabwe.

Fishing shoulder deep in water helps you to keep cool.

I did some fishing with him in the estuary. I tried spinners, drop shot and shrimps. The little fish like the shrimps however they are too small to get caught on the hook. He caught one small fish all week. I caught nothing all week. It was good therapy standing or sitting next to the water.

Low tide on river side of Lodge.

Sea was nice and warm and the waves gentile, not too big.  Could float around and chat with those in the water.  From time to time there would come a wave big enough to body surf to the beach. Could go out about forty meters and be up to your waist. There was a very weak side currents and backwash.

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There arrived early one evening a very British man that came from Zimbabwe who also did some chatting. He invited me to call him if I visit again. He would like to take me up to Kariba dam. He says he has had his nicest experiences there. Doing game viewing from boats and relaxing on the water.

I enjoyed watching him talk with the lodge manager. Every now and again there would sit a mangrove midget on his face. Then the manager would say one o’clock and he would hit his own face. Then three o’clock and he would hit himself on the face at three o’clock. Was very effective, he got most of them before they had a chance to suck to much blood. The directions flowed into the conversation without even a thought from ether party.

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This is what the mangrove swamp looked like that surrounded the lodge.

Well all good things must come to an end. Early morning of 24 December 2012 woke up to a running stomach, popped some Imodium tablets. So I packed up camp with much pain. I was planning to ride my bicycle to airport. However did not feel good so took a lift with lodge manager and wife as they were going into Beira for supplies. I rode from the off ramp on the highway to the airport.

The security would not let me take my bicycle into airport. Even when I tried to explain it was going on the airplane. So had to lock it then find my check in and make arrangements to pack it. Then brought it into the airport, much to the horror of the security officials. Then got the baggage rappers to rap it for me. I had brought one small box with me and they got some cardboard pieces and wrapped it. This drew a small group of interested parties. They had a wonderful time working out how to get it wrapped. It took about forty minutes. I paid them three or four hundred meticals for the work. Then I had to go through my photos of my trip with some of them. They were very amazed that somebody could come by bicycle all the way from Harare. They did not understand too much but there was one that understood little English.

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No transport to airplane. Just walk out onto the runway and climb on the plan.

Flight was good the only problem was I got sick as my stomach had not come right. It was a nice short flight to Johannesburg. Flight itself was only one hour forty minutes. My parents met me at the airport.

Later that afternoon and early evening I was not feeling good. My family took me down to the hospital. After all the blood test showed up negative for any tropical diseases and a drip to rehydrate me. I was out again in three hours. It took about three days to stop the runs but felt good after the drip.

Ended off an adventure with my family at my house on the farm for Christmas. This trip was enough to get me hooked to do more tours. However time and occasion does not always allow it. Now the last chapter has been publishes I will need to make it into a ebook. Then will have to write my next adventure book of my trip to Malawi.

Run away to Africa- Beira to Ria Savana

Beira is a big city with suburbs and factory zones. Thought I was there but it was the out skirts, to centre of town is about 10km. Then there is the madness of uncontrolled traffic circles. It is a little run down as most places in this country. No street signs making it a little difficult to find the Hotels suggested by the travel guide. After going up and down town and choosing the second hotel on the list, I booked in.

O, how nice it was to take a good shower to wash all the mud off. Put on some clean cloths which made me feel like a new person. Then it was wash time and hung out washing in the shower. Now I was ready to face this city.

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Took a walk down to the beach and found very brown looking sea water. Fishermen going through their nets and leaving all the small fish and shrimps on the beach. Then the hungry people going through the scraps to make themselves some food. What was left was left to rot on the beach. This left a nice fishy stink. It was very windy and the sea did not look very nice, so did not even put a toe in the sea. The little children were swimming in underpants and very small children with no clothes on. Adults were just watching the children swimming in the sea.

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So walked along the marine parade and looked for a nice eating place. There was a big traffic circle with Samora Michael statue and a nice restaurant on the outside of the circle. Went into find what it was like, to find it quite expensive. So decided to walk back on the marine parade back toward where my hotel was. Decided on eating at the restaurant come bar with the same name as my hotel Miramar. This was as the sun was setting. Looked like quite a popular spot. There was even a big screen TV playing cartoons. Food was good and the price reasonable. Sat there and enjoyed seen the night life of the city. Watching how the locals interact with the sound of the see in the background was quite relaxing.

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I walked back to the hotel which was only one block away. On the way there was a group of hoarse calling out to me. Telling me they can give me a good time. They were such a mix of different races that they looked quite scary.

Next morning woke up early to find it raining. Took a ride to Checkers a large grocery store that I was familiar with. Purchased food for breakfast and my trip to the holiday resort up the coast. I also drew some money from the ATM there. Back at hotel and eat breakfast and packed to move on. By this time the rain had stopped.

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Took the road parallel with the sea and headed north. Finding the old light house stopped to have a look. There were ruins of holiday buildings of a bye gone era.  There was an old life savers look out and a ship wreck on the beach. It is such a pity this town could be up graded to a lovely holiday destination if the right marketing and revamps were done.

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On I went north passing the international airport. So at lease I knew where to come back to fly home. Got back on the highway out of Beira. Then took the small turning off to Rio Savane. It was sign posted by an old sign advertising the resort. Lucky had seen the sign when I rode into Beira the day before.

This road headed out into the swamplands where there were a number of farms. Found a modern dairy with Friesland cattle, another crocodile farm. The swamp ploughed with drainage ditches so that they can get some grazing and crops planted.

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After about 10km just when I was planning where can I stop to take a break to eat and drink and have a good rest. There came a man on a bicycle and said ‘’come on’’. This gave me some wind in my sail. It always helps to have a person to pace yourself with. He was coming back from town after delivering his load of charcoal. I thought he was going to burn out. This gave me a boost so we were moving along at about 20km/h. He could not really speak English so we had a very broken conversation. After another 10km there joined another man on a bicycle he too was on his way back from town. He also kept the pace good. So after another 10km I started to get the feeling that this trip is getting too long so thought to try the same tactic as the first chap did to me. I said’’ come’’ and changed gear to higher gear and stood up. Picking the speed up to 25km/h.  The first man dropped out but that was really because it was his village that we went through. The second man first dropped back 20m then came next to me and on we went. Just before the end of the road there was a village which he turned into. Boy was I worn out. I was so glad he turned off because I do not think I could have kept that pace any longer. Only then did I realize that these men on their bicycles are fitter than most cyclists because they ride to town a few times a week with a big load of charcoal. Using a one gear bicycle with thick wheels and carrying no water to drink in very high temperatures.

Ria Savana

At the end of this dirt road I found a car park with a security guard and boom gate. Here the security guard raised a red flag. The lodge across the river then sends a boat to come and pick you up. After about fifteen minutes there came a small fishing boat chugging along.

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They picked up my bicycle and luggage and wadded out to the boat. Water was up to the knees.

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Landed at the lodge build on a sand dune at the mouth of the river. There was a Portuguese lady which could not understand me. She then called the lodge manager, couple which were Zimbabwean. The lady asked them to show me a tent site then they would do the paper work later. This turned out three days later.

