My good friend Gordon, crossing a bridge to a village near his farm in Kapiri
This is the finishing blog of "chapter 1", with pics from Zambia to SA.
Cycling was a most enlightening choice of transport for southern Africa - it is only on a bicycle that you get a true feeling of the incredibly vast expanses of land that make up the Kalahari, Namib, and South African cape. You ride for hours staring at this vastness, and see a familiar tree or hill, and the thought crosses your mind that you're going in circles or you've made a wrong turn; but there are no turns, it has been one straight road for days. When the shadows start getting long, you know you're still 110 km from the next town, so it's time to find a place to pitch your tent. Looking around, you see the definition of desolate; but it's the beautiful kind: you feel at peace, not lonely. Luck is on your side, there are a few giant rock hills a few hundred meters from the road, and as you slip your aching legs off the bike and approach, keeping a cautious eye open for mambas and adders, you see there is a large overhang giving shelter to a sandy
patch of ground underneath: perfect. The sun is just about set, and climbing to the top of the smooth rock mountain, you watch the changing pinks, purples, red and oranges dance across the sky, entertaining the few living beings sitting out in the middle of the oldest desert in the world. The sun completes it's decent for the night, and after a finally burst of firey red from the horizon, you feel the temperature begin to drop as you climb into your tent to cozy up, rest your muscles, and wait for the hyenas and jackals to start their symphony of yipping.
I had many of those delightful nights during my ride through Botswana and Namibia. But it wasn't all roughing it; despite the relatively huge amount of tourism in the country, there is still plenty of hospitality and people who are happy to help out a solo cyclist. The huge distances in the desert mean it's nearly impossible to carry enough water, but almost every vehicle flagged down stopped and eagerly replenished my 5 L supply, and often offered a few energy bars or even a picnic lunch as a bonus. Even the tourist resorts were welcoming despite
my rather apparent lack of funds. Without even having to ask, the owner of the Sesserim campsite just outside the famous Sossusvlei gates offered me a fully equipped campsite for as long as I wanted it - the pool, electricity and private bathrooms made it the most comfortable camping experience I've ever had. Stopping for water at a small farm a few days later, I was warmly welcomed for coffee and lunch and instructed to stop by up the road at Rammstein Lodge. When I arrived I was again warmly welcomed with coffee, first aid (to replace the bandages from a particularly nasty fall a few days prior), and again offered a place to stay for a night. I ended up staying three nights, not only because of their 'pet' cheetahs, leopard and caracol, but also because Frank, Henk, and the owner Antoine were such nice and interesting people it took that long to get my fill of their stories.
Unknown to me, leaving Rammstein, hanging on to my bike in the back of a goat-filled pickup, meant an end to my southbound cycling adventure. A few fun nights couchsurfing with some awesome Peace Core volunteers, I was offered a
ride in a truck all the way to Cape Town. At dawn the next morning, the first rays of the sun exposed the huge green mountains of the South African cape. My friend Gordon from Zambia organized a last minute place to stay with his neice, and within a few hours Kristi and I were speeding past endless vineyards, more mountains, and beaches. When I saw my first glances of the Indian Ocean I felt that after 15 months of being on the road, up mountains, across deserts, through jungles, from the most remote villages to luxury farms, to the slums of mega-cities, to beach side villas, I could finally breath a sigh of relief: I'd made it. And that sigh wasn't so much for myself, because I still don't credit myself for making it this far; it was for Africa. For all the preconceived notions that fought to keep me from traveling here, hopefully a single woman hitchhiking across the entire continent, never staying in hotels or sticking to "safe" places, and arriving safely, in perfect health, and without any excitingly dangerous stories to tell, will open at least a few peoples eyes.
I've now hitchhiked across South
Africa to Johannesburg, (with wonderfully nice drivers of all colours - despite the horror stories of post Apartheid racism I've heard), got some practice driving a 50 ton, 18-gear transport truck, and am safe and sound with my Botswana picnic friends Mariska and Garreth. Tomorrow Mom comes, we'll do a whirlwind hitchhiking tour of Southern Africa, then it's time for me to figure out chapter 2 😊
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