Firstly I’d just like to apologise to you all about how long it has taken me to write another blog - The time I set aside in Maun to write it, the rain was so bad the network was down in the entire town for two days! I am now, taking a couple of hours (I really can’t afford to take any more!) off my morning to try and write a few things down - lots to talk about! It will be all a bit higgledy piggledy I’m afraid, but I think I will write three bits (I find the word Blog 5/5 on the “Criiiinge-ometer” Sugar Magazine rating (Shug), can I say articles?? Pieces?), the fist a sort of general update, the second on greetings and the third a journal extract (want to do two, but don’t want you all to get overloaded and bored!). Sorry for the overload!
Since I last wrote I have ventured into what the people in South Africa and Nambia call “Africa”. The first few times I heard this I was a little confused... Everyone in both those two countries kept saying “Oh my goodness (they were unlikely to use that exact phrase but I am not going to swear!), you’re actually going through ‘Africa’”. It seems outside the South East, it really gets wild. Black Africans, the people who live in thatched houses in the bush along the roads, are absolutely PETRIFIED of the wild animals, every time I stop for the night on the side of the road, car after car stops and tells me “Elephants! Lions! You must not sleep here!”, “I’ll be OK” I say with rapidly fading confidence after the 7th car in a night, “you guys live here!”.
Apart from one night where I lay in my tent absolutely sweating with fear, heart pounding as I heard a hippo about 50 meters away roaring like a lazy stag, I haven’t been afraid at all. (By morning I’m pretty sure I had worked out it was a cow with a cough....) Despite the hundreds of warnings from the locals I think that the animals will, and have left me alone. Also one day not long ago in Botswana a trucker with a huge load of giant tractor wheels tried to follow me for a few miles to protect me from Lions! The day after I saw him and a friend in a petrol station and it seems he had good reason; not far from where I slept in the bush they had seen two lionesses the day before.... Lucky I didn’t understand them when they first tried to tell me, would have been a bad night’s sleep!
I do find it surprising how scared they are! Of everything! (Scary men, bad traffic, animals etc. You would never guess I was the visitor and they the locals) I did have a very nice piece of wisdom from a petrol pump boy – as I was setting off into the bush I shouted back “just got to be careful of the Lions!” “no worries my friend, they live among us!”. I have thought of that phrase almost every evening pitching tent and it has really made me (whether rightfully so or not) secure.
When I am pitching camp, running low on water, or struggling through the wind I often think of my grandfather on my Dad’s side, Grandpa Mull. Before he died he was in the SAS and the Scots Guards and when I am foolishly washing up my pan with a bit too much water or taking my tent down I can hear him saying “Ivan! Don’t be an idiot! Do you want to die of thirst??” And thinking of all the things he will be thinking about my amateur and probably wasteful camping style! I also think of him in the tough parts, when we were children and had hurt ourselves (grazed a knee etc.) we were told to “Grit your teeth and say Scots Guards”. As I fight the wind, all day every day, I drive along with clenched teeth saying over and over in a rough grow “SCOTS GUARDS!!”. I will not be broken! (I have in fact been broken pretty much every day for the last 37 days....)
As for my other grandparents I think of them a lot too, although for slightly different reasons! Just before I left I came in to the house back home to find my Grandmother essentially bathing my bicycle in Holy Water and hanging a Rosary from the handle bars. Although Jesus is a great conversation starter (“You are Roman, hmmm, you are Roman!) and it is a reassuring presence to have him with me I have sadly come to know him in another slightly more depressing sense. Every morning I wake up, pack up and stand over my bike, the hanging glow in the dark Jesus will determine my day. Instead of WWJD it has become WWJP. Where Will Jesus Point (Or rather, Who Will Jesus Punish). As he hangs there he catches the wind, so as my own personal weather vane, he points at me as if saying YOU will be punished, no one else! The Wind is in your face again! Very depressing! (Bramble and Poppy, I know you are reading this and I think many happy thoughts about you as well, this is just a funny anecdote!)
In terms of scenery and weather, to be honest Botswana was pretty boring as was northern Namibia. It has also rained quite alot. I am sure if you have the thousands of pounds available to do the activities, stay in the lodges, drive through the parks these places would be out of this world, but from the road it was mostly just bushes and donkeys! Also even the budget end of travelling in Africa seems to be expensive (In this sense very unlike Asia) The cycling is however, obviously interspersed with extraordinary moments of culture and wildlife (I LOVE GIRAFFES), I am not bored, and I am having an amazing but hard time.
As soon as I entered Zimbabwe (I was only there for a day but am going back in about 4 days time) I got a very good feeling, great people, real wilderness, I really genuinely instantly loved it. I spent yesterday at the Victoria falls which were simply mind-blowing, completely spectacular. Although very strange being back in a tourist hub with all the ‘parastites’ as Begbie calls them in The Beach (Begbie? That’s Trainspotting. Daffy? Ducky! Quacky? Well, whatever Robert Carlysle was called in the Beach....)Fun though.
Now heading North East in Zambia for 4 days, back down into Zimbabwe, a short hop across Mozambique and into Malawi. Really looking forward to a bit of population- roadside fruit, street food, more culture. As much as I have thoroughly enjoyed the wilderness, especially the desert in Namibia, I am looking forward to not having to carry so many supplies! (Cycled without my panniers yesterday, equally depressing and liberating. So fast and easy!)
Finally I just wanted to comment on the fact that at each border crossing there really is the most profound change. The countries are so different to each other, in the people and in the landscape. I have always thought of borders as human imposed imaginary lines, but it seems to some degree the earth also follows them (I guess many of them are along rivers/mountain ranges etc). Just think it is interesting. Better go explore Zambia now! Also, THANK YOU ALL SO SO SO MUCH FOR YOUR SUPPORT. IT MEANS THE WORLD TO ME!