Well, it’s been a whole year and I am no closer to setting off. I have not cancelled my dream – no, just shimmied it along the timeline to complete my previous dream. I’m in the architectural field and I’ve always dreamed of putting up a building from start to finish. 3 years down the line and my own project finally went onto site. Life never works out the way you planned, resulting in my cycling Up Africa expedition being postponed to late 2013 or early 2014 when the building is scheduled to be complete.
I made a friend at church who in December this year is running from Durban to Cape Town! A total of 1600km, 40km over 40 days. I’m keen to joining him for part of it – on bike (I hate running and think it’s crazy to run anything over 10km a week). As training for that Wesley is running the Comrades marathon – 96km of pain and agony in my mind. But to each his own…as most people think it’s insane to cycle Up Africa, which Wesley wants to join in on, which I’m stoked with.
In May last year I cycled GABRAN with my dad. 300km in 3 days. It was amazing, everything I expected it to be and more. Left Drakensville and before I knew it 50km were gone. That’s the most I had cycled before, but it seemed like nothing once done. After the 70km mark all my energy just disappeared. Probably a lack of sugar. The last 20km for the day went by slowly and painfully. The second day went by similarly, gliding up the hills as though they weren’t even there, until I reached that crippling 70km mark. But again I stopped to buy some sugar filled goodness, which did the trick. The next day I was prepared and didn’t suffer from sugar drain. But it did rain the last half. Cold and shivering we finished, but ecstatic about the experience of the ride. The scenery of the Midlands is beautiful. After this I can’t imagine seeing the world not on a bicycle.
This Christmas I went on a Botswana overland tour. It was also amazing! After this glimpse into what Africa has to offer I am completely committed to cycling Up Africa, if I ever had any doubts before. The people, landscapes, nature and wildlife are unbelievably beautiful. Three things that surprised me about Botswana. Firstly, the lack of typography, there is not a single hill (let alone mountain) in the whole of Botswana. Secondly, the soil is more like sand, dull white-grey sand. I was expecting a rich red-brown. Thirdly, the lack of infrastructure, noticeable as soon as you cross the border. Coming from South Africa which is often considered Europe in Africa, I now understand why.
Out of all the friends I made on that tour I hold one above the others. I became good friends with one of the polers in the Okavango Delta, Brave taught me how to pole a makoro. We talked about our lives. His mother passed away when he was younger. He is now 21 and is informally studying to become a guide. His ambition is to later become a game ranger. We have a similar taste in music, and later exchanged some, I introduced him to Attack Attack!, which he though was incredible. It’s strange to think out in the wild Okavango Delta is a young man rocking away to hardcore and punk. I never thought I would come across this. It’s strange to think what western influences have made their way to the remote places of Africa. When it was time to part ways he said “I will never forget you, my friend.” Eyes misted over I promised him I would come find him in two years.
Another friend I made was Douglas, a stone carver at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. I spent a good two hour speaking with him, filming him carving a Mermaid he was specifically asked to make for a client. Douglas’ workshop is under a tree by the railway. Across the road is his gallery, about 30 stone sculptures resting on poles in the ground. It’s almost spiritual. His father died when he was at school, which he quit to get a job to support his mother and two siblings. He became a stone carver and has flourished, putting both his younger siblings through school and now his own children.
These interactions are what I love most about travelling. These brief chance encounters with local people, complete strangers. To them their lives are ordinary, normal, maybe mundane. But to me they are beautiful, unique and genuine. It is this that I crave, that I seek.