In South Africa, truck drivers were ecstatic to see me, hooting their horns, thumbs upping out the window. Really great. (In fact the whole way along truckers have been my pals, I chat to them in fuel stations etc. We share the road! I think back home most truckers would despise a pesky little cyclist!) The local Afrikaaner’s and the ones on holiday along with the other white tourists also gave big waves and the odd hoot of the horn. The road workers were happy waving and nodding, however the Human Traffic Lights (these poor ladies who stand in the blazing heat all day wearing funny little bonnets waving a red flag as traffic lights) never ever waved back at me, or even said hi. There were plenty of them. Hmmmm, “how strange” I thought.
In Namibia the overlanders (4X4 camping tourists) LOVED me, stopping giving me fruit, water etc and huge smiling waves, the locals in the south were all pretty friendly and always gave a good wave (although I didn’t see many – remember Namibia is mostly desert!). However, this is where it gets interesting, in the north when I hit the villages, the waving changed.
The children would scream hello and wave smiling, only to run up to me with their hands out saying “sweets”, “money”, ”food”, “hungry”, which I must tell the truth - really infuriated me. Many of them were eating already and after such a good rainy season the crops were bursting in the fields around their homes. I don’t want to be cold hearted and I have really struggled with this, but so far I haven’t given anything away – mainly because I have nothing to give and am hungry myself – but also it seems in some of these more remote places, the white man is considered someone who has everything and will give it all away no matter what. (What I often do is stop on my bike, stare wide eyed at the children and say Sweets??? Yes please!! And put out my hand. This really baffles the poor guys. They don’t speak any English, so we bat to and fro saying “sweets?” “yes.” “sweets” Yes.” Perhaps a little cruel...?) In the same places the women would smile great big smiles and wave, the old men (all dressed like absolute heroes- football shirt, blazer, cowboy hat. Ridiculously coo.) would all grin and wave.
However the men aged between about 15 – 25 would see me and deliberately look away, ignoring me (although I could see them looking out the corner of their eyes....) and wait till I passed. Early on I carried on waving only to get the cold shoulder, so I slowly adapted to a manly nod. This was received better, but still often ignored or met with a burst of aggressive sounding shouts! I know I certainly would not like to be patronised and waved at by a passing foreigner like I was a little child, so I do understand where they are coming from. As I crossed the border into Botswana it all changed again, everyone was waving and chatting. It isn’t all smiles though, through Botswana whenever I stopped in a village to buy some pasta and a coke (I think my teeth are completely rotten now...) most often I was ignored, or met with pretty hostile reception from the shopkeepers. Obviously not in every case and I have met some very friendly people - each village and town has its own reception to me. Whether this depends on troubles in the past (as I think it must with Nothern Namibian Men and the Caprivi Strip) or tourism or remoteness, I am not sure, but I am slowly getting an understanding of each place and its character, in these terms. A great way to do a demographical study geographers!
I on the other hand, depending on who I am waving at, change between the sincere nod (men), the barely perceptible nod (up hill/into the wind), the all out goofy arm wave (children), the salute (some overlanders), peace sign (backpackers), thumbs up (friendlier looking men), polite wave (ladies), the wink (young teens), the grin (ladies again), and eyebrow down lip purse (mixed bunch, older men)
Hellos! Now, hellos. They make me laugh! The hellos take a whole new form, I chop and change between my William Brown (Just William) “hullo Ginger”, my Kevin Bridges “Mummy, can you get me an Ice Cream” (laughing my head off), my Scots Hello, my Posh English Hello, and many other varieties – you have to keep yourself amused!
Things I would do differently
I would just like to take a second to explain something to you all that has been bothering me! Please don’t think I am boasting or being a bore, but it has been on my mind. Most other bicycle tourers don’t try and raise money for charity, although I absolutely love the kind complements about how brave I am etc. this is not why I have asked all you kind souls to donate to the Rhinos and the Ocean. I do accept that cycling through Africa requires bravery and daring but it is the speed that I am travelling that is the real challenge (and the fact that I am alone)! Most people would take about 6-8 months to do 10000KM, or even longer, I have caught up with a bicyclist ahead of me who was in Northern Namibia when I started and I took a longer route! After my 30th day I had had one days rest! So I guess, this is a combination of guilt, recieving all your kind words when I know others do it for fun, but it is really the (HUGE- here I boast!) distance I am doing in such a short time! Right, that’s done. (Also please feel free to send me emails saying how impressed you are, I love it!) And also, if you haven’t donated please do NOW! In the past month there have been several Rhino tragedies in the countries I have passed through and the Ocean continues to be raped. Must remember why I am doing this!