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Turns out this lodge is owned by a big overseas company. They had Indians running it and it ran down into a bad state. Then they placed this couple with a two year contract to pick it up. Some other guests said it is starting to come to its past glory. The baracas and tent sites are swept clean on a daily basis. Each site is picketed off with sticks so nobody will walk over your area. There are palm trees growing all over the lodge area. If you get up early you can pick up coca nuts that fell off the trees in the night and eat them. There are communal ablutions that are clean and airy. Good restaurant, plates are big and full. So you can take away the hunger from swimming all day and walking on the beach. There are also beach volley ball nets if you come in a group.

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I spent six days here. Only thing to worry about is when to eat and when to swim. Not many people there during the week. On weekend people drive up from Beira and picnic on the beach. They leave all their beer bottles and papers on the beach. Then the lodge manager sends down the workers to clean up all the time.

Well let me leave some of the stories from the lodge for next post.

Run away to Africa- Mphingwe Lodge to Beira

After having an early English breakfast and settling my bill I struck out on a risky adventure. I took the 4X4 road on the east of Gongorosa National park. Where one person said there might be a lodge to sleep at.  Another website on my cell said there was a place to stay. To start the road was not bad but had sandy middle man. When a car came I had to pull off and stop.

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Only saw my first vehicle after 40km of sand. Passed Inhamitanga did not see any lodge. Passed Inaminga saw a sign for a safari company but seemed to point at some huts. This used to be the main railway sidings for the Sugar cane plantations when the Portuguese were here. Station and some buildings are just a shot down ruin. Apparently there was one of the big battles that took place here as it was a strategic place in the civil war. There is a town laid out with nice wide streets and run down houses. Some been used and others ruins. There were some government buildings.

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It was a Sunday morning when I passed through here. Town was like a big street gathering. People sitting on the walls in front of shops talking and shouting comments at people. Stopped at a tavern to see if they had cold water. Some chap took a chance with the communication problems and made sure he had a Coca Cola on my account. Water was low and it was very hot. So bought a Coca Cola and sat on the veranda and watched the antics people were getting up to. After finishing my drink I rode down the street looking in shops to see if I could get a good meal as it was about 10:30 am and knew there were no big towns for a long way. On the edge of town I found a nice take away/ sit down eating place. Ordered a half chicken and chips. Here met a trader that could speak English. We had a long chat about Mozambique and business and the road ahead. He offered me a lift. He was first going to have to do business in town and would leave much later. I said that I will start down the road and if he finds me on the road I would like to accept the offer. However I must have travelled much faster than him so did not see him again.

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Temperature rose to the hottest day for the trip. It went to 45 degrees Celsius on my cycle computer. The water in my bottle was as hot as tea. Had to stop under trees every few kilometres to cool down, as I could feel heat exertion setting in. The road was also very badly corrugated. Every now and again I would find bolts and washers that had been shaken loose off of vehicles. Do not know what was worse the corrugation or the deep sand that I was doing earlier. Earlier in day the sand was so bad that I had to push my bicycle.

At about four in the afternoon I arrived at Maunza. This was a small town and knowing there was not towns for a long way I started to look for sleeping accommodation at the first place I came to. It happened to be an overnight place. Very new with tiled floors and beds without mosquito nets over the bed.

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The person that tiled had not had proper training as you could see how things do not line up right. Well at least it looked clean. I was the only person in that wing of rooms. On another wing there were men that worked for the railway company. It seemed to be a school. The host must have been a teacher. He could only speak Portuguese.

I placed an order for supper but could not understand what was on the verbal menu. So said Sadsa and half chicken. He said no chicken. Then he changed his mind and said ok. Later I worked out why.

The host then invited me over to sit under a tree in front of the school to talk with the men. However they could not understand too much, just Harare and bicycle. Then there was the echo of Harare going down the streets. Little later there came a Zimbabwean that spoke English. He then told my story to a few people sitting near. It turns out he works for a white Zimbabwean farmer that got kicked off his farm. So he employs people like him and sends them away to get training in conservation agriculture. Then he places them in small villages all the way from Kenya to Mozambique to train the locals. He then supplies seed and purchases the harvest back from them. The people he employs advise the rural farmers. I am sure they do not know the true value of their harvest, as they do not have market information out in this remote area. It is also difficult to transport produce out to cities. Cost of transport also prohibits marketing in the cities. I then told him how we farm at home. Even had a few pictures and videos of no till planters, sprayers and harvesters on my cell phone. He wished he could come and get some experience with this large scale farming.

I asked him how do these people make a living in the area. He said the men refuse to work. They have lots of wives and children. Then the women toil on the fields to feed the family. He says a thirty five year old man like him would normally have about five wives and twenty children. This way he does not have to do anything and when he gets old his children will have to look after him.

While sitting under this tree with the men. A woman came down the road with a child. She was disciplining the child which was crying. It struck me as I was sitting under this tree that it was a safe area.  I realized then that the family structures were in place. She was teaching what is right and wrong. That is why I felt safe here. Where as in South Africa the family structure was damaged and the migrant labour had caused broken families, resulting in gangsters and criminal activity. We do not always realize the value of family structure to maintain a safe happy community.

For protein there are a few men that drive trucks to Cohora Basa and purchase fish and bring them back to sell in the village. The other trade is poaching in Gongorosa nature reserve. When I was sitting there he pointed out a Toyota land cruiser pick up. He said these were game guards from the nature reserve that are involved in anti-poaching. However some of them are involved in the poaching to, if I understand correctly. There are no cattle in this village as the insects kill them off.

It took until eight thirty at night to prepare supper for me. I can only think why it took so long. I think they had to barter for the only chicken running around town, then catch it, kill it and then cook it. By the time I got the chicken it had a lovely taste and was in a stainless steel oven tray with a little sauce. However I had to put my foot on it to hold it down when trying to rip a piece of flesh off. Not that there was much flesh on those bones. Must repeat again it was tasty. All the while the host sat across the table from me and watched me eat. When I was finished he signalled to the cook to bring him his food. He had the other half of the chicken. He seemed to enjoy it. Did not look half as tough as when I was trying to eat. I had to stay to see if he managed to rip the flesh off those bones.

It was a hot steamy night with very little air movement.  Did not sleep to well as I could hear the mosquitoes flying around. All I could think of was getting malaria. The host had armed me with a tin of doom (insect killer). Had to give a spray every now and again when I heard the mosquito air force was getting heavy.

Crossing town at sunrise I saw there was a lot of government buildings as this was the provincial capital. There were also lots of old ruins from the Portuguese time and the war.

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I also gave that Indian a message that I would be passing Dondo just after lunch. He wrote back that the colleague of his had died and was busy with arraigning to send his body back to India. In his words “he was no more’’. So he would not be able to see me. First five or so kilometre was hard sand and made good time. Then stopped for muesli cereal along the road at about eight in the morning. Did this to try to cover as much distance before the heat of the day. This section of the road was through a bit of a tropical jungle.

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There were quite a few logging trucks on this road.  There was also a truck hauling cotton out driven by Chines men. The road became deep sand and made for some hard ridding.

