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.

Digital Camera

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.

Digital Camera

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.

Digital Camera

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.

Digital Camera

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.

Digital Camera

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.

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

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.

Digital Camera

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.

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

 

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.

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

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.

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

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.

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

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.

Digital Camera

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.

Digital Camera

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.

Digital Camera

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.

Digital Camera

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.

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

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.

Digital Camera

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.

Digital Camera

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.

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

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.

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

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.

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

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.

Digital Camera

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.

Digital Camera

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.

Digital Camera

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.

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

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.

Digital Camera

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.

Digital Camera

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.

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

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.

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

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.

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

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.

Digital Camera

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.

Digital Camera

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.

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

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.

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

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

Digital Camera

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.

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

 

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.

Digital Camera

 

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.

Digital Camera

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.

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

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.

Digital Camera

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.

Digital Camera

 

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.

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

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:

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Run away to Africa – Start

Start

I left home at Settlers Limpopo province South Africa on 3 December 2012. Next stop was at my parents in Johannesburg. My parents and I went shopping for a telescope fishing rod to take with. We found a fishing rod at a fishing shop in Edenval.

That night I had a big shock when they took me to Park station. I had not been down town Johannesburg for about eighteen years. Talk of inner city decay. There were piles of rubbish on the side of the roads and in the road. Urine and other liquids running down the streets. Lots of shady looking characters hanging around on the streets. Taxies, run down vehicles and broken things lying around. We were afraid to park the car as it might not be there when we come back, that is if you come back alive.

Bus was supposed to leave at 20H00. Bicycle and bag weighed in at 36 kg. Not counting my carry on. Had to pay an extra R 150 for the bicycle even though it was on the ticket. There was a man in front of me that needed to pay extra money for his overweight luggage. He had changed all his money into US$ and did not have Rands. Nobody had change for his US$. Eventually he gave me US$100 as security that he would pay me back my R 100.

Bus left at 20H50 on the 3rd December 2012. On route it stopped at Midrand where it took on more passengers. Much better option if you do not want to lose your life at Park Station Johannesburg. Bus made stops at Pietersburg for passengers then at Mesina to take on petrol.

Stopped at Beightbridge South African side at about 5 am. Disembarked and made long line into Emigration office. In about three quarters of an hour we were in no man’s land.

On the Zimbabwe side, the driver did some trick to get use through. First he stopped in the middle of the road and made as if he had to speak to an official. Then organised an assistant to off load all the luggage in the middle of the road. Where he got a customs official to check the luggage. I had to declare my bicycle as second hand and that it was valued at under R 2000 or there would have been lots of red tape. Then the driver got the same assistant to pack everything back as quick as possible. He then called all passengers together and told us the following. If somebody asks us if we have had our passports stamped then we must say yes. Or they will send us to the back of the line which is about 15 busses long. He will park on the other side of the immigration office and we must stand around the bus and go to the toilets. Then we must break off and go in groups of five to get our passports stamped. If the customs official ask us how did we come, we must say with our own transport. That was not needed as there was such a mass of people they did not even know what was going on in the office. Then we all got in the bus and away we went. Border crossing was about two hours. Not bad for Christmas holidays. Heard later in the day there was a person’s friend that arrived just after us, which spend nine hours there.

Digital Camera

Zimbabwe was very dry. The first rain had not come. The bus stopped near Musivingo for lunch. The man I lend money to could not get change for me. Not that he didn’t try getting the money. Every time we got off the bus he went around trying to get money from people. When we got to the lunch stop. I knew he was getting off at the next stop. So I said he must pay for lunch for me. That covered most of what he owed me so I said that it was ok.

Bus was little small to sleep properly. Little word of advice always travel with a neck pillow. I started to get a little stiff in the bus. I was the only white on the bus. Most passengers were students at university or business people. They were on their blackberry cell phones texting nearly all the way. Few had their laptops or tablets out doing some work or social media.

Here are a few photos that go with this post but not in book.

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

Run away to Africa – Pre-trip

Please note there will be photos in the blogs after this.

Pre-trip

Back in 1992 I met a Swedish man riding at Kokstad South Africa. He had travelled from his home country on a thick wheel bicycle that had one gear. In the late 1990’s I found a Chines man at Kaserne Botswana who had rented a bicycle in Bloemfontein South Africa. Last time I saw a traveller on a bicycle was in December 2011 cycling on the EN1 in Mozambique.

In October 2012 I decided to follow my dreams to take a trip.

The holiday begins when you start planning.

So the planning started. Night after night surfing the web. Downloading the latest Lonely planet guide. Looking at Google maps and then zooming in and out to see road conditions. Looking at routes and plotting distances. Only things that were not so clear from all the maps were the elevations of roads. Then there was a problem finding out if the Mukumbura border post was open and I would be able to cross. As I had read that the bridge had been washed away.

Next I phoned Bokkie (Casper Badenhorst) my brother in law. He is a mountain bike racer from his youth. He gave me some good tips. Things like all body parts that touch the bicycle should be thought of.  For example: Hands – gloves, feet – cleats fitted and chamois cream for the tender parts. He then put me on to his bicycle shop and gave them a call, to let them know I was coming in.

I arrived at Cycle house before opening time. The owner Anton gave me some help. However things started to heat up in the shop as client’s started to roll in. So his assistants had to go on to help me. I finally left the shop at closing time. I had to return two weeks later too pick up a pannier and tyres. They fitted the tubeless Maxis cross marks tyres and pumped them very hard. They said I should deflate them a little. However I found it made ridding easier, so I left them just like that. Well I never had to pump them again until a month after I arrived home from my trip.

