22nd February 2009
Big sky and lovely people. South Africa, what a lovely place. I've been here before to Cape Town, doing work training in 2006 and have been looking forward to getting here but it wasn't easy. The bike was getting more problematic everyday.
Leaving Windhoek for the 400km down to Klipmanshoop was a good ride, playing cat and mouse with the rain clouds visible from 20+kms away I was able to keep the bike at a constant 100-120kph even though the engine wasn't feeling too good with sudden power cuts of which I was to find out later what it was. Namibia is a very flat country along the main north/south highway with only light rain clouds to dodge. Entering 'Klip' was marred by the chain jumping the sprockets and to my suprise the thing had stretched so much in the last few days I was unable to extend the rear wheel to accommodate it or even remove a couple of links for my 'punch' had mysteriously disappeared. So in the hotel carpark I changed the chain for my spare I'd kept from Cameroon and replaced the rear sprocket which was getting dangerously thin on teeth.
So the next day I headed south for the border and after 65kms the 'new' chain snapped at 120kph! Jamming itself into the front sprocket housing with a horrible crunch. After luckily being able to coast to a halt I inspected the damage and found 4 links bent out of shape and minor damage to the rear sprocket. With no spare chain and not enough links to repair I was stuck. 65Kms into the desert with a half bottle of water and a packet of 'biltong' (dried meat) as my only supplies. After a short while a couple of cars stopped to offer assistance and one of them was a pick-up and trailer with a kind old couple Max and Myra, heading north back to to pick up their furniture. They kindly took me and the bike back to Klip where I was able to order a new chain and wait till the next day for delivery. The owner at LSL garage in Klip allowed me to do an oil and filter change using the garages facilities at no charge and fitted the chain for free too! Nice one mate! I also found the oil sump plug was badly stripped of threads from the crankcase which was done by 'Tony Togo's' in Lome. Thanks guys!
So off I headed back down the road I came from to the RSA border and accepted the offer of a bed for the night with Max and Myras daughter and family and the chance of a home cooked meal, wonderful. I uploaded a whole bunch of music into the youngest daughters computer and wrote a nice letter of thanks with some money to cover costs and departed for RSA.
I had 750kms to go, will the bike make it for the noises in the head are getting worse and the power loss is dramatic!
Crossing the border brought a feeling of elation, I had crossed Africa, country number 20 and 23,000kms made me feel pretty good about myself. A quick overnighter in Springbock and gunning for the last days riding into Cape Town, praying the bike would make it when 80kms north of the city, BANG! The head gasket blew! Aaargh! I could taste Cape Town yet it was to be denied at the final post. But again my luck was in...! Within 20 minutes a BMW rider pulled up by the name of Jimmy offering to head back home, get his bike trailer and recover me to his house, spend the night and take me to a garage in Cape Town in the morning!!! So a night having a 'braai' (bbq) and drinking scotch with him and his lovely wife Kerry was to be had. The bike was knackered but my luck was well and truly in.
So here I am in Cape Town, the bike is in the garage being repaired and will be ready in a day or two but the damage is done and I'm feeling the bike will stay in South Africa for it's in too much a state to be able to continue with anything else.
The list is huge.......
front sprocket nut welded on requiring a gearbox strip down,
Front fork seals need replacing
Rear shock failed
oil sump plug needs rethreading in the crankcase
new front sprocket
Head gasket replacement
cam chain needs replacing
and on and on and on...............
So, I'm going to stay in South Africa for a month or two after being offered free accommodation and food in return for helping out at a training academy then off to Australia for a different adventure. Soon the RTW will be put on hold for a while as I need the rest, a new bike, some more money and a chance to figure out what to do next.
But what have I achieved in the last 5 ˝ months? I fugured out it wasn't the adventure I was looking for but myself. I'd been living in Hostile environments due to my work for years and thought I needed another similar environment and challenge. The environment...... NO, the Challenge.... yes and I got it in spades!
I've covered 24,000kms and learnt that Africa is beautiful! Not the completely dangerous place as previously thought. I've had a share of danger and dodginess but have come away feeling a love for Africa, it's scenery and it's people. I was told a few years ago by a South African, “Geoff, you don't know Africa unless your African!” well, I think I can look him straight in the eye and say I do know a lot more of Africa than he takes me for. I know a lot more about myself for I've had it all, the highs, the lows, met some wonderful people and some not so wonderful, I challenged myself and feel good for it and as I see other tourists here I feel I deserve this pint I'm having for I rode here and it feels good. I love being a biker!
My trip hasn't ended, just a pause is required, a time to gather my thoughts and put my mind onto something else. The last few months really does take it out of you so I'm going to put my mind onto other challenges and take the opportunity to advance myself in fields I've previously enjoyed like medicine. I'm not wanting to be a doctor but would love to be a paramedic and be able to use my skills of being a biker and and go for a job that encompasses both. Riding around Africa for me has changed my outlook on life, it's not just about getting around it all on two wheels but where and what it takes you to. It's a life, a passion but also a means of getting around and meeting new people and situations where you would never get to do on a plane or even a 4x4. I think to myself about the amazing thing I've just done and in reality I'm still doing it. I'm not the only one whom has figured that maybe the full RTW is a bit too much to do in one gulp and I'll take what I have and come back later with more ideas for the next leg.
Posted by geoffshing at February 25, 2009 04:55 PM GMT
For anyone out there in cyberspace thinking of doing a trip of distance, I fully encourage you to go for it, don't let the excuses get in front of the wonderful experience you'll embark upon. The time will come where you'll kick yourself for not doing it. Ok, you may have really good excuses like family, kids, money, job and time but if you want it hard enough, it'll come and grab it with both hands. Even if it's just to the next border or to the sea but as long as it's unfamiliar territory it's a challenge. Even the bike breaking down has been turned into some of the best experiences throughout the trip and meeting the 'Samaritans' has brought me closer to the countries and it's people. Hopefully I've made some friends for life, riding companions and locals alike. I feel privileged and humbled.