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Before midday the rain came in made the sand a little harder. The rain cooled things off nice and gave me an extra boost. This was 36 km from the tar at Dondo. The rain got heavier and heavier. Then passed a village where I could see a vehicle coming from the back. It took some kilometres to get to me. When it over took me it was a pick up full of people on the back. They all laughed at me. Not far down the road I over took it, then there was some comments. Few kilometres down the road it over took again, this time they shouted what sounded like motivation. All the time the rain was coming down and rivers of water were coming down the road. I rode in the shallow rivers so as to get the compacted sand under my wheels. Not far down the road I overtook them again this time they were calling me a machine. Then they over took me again where on they passed comments of respect. All of this racing I was doing with the pickup was to help me to keep up a good pace. Otherwise the rain and road conditions would have started to wear me down. Finally after about ten kilometre of this I could not ride anymore as the wheels were sinking into the mud deeper than the rims on the wheels. The road had become a river bed. My bicycle chain had so much mud on it, you could just feel it grinding. At this point I was twelve kilometre from the tar at Dondo.

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I had to get off and push through the deep waters and bad mud patches. The rain had stopped leaving me with a real mushy road. I could tell it was getting less rural by the amount of vehicles starting to move up and down the road. I was getting closer to the tar at Dondo.

At the T junction at the tar road there is a taxi rank with a small market. There were a few eating places. I picked a place where two people were sitting eating. I just pointed and said want that. They were eating Sadsa and fish. It was about two in the afternoon and the hard work of the day and the wet rain had made me very hungry. It was so nice to get some warm food down in the stomach. The two men invited me to join them. They could speak a little English. We had a good chat and they bought some water for me.

Before leaving the taxi rank I tried to wipe off the mud from the chain and put some lube on. Chain and bottom bracket were making funny noises from the rain and mud. Now it was tar road down to Beira.   In some places there was a wide shoulder on the road and riding went fast. This was so easy compared to what I was ridding before Dondo. However there was some sand tipper trucks that did not give way for me and I had to jump off the edge of road whenever they came past.

Hotel in Beira was a welcome relief to take a shower. Tried to take a photo to show how I was mud from top to bottom. However you would have to zoom in but the camera does not have enough pixels.

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Run away to Africa – Maturara to Cia

Next morning rode up and down the main street, which was a sand road to find road crossing over the Zambezi river. Only to find the longest bridge which is 3.7 km is only a railway line bridge which has a walkway on the one side. Then to find the entrance had to ride around a little. Again fell off bicycle because cleat could not click out fast enough. By this time the cleats were very tight from all the sand and dust stuck in them. By the time I finished this trip the cleats were well worn in and started to click in and out easier.

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I walked down the railway line to the bridge where there was a flight of stairs to climb. The walkway was very busy. People with bowls of mangoes on their heads. Motor bikes and bicycles all went up and down the stairs. Then there were the holes in the walkway floor. This is where the concrete slabs have broken. Then there was just a piece of steel off cut thrown over the gap. To prevent the bicycles or motor bikes falling in the gap. Even people would have to watch their step. I tried to ride across however there were some places I did not trust myself. I pushed my bicycle across some sections where there was not much walkway to pass over. People were friendly and willing to give way to anybody who was in more of a hurry than they were. No matter in which direction they were traveling.

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At Sena on the other side of the Zambesi River I dismounted the walkway in the middle of a busy town market. There were a few surprised comments passed at this white man that appeared with his bicycle. I just followed the flow of people through the market to the main road. The road from the market was washed away in the middle with a big donga (gulley) so that it was almost impossible to use a car down it. That did not stop the shops from functioning along the road. Road to Cia was wide, sandy and very flat so had to peddle all the way. There was no chance for freewheeling, to take a rest.

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Found people riding bicycles up to 10 Km out of Sena to get to their lands, to work them with hoes. There was a man lifting a woman to a land with a bicycle. Another man with a stick with four chickens tied by their legs upside down, strung across his handle bars. There were others with fresh produce and goats on their bicycle carriers. They were on their way to Sena for exchange or sale. Actually if there was an irrigation scheme this would make a lovely sugarcane area.

Halfway to Cia tried to buy cold water at a road side tavern. No luck, settled for cold Coca Cola. Sat down at a table and waiter helped me. When local children came to look at my bicycle they showed them away. Interesting at this place there was an agricultural high Tec farming project on the go. There even seemed to be some kind of farmers association or co-operative. Looked like it was motivated by some outsiders. There were some tractors and implements around this village. It is very rare to see tractors in this country. Anyway filled water bottle with Coca Cola and was on my way again after cooling off at the tavern.

On the outskirts of Cia I stopped to buy cold water. Without any luck. Had to settle for Mozambique fizzy drink. Sat under the shelter at the shop and drank. It was very hot and nice to get out of the sun and sit on a square seat. Store keepers husband tried to talk with me but found it very difficult as they did not understand English/Afrikaans or broken Zulu. That is as far as my communication skills go. Interesting to note that their home language has some words that are similar to Zulu so here and there was a word that we understood.

At Cia there was a type of one stop garage/filling station with a Standard bank ATM. Here I stopped and drew cash with my bank card to make sure I could pay for upcoming accommodation. Had not eaten yet as food was running low and my Metical was at the end. By this time it was about two in the afternoon. At the one stop there was not much to eat. Was mostly soaps, tooth paste and creams. Suppose lots of people passing there are traveling far. As this is on one of the main routes going north. In the end bought a Pallone roll which I bit a small hole and squeezed it out as I rode. Now the road was tar and not very hilly. Pushed on as Lonely planet guide said there was a nice Lodge 30 km south out of town. Road rolled nice and fast especially with some food in the stomach. Here there are some nice forests. There are logging concessions in this part of the forests.

I arrived late afternoon at Mphingwe Lodge. What a gem in this third world place. Little wooden huts with made up beds and towels rolled up on your bed. Bedside lamps mats and mosquito nets. Everything was polished and shinning. Shared ablutions with wood carvings and floors polished after almost every person that used them. There was a restaurant with cold water and cold drinks.

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There were chairs around a fire place where travellers can sit under the stars and tell each other of their adventures or work in this rough country. I found it an oasis in the wilderness. Last nice place like this for me was Ugezi tiger lodge three days before. Here I asked somebody to do my washing. So I stayed two nights giving him chance to dry it. It was more to enjoy the rest in cheap luxury (Only 600 metical). They have walking trails in the forest. People say bird watching is good. Even with binoculars the birds were to elusive to see, hiding behind branches or flying off. This is because of all the poverty and wars. The people have been hunting birds and animals with catapults and dogs, just to get food. Watch not to lose your way on the trails as you could be walking in circles for days.

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When at this lodge I met an Indian that had spent six years on contract repairing the railway line. The same line I had been traveling alongside all the way from Tete. He had some men with him from India who were coming to quote on a new contract. The one man had fallen sick so they had stopped for the night. I heard him calling out for water in the night. Sounded like the man had got worse during the night. So the next day they took him to the hospital. Anyway the night before as we were sitting under the stars he offered for me to eat at his house and to spend the night, when I pass Dondo. He said some years back he hosted a tour cyclist in his camp on the railway line.

