I did promise to tell you about my very random night, so here goes… I will attempt to tell the story and do it justice.
I got to a farm I was referred to by a friend, but found no one home, and I did not want to risk waiting, I do not have signal, and I do not want to run the risk of being stuck with nowhere to sleep, and daylight disappearing. So I carried on a bit farther and came to a farm that belongs to someone I know from high school. Well to his dad, to be precise.
So I pulled into the farm and get loaded into a bakkie and told to hold on. I did not tell my story or introduce myself, I just got told to get in and hold on ‘because we are running late’. I obliged and loaded my stuff and climbed into the back of the bakkie. Not quite sure what I am getting myself into.
Here I am, in the back of some ladies bakkie, on the way to who knows where. I am getting covered in dust and I am being bounced around like a bouncy ball at kindergarten.
At the end of the bouncy road, our destination is a barn, on a Kalahari farm surrounded by white dunes and cacti. Inside the barn is a big Ford bakkie and hay bales stacked everywhere. I am at a Sokkie! A Kalahari Sokkie. I helped unload the bakkie, set up tables and table décor, and then proceeded to introduce myself to my abductor.
The owner of the farm said I was welcome to stay in their spare room for the night, so I did not have to load my bike and gear back into the bakkie and backtrack up the bouncy road. And of course, I have been handed an invite to the dance. A Sokkie is a dance, for those of you who do not know. There is only one problem… I cannot dance.
I bumped into a few people from my home town and from ‘back in the day’ and the evening turned into quite a festive party. I did not brave the dance floor, I am not that brave! But I did have a good time and enjoyed watching everyone dance the night away. The rest we shall leave on the dance floor…
As the night came to a close and the last survivors were dancing in between the cleaning up, I got an invite to come for coffee at my hosts’ neighbour – my abductors’ mother-in-law.
I met an astronomer or astrologer (I did not ask which) that came to this arid place specifically for the sky. I must admit, the stars are magnificent. You can reach out and touch them if you wanted.
I was spoiled with coffee and rusks in bed after the dance, and handed two massive bags of drywors and biltong. I have to repack again to make space for them. Then I ventured down the sandy road to my coffee appointment, which turned into breakfast and a very nice visit on the deck with the Kalahari Desert stretched out as far as I could see. The only things breaking the flat horizon are the Camel Thorn trees that refuse to submit to the harsh environment they live in – like beacons of hope in an otherwise hopeless circumstance.
Tummy and water bottles filled and I am off to Van Zylsrus for a pit stop at the hotel – back to the treacherous road that is making me wish I packed in a kidney belt, the heat and the head winds. Town is not far from the farm and I made it there in one piece. The bike did not.
As I pulled up to the Van Zylsrus Hotel, my rear suspension came apart. The horrifying roads have taken their toll on my poor Penny –that’s my bicycle, Penny Farthing. Get it? I was able to find all the parts and it took about half an hour to put back together. I did not need all the kings’ horses or all his men.
I bumped into a group of people I met in Sannieshof a few days ago, they are on a road trip as well. What are the odds that I would bump into them in this little town? I am beginning to think they might be following me, if I see them again I am going to hide by biltong stash…
In the hotel bar, where I filled water bottles – with water, I bumped into some more familiar faces. It was so funny, the guy asked me in his best English “I see you are travelling far in this heat”, to which I replied: “Jy kan maar Afrikaans praat Willem, hoe gaan dit?” His face was classic. I think my beard has made me unrecognizable, but clarity on my identity was soon reached and we caught up and took a photo or two to send to mutual friends and family.
I enjoyed the five hundred meters of tarred roads leading out of town, before I was reacquainted with my nemesis – The sand road. The strange thing, now that I think about it, was that I was not even slightly flustered or angry when my bike broke. I just pulled up to a shady place and fixed it. No stress or tears or feeling hopeless. I just did what had to be done. Maak ‘n plan.
I had not gone far when I saw a familiar vehicle approach me. It was the friends I met on the road the day before heading back after the wedding.
Before I continue with my trek through the desert, here is a brief outline of my progress since climbing off the tar road the day before, and note, I have only done about 15km:
Pedal fifty meters
Hit kidney bruising corrugations and rocks in the road
Go slowly over above mentioned section for about fifty meters
Side-wind to opposite side of road because it looks smooth
Get stuck with wheels buried twenty centimetres into the sand facing the side of the road
Dig the bike out and walk through the sand for twenty meters
Find relatively solid piece of road and climb back on bike
Stupid bike with extra weight veers off into sand bank on side of road
Fall off bike and throw rocks at other rocks
Pick up bike, dignity and resolve and repeat from step one
The fun part is that, as in life, the routine changes as it feels fitting, so sometimes I am expecting a bumpy part, and then BAM! I get sucked into a sandbank and my whole routine is broken. And I like routine. Routine is nice. I absolutely, completely, with my whole being, despise this road. I have never despised anything as much as I do this road. I want to get a job as a road builder, obtain the funding to relocate everyone in this area and then demolish this atrocity of a road. I want to remove it from Google maps and the history books.
Okay I went off the rails there… I have regained composure and control. I will not do any harm to any infrastructure I promise.
Many painful hours later I decided to call it a day. Day one of my planned two day cycle of the 147km stretch and I have only managed about 40km. I was burnt crispy, had no water left and was dog tired.
The first place I pulled into was the Meerkat research farm where Meerkat Manor is shot – you know, the Animal Planet show about the meerkats. I was blessed to meet the volunteers, the managers and even got to wander around a bit to see what they do here. It is an amazing place. I would LOVE to come back one day and volunteer here. All I need is a Bachelors degree in something to do with animals and environmental studies. *Bucket list grows again.
I pulled into a farm not far from Meerkat Utopia. By the way that is not the real name of the place, I just call it that because saying ‘the Meerkat research facility where they shoot Meerkat Manor’ takes too long. I was invited to stay in the guest room and had ‘skilpaaitjies’ for dinner. Skilpaaitjies, for those who do not know are the kidneys and liver of a sheep wrapped in the intestines and then cooked to a crispy fatty delicious hamper of yum.
The people I am staying at have a tame Springbuck. I tried to get a better picture, but the little guy does not understand the command ‘stay’ so he tries to be as close as possible to people, this is what I got:
He head butts everyone, and then uses his front paw to tap you if you do not give it attention. Pretty cool to scratch a Springbuck behind the ears. I wonder if scratching a Springbuck behind the ears will make them fare better against, oh, I don’t know, the All Blacks? Worth a shot I guess…
The next morning, pizza for breakfast – best idea since breakfast buffets – and then I hit the road again. Same agonizing routine as above. This time the wind is not as bad, strangely I missed it though. The funny thing is that the headwind, although dreadful and very tiring, kept me cooler than I realised. Now that it is gone, I am very, very hot. I almost miss it. Makes me think I should be careful what I wish for…
The road is slowly improving, or I am getting so numb I do not realise how bad it is, but I seem to be falling off less, and bouncing less. And as I am cruising along at snail pace, boiling in the Kalahari sun, I realise I am doing this. I am surviving the elements, the pain and the difficult terrain. I am conquering the limitations I thought I had. My poor, pale freckled skin is turning a nice brown colour and is becoming more resilient to the sun. I am doing minuscule distances compared to my usual 80-100 days, but I am roughing it against un-cycle-able roads and conditions. Mine are the only bicycle tracks in the dirt. And my cheap, underrated bike is boldly going where no Makro bike has gone before. I feel so alive I want to howl at the moon. But it is day time, so I will wait till the moon comes up.