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.

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.

This is a hard core cyclist

Farm worker that rides thirty km per day on this iron frame bike. Note the big heavy duty pump sticking out of carrier. This is his most important piece of equipment. As the thorns in this area are one of his big challenges.

Other things in his carrier are:

5kg chicken pieces

Rain coat

Lunch box

Some other things. I did not want to be to nosey.

Have asked him before if he would think of riding a race. He said no, he is to slow. I say he must be tough. Sure he would do well on a long endurance ride. Give him a modern bike with a sponsor to keep it maintained and he would show us a thing or two.

His biggest challenge if this was to happen would be to change his mind set. That it is possible to cycle extreme distances.

I think there must be lots of hidden talent out there among people that commute to work every day.

947 Cycle challenge 2016

Busy catching up on all the things that have happened lately. On 20 November I did the 947 cycle challenge. This a road race around Johannesburg. It is 94km long and is named after one of the radio stations. It has become a big event with about 27000 finishers. Bit nerve raking having so many cyclists around me. Not used to have people around me. Normally train on my own in the rural community where I live. Long tours or long races are such that you are on your own most of the time. ed6518beed029fb26b6b02fbdd7fb4dc_dsc_6361

What was nice this year as getting to do one circuit on Kylami race track. This is a formula one race track. Here is a photo of me trying to get out of the wind getting up speed on Kylami race track, without tribars. Must say did not manage 200km/h.5351b72b37264d6495140e9a5326eb89_bs2a6695

Did not realize the cars raced such steep up hills as part of the track. There was one hair pin bend that does about a 180 degree bend. This has sign posts to tell drivers to slow down for the bend.

All in all it was a nice ride, finishing 15 minutes faster than my best. Should help with a good start for Cape Town cycle tour. Nice to start Cape Town cycle tour early and enjoy the spirit of Cape Town.