I also met a South African couple that have been doing mission work in northern Mozambique for the past twelve years.  They had some interesting comments to make. In that remote area there is no TV or radio so they get no negative exposure. This makes the people very positive and enjoy a happy life. The worst thing that can happen is the roof leaks or the rain does not come in time to plant.

They spoke of some good meaning people that thought women spend too much time collecting water. So they put in pumps and pumped water up to the village. Hoping to free up time for the women to educate themselves. This resulted in the fabric of the village falling apart. Some villages became none existent after a time. Whereas the older women used to talk with the younger women at the water source and help them with different problems. There would also be listening ears to talk to when they felt the need. There developed a social order in the village when there was the interaction at the water source. Makes you think about civilization. Actually we are replacing a social system that was very successful and self-sustaining. Whereas the capitalist system has only existed for a relatively short time.  The capitalist system has resulting in cannibalism of the poor for the enriching of the rich. In the end there has to be laws to prevent the exploitation of the poor or unexpecting person. This couple also said they have come to enjoy the slower pace of life and the simple things. When they go back to South Africa they do not enjoy it. All the crime and running up and down style of life.

Run away to Africa – Tete to Maturara

Tete

Tete was 120km away. She took me to Standard bank to draw money. All lodge staff in combe waited for me at the bank. They helped me to find the camp site in the lonely planet guide. This place was bad. Knocked down buildings. Fence around had so many holes in it the local kids just walk through the camp site to fish in the Zambezi River. Then there were the cell phone contractors that were erecting cell towers in the area. They had been basically living there for a few months. The showers did not have water except for a short time when I first arrived. Then there was no water. Ablution block had wooden pallets under the showers no doors, shade cloth around ablution block up to neck height. Thank goodness the rain stopped. The sand had splashed up on everything. Was afraid to leave my things to go do shopping for food. Eventually packed most important things in my backpack and rode out down the dirt road to the main tar road.

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I purchased some eggs and bread. This was a bit of a balancing act to ride with the eggs. Got the man at the shop to break tray on half and put one half on top and tie it with string so that they did not jump out when ridding. All this communication was done with hand gestures and English words that he did not understand. The bread man gave me a plastic bag with handles so that I could hook it on to pannion at back.  Well it is a very dirty little town. With hundreds of people walking up and down. All looking hard at this white man on a bicycle. Not something they see very often.

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Back at camp site boiled all the eggs in my cooker. However they landed up been a bit soft. Eat some of them with bread for supper. The rest put into cooker hoping to cook them some more the next day. However set out early next morning. So in the end did not eat the eggs. By the time I opened the cooker next it was well rotten and scrambled from all the heat and rough roads. My bags smelled like a stink bomb had been let off inside them.

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Route for that day was the main road to Malawi out of Tete. There were plenty of hills that went up in steps. A few hills outside of Moatize and there I found as a police road block at which they just waved me through. However just 100m down the road there was a lot of tanker trucks. One pulled out in front of me. I landed up been hemmed in. There was a cyclist on my right, truck in front and cement rainwater ditch on the left. The truck was going to slow and could not get my feet out of cleats in time. So I fell in the cement ditch. This made a hole in left knee. All the people around were very concerned for me. Truck driver in the truck up front did not even know what had happened. Halfway up the next hill I found a nice rock to sit on and take all the dirt out of the wound and disinfect it. A man on a motor bike stopped to see if I was ok. He must have seen what had happened. Wound was not as bad as the wound I got in Harare.

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Some way further down the road I came across an accident between two trucks that needed a crane to take the one off the other. This road is dangerous as the trucks come flying past each other in opposite directions. The road is so narrow that they almost hit each other’s mirrors in passing. For safety I rode on the oncoming traffic side of the road, so as to see what was coming. When a vehicle came I just cross over to other side. If vehicles coming from both directions then pulled right off road and wait for them to pass.

70km out of Tete I took a dirt road to Maturara. This was the sign post at the village I turned right at.

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This was off the beaten track. Here I could see how the trees had been cleared so that there was nothing left but burned grass. Here and there was a log along the road that had fallen off a truck. It is frightening how they have destroyed the forests. Most of the timber was sold to China. You often come across Chinese people that are making lots of money out of Africa. It is sad to see how the rest of the world gets rich from Africa and the local’s battle to survive. I was listening on the news the other day about this. The world gives large sums of financial aid to the suffering in Africa. However the exports by foreign companies are far more than the aid given to Africa. Makes you think. Africa could look after it self if they were clever enough. Or should I say there was less corruption in Africa.

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Anyway I passed village after village.

Passed a town called Necungas, which was just as the white Portuguese settlers had left it. Main street had a clinic (in use today), police station (in use) and houses with roves on just standing empty. Railway station not in use and old cattle handling facilities to load cattle on train. Tennis court with wire fence rusted to the ground. With the old club house having Resturante written on it. Resturante had curtains in the windows but very dirty looking and the roof looked like it was beginning to fall in. Around this ghost town was mud huts were the people live and have a subsistent life style.

After riding 120km for the day I knew that I would have to get a lift or would not have a safe place to sleep the night. I decided that camping wild was not a good idea because of the danger of landmines. So around one pm the only vehicle that I met traveling in the same direction as I was going came. It was a five ton truck that I waved down and asked for a ride. Negotiated a three hundred Metical price. I knew it was ok as to Maurara was another 180 km. I was to pay when they got me there.

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I climbed on the back with all the locals getting a ride. Well it was a hard ride bouncing around in the back. I was trying to hang on to my bicycle so that it did not get smashed to pieces every time it hit a bump, which was about every ten meters. Then I sat on my sleeping bag rolled up to cousion the shocks up the spin. We passed through lots of villages where he stopped to drop off people and pick up people at most villages. If you look at the picture you will see people sleeping on this bone rattling truck. They must have been very tiered. As we were all bouncing up and down all the way.

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This is a very rural part of the country where there is not many roads. All the way we travelled next to a railway line that had been renovated after the civil war. Here and there was railway carages that had been derailed from bombs that had blown up the railway lines. The bent railway lines were just lying there. Could open up a scrap yard with all the heavy steel. At one river crossing there was a military bunker that was dug into the river bank to protect the bridge during the war. Now it all stands deserted.

By sunset there came in a fine rain. Now there were only two passengers left on the truck, so they said we could climb in the front. Very friendly people. They just cannot speak English. Eventually the road got so slippery that we slid off the road from time to time and had to back up and get on the road again. Once we slid into a tree. All the culverts under the road were under construction or getting repaired so there were small detours round them through the river beds. One place we nearly did not make it out as the mud was starting to get bad.

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Muturara

We arrived at Muturara after eight at night. They stopped outside a poorly lit place. There was a lot of talking and looking for people. Later I found out they were looking for a sleeping establishment for me. Then they drove off and stopped at a place and spoke to a person. They said I must get out here, I can sleep here. This was an overnight sleeping place. Again got a bucket of water and bed to sleep in. This cost 650 Metical which was the most I had paid for a place to sleep on this trip so far.  Sat on the veranda/resturante of the establishment and ordered a half chicken and sadsa for supper. To round dinner off I sat looking out on the night with all the night sounds of a small African town. The host sat all the while next to me but did not say much as she could only speak Portuguese.

