Cycling saftey

Cycling safety is a topic touched on from time to time. I know of some cyclists that have had accidents. Some I know  have passed on. There are others that carry the scares. I had a few close calls on my first Trans Afrika and that made me rethink of what I was doing. Think we should look at a few topic.

  1. The bicycle it self.  I thought it would be good to have a bike with as little as possible reflectors, so that I could stealth camp along the road. This is not a good idea. I noticed a big difference the moment I put on yellow reflective tape on to my fork, peddles and on the back fork. Some people spray their rims with reflective paint. I think this is a good idea as it gives the other road users a better idea of what they are going to encounter. I have had truck drivers thank me for making my bike more visible.
  2. Moving parts. When reflective parts are moving it catches the attention of other road users. Good places to do this is on the peddles and spokes. Then strips around the ankles and wrists. Clothing with reflective stripes on the thighs.
  3. Clothing. Once I got a reflective vest and added a high visibility Gillet to it, I became a light post. Far to many cyclist where black. Yes, most bibs come in black. However a high visibility shirt or jacket in a colour like yellow and green or even white can make you more visible in the day.
  4. Tail lights. A good bright red flashing tail light catches a lot of attention. There are some countries that do not allow this. Then try using a solid red light. I have had my batteries go flat and not get the right batteries in small towns far away from the maddening crowds. Carry spares or use batteries that are more readily available. The other option would be to link them up to your dynamo. To make sure that there are no failures. I think it is good to have two red tail lights on the back of your bike. I have also seen people wearing red tail lights on the back of their helmet.
  5. Front head lights. I good front light lets the on coming traffic know you are there. However this can blind them if to strong. Try to get a light that has a dim function, same as cars have. Remember you need to see where you are going or that could mean the end for you. There have been many a cyclist that have ridden into things and off things in the dark. A head lamp can also help to see around corners and check what is going on with the bike.
  6. When doing enduro racing. The lack of sleep can become very dangerous. I have had times when I fell asleep going down a hill. Lucky I did not ramp off the side of the road. You can also wobble in front of traffic. Your time to react is also very slow. Best solution is to make sure you have at least 4 to 6 hours sleep depending on what your body tells you. If you are feeling drowsy get off and go have a cat nap. Do not fool your self that you have had a good sleep when camping out on top of rocky lumpy pieces of ground.
  7. Risk of been attacked. I recommend not showing off your high end bike. Do not load to many expensive looking gadget on the handle bars. Do not flash money around. Rather have a few small notes in a pocket which are easy to pull out. Then hide the other money in a safe place and fill up the pocket when nobody is around. If camping out wait until the sun has set and find a well hidden site. Best in a bush thicket or behind a hill or dirt bump so lights do not find you from the road. If you are unsure of the safety in a area head for a camp ground.

 

Hope these few pointers will help you keep safe.

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-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..

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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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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.

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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.

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.

Last training for Capetown cycle tour.

As always there are things that try to distract you from training as you really should. This past week has been one of those weeks. Will have to send bicycle to Capetown on Friday. So training time is now limited. Have taken off my Maxxi crossmarks and put on my 35mm Kendra tires. Cleaned all the grime out of the gears. Now just need to ride a few times to get used to new gear to wheel ratio.

Changing the subject a bit. Had a nice day out in the office today. Worked the cattle and gave them some vaccinations. So here are a few shots of them.

Here are some 4.5 month old calves with their mothers.

Cattle coming out of bush. After searching for them for an hour. These were the few missing ones. Note farming cattle in the African bushveld is very different to colder open grasslands. Here cows keep contact with mooing for calf and calf calls back. As the bush is to dense to keep eye contact in places. When herdsman looks for them, to see if they are well and healthy, it can take some time if they do not come when he whistles for them to come to drinking trough. 

There is also other dangers as jackals, caracual, hiena and maybe leapord but have not seen them myself. Snakes are another hazzard. There are some big pythons that could swallow a new born calve. However have not had that yet. Have found some big swellings that may be a result of a snake bite.Then diseases such as Heartwater, redwater, botulism and elephant skin disease. With all this cattle do really well in this environment. Do not have to give them a lot of supplements. Could call it free range.

Well hope to see some of you in Capetown.