I then had to make sure the trip could be done in three weeks. So planned each days distance as best I could. Once this was done I went ahead and purchased a bus ticket on the Greyhound bus over the internet. Then an air ticket from Biera to Johannesburg on the internet. Actually it is amazing I sat in my house on my laptop. I was not even connected by a wire to anything. Planned and purchased tickets without even leaving my house. My house is 140 km from Pretoria, South Africa.

My mother and father agreed to take me to Park station Johannesburg and pick me up from the OR Tambo airport when I came back.

I had to purchase a few odds and ends at camping shops. Things like: Solar panel to charge cell phone for communication, air mat to sleep well and compass for direction.

Run away to Africa-Preface

I have written a book of my first cycle tour. I gave it the name Run away to Africa. I have written it then edited it a few times. However never get it to the print stage. So now I have made a decision to put it on my blog Chapter for Chapter. In so doing I will do the final edit and when all chapters have run the blog, then I will most likely put it out as a eBook.

 Preface

 

Let’s run to Africa. This continent is full of mystery and adventure. Some risks are life threatening. Others are so far from the first world civilizations, which make it feel like you are on another planet.

The political landscape leads you to wonder who is right. We in the modern world think we have all the answers. However the patriarchal system or should I call it tribalism system of governance has existed for thousands of years. I think it has something to teach us. Capitalism systems often go wrong in our modern society, thus needing laws to control the greed that it generates. Well I am no politician and have no intention to venture into politics, with its rights and wrongs.

Having seen many other adventure travellers on bicycles in Africa. I decided to take a trip through Zimbabwe and Mozambique.  This is probably one of the best ways to learn the people and the country side. It forces you to interact with the real people on the ground. No air-conditioned hotel rooms. No quick transfers to five star lodges. Some of these luxury vacations are as if you never left your home or the megatropolis.

I will try to put forward my experience not as a travel log or journal but as seen in my eyes. There are so many amazing little corners of the world out there to see. Hope you will feel some of the emotions and feelings of accomplishments that I felt.

You will also see that it is not just getting around as many cyclists do but there is a plan to experience something along the way. When traveling to a country I like to set out with a goal. For example when I went to Egypt it was to sail on the Nile, see hieroglyphics, touch the pyramids and swim in the red sea. Now this trip was to do some Tiger fishing, relax at the sea and ride my bicycle across borders to prove that it does not have to cost much to see this world.

Well let’s get on with the story.

Capetown cycle tour that was not.

Have taken a little long to write on the Capetown cycle tour. Wind was ripping around at the start. This seemed all to normal for Capetown. Stood at the door to the hotel watching the starters coming into start. I saw my time to load was right so went up to the room and got my bike. Came out the hotel and the riders were going the wrong way.
Did not believe it when they said the race was cancelled due to wind. 

Took sometime for my farmers group to decide what to do. They said they will take a drive up the west coast and visit some wine farms. I said I want to ride my bike. Asked for any others to join me. 

Nobody wanted to join me. So I rode my bicycle up to my sisters house in Milnerton area. Must say in center of Capetown it was a bit gusty. The more I moved away from Table mountain, less the wind was. Did a pleasant 25km through the old area of Capetown.

Discovering the old building rotting and falling down. Would be a good idea for a developer to buy up these properties and buldoze them down and then rebuild them with the same structures and turn it into a tourist destination. Having done some brick laying myself. I looked at the brick work. There were some old brick laying methods that we do not see anymore. Some of the walls were also very thick. There were some good craftsmen in the old days. 

The question is would it be a profitable venture. Would be a good place for small craft workshops with handmaid tourism items. Things with hand made clothing, hand made shoes and Malay cooking.

Sorry my pictures did not want to load. 
Well let see what next year brings for the Capetown cycle tour.

Capetown cycle tour

Had a nice get back on the bike ride this morning to see if the bike is ok, for race tomorrow. Did 33km past Green point and Campsbay. This is photo at look out point where we turned back.

Had a nice walk and high tea at Kirstenbosh gardens. Here is some photos of group I am with and in the garden.

Forecast for weather for the race is not looking good. Race organisers send out warnings of bad winds. Andy it looks like the wind knows where I race. Just hope wind does not blow a roof on me tomorrow. Will have to dodge the falling trees and riders.

Well time for bed so can have early breakfast.

Rainy season and training

The rainy season is in full swing now. This brings the joys of dodging rain storms and mud puddles. After a dry previous season it is good to have everything green and growing.

Have had some nice training rides in the neighborhood. Here are a few photos.

As cost of labour increases and bigger and bigger tractors are used. Also big farms buy up all the small farmers. There are more and more of these empty home steads dotting the farms. This cannot be seen well in this photo but it is a house datting back to the early 1900’s with a big veranda around house. Rusty roof and large cracks in the walls.

This stop sign reminds me to stay off the tar (paved road). In memory of a fellow Trans-afrika rider. Who was killed in a hit and run accident in Johannesburg. They just had Andrew Bradford’s funeral service last Thursday. May his family and close friends find peace with his passing.

Had some nice early morning rides. They give me a sence of fresh new beginnings. However I do find it tough to get out the house so early.

All this training is for the Capetown tour. I will be riding in the first week March.