From Maturara to Beria there are no windows in the houses. It is just too hot and the rain does not normally drive hard. The window openings have mosquito net and sometimes burglar bars. Just a different concept to the glass windows we are used to.

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Ran away to Africa-Cohora Basa Dam

Had to do some major editing on this chapter. That is why it has taken a little longer. However it looks a little rough to me. I think you will enjoy it in the way it is. Will give the feeling of how it felt at the time.

Cohora Basa Dam

Just a little back ground on Cohora Basa dam. This is a hydroelectric dam that was build back in the 1970’s on the Zambezi River. It was build in collaboration with South Africa. During Apartheid time and in the Mozambique civil war it was a high security area as the wall could have got blown up. This would have caused major flooding downstream. It was also a supplier of electricity to Mozambique and South Africa. There was repeated sabotage to the power lines running to South Africa. Now with the relative peace, power is again been supplied to South Africa. The people at the Ugezi Tiger fishing Lodge say that you can hear landmines going off from time to time. Especially in the rainy season when rain water flushes out land mines.  However it is safe as long as you stay to the lodge grounds and do not start climbing around the mountains.

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I arrived at Ugezi Tiger fishing lodge on Cohora basa dam around noon and booked in to camp. The heat had burned me out. I ordered one and half litre cold water at the bar that had a little ice floating in it. After starting to drink it. I started sweating so that the sweat dripped off me. This showed how dehydrated I had become.  Where ever I put my arm down on the counter there formed a big puddle of sweat. All the papers I had to sign to camp got wet.

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My tent was the only tent on the camp site. That left all the ablution facilities to myself. I was so worn out from the heat and days on the road that I rested, did washing and hung out things to dry. Late in the afternoon I took my telescope fishing road and went down to the water’s edge (Cohora basa dam). Tried my first fishing attempt at Tiger fishing. I did not know anything about tiger fishing, so tried out the spinners that I had brought with. No luck. If you plan on doing this trip remember fishing rods can be hired at the lodge.

I had supper at the lodge.  Ordered myself some pap and a half chicken for supper. What a welcomed stomach full it was. This gave me a real boost to recover from the long trip and all those one minute noodles. A person can only live off noodles for so long. Word of advice, do not carry so much food with you as you should be able to buy the basic food items in Africa to keep you alive. That means that you can ride with less weight making the trip more enjoyable. However be prepared for the unexpected and have a few food items to carry you a day or two.

Next day I decided to try fishing from the rocks again. I was down at the water by six am. Some of the fishing guides were doing some fishing before work. You can hire a boat for the day and then you must pay for the petrol and the guide to go with. This can be quite expensive if you are one person. If you are a group of four it is affordable. So for me alone it was way out of my budget. The fishing guides said my hook was a little big on my lure. Typical fisherman’s story I had one good bite but it got away.

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It started raining a little so spend some time at the tables in front of the lodge. I struck up a conversation with some people at the tables. There was a man who was a good friend of the owner of the lodge. He comes from time to time and brings things with for the lodge from South Africa. He also helps with odds and ends at the lodge. We chatted about some of the lodge needs.

We also chatted about politics of Africa and where things have come and where they are going. I told him what I had learned about the people on my way. We spoke of our hopes for the future for this wonderful part of Africa we live in. So he said he is going fishing in the morning with his boat and does not want to go alone. He said he would like it if I would join him. That it would be good for him to have some good company out on the water. He would give me some tips on fishing tigers.

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Late afternoon the rain cleared a little and so I tried my hand at fishing from the rocks again, no luck again. For supper I could not help ordering myself a half chicken and sadsa (pap) again. Must remember chickens are not big like those at home in South Africa. Even those are getting smaller and smaller on the shop shelves in South Africa.

Rained again in the night. Thank goodness I had put my tent up where I did as there was a nice river of rain water running past my tent about three meters away. Tent is very good. It does not leak and can take a good storm. However when it is very hot I have to pull the fly sheet back half way over the tent to let the heat get out of the top.

Woke up early at about five in the morning to rain on the tent. Thought the fishing trip was going to be cancelled. However Voter my boat captain was not worried. He just looks at the waves and wind. When it rains here in the summer it is just a pleasure to get wet. So off we went to the boat. All the guides were very helpful to set the boat up and help him with petrol and to pack the boat. Then one hopped into the boat to go with. So Voter said no, don’t they have guests to take. Turns out it is very quiet and no guests. So he let him come with. Good thing as he knows all the fishing spots and how to work the dam in the gorges. Was not long and he said pull up to one of the fishermen in their dugouts. He did some bartering and got a small Tiger fish, in exchange for some fish hooks.

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Cut some fillets and hooked up the spinners. Off to a good fishing ground and there the guide pulled in two before Voter. Then I started getting bites, they just laughed at me as I do not strike properly and keep the tension on the line. I keep striking over the head and it makes the fish jump out of the water and come off the hook. When fishing tiger fish you have to strike sideways and down and keep the point of the rod near the water or in the water. This prevents the tiger fish from jumping.

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There was about six fish in the boat by the time I boated my first tiger. Only about one kilogram. I was so chuffed, there after followed a grand photo session. I only boated three for the day.

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However I cannot count the amount that got away because of my inexperience. We headed home as the sun had gone down but was still dusky. We had spent the whole day on the water. Had been rained on a few times and the sun had also given us a good go. We did not even realize that we had missed lunch. The fish were biting so nice there was not time to stop. However the drinking water we had taken with was just enough to see us through the day.

On landing I asked if they could send one fish to the restaurant for them to prepare for me. We let the guide take the rest for his day’s fun with us. He had a good line of fish, sixteen in total to go home for him. There was no champion size fish, most were between one and two kilograms.

Voter sat down to dinner with me. He was patient with me to finish my fish. Which he enjoyed watching me enjoy. The tiger fish tasted very nice only it has a lot of bones. So it takes time to work your way carefully through the bones.

Voter invited me to join him again for the second day on the water. Only he and I were on the boat this time. Fishing was slow. So swapped some hooks with a local fishermen for a tiger fish for fillets. We stopped at Hippo bay and shared the bay with a hippo. We caught some fish here while keeping an eye on the hippo swimming nearby. It eventually crossed over to the other side and left use in peace to fish. I then hooked my hook on a rock and thought it was a strike and broke my fishing rod. This was the telescope rode I brought with me on my bicycle. Voter borrowed me his rod that he had lent to the fishing guide the previous day because he had broken his rod. The fishing rod had my line and spinner on from the day before when I had lent it the guide.

Remember Tiger fishing is real sport fishing. The tiger fish have a bony jaw so the hook does not stay hooked in easy.

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This means you need to strike hard and keep the line tight and low preventing them from jumping and twisting off the hook. They are predators by nature so have speed and are aggressive on the line. The line needs to be set so the tension on the line does not snap the line. The tiger fish must be able to pull a little line out if he pulls hard so that you do not snap the line or loos a hook. Best to play them tired and bring them in slowly to the boat.

