The First Dirt Road Experience
Grateful to Rachael and Team
I opened my eyes, and it was still dark outside my ‘home’. I was awoken by a loud cock crow on its watch. It was a beautiful sound. He was somewhere out there claiming the right to his territory as cocks all do. When you live in a city such as Johannesburg, these are some of the things you miss. But the one thing ‘Johanesburgers’ can take pride in are the many trees that Johannesburg is renowned for. One obvious advantage is the ‘perch’ the trees provide for birds of all description. If the Dutch created Holland, then ‘Johanesburgers’ created the ‘forests’ of Johannesburg. They are visible on a clear day when you came to land at Oliver Tambo International Airport. My neighbour Jennifer has had birds’ feed in two places on her compound for years. It’s an amazing and a beautiful sight to see small birds of all sizes and colour converge on her compound to feed: birds clothed in yellow, brown, red, orange or black plums sometimes eating peacefully or sometimes fighting over food. They were doing what birds do best —foraging.
As the bird thoughts ran through my mind, I must have lain on my ‘bed’ drifting in and out of sleep for another hour. I also prayed for a safe trip further north. I was in no particular hurry today. I knew that 524km of road to Lusaka lay ahead of me.
It has been sheer joy riding up to this point. I was aware that with me I carried the dreams of many a rider who would have wished to be on a similar trip. In addition, I carried the dreams of folks who love sheer adventure or the story of good adventure. I also have many friends and colleagues following the story on my web-blog; it astounded me on the last count that I had 513 visits all over the world. Obviously, the ride was not just mine; it was also for them for different reasons. But importantly apart from my adventure, it was also for Malgat, who I had the inkling he was watching over me.
I crawled out of the sleeping bag reluctantly. The rest at Gaborone had been most rejuvenating, but the body was still tired. I had to bath and pack. This was one of the pains I endured every morning: to secure everything tightly on the bike in waterproof material. As I stepped out of the tent Michael, who I met the previous night was there waiting to greet me. He was an amiable and kind man of about 35. He called himself the caretaker of the property. He was willing to help at every turn. We struck up friendship on my arrival. He showed me the bath, which was not a very clean environment; I am not complaining— just stating the fact. It was part of the travel.
After the bath, I put everything in bags and secured them onto Scorpion. When it came to the tent, the outside sheet had collected dew. The instructions were: “don’t park when moist”. The day was overcast. It meant a long wait. Patience was not going to help today. I used my towel to dry it, packed it.
Meanwhile, I noticed, it was now about 7:30 am, many pretty girls arriving. “Michael”, said I “how come many pretty girls are here this morning?” He laughed and said “you have a good eye. The boss trusts ladies only for his business. He claims they don’t steal as much as men do. And if they should steal, they tell all when threatened with a police case, and spare everyone much trouble”. On the contrary he added, “Men are difficult”. He went on, “the other advantage is that women attract men to the club and the men spend their money here for whatever reason”.
I chuckled. My thoughts had drifted away from the current subject. I thought this boss had judged men harshly. But this was his experience. My experience was utterly different. It is true the best people in my life were women, which include my late mother (May she rest in peace!) and a host of friends and girls. By the same token, the worst people in my life were women, Angels on the one hand and something unspeakable on the other hand. And this is the point I wish to emphasise: it is not a gender question — man or woman. It is the goodness of heart and the capacity to evince it which is my concern. You could be a bishop and you are such a bad person of your lot to the extent that even the devil will not be your friend. You could be a ‘pauper’ but having the largest human heart. It will suffice to say, individuals are judge according to their deeds and not their gender.
Famished, it was time to have breakfast. Is this what they call an English breakfast: toast with butter, ham, eggs, cereals and tea? Since I slept with an empty stomach, eating was vital this morning to replenish lost energy. I was now feeling pressed to depart; I ate hurriedly. We posed for photos and after much hugging and wishing we had more time together and gentle smiles. I was on my way to Lusaka; it was 11:00 am.
Immediately, I was on a dirt road. I always pump my tyres hard and this worried me, yet I kept the pressure high. The road was so bad that I rode between 10-40kms speed initially. It turned out that this was a 135km stretch. After I mastered some confidence and on portions of the road which were good, I reached speeds of 100km. Then the first sign of engineering trouble manifested itself. After the first 25kms I became aware of a rattling noise. I heard this same noise en route to Kazungula on a dirt stretch but could not point its source. I inspected the bike from front to back and noticed the plates holding the rear axle adjustments device were loose. How did I miss this during the pre-trip inspection? After I tightened them, the noise disappeared.
Comfortably ensconced on the saddle, I begun enjoying the machine: (my Scorpion). In capable hands she will perform as best as she is engineered. In addition, travelling solo, I had laden her with a lot of stuff including 10 liters of extra petrol. In summing this episode, I wish to say that no sane wife or husband compares her partner to another. Along this line of thought, I will merely extol Scorpion’s virtues on the basis of her performance in the next episode.