“Time is like water, even if you have plenty you shouldn’t waste it.”
I’d just received my departure stamp out of Namibia when I heard the well known Nokia peep peep to say I had an sms, once outside I went to check my phone and to my horror couldn’t find it, the peep peep was from someone else’s phone, where was mine then? Then I remember only half an hour earlier while putting my phone on top of the toilet roll holder thinking, ”whatever you do, don’t forget the phone!!!”.
What now? Forget the phone, it may be gone by now anyway? Go back into the border office explain the situation and hope they’ll let me back in for a few minutes? Or just run the gauntlet and hope nobody hassles me?
It was 2pm and very hot so most people where inside enjoying the shade and airco, so I went for the gauntlet. 1 minute into the 1km sprint to the petrol station I thought “here we go, the phone is long gone by now and in an hour I’ll be in jail for illegally entering the country”. Once again luck was on my side, the cleaning lady looked a little disappointed to see me cycling to collect her new prized possession and 5 minutes later I was filling in my customs form at the Botswana side, a little warm and sweaty but very relieved.
When Silver told me his name 20 minutes into our journey I asked if his older brother is called Gold, he didn’t understand……as usual one of my fine humour moments was wasted or lost in translation.
For the last 40km to the Namibia/Botswana border I was once again very concerned that I may get hit by a truck, the road was often narrow without much of a shoulder and all it takes is a moments lack of attention by me or a truck driver or him grabbing a coffee, new CD etc a little twitch of the wheel and Shane Cycles Africa is over. Unlike the developed world these guys don’t have compulsory rest periods. Silver later told me he’d driven from Angola (1200km) and had only slept for 2 hours in 2 days and hoped to drive another 600km to the SA border before sleeping again, not unusual for an African truck driver, cyclists be warned! I love being back on a tar road, I hate being back on a tar road……
I met Silver in the customs queue as I checked into Botswana, together with other truckers that were laughing at my plan to cycle part of the Trans-Kalahari highway, their banter was refreshing in one way, usually when I tell people I camp near the road they say I’ll be murdered, now it was “you’ll get eaten by a lion!!”.
Trucker : “you’ll be eaten by a lion”.
Shane : “do you drive this road often”.
Trucker: “yes, every week”.
Shane : “how many lions have you seen on this road”.
Shane: “thanks for the useful info………!!”.
At this point Silver offered to give me a lift as far as the “turnoff”, 160km further where the road branches and 95% of the trucks head south towards Gaborone and South Africa. Safety first and all that I took the lift, from the turnoff I cycled for an hour on the now quiet road and camped in the bush about 20km outside of Ghanzi.
Silver was an interesting guy and had obviously seen through my disguise that I’m bicycle repair man, an hour into the trip I was helping uncouple the double trailer so he could refuel from the spare tank the hose was 3m too short and not wide enough, cue bicycle repair man and his Macguiver tricks. That’s Africa for you, an hour or two later we were on the road again.
Check him out smoking above the fuel tank…..
Born in Mozambique he escaped to South Africa 15 years ago during the troubles. Now his boss uses(abuses) his Portuguese language skills by sending him to Angola a lot, he’s just spent 2 months on the road and after just 2 days off with his wife and kids will once again be heading to Angola, some people have shitty jobs here.
Cycling the Trans-Kalahari highway
Luckily early in my trip I discovered that there are better ways to get from Namibia to Tanzania than taking the Trans-Kalahari, but not wanting to take the main roads in Northern Namibia I took a little detour into Botswana before cycling the Caprivi strip in Namibia. Part of the detour is 400km on the main road plus another 300km on a road near the Okavango with equally boring an unchanging scenery.
Even at night it doesn’t get more interesting.
I had a different idea of how the road would look, it’s called the Trans Kalahari so I was expecting the big red dunes and desert I’d seen during the South African Kalahari. Instead it’s a tar road with 15m grass left and right then camel thorn trees and bushes which you can’t see past. The road had been flat and unchanging for the last 800km and guess what? I’ve had a headwind all the way, feels like I’m in the Midwest again.
The last week has been a big waste of my time and I should of taken a lift really, but having already cheating for 160km it didn’t seem right to take another lift this week. Time is like water, even if you have plenty you shouldn’t waste it!! But at the same time these boring and tedious parts of the trip are also part of the journey and shouldn’t really be skipped. Any pilgrimage, journey or voyage of self discovery also has its moments where body and mind try to resist their environment, these too are obstacles and challenges to be overcome even if they are less obvious than a mountain or desert. At the time the Midwest seemed like a waste of time, but with a few years reflection I now realize this was an important part of the trip. In this time I learned my inner strength and determination. Only by repeatedly waking up with tired sore legs, wondering how I was going to cycle 100km then once again doing it did I learn to trust my body and know that I will always get there in the end, no matter how I feel.
In the end I’m pleased I didn’t take a lift, it’s too easy to get into the habit of putting one’s thumb out when the going gets tough for one reason or another. For now my criteria for taking a lift are still a) if I’m likely to get hit on a busy road or, b) I’m seriously ill.
My only moments of pleasure during this part of the trip where the first and last hour of the day with my cup of coffee in amongst all the noise of the bush as the sun rose and fell and the occasional interesting creature I saw…..
Watch out for the lions.
Though I’d been warned about the lions I haven’t worried at all about them, there is so much cattle, donkeys and horses around as well as the small settlements of shepherds that any lions that may be around will be so fat and lazy from eating baby cows or baby people that the last thing they’ll want is a smelly me. I’ve spent the last 7 days camping wild in the bush and only once had a shower at the shell station in Sihithwa , I was planning on camping there but is was a little rough so I just paid for a shower and moved on. (most of this post was written last week btw)
On a lighter note, I’ve finally found food that my Titanium Spork doesn’t like after 3 years of searching, spaghetti just doesn’t work 🙂
Good question, I’d only thought about my trip as far as Victoria falls. So sometime soon I’ll need to sit down in an internet cafe or borrow a Rough guide/ Lonely planet and see what I do and don’t want to see between here and Dar el Salam, and in the mean time sort out an address there to send my next package of spare parts to. I’d like to go to Zambia and Zimbabwe but don’t know if its practical to go through both ($50 for each visa or more for a multi entry visa).
Any tips on things to do and see in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Tanzania are welcome…….