We stopped at a big intersection of gorges that had a few rocks sticking out of the water. We had some success at this place the previous day. Here we had some very big bites. Then to my surprise I hooked a big one. It worked me so hard my muscles burned and the rod was singing. I eventually boated it. Champion of the day, it weighed in at five kilograms. That made me one very happy beginner fisherman.  This is the biggest fish that I have ever caught. Must admit fishing is normally just a time to rest next to the water and feel at one with nature. If I catch something it is a bonus. Do not come to me for fishing tips you might never catch anything. All fish that were caught for the day we released back into the dam.

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We stayed so long fishing in one place and using the stealth motor to keep us in the right place. That the battery went flat and could not start the boat motor. Now we sat forty minutes away from the lodge with no radio, no cell signal and last fishing boats already gone home. Gave battery a little time to rest as it did turn the motor once. No, this did not help. Then stripped the top of the motor off and found there was a pulley on top of the motor but no rope to pull. Then we found the rope glued in the top of the cover. After a few pulls it started. We were too scared to stop the motor and put top back on. So we started for the lodge. Just around the last corner we stopped and put motor back together. Holding our breath and started the motor with the key.  Thank goodness it started the first time we turned the key. We landed just as the last light was going. Yet another day with no lunch. Really there is no time to eat when the fish are working you hard.

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The lady manager invited me to eat Chicken ale king with her, Voter and the mother and son from the lodge next door (owners of Emel lodge next door). Was very nice to feel welcome among strangers. These are all very nice people that know they have to rely on each other in this remote corner of Africa. They are all South Africans and help each other even though they are competition for fishing lodges.

Lodge manager said she was going into Tete the following day to get some supplies. So I asked for a ride.  She said it was no problem. I knew that I was going to run out of time and had hoped I get a ride to Tete as part of my trip plan. In the night it started to rain. So packed up camp in the morning in the rain. The lodge staff was not too sure how I was going to fit the bicycle in the combe (mini bus). The lodge staff was amazed that there was no need for a spanner to get bicycle wheels off, and in the bicycle went.

Run away to Africa-Mukumbura to Cohora basa dam

Mukumbura

Boy was I glad to see the village. I asked around if there were any sleeping establishments in town/village. They all waved their finger in the same direction. So off I went on my bicycle. What a greeting I got. They showed me a room with a foam double bed mattress and mosquito net with side table and an extra room to put my bicycle. All the above for R 100 for the night.

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Then there was this old man that had never seen such a nice bicycle in his life. He asked to clean it for me for nothing. It was a good thing as it was covered in mud from the sand road in the rain. I watched him clean it. He cleaned it with such love and amazement to see such a machine.

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Then there was a lady that volunteered to clean my cycling shoes for no fee. Then another ran off and put a bucket of water for me to bath out of, in the special place only where the staff is allowed to go. It was a small room with a hole in the floor where the water ran down. This was a good thing as I was covered in mud and sand from top to toe.

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All cleaned up and feeling better. Off I went to the club come dance hall or was it a third world restaurant which was joined to the lager formation of rooms, I was staying in. I ordered half chicken and sadsa (Maize meal-pap). This made me feel a lot better after getting some food in the stomach. Thinking of it now this was the first proper meal since eating at Mavingo two days before. I do not think two minute noodles are real food.

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Back in the room and did some equipment checks and looked at maps to get ready for the next day. As the sun fell there was a big electrical storm promising a good down pour of rain. It was dry and dusty. It looked like rain had not fallen in this village for a very long time. Off to the dance hall I went where the boom boxes were doing their thing. Every now and then there was a power failer and they started the generator out back.

Much to my surprise the transport driver and another man were trying to make conversation with me. However the noise from the boom box was so loud that I could not make out what they were saying. So they invited me to join them on the veranda up front where the noise was not so bad. I will leave out the transport drivers name as he may get problems if somebody reads this. He made sure I got his cell number so that if I need help he could help. Then he pushes for my cell number eventually let him have it. Little did I know he would keep contacting me to see if I was alright on the road. Then after returning home he also has kept contact with me. Seems there was a second agenda to do business deals.

I asked him about how he copes with petrol shortages in his transport business. Why does he not have offshore Dollar bank account as he is working in Dollars. Then there arrives an off duty police man he quickly changed the conversation. Seems to me they have to walk carefully or they will be said to be going against the government.

That night I had a really good sleep that made up for the night before.  I was up by 5 am next morning as the boarder opened at 6 am. Had a photo shoot with those at the sleeping establishment before leaving. They were a really friendly bunch.

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Out here there are not many luxuries. There are a few shallow wells where water is raised by bucket. That is why they set a bucket out for me to clean up in, the day before. No water on tap in the town.

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All the toilets in town are pit toilets. This must help to save water.  Behind the sleeping establishment was a chicken egg layer unit of about 200 chickens. This looked like it was to supply the town with fresh eggs.

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At the border crossing, I just leaned the bicycle against the gate and walked into the immigration office without locking the bicycle. Handed over passport and they put a stamp in it. Then I asked about customs as I had to declare my bicycle at Beitbridge. They said next door, so I went into the office next door. A man in plain clothes behind a desk asked me to take a seat across the deck from him. Told him about the bicycle and he said no problem, that I can go. I said shouldn’t he put a stamp on my document to prove that I entered Mozambique with it.  Just in case somebody stops me at the next boarder. Then I can prove that I came into the country with it. He says no problem, puts a stamp on my document. He was very nice and made some small talk with me.

Walked out, got on my bicycle and flashed my passport at the pedestrian gate. Off I cycled into no man’s land to cross the river bed. There was a vehicle gate but it had a lock that looked like it had rusted closed. Fortunately the rain was not too heavy during the night. The rain had left a few puddles in the river bed. The river bed was very sandy so had to get off and pushed the bicycle across. There were a lot of locals walking across. Looks like they move backwards and forwards between the towns on both sides of the river or should I call it a dry river bed..

Mozambique

Came to the boom gate on the Mozambique side and all of a sudden it is Portuguese and nobody understands me. Wow, it was only about 300 m from been understood to been uneducated and having to use sign language.

Had to go into the first door at the gate then cross the road to immigration office. Again I sat across a desk from the official, with a big book on his desk. Lucky this official could speak a little English. He wrote down in the book and put a stamp in my passport. When I came out of the office there were a few locals gathered to look at my nice bicycle, which was not locked. Was hard to tell where official buildings end and village begins. About 400 m from the boarder there was a sign that said N1. In South Africa that is the route number for the main route from north to south.

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The N1 is a sand road that would need a 4X4 if wet. I passed two donkey cars, one motor bike and a two wheel drive pick up in the next 35 km. Stopped to make breakfast at about 10 am. Nice bushveld most of the way. There were farm lands cut out of the bush. Looks like a no till farming method using a hoe. All fields have a small thatched shelter next to it so they can get out of the midday sun. Looks like they also keep an eye out for elephants coming to damage their crops, from this shelter.

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At Magoe some men at a road corner pointed the way to a sleeping establishment. The people at the establishment could not understand me. However I did buy some cold water from the fridge. This I gulped down, almost finishing the bottle sitting on the veranda. What a relief to drink some cold water. Showed a picture of my tent when I camped at Harare. They said there is a place 12 km up the tar road that starts at the edge of town. So I decide to ride for the place as it is in the direction I want to go. Used Metical to purchase the water, which I had from my holiday the year before when we went to a lodge north of Xai Xai.

