Monday, 7 December 2009

From Gaborone to Kazungula

 With Love from Francis Town 

I set off at 4:00 am heading for Kazungula border from Gaborone. I was deeply grateful that the Jonathans had persuaded me to stay. I was feeling refreshed and ready to ride on forever. I started as is my custom with a prayer and dashed to shower — a cold one. I relished every drop of water as it rolled off my dark tan skin. It was possible this was my last decent bath for days to come. In addition, my late mother, bless her Lord, used to say do something when you can; you simply never know. As it were, during this trip bathing became a luxury; I was going to live rough.

The Ferry on The Great Zambezi River    

 My Sleeping Quarters  in Livingstone Zambia

As I cruised down the A3 Highway, I could not help thinking what a lucky man I was to have Jonathan for a friend. We had known each other for over ten years.  During my visit we spoke from our hearts like good ol friends do. We had prayed together in the morning and I had hugged them reluctantly, for parting is often heart rending. I roared off without looking back. I knew they would abide with me in prayers.

I was grateful for my Zumo (Garmin GPS). One can almost ride blind and trust that it will take you there — the miracle of human ingenuity. These devices work yet they can also be the joy and the cause of misery. Well now it was working: I followed every instruction it beamed at me as I rode at a modest 80Km per hour to warm up the bike. The sky was velvet black, the road was well lit and as the reflectors that mark the road bounced the light from my headlight, the night slowly turned into day.

A couple of miles, I came across a car parked with hazard lights on. I stopped; there was a man inside. It was still dark and it was hard to tell whether he was just sleeping or something had happened to him. Another driver stopped and we both tried to get the man to respond. It went on for a couple of minutes and no response. I decided to leave and asked the other man to handle the matter.

Francistown was 440kms away; the trip was eventless. I stopped twice. But the beauty of this morning's ride was to see the sun emerge behind the clouds from the sky on the East at exactly 5:37 am.  Firstly, it was the deep orange-red rays, Secondly, the Sun majestically clothed in deep orange-red colours. It was simply beautiful.  I don't often pay attention to the Sun rising, yet today I did.  It is these small links that make a difference on a trip like this.  I strode on arriving in Francistown by 8:30 am. It was hard to find something to eat this early; It was Sunday and Francistown was waking up very slowly. Why the hurry. I found a quarter chicken eventually, bought some water and biscuits and was off to Kazungula.

About 200km before Kazungula, the road conditions changed — patches of tarmac and mostly ‘dirt road’ as we call it in South Africa. I was thankful that I did the Honda dirt road training. I could ride this patches standing on the bike. Sometimes it was scary but I guess you get used to it. My only stops were for petrol. I did see some elephants on the way. I arrived at Kazungula at 2:30pm. That is when my troubles started.

A young man came up to me and said he was willing to help me complete the process of border crossing. I am a widely traveled man but it was a completely a different story at Kazungula. The ferry could not take my 1 dollar bill notes. They insisted on a bigger denomination. My paying spree started then — 5$ first payment ferry charge. I went through customs then 10$ road tax. This time the border official accepted my one dollar bills. I did not mind the paying if that was how I was going to get through. The problem is everyone was trying to have a piece of my money: they saw rand and dollars and not the person. In the process, what would take you a couple of minutes to complete, took me until 5:30 pm at every turn someone was trying to complicate my travel by directly attempting to profit from me. If this can happen to me, what would it be like to the rest of you? I did not think it was going to be smooth when I set out to this odyssey  pains and joys are daughter and son of adventure. To spare you the details, a young Revenue official who simply had a thing for bikes got into conversation with me ― his blessed hand did the rest and I was on my way to Livingstone 60kms way having paid nothing more than the required fees and musing whether Dr. David Livingstone had these same problems.

It appears to me that custom officials collude with all kinds of riff-raffs to get money out of unsuspecting travelers. What astounded me was the number of young men at the border post. What are they all doing here? Simple logic, account for every penny you spend at the border. Sometime it might not be that clear.

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