26.4.2010 – Day 97 – Springbok, South Africa
I really can’t quite believe it. I biked into South Africa today. It seems almost surreal that I have ridden all the way here on my motorbike. Africa looks like a big place on the world atlas, but riding through it makes it feel a whole lot bigger. I wondered, before I started this trip, what I would think about the places that sat between South Africa and the UK. When I was young and our family moved back to the UK, it felt like a whole world separated the two places which have most shaped my life. I wanted to see that transition during this journey, of all the people and places which connect South Africa and the UK. Now I have made the link, it doesn’t half still feel like there is a whole world between. The different landscapes, geology, geography, economics, ethnicity, religion, climate and communities that I have travelled through, has been extraordinary, There are links of course – one landscape blends into the next, if at a surprising rate. Each area of a country has cultural threads, as does each country and each area of Africa and I guess if you continue that thought, there are things which bind us all together, just as much as the things that separate us.
I am so happy to be back in South Africa, even if it is a very different country now. Freedom has had its price here, but I expect most people in South Africa would tell you it was worth it. Crime levels are appallingly high – a big factor in the exodus of the rich whites in the years since apartheid ended. Of course it’s not all areas that are dangerous and many of the people who left are heading back. It seems apt then that I should be back at this time, when gentle optimism is washing over the country and the World Cup is again giving South Africa something to be truly proud of.
27.4.2010 – Day 98 – Citrusdal, South Africa
It was cool as I set off this morning. So much so, that I had to put my map down the front of my jacket to keep the breeze off. My jacket has lost all water and windproofing as I cut out the protective lining in Togo. It was the only way to survive the heat!
The Northern Cape is barren and desolate. Clouds added to the autumnal feel to the day, which seem to reflect the part of the journey I am in. The last couple of days I have been in no rush – almost putting off the inevitable of having to finish. I can’t wait to see Tracy, but as always with these trips for me, I could turn round and head up on the other coast (if Tracy would come) rather than face the monotony of everyday life. The fact is with these trips, you just don’t know where you’ll be in the evening, or what will happen during the day when you wake up each morning. The unpredictability makes me feel like I’m living each day to the full, while the goal gives me a purpose over the longer term.
The roads again were quiet. Most of the vehicles seemed to be South Africans on holiday, heading up to Namibia in their ‘backies’ or landrovers, most of which seemed to be carrying roof tents and pulling trailers carrying enormous amounts of camping gear. The different faces, skin colour and hair in these north western parts of South Africa remind me of cheesy ‘world’ coke adverts, where every face from around the world is in one place. I know there are blacks, what we call bushmen, what apartheid called coloured, whites and Asians here, but you could be forgiven for thinking there are Maori or Polynesian faces also. Such a mix and quite surprising.
Later in the day I entered the Cedarburg mountain area – this is a wine and citrus fruit growing area, but I swear the mountains here look more like Scotland than South Africa. This is Torridon with orange trees. Perhaps then, that is why I passed through a town called Clan William. I must be losing my mind. If you find you can’t stand the midgies anymore, you might want to move here! Just swap whisky for wine, haggis for boerworst, ironbru for stoney ginger beer and deep fried mars bars for koeksusters.
28.3.2010 - Day 99 – Cape Town
A valley mist covered the camp site in Citrusdal when I left this morning. A climb over a spectacular pass temporarily lifted me out of the fog and cold into bright sunshine and views of mist-covered fields of golden wheat in the plains below and spectacular mountains in the distance. By the time I hit the coast in the West, I was shivering and too cold to ride safely. A lovely café showed itself at just the right time. I hauled up until I’d warmed up and the mist had lifted.
Heading south along the coast I passed holiday towns beside the sea, which again must just be a warmer and midge-free version of Ullapool – beautiful. Following my nose south I found roads to and through the coastal national park. Within just a few miles of leaving the towns I spotted ostrich! The first one was running in the road but soon they were to both sides of me. Somehow I didn’t expect them at all. I just see ostrich as farm food – quite bizarre and wonderful seeing them in their natural environment. I also almost ran over a huge snake. Of course, I stopped the bike, jumped off and took some photos. A local couple on a small motorbike came by and had a look. They said it was a particularly large puff adder – deadly! Hmmm – glad I used a zoom then!
I stopped for a malay curry in an old colonial building in the park. Much of the traditional South African food is influenced by immigrants and slaves from India and South East Asia. The cuisine is a reflection of the people in the Cape region I guess – a real mix with many flavours.
30-40 kms out of Cape Town I rode over a rise in the main road. In the haze, in the distance, was the unmistakable silhouette of Table Mountain.
“I bloody did it!”
I must confess, I had tears in my helmet. Suddenly, the realisation that I had achieved a dream that I have had for so many years, hit. Table Mountain, being so familiar, made the distance I have travelled, and the distance from home, feel enormous. I soon pulled over by a beach looking over Cape Town and the bay. Surfer dudes were out in force, women sunbathing and men fishing from the coast. The people of Cape Town were all out enjoying their Sunday while I just enjoyed being there.
I will head down to Cape Point/Horn at some time, but don’t feel I have to. I have reached my ‘end of Africa’ and what was our family’s ‘beginning of Africa’ when we arrived here by boat in the 1970s. I rode up to Signal Hill near Table Mountain for sunset, overlooking Cape Town and the sea. It’s so good to be here and to arrive on such a beautiful day is just the best.
So what lies between here and the UK? A whole world.
I have put a few things to rest out here in Africa and I overcame some of my fears. It hasn’t stopped me feeling the loss of my parents and I’m not even sure they’d approve of what I’ve done. But I don’t see dreams as things to think about – I like to see some of mine come true. I just love adventure – and Tracy and my next adventure might just be our biggest. What could be a more fitting way to address the shrinking of our family than to join the wheel of life and grow our family again.