Well very nice new road that runs east parallel to a mountain.  After 12 km there was no turning, 20 km still no turning, after 30 km also no turning. Eventually my water run out as it was very hot. Just when I thought I could go no more, I saw a man on a bicycle. So I knew there was a village coming up. At the village there was a road block and I was just waved through. I stopped to ask directions to Estima. That village had water from a fridge, in this heat it is like gold. Nobody spoke English at this village. Point bicycle and say Harare and Mucumbura. People gathered in amazement and heard Harare echoing through the village.

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By the time night came I knew I am not going to get a lodge or camp. I just kept riding into the dark. Eventually I could see on the dam side that there were a few well lit places. However riding with a weak head lamp I could have ridden in between a herd of elephants without knowing it. So I decided to stop at a village. Distance travelled for the day was the most I did on this trip, it was 165 km for the day. At this point I would like to say I was looking for a camp site as I was afraid there may be landmines along the road. This is from the long civil war the country had. Thinking back there was most likely lots of safe places to camp away from villages in the bush. There was also old road builders clearings that would have been safe.

Pulled off the road at a village around 8 pm and cleats would not disengage so I fell down. The first person I saw was an old man. He summoned a young man that could speak English. The old man said he could not give permission to put my tent up and that I must go ask the night guard. We walked to the night guard. This guard keeps the elephants out of village and away from the lands. He says he does not have authority to let me do this. We have to go and get permission from the headman of the village.

After waiting about 15 minutes outside the headman’s house he came from another place in the village. The youngster bowed down to be lower than the senior man. Then explained my position to him. He agreed for me to pitch my tent outside his house. Then he sat down under a tree where a group of men sat and talked. He asked if I had food. I said that I do and will cook some food for myself. After eating I went to sit under the tree in the dark with them. However I did not understand a word. After a short time I excused myself and went to sleep.

At sunrise I packed up camp and had breakfast. The young man that translated for me the night before came and we went to the headman of the village. I thanked him in English and my translator spoke for me. The headman was friendly and bid me fare well in his language. I do not want to make anybody against any future traveller so did my best to respect their way of life. As I rode out of the village, I took a photo but it did not give the right feeling for how the village was.

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On the road again I passed a few villages were all the ladies were starting to queue at the wells. So it was actually easy to see where all the places of water were at each village. My water was running low and did not want to push into any of the ques. So I stopped at a roadside stall or shop. It was a half falling down building without a fridge. There I purchased two Coca Colas with the last Metical that I had.

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When I got to Estima I found it a dusty little village with an ATM. There was a dry river bed running through the middle of the village where government had send backacters to dig holes in the river bed so locals could get water. Water was green with cattle and people standing next to each other getting water.

I decided that I must be with in 20 km from Songa so decided not to get cash at ATM. I pushed on only to find road start going up and up. The temperature was starting to climb deep into the 30’s. I then saw a water tank and knew that they had a borehole. Stopped and found a man that was looking after animal pens. So much to my disappointment he did not show me a tap. He went into a zinc house and bought me out a cup full of water so not to disappoint him for his charity in this dry rocky landscape. I accepted and drunk it. Also I was getting little dehydrated. I asked him to fill my water bottle and bladder in my pannion. I rode off thankful for the new lease on life but stopped about a kilometer up the road and put purification tablets in the water and made sure I had a good drink to mix purified water with that in my stomach.

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Well the biggest hill I have ever tried to ride lay ahead of me. I had to walk a large portion of it. By halfway the water was finished so started to keep my eye out for water. Up a steep pathway came a young boy pushing a bicycle with sixty litre of water. So off down the path I went. About a kilometer from the road I found a cattle kraal (holding pen) and ladies waiting for their turn to get water. I asked for water and out came a dirty cup. I showed them with hand signs that I was looking to full up my bottle and bladder in pannion. They were all laughing and helped me right away.

Down went the bucket into the well. It was only about two meters under the ground. I had about four metical on me so gave it to the one with the bucket that raised me the water out of the well.

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Pushed bike up the hill a little way and using my straw of life (filter for water), drank some water.

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The pathway was too steep to ride so pushed my bicycle back to tar road. On the way a small child came down the path and ran screaming down to the safety of some people down the slope. I must have looked like a white monster to it. White people are not very common in most of these small villages.

Not far up the road was a busy village. There was a boom gate just on the other side of the village. I tried to get a person’s attention to see if I could go past. The boom looked like a military controlled gate. There was an office with people moving in and out. Finally attracted a person’s attention and he managed to indicate that it would not be a problem if I went through. There was a sign to say the tiger fishing lodge was this way. Much to my joy it was mostly downhill. By now the temperature was over forty degrees Celsius.

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Ran away to Africa- Harare

Harare

Arrived at Harare 5 pm 4 December, the total trip time was 20 hours. There were lots of men offering to carry bags at the bus station. However I took my bags to the front of the bus station by myself. There I started screwing my bicycle together. Much to the interest of people in the vicinity. I left the empty bicycle box at the bus station. Rode my bicycle to a Backpackers lodge called Small Word backpackers. It was not a good ride as the chain was catching and I was not used to the extra baggage weight. Not to mention I also rode with my hiking boots on my cleat pedals.

Set my tent up in the lodge garden as this is the low budget plan. How refreshing it was to have a good shower and shave. Worked on my bicycle and got it a little better but was not sure it was right to enter the blue yonder of Africa. After all Harare the capital of Zimbabwe was the last big town on my trip. People at the lodge informed me there was a bicycle shop in town and that it opened at 8 am. This would put me on the road later than I had planned. However I had no choice but to wait.

As normal at backpacker’s lodges I met travellers that had different experiences in Africa. It is always good to get a feeling for what is going on from an outsiders view. There was one that said she had a friend that walked the boarder around Zimbabwe. Others were teachers, teaching in rural schools and had been in the country for some time. They were all amazed at the adventure I had set out for myself. Even I was wandering if this was a big bite to chew.

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Next morning went down to the bicycle shop in rush hour traffic. Shop was run by Indians and the black mechanic said he would have a look. The only bicycles in the shop were thick wheel bicycles that you see in the whole of Africa. Later I found out there was another shop in town that specialized in sports bicycles. I gave Jimmy back in Nylstroom South Africa a telephone call as he had just serviced my bicycle. His best advice was to oil the chain. The mechanic took my bicycle for a ride and came back and showed me the front cog had worn and had burs sticking out. These were catching on the new chain that was not as worn as the old gear. He cleaned off the burs and put some grease on the cog (not right as dust and dirt sticks to it). I then took the bicycle for a spin down town.

Bicycle felt fine and thought to return to the shop to load luggage and pay for the work done. On route back a traffic light turned red and I made a decision to cross like a pedestrian. However this was not wise as I was going to slow for the turn. My cleats been new and little tight did not click out to put my foot out to stop. So I fell on the tar in front of a taxi. I gashed a 4 cm hole in my knee. Blood running down my leg I re-entered the shop. Patched my leg up and packed luggage onto the bicycle. I asked to pay for their kindness and help. The Indian lady said it was no problem and nice to help. They did not use any spares so they would not charge me. There are really good people out there in this world.

