Saturday, 5 December 2009

Taking the Plunge

I went to bed late and dog tired; it had been a busy day sorting out money issues, medicines, last minute chores. It wasn’t a laboured sleep but also one not so smooth as I drifted in and out of sleep.   I woke up the following morning, loaded the bike and hit the road.

A group of friends were waiting in Gaborone, but among other things, exhaustion set in. I guess it was the tension of having to prepare for the trip. I decided to spend two days in Gaborone. The good news though: The big day had at last arrived.
Loading Scorpion I 

Loading Scorpion II

Loading Scorpion III

I had not done all my packing when I went to bed. I woke up by 4:00 a.m. to complete this most cumbersome task. While I was showering, the troubling question was: How do you pack things you will need to last seven weeks on a bike. I had read on the Wilddog Forum about what to include and exclude. The ideal is always easy to talk about, but I’m afraid quite divorced from an actual trip. I had to take food and bike emergency stuff, gifts for folks, etc, yet you can only carry so much. In the end, with the help of Fidele, my brother we loaded Scorpion.

En route to Kazungula

First crossing of the Capricorn

Great Skies
Meanwhile, Andy had agreed to accompany me to Tlokweng border (Botswana). In all the time I have known him, if he says 7:00 it means 7:00. I was annoyed with myself that I was only 50% ready when he roared onto the driveway on his DL 1000 Vstrom. The worst thing to do was to be uncharitable to a friend going this far. Let me spare you the details.
Andy and Myself before we Parted Ways

Andy, Myself and Etienne
Andy Departing

About three weeks ago, I decided to involve some form of media in my Johannesburg-Kampala Odyssey. I communicated with Udo Caralse – 702 Talk Show presenter. So yesterday morning I was back on 702 radio to happily announce to all ‘johannesburgers’ of eminent departure that morning, naturally this ate into my packing time.

During the packing, I could not remember where I had kept my dollars. You know how things tend to go wrong at the last moment. I had the money in the morning, but now I just could not find it. Fidele, his loving wife and I looked everywhere but all in vain. If I needed anything now it was intense focus and deep calm. Some minutes later I remembered the money was in a side pocket of my camera bag ― the relief was enormous.

Andy and I agreed that our departure was scheduled for 8:00 a.m. I wanted to officially start off from Wits University. We were running late. I was hungry and had last eaten the previous evening. In haste to start on time, I forfeited breakfast. I was amazed where I got all the energy to keep going.

It was clear except for some mushroom shaped clouds hugging the sky. A hot day was in the making. Clad in my riding gear, it was a spectacle seeing my neighbours coming to bid me farewell, beginning with Grahams, then Paul, then Jennifer and finally I hugged the Fideles and slid on the saddle onto which I had tethered my Airhawk to massage my sitting apparatus during the many and long hours of sitting in days to come. I need to say that the Airhawk is one wise investment I made with reference to extras on the bike.

Without much ceremony we roared off and surprisingly we were on time. We were at Wits School of Education in 20 minutes. On arrival, I set the GPS and adjusted the odometer to count from zero. At 8:05am. We rode-off down Empire road towards Soweto and eventually Lichhtenburg to avoid road tolls. We cruised mostly at 120-140kms. Then it hit me for first time that it was real ― the odyssey. 

Our first pit-stop was at Lichtenburg for petrol and a cold drink with Etienne who was to accompany us to Zeerust. The ride to Zeerust was eventless. Andy and Etienne bid me farewell; we parted ways. I don’t know if I felt the loneliness overwhelm me at that time because I’d always banked on Andy in case of breakdown. One of the last things he gave me was a repair manual. I did not want to think of it. I kept it away and hoped I would never have to make recourse to it. Without much ado, I set off for the border post. Cruising at a constant 120km I soon got to the Tlokweng Gate. I parted with 110 pula on the Botswana side, and my green light ushering me towards Gaborone came on. It was scorching hot. I was sweating very much.

In South Africa, I had relied on my phone for communication. Now I was alone. I needed a phone to call my friend. At my first stop, I had 100 pula, the call was 1 pula for a minute. Always carry small change; it saves a lot of discomfort. I rode to Riverwalk shopping mall. Remember I was hungry; I knew something sugary would boost my energy levels. Ice-cream – the joy of ordinary niceties! In that sweltering heat, it was the most desirable thing.  The V-strom, especially a loaded one is a captivating sight. I think it is true for all bikes. They are always a spectacle to behold. On the panniers it reads ‘Johannesburg’ – ‘Kampala’.

“So you are really going to Kampala?” a man asked.
“Hmmm,” I mumbled between mouthfuls of ice-cream.

Later, I asked him if I could find a public phone. He said I could use his cell to call my friend, Jonathan. For the complete stranger that he was, with loads of generosity for yet another stranger, I was totally humbled. He later took me all the way to my friend’s place, where I had a cold bath, braai meal and a warm bed. I simply passed out; ‘slept’ would be an understatement.

For the next two days, I rested.  On Saturday, I woke up feeling like I had borrowed someone else’s body. Fatigue to the bone connived well with Jonathan’s encouragement for me to rest. The Livingstone leg of the trip could wait, the company of friends Jonathan and his loving girlfriend was too much to forfeit; not yet! More important, I had time to tell this story. I had ridden 469kms and used 28 liters of petrol.
First Resting Station

Gabarone Skyline

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