South to South 2: Day 1 – Day 4

DSCN0207

Impromptu picnic next to the highway.

13 October – Day 1 | Pretoria to Ellisras, South Africa | 279km

We left Pretoria around 15:30. Four and a half hours behind schedule, but in high spirits. However, gliding on the highway we tried in vain to speak to each other on our brand new bluetooth headsets. Broken? Duds? What a let-down… Above the roar of the engine and the rush of the wind we were both involuntarily confronted by our own thoughts. One of the million things that crossed my mind, was the knowledge that my husband was no doubt happily caught up in the vast emptiness of his nothingbox. After about 200km the bike felt a little strange and we realised we had a flat tyre. Day one: flat tyre. Having left Pretoria so late, we would have missed the border anyway, so we organised to spend the night with Willie and Annerine in Elllisras.

DSCN0201

Flat tyre.

It was dusk and we were stranded next to a very quiet highway. DW called Outsurance then he called Nielen. Nielen called Oom Hystek who lived on a farm not too far away. Oom Hystek sent his son and a friend to come and help us. While we waited, we feasted on one glorious, enormous, ripe grapefruit. And a sandwich. Help arrived and with great effort, they had just finished loading the bike onto a pick-up when Outsurance also arrived bringing a trailer. By now it was dark and it was getting colder. They transfered the bike and we jumped onto the back of the open pick-up. For an hour, DW and I enjoyed the cold night air and cloudless starry sky choosing to see this unfortunate start as the perfect kick-off to a great adventure. It was good for us that the flat happened in South Africa because our insurance was still valid. Once we reached Ellisras, Willie and Hans helped DW with the tyre only to discover that it was not tubeless as he had initially thought. This meant that it could not be changed manually. Yet again, another blessing that this happened before we crossed the border.

DSCN0220

Quick response from Nielen and Outsurance.

DSCN0225

Buffs win.

DSCN0237

Willie, Hans and DW changing the world.

14 October – Day 2 | Ellisras to Palapye, Botswana | 210km

Early in the morning, a mechanic fixed the bike. Following his newly acquired knowledge of a Dakar 650, DW proceeded to buy some more essential tools and an extra tube. By 13:00 we were on the road again. We crossed the border at Groblersbrug through Martin’s Drift into Botswana. It was deserted. Despite no queues, we spent about three hours clearing the bike for export. Even though dehydrated, we were thankful for warm clothes. The wind was cold on the road. During a leg-stretch, we noticed our bags hanging quite low over the back of the bike. On closer inspection, we found that the exhaust had burned the strap on the tog bag and the plastic bottle in the side pocket was starting to melt. The bottle was filled with benzine. This could have seriously backfired… literally. Thank God for the army praying for us back in South Africa!

FSCN0271

On the rrrrrroad again!

We dumped the benzine in an empty water bottle, patched the bag with duct tape and in no time we were cruising again. We entered Palapye around dusk and found a cosy campsite at Ithumela backpackers. We were exhausted. As we unloaded, DW was so thirsty, he took a deep sip from the water bottle next to the bike… Benzine had never tasted so… oh wait, he had never tasted Benzine before. He didn’t recommend it. For dinner we created Pasta Inferno. This was our first test of the benzine camping stove. We had flames dancing about half a meter into the sky. Day two: Benzine battles. The food tasted delicious. Despite only having devoured one, our supply of grapefruit were running low. It was only later that I discovered DW had been tossing them behind my back… Grrrr. Sleep was sound. The fact that the campsite was deserted and that we were right next to a railway didn’t bother us in the least. We have finally crossed our first border and it felt great.

DSCN0287

Ithumela Backpackers campsite.

DSCN0283

The Battle of Benzine.

DSCN0285

Pasta Inferno.

15 October – Day 3 | Palapye to Livingstone, Zambia | 724km

Some must-haves for a trip like this: duct tape, cableties, strong rope, Buff, bladder, GPS.

Our bladder smelled like moth balls and tasted like dishwashing liquid. Gross. We rose before 06:00 aiming to cover a lot of distance. To prevent our medi-kit from melting and our benzine from exploding, we opted not to store it in the pocket above the exhaust anymore. In fact, DW was so cautious that he tied everything as tightly and far away from the exhaust as possible. The result was that we sat so close to each other, my visor hit his helmet every time I turned my head. Once we both squeezed into the seat, I noticed his voice had lost some of its bass. We headed off to Nata.

DSCN0322

We made the most of the good roads, covering as much distance as possible while the daylight lasted.

DSCN0307

The beast.

DSCN0299

Somewhere in between that man and that water bottle, I got stuck for hours every day..