The night before I had looked at my map and thought to take a shorter route and not spend a day at Hippo pools, as the rain had come. I was worried that the rain would make the river come down at the Mukumbura border post. The rain might make it so that I would not be able to get across the river. That would result in a detour of about 300 km.  With this in mind I decided to alter the planned route.

So I started down the road to Domboshawa to Bindura. This was a very nice tar road with lots of short ups and downs through the scenic hills. It was a very playful ride.

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Just before lunch time there was a very steep hill to the mine just before Bindura, where I got off and pushed.  At Bindura I sat on the side walk and had some lunch. Here one or two people talked with me. This is a very small mine and agricultural town with a college in it. I saw there was a type of motel but chose to ride on as Mt Darwin looked about 60 km away. It was about one thirty in the afternoon. Thinking that the ride went so well and feeling like I had a lot more in me. It should take me about four hours. Little did I know that there were some long hills up front. Just out of town there was an irrigation farm where I stopped to fill up water bottles at the staff compound.

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As the day went on I got more and more tied and started to feel the bicycle getting to me. The temperature had risen to 36 degrees and the hills were grinding me to a slower and slower pace. The people along the road got friendlier the further I got from Harare. Along the road were lots of school children coming from school in school uniforms. They would start to wave and cry ‘’how are you, how are you’’. Not stopping until I responded.

By sunset I was about 25 km from Mt Darwin. Where I stopped at a village and asked a subsistence farmer for some water from his windmill. I then asked him if he knew a place where I could sleep. He responded that there was a police station not too far away. Later thought about this and my experience at the police station. I realized that they are afraid to put you up for the night as somebody may think they were harbouring an anti-government person or a person investigating the situation in Zimbabwe.

I arrived at the police station in the dark. The policeman on duty took me to the officer in charge. He listened to my story and told me to wait. He will talk to his superior. A little later the superior arrived in plain clothes. I was called into the office where they proceeded to question me as to where did I come from and where I was going. What was the purpose of my trip? They took my passport and checked my papers to bring my bicycle through the boarder. Then they asked me to go out. They talked about me then phoned other people to see if it is ok. They then called me back and another man asked me the same questions again as if to catch me in my story.

Finally by nine thirty or ten pm they said I could stay. I asked where I can put my tent up. Where upon they said no I cannot. They will let me sleep in a room off the Duty room. Not wanting to cook as all eyes were on me. I eat some muesli. One off duty police man kept asking me for some. I said to him it is all I have and do not know the road ahead. I may not be able to get more food. Then he comes with the story. In his culture, if a white man comes to you he must give you a gift. I just acted stupid and said I do not know where my next meal will be.

About 11 pm put down camping mattress to sleep. The light in the room remained on all night with the windows open and mosquitoes flying in and out. Then there was a superior teaching a trainee policeman in the next room, for his test the next day. It sounded like it was on how he should handle difficult situations and help people emotionally with problems they may have. Then every once in a while the door would open and they took something out of the safe. The safe was near the door in the room I was trying to sleep in.

By 4 am I could not sleep anymore, or should I say, I could not try to sleep anymore, so got up and packed my things. I was waiting for the sun to come up so that I could start ridding. As I did not bring any lights on the bicycle. I only had a small head lamp. The policeman said I must wait for the superior to come and give me my passport. He came at about 5:30 am. I said to the superior if I had known they were going to handle me like a criminal I would not have stopped for help at the police station. His response was the same as the night before. He was sorry if I was feeling threatened in any way but it was to protect me as a tourist / guest in their country. He said he would let the police ahead know I am on my way so that they will look after me.

I asked him about the road ahead and the hills. He pointed to the hill on the horizon. He said that is the last big hill the rest is small up and down to the border post. That is the hill in the distance in the photo. So I set out on my ride.

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He was right I had to push my bicycle over that hill it was very steep. Vehicles had to use lowest gear to go over. From there it was a nice downhill to Mt Darwin.

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About 5 km on the other side of Mt Darwin I stopped for breakfast of two minute noodles and lots of water. Had a good rest, of about half an hour and was back on the road. Uphill and downhill all the way, passing village after village. The villages all had rondavel houses which they fire their own red clay bricks to build. The rondavel houses are thatched with a rough finish. Every home kraal (group of houses) has a cook house that they use for cooking and smoking things with a little rondavel house which serves as a mini silo for the family grain.

Every village has a well that is covered for clean water. If the water is too deep the government or charity groups put a hand pump on it so that there is clean water for all. Stopping at one of these wells to get water the village people came to talk to me. They had been thatching some houses nearby. There was one in the group that was out of work at the moment and was a GPS specialist that worked with GPS technology in agriculture. As normal the prospect of work in South Africa came up. I said we do not hire anybody without South African identity document. I recommended they should rather look at tourism in the beautiful area they stay. All the communities in the area should come together and work out how they can put all their resources together and market the tradition and rural way of life to tourists.

I asked them about the drought and if they could not get a crop of maize, because the rain was so late. They then just said no problem the government will come and drop off some meal for them to eat until the next season. Well it is nice to make the people self-sufficient and then look like a hero when things are tough. This is a much cheaper way to do it than the welfare system in South Africa. It also brings votes at election time.

Not too far down the road the rain came in. It was a welcomes relief from the heat. However it rained so hard that I could hardly see the road and the wind was against me for a short distance. At this point the tar came to an end and real Africa started. After a short time the rain slowed to a drizzle. Using this to my advantage I followed the shallow rivulets to get a little harder surface to ride on. Then the road got really bad for about 10 km only 4X4 vehicles would have made it under these conditions. The none 4X4 vehicles waited until the sun came out for a bit to dry the dirt road out. Then none 4 X 4 vehicles start moving and negotiate the ditches in the road at a slow pace. Well there were lots of steep up and down stretches on the road but it was more up than down. At last there was one nice long down from the last mountain to the flood plain on which the Mukumbura town is situated. The downhill was very corrugated. I said to myself I have worked for this, so I will free wheel it. Reached a speed of 65 km/h, just tipping the tops of the bumps. My shock absorbers started to squeak after this.

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After that the road got flat with corrugations that could not be avoided. This slowed me down a lot and made the muscles very stiff and tired. The scenery turned into big Baobabs with small bushes and no grass. There were some deep dongas (ditches) where the water carves its way across the flat ground during thunderstorms. Otherwise the water courses were dry.

 

The rain had not fallen here yet. There were goats with nothing to eat. Plenty of villages on the flood plan. Do not know how they live out here with no water or crops. Now I started getting overtaken by third world busses transporting people to the boarder. There were also a number of transport small trucks going to the boarder. Also a few taxis transporting people. This is really rural Africa. Cut off from the outside world by bad roads and hills.

Just before town a transport driver stopped me. He was amazed to see me here, as he had seen me just outside Mt Darwin. He then said he would come and see me that night if I was going to stay in town.

 

Here are a few more photos:

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