When I remarked on the great view of Johannesburg from my hostel's reception office, the manager responded with a "yeah......you wouldn't think the streets are teaming with crime from up here". Perhaps an exaggeration but ever since arriving in South Africa I have received warnings from well wishing locals:
"Don't pull over by the side of the road- only use service stations"
"Are you going to Jo'Burg?....oh be very careful there" etc.
So whilst expecting to get robbed or mugged, i didn't expect to be driven into by an old man carrying a minibus full of school children. And this is precisely what happened as i was driving into Soweto last week. The guy completely ignored the stop sign and hit me side on. After hobbling around in shock for a couple of minutes i picked up the bike with the help of the crowd that had rapidly congregated. I inspected the damage: The clutch lever had snapped, the left pannier was ripped off (again), one foot peg mangled and the front wheel was had twisted 30 degrees out of line. On top of that the engine was refusing to start. The driver, a sweet humble old man, accepted full responsibility but clearly was not going to be able to pay for the damage. Insurance is not mandatory here and therefore neither of us had any cover. We agreed that he would use his van to transport the bike to a garage if need be, rather than him pay me cash that he didn't have.
After a trip to one of the Soweto cop shops to complete the incident report, the bike decided to start enabling me to ride precariously to to the homely Soweto Backpackers Hostel where i managed to straighten the steering and repair the pannier (with a hammer and bit of wood). I had a spare clutch lever in the spares box and i decided the i could ride just the same with the mangled foot peg. My right leg was just bruised so i was back in business. I had worried briefly earlier in the day that the bike might not make it to Cape Town.
I spent another day in Soweto and did a fabulous guided bicycle tour seeing the good bad and the ugly of what is now quite a prosperous, friendly and relatively safe township (excluding traffic accidents).
5 days before i did what will probably be my last bit of adventurous riding of the trip across the Makgagikgadi Pans in Botswana. A fall (the 3rd decent one of the trip) on the dirt tracks heading into the pans left me and the already weak left pannier laying in the sand- no damage done.
The perfectly flat, salt encrusted pans are interrupted by grassy 'islands' and an array of 4x4 tracks - some leading to nowhere. After a mellow night at a campsite on a rocky outcrop covered in 4000 year old baobab trees i managed to pick up one of these tracks that headed to nowhere and found myself not exactly lost, but not where i wanted to be and with no visible way off the pans. After loving the morning of riding over this stark, bright landscape and stopping to take loads of photos, i suddenly felt the fear. I had not seen another vehicle or person all morning. I back tracked all the way back to the campsite where some friendly big bellied South Africans were fortunately still around and pointed me in the direction of the correct set of tracks. Very clear once i was on them.
I was off the pans and into the bush repairing a puncture in the front tyre (puncture No 6 of the trip) when a lone boy strolled up and asked for water. I had only a litre left and wasn't sure where the next village/town was and the way my day was going was reluctant to share. I reasoned that he thought I had loads and plus he being local, must have set off from where ever knowing how far he had to walk. He hung around and i felt like a real tight ass. When i had the wheel back on i shared my water and custard creams with him and felt my conscience easing.
Now i have inadvertently wiped my cameras memory card and lost all the pics since i last backed up in Namibia so not many new pics here. I have dropped a few in that i picked up from Laura when i met her in Windhoek plus my route to date.
I am currently in St Lucia, Kwazula-Natal making the most of the warm weather and abundant wildlife. Off to get a pizza!I just missed capturing the one on the right taking a lazy 'mid-sleep' poo
Morocco (inc Western Sahara)
West Africa. Mauritania- Nigeria
Central Africa Cameroon- Angola
Tom and I, Congo