The highway through Botswana was fantastic. No potholes. We felt privileged to cross a whole country in one day. On the bike I felt an enhanced alertness, very much fueled by the proximity of the hard, fast-moving tarmac passing underneath us. Being used to a car, it was striking how the back of a bike made us a lot more attentive to what went on around us as we traveled. We took notice of the ever changing scenery and landscape. The first few 100kms were quite dry with bosveld trees and not a lot of people or towns. Gradually it changed to white sands, even fewer people and long, broad, empty roads: extraordinary! We passed some interesting road signs: beware of cattle… deer… elephants…. And we saw them. Elephants, kudu, giraffe and other animals blurred past us. But we kept going as much as possible. We still had a long way to go in order to reach the MV Liemba ferry at Lake Tanganyika. We had settled beforehand that we were not going to explore Zambia and Botswana. We have both visited these countries in the past so we were looking forward to spend more time discovering Lake Tanganyika and beyond. Today was a hard and long day on the road. Apart from the wind, engine and clack sound of our helmets connecting, long, conversation-less hours passed without incident. Day three: me-time.

DSCN0324

Be aware: elephants.

To be honest, everything was so beautiful and homogenous, that boredom soon took over. The fate of the co-pilot. On the one hand, no one can stop you from freely sharing your directional wisdom with the pilot. In our case, creative forms of communication included: The no-nonsense tightening of the thighs, the gentle tap on the helmet, the aggressive back-punch or the firm prod/slap on the shoulder followed by a directional hand signal. Up and down to indicate slow down. The pointing finger towards an object of a.) scenic importance, such as an elephant or b.) towards anything posing a potential threat to road safety, such as a goat, a child, a car, a  pothole, a bird, traffic light, approaching town, speed bump, empty water bottle or soft sand.

On the other hand, at the end of the day you still remained, in practice and in title, just the co-pilot. Seeing as our headsets, the only means of verbal communication, was malfunctioning, I spent a lot of my time prodding, squeezing and indicating. The rest of the time, I divided my attention between looking to the left… and looking to the right… then looking to the left again… etc. Eventually I tried dosing. I was so tightly tucked in between the bags that I could have probably slept the hours away. But that just didn’t feel right. So I took out our Kindle which, very conveniently, was exactly the size of the pocket on my thigh. I considered reading a novel, but that just didn’t feel right either. So I started browsing through the Lonely Planet. Eventually, I tried to offer some support for DW’s neck by forming a type of tripod with my gloved hands and securing his wobbly helmet against the strong headwinds. We regretfully realized then that there was one crucial item we never bothered to invest in and that was a proper touring windshield.

We made it just in time to catch the last ferry crossing to the Zambia border. As we slowly approached the Zambian shore, we looked at Namibia to the left, Zimbabwe to the right and bid farewell to Botswana behind us. Feeling awesome.

IMG_2441

Crossing the Botswana and Zambia border, feeling awesome.

IMG_2439

Approaching the Zambian shore.

On solid ground again, I stayed with the bike while DW handled the paperwork. We were exhausted. With darkness descending and Livngstone still about 60km away, we had to get a move on. Soon, the dark, single, truck-dominated road convinced us to turn off at the first sign of a lodge. The entrance was dark and the actual lodge was some distance out of sight from the highway so we kept going. Suddenly the bike swerved wildly to the left then to the right! We had hit some seriously soft sand and the next moment DW dropped it on its side. My ankle got stuck under the panier and I was deeply grateful for a strong boot. In all honesty, picking up 250kg in soft sand is harder than it sounds. The sand proved too soft to continue to the lodge so we awkwardly made our way back to the highway. We fell in behind a truck, following its tail lights in the darkness. When I tried to help DW pick up the bike I had shoved the bike’s headlight into a groove and it got stuck at a bad angle. Our only light was now brightly lighting up the trees and the night sky. Although pretty, quite useless on a dark highway. After a very nervous stretch, we finally arrived safely at Livingstone Backpackers. I tried to rinse and hang our stinky sweaty clothes. We effortlessly passed out after a hearty meal of Salticracks and cheese.

DSCN0327

Laundry at Livingstone Backpackers.

16 October – Day 4: Livingstone to somewhere about 60km before Kabwe | 600km

My ankle ached and my knees complained. DW packed well today so we had more space. As we progressed North, tomatoes and watermelons were replaced by onions and potatoes. Trees thinned out, police stops were elusive. Jehovah’s Witnesses? Abundant. We were covering a ridiculous amount of hours on the bike and our bodies were beginning to feel the kms.

Late in the afternoon we fell in with the terrible truck-infested traffic of Lusaka. We stuck to the sidewalks. Despite it being 16:00, we decided to take on the 200km to Kabwe. We switched pants to give my aching knees a break. The summer pants were so big, the knee guards hung over my shins, but I didn’t complain. 60km before Kabwe we booked a room at a lodge so that we could make an early start for Mpika in the morning. We had one and a half days left to reach the Lake so we didn’t want to waste time to set up a camp. Day four: Gatvol.

DSCN0338

We filled the tank with petrol using pantyhose as a filter.

DSCN0346

DW tightening the ever-sagging bags for the 13595045th time.

DSCN0355

…decisions…decisions…

DSCN0356

Gatvol.

Due to a lack of packing space, I sadly had to leave behind my trusty Canon 7D. All photographs were taken with either a Nikon Coolpix pocket camera or a Blackberry or a Nokia. A lot of pictures were taken from the back of the bike. I am not a fan of taking pictures without consent. The speed at which we were touring made our meetings with people fleeting and thus I often opted to rather put away my camera.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *