Saturday 23 May 2015

Vic Falls - Meanwhile Back at the Camp...

...the monkeys were taking over!  There were dozens and dozen of cheeky, little monsters.  They were so cute at first...running, chasing, swinging and chattering.  Then they gained confidence as more of their friends came to play.  At one point, Emily was meeting with the new riders and handing out their protein bars, a monkey grabbed two of the bars from her immediately ripped the wrapper off one and started eating it while he ran off with the other one tucked under his arm.  

I was hanging out near the pool watching this little guy and his friends use Elliots tent and tarp as a trampoline.  They bounced, and slid and did flips for hours.  Then they found his shower bag, this little guy claimed his toothbrush and seemed to have some idea about how to use it.

Meanwhile, others took clothes off people's clothes lines and could be seen putting them on their heads.  One had a head band around his waist and another took a guys cycling jersey up a tree and left it there.  They were very cheeky, when they were bouncing around under Tim's tarp (looking like popcorn popping from the outside, I yelled at them to go away but instead they surrounded me trying to intimidate me.  They won.

Next morning, Michael clipped his helmet to his handle bar while he ate breakfast.  When he came back a monkey had crapped in his helmet.  Of course, many had a good laugh over this including Tallis who was taking down his tent nearby.  While Tallis was folding his fly a monkey crapped in his tent.  Unfortunately Tallis didn't notice until he opened it that evening.  Karma has a way of circling around.

Vic Falls (really Livingstone), April, 2015

To be honest I couldn't imagine what I was going to do in Vic Falls ( Victoria Falls is in Zimbabwe, while Livingstone is the sister city in Zambia and we were staying across the river in Zambia) for three 'rest days'.  I knew that I couldn't just sit around the resort for the 3 days, so I booked a white water rafting tour with a group of our riders for the next morning.  Turns out that this tour included a Sunset Cruise and Dinner tour (known as the 'booze cruise' but since I don't drink much), I was looking forward to watching the sky light up after sunset while drinking cheap wine from a plastic cup.  We saw hippos wading in the water and other than that and the magnificent sunset, the cruise was quite uneventful for me.

BUT the white water rafting the following morning was anything but peaceful or uneventful!  Just getting down to the Zambezi River was terrifying for someone who doesn't like heights (me!). We had to scale down the gorge (hundreds of meters) by ladder (poles tied together for a makeshift steps).  I had to go down backwards holding the hand of the guide... very embarrassing but otherwise I don't think I would have made it.  

There were six of us and a guide in our raft (there are no photos as I thought I may lose my camera, if I had brought it).  We were told that the river was crocodile infested...but what did that matter we were on a raft with an expert guide!  We saw some small crocs and monkeys along the banks of the river.  

(These photos are for effect to show why it would be bad to be in the water with one of these.  These are all crocs who are either man eaters or threatened. They are now living on a protected croc farm where they laze around and get fed every second day but they would still happily eat you.)

Admittedly, the water was rather turblent in places, what does Caterory 4, 5 and 6 mean? And then, one of the other rafts flips over..thank god I'm in with the expert guide and strong cyclists.  Oops there goes another raft up on some rocks, poor them in these croc infested water. We are expertly handling all that came our way.  Ooh there's a big wave hoovering over our heads, what the ...crash, I'm holding onto the rope on the side of the raft but with the twisting of the wave I lose my grip and can feel myself being pulled under...I gasp for breathe but suck in water and swallow, my head surfaces , I can see my raft in the distance and there is another wave crashing down on me and another big drink of water...croc infested water... When my head surfaces again, I see Kevin (one of the riders from my boat), he looks much stronger than me, I don't know who grabbed whom first but I had a death grip on him and was prepared to drown him if need be (just kidding, of course ;)  A kayak soon came by and floated me over to the raft where I was literally plucked out of the water and thrown (yes, thrown) back into the boat.  Turns out 4 of the 6 of us were wash out of the boat but I was the only one who thought that I would die on the Zambezi and not on the roads of Africa. 

Then we arrive back at the lodge in time for the TDA bike donations to the locals to assist kids who have 20km or so to walk to school and medical workers who otherwise would have to walk to visit a sick patient.  The Zambezi Waterfront Lodge who very much appreciates our business had a draw to give away some adventure packages.  Who do you think won the Bungee Jump from Victoria Falls Bridge over the Zimbeze River?  You guessed it! Me! Congratulations! Luckily a friend agreed to trade me for a Bungee Swing, still had to jump off the Bridge but feet first, Yikes!  Then some else traded me for a Bungee Slide which is a zip line (more my speed); it was great and not too scary.

Brave face, ready to zip?  But at least I didn't have to jump.  The mist from Vic Falls is seen in the background.

Then we got offered a tour of the Zambezi canyon by helicopter!  It was great, when going over the side of the canyon my breath caught, the pilot zig-zagged us around the corners banking as we went.  Then we came up over the top I thought I could touch the trees.  It was fabulous!  

Here are 3 of the 5 people who did the bungee jump - they all survived, hurray!

The magnificent Victoria Falls.

Zambia - April, 2015

Upon entering Zambia we rode through mountains, trees and bush (and rain).  The terrain quickly levelled out and tall grass and bushes blocked our view of anything other than the road ahead.  There was a difference when we entered Zambia, it was much quieter and for the first time I was bored at times biking.  I realized later it was because there were very few people, towns and villages.

The clouds kept us entertained as we were all guessing if and when the rain would come as we watched the clouds gathering.

We camped across the road from this crocodile infested river.  We were told that the crocodiles seldom cross the road.  From this vantage point you can see 3 countries, standing in Zambia, looking across the at Zimbabwe and Mozambique in the background.

Huge threatening clouds were heading to our camp site.  They delivered some strong wind and heavy rain but not for very long.

Three of us had already biked +100km, had gotten wet and could see rain clouds gathering over the next hill.  So we stood our bikes by the side of the road and sat on an abandoned porch until we saw the TDA Lunch truck coming and flagged it down for a ride into camp.

Tuesday 19 May 2015

May 9, 2015 - Cape Town - Finished!

After 4 long (and fantastic) months, we arrived in Cape Town.  The trip was incredible and I would recommend it to anyone who thinks that biking12,000km through foriegn lands and cultures is a good idea.  

Some of the good/great things were:
 - we saw different cultures, lands and people up close - religious and tribal effects (clothing and ways); - we mainly travelled through rural Africa and the scenery was incredibly beautiful;
- every country was different from the deserts in Egypt, Sudan and Namibia, to the lakes and tropical vegetation and weather in Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia, to the mountains in Ethiopia and parts of Kenya and South Africa, to the plains in Botswana and the ranches, farmlands,vineyards and orchards in South Africa; 
- some days the cycling was incredible with tail winds, good roads, little traffic, perfect temperatures and we could speed along without too much effort;
- most of the time there was lots to see, people to interact with, places to stop for refreshments, great companionship with other riders or the bliss of riding alone and listening to music;  
- I went on a three day safari in the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater.  It was amazing!
- I did white water rafting in the Zambezi River (and fell out of the boat after being told that there were crocodiles in the river), a zip line accross the river to Victoria Falls bridge and a helicopter ride along the gorge for the Zambezi River.  All were very thrilling!
- I met some life long friends, who will be dear to me always!

Some of the challenges included: 
- the mileage was gruelling;  sometimes +150km days in a row, one day >200km after several days of about 150km per day; 
- the heat (at times) was oppressive (the thermoter on my bike read 49.4C at one point), the cold (at times) hand and toe numbing;
- the tropical rains, the high mountains, the desert...biking through sand or if there was a track then corrugated (like riding over railway ties); 
- the kids in Ethiopia yelled at you constantly and entertained themselves by throwing rocks at us all day long;
- we all got sick, some got robbed, I'm sure we all cried at some point; 
- we missed our families and friends.

Am I happy that I did it...DEFINATELY!
Would I do it again? ...NEVER!
Some where else? ...maybe...give me some time to think about it.

The Canadians!  me from Halifax, Savanah from the northwest, Caroline from Ottawa, Marak and Paige from southern Ontario and Dave from the Okanagan Valley.

Wednesday 6 May 2015

Malawi - More Pictures

 Spent a night at a lodge resting.  We were all a bit worried because one of the riders was jailed for not leaving the road while the Presidential motorcade went by.  He spent 3 nights in jail before his court hearing and release.  He got a fine (equivalent to about $200) but the max penalty was 2 years in jail.  They don't feed the prisoners but instead family has to bring them food.

Beautiful scenery - green fields, tea bush gardens, banana plants, mountains and Lake Malawi (has crocodiles).

This was a fantastic day!  In the morning I came upon a couple of our riders who were being entertained by a group of girls, they were singing, clapping and dancing.  The dancing was a lot of fun, one of the American women called it 'twerking'. It was a fast and extreme pelvic thrust while in a semi squat.  Later I came across this truckload of people singing with a call and response.  This truck was a taxi picking up people as it went along.  I sat behind it while in town to listen. About an hour later it passed me again and they were still singing their hearts out; it was beautiful and the lead woman had an amazing voice.

Malawi was nearing the end of its rainy season and we didn't escape dry.  We rode through some cold torrential rains and lots of low lying cloud.  It was very beautiful in places.

 We saw many villages along the way.  Many of the houses were round, made of mud with thatched roofs. Usually goats and cattle around.  Cell towers are plentiful, as there are no land lines.

 Green tea bushes, banana plants and mountains in the background were some of the best views in the country.  We were on our way to Chitimba Beach for a rest day. Chitimba Beach is a resort on Lake Malawi.  The chalets were very tiny, rustic, no bathrooms (only an ablution bldg), no glass in the windows (just screens and shutters) but on a magnificent white sandy beach.  It had a very comfortable bar/ restaurant on the beach which was manned by several armed guards.  Malawi is known for its corruption; the owner of the resort was robbed and shot (not fatally) in his bedroom six weeks before.  His guards were tied up and his wife badly beaten and forced to open the safe for the business.  They took the owner to a nearby clinic for treatment but when  the doctor saw that it was a gun wound refused to treat him before he did a police report.  The problem was he was convinced that it was the police that attacked him.

 Homes and fish drying racks on Lake Malawi.  They had racks and racks of tiny fish drying on the racks.

 Beautiful Lake Malawi and the mountain in the background that we had to climb after our 'rest day' - I was happy that I didn't know our upcoming route ahead of time.

 A pig roasting on a spit over a charcoal fire.  Our cook (April, with her dreadlocks wrapped in a towel) and our assistant tour leader, Tallis,  watch in the background while a local tends to the pig.  A craft market was set up outside the gates to the resort where all kinds of carvings, jewellery, and wall hanging were sold for double the price.  I bought a game called Bao (wooden board with 12 cups and 36 marbles for each game had coffee beans instead of marbles) which locals play for money...I would have to go back to work if I played...they are very sharp.

 Our riders relaxing in the bar/lounge area at Chitimba Beach.

Sunset at Chitimba Beach promises a wicked thunder, lightening, wind and rain storm.  The wind picked up and everything was covered up while you heard planters being overturned and shutter slamming...then the violent lightening, thunder and lightning began and continued for a couple of hours.

 Next morning while climbing the mountain we came across a family of monkeys playing on the road and in the nearby trees.

 View looking over the side of the mountain where the monkeys were playing.

 The predominant religion is Catholic.  The 'God Knows Butchery' was across the street from the 'If God Says Yes, Why would You Say No' grocery store.

 Kids checking out our bikes.

 Kids appear from every direction to sit and watch us eat our lunches.  If there are not too many kids, the truck driver will give them the leftovers but if there are too many kids he won't because fights will quickly breakout over the food.

 There are very, very few cars, few bikes and even fewer donkeys.  The highway is lined with people walking carrying loads of firewood, food and water.

Thursday 23 April 2015

March/April 2015 - Malawi

Malawi - more of a tropical feel, high humidity, big thunder clouds and rain storms, lots of lightning and wild wind.  Very poor, lots of children... every woman seemed to be carrying a baby on her back with another at her side and many times more coming behind.  Also, apparently, there is a high HIV rate.  Large signs about children and HIV, and one sign said "Don't Marry Me, Educate Me."

Two of our truck drivers are from Tanzania and Zimbabwe; they are both married with children and actively looking for second wives.  I met a man at one of our camps that told me he had 20 children and 17 grandchildren and he was 50 yrs old. There were about 6 kids with him when we met.

Schoolkids were amazed at the bikes on top of the Tour d'Afrique truck. They were extremely cute. I'm not sure that the kids who didn't have school uniforms were able to attend school. I was told that it costs $11 per year including the uniform but if the family doesn't have it then the child cannot attend.

Roadside market - potatoes out front, everything was stacked attractively to look good.

More Tanzania Pictures

Low-lying clouds and green hills and valleys

Lots and lots of roadside markets with bananas and sugarcane and mangoes for sale.

We went through Tanzania during the rainy but were very lucky they did not amount to much. The sky and layers of clouds were incredible.