Archive | June, 2011

Heading off!

22 Jun

Finally the time has come. We will be heading off tomorrow morning. Built the bikes up yesterday, getting food supplies today. We have sorted out the route to Katima, well actually there’s only one road so didn’t have much route planning to do.

Here in the city of Rundu we have been couch surfing with some US Peace Corp volunteers and they have hooked us up with all the info for our route along the way which has been super helpful.

Ohhhh I can smell the adventure. Definitely feels like Africa now, Rundu Namibia’s second largest city is home to dirt/sandy roads, heat, rubbish, friendly people, cheap weird food.  I like the vibe, I’m enjoying being back in the developing world, and the people here in northern Namibia aren’t forceful, they give you your space, which is quite refreshing compared to most places I have traveled, as usually being a white guy in a developed place represents you’re a walking dollar sign.

OK, This is just a quick post to let you know we are finally off tomorrow, rather excited that after all this planning we will be on our bikes. Internet will be sparse until we hit Katima around 10th of July so we won’t be on the net much.

Nuthin but love Hap

Arrived in Namibia – Plan C

20 Jun

We’re doing it hard on the Final Continent Expedition. Had head winds all night, didn’t sleep much, sore backs, but managed to make good ground. We did about 1600km in 20 hours. Impressive eh? Yeah, we were on an overnight bus. Was great seeing the landscape that we had planned to cycle through. Basically the photo below shows what all of the South African route was like, and the Namibian side was slightly more desert like. I spent the whole time looking out the window thinking “we could have camped there, that would have been a good place to have lunch, could have gotten water there.”

We arrived in Namibia’s capital Windhoek this morning at 5.30am. It was rather chilly, but as the sun rose so did the temperature. First impressions are of a really lovely city, blue skies, clean, organised, kinda of what you don’t expect an African city to be. If I was on Facebook I would “LIKE” Windhoek.

We have now moved onto plan C, we will not be staying in Windhoek as previously thought. Michael, the man behind BEN, Namibia is out of town so there is nothing really for us to film here in Windhoek (we’ll be catching up with him in Katima further down the track). Plus we are rather eager to get on our bikes and start pedalling. We will be catching another overnight bus up to Rundu on the Namibian/Angola border. We arrive there early tomorrow morning, will do some couch surfing, get the bikes built up, buy our food supplies, apply Vaseline (NB to self, still have to buy vas), then hit the road on Thursday, finally!

Michael has given us four bike shops to visit along the Caprivi Strip where we hope to be able to pitch our tent and do some filming. The Caprivi Strip is the ‘pot handle’ of Namibia, the thin strip of land between, Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. Katima Mulilo the destination of the container is at the very end of it. It will be at least a 500km bike ride from Rundu to Katima. We plan to be in Katima on the 9th of July as the project is kicking off on the 11th.

Really excited to finally be kicking this little bike trip off. Woo hoo.

Here are a few photos from Mandy’s and mine trip down the Cape of Good Hope below (Cheers Brev our great host for the use of his car).

One of the world’s most beautiful cities

18 Jun

Tomorrow we leave Cape Town; it has been just what the doctor ordered after a hectic couple of months lead up to leaving Melbourne. The batteries are charged, the last minute things are ticked off the list that I ran out of time to do in Melbourne, although I still haven’t got the first half of the book to the editor –Sorry Nic, I will get it to you. Our new plan is now in place and we are looking forward to it. But enough of that, how about Cape Town?

Cape Town is constantly named as one of the world’s most naturally beautiful cities. Being here it is easy to see why, the beaches, the two oceans, the climate (it’s winter and I was in boardies and a T-shirt, although the past three days it poured), the wine area, the farmland, the rocky mountains and how can we forget, Table Mountain.

Cape Town is a city built around Table Mountain, no matter where you are you can see Table Mountain, which is great if you are directionally challenged or had a few too many Castle Lagers, as you always have a land mark. A great way to take in the city’s natural beauty is from the top of Table Mountain. Here are some of our photos from our day hike up Table Mountain.

It was a bit of steep climb up there, but with my Goretex shoes and light weight quick dry adventure outfit it was no worries!

On cloud 9

A perfect bluebird day!

Mandy with the ground we covered in the background.

Go the tripod and timer shot! Cape Town in the background.

Lions Head that looks over Cape Town. They say it looks like a Lion. Robben Island in the background where Nelson Mandela did his time.

Doing a little bit of filming on the top. And yes, I look a little bit bamboozled by the tripod.

Cape Town, one of the more beautiful cities of the world.

Sun setting on a glorious day!

Plan B

16 Jun

In theory the Final Continent Expedition is rather easy. Fill a sea container full of bikes, send it to Africa. We cycle 5000km through Southern Africa arriving to a standing ovation of smiling African kids and church singing mamas. Then as we dismount from our bikes someone hands us an ice cold bottle of Coca – Cola. Then as we take our first sip, with sweat flinging from our brow, the Melbourne sea container pulls into town with hundreds of smiling African kids running behind it. Then Elton John pops up and starts singing the Cycle of Life, Michael Jackson then floats down from heaven to join Elton in a duet. Lions, zebras and giraffes come skipping onto the scene and we all join hands and sing in unison as we open the sea container doors, laughter and singing filling the African air as the sun sets over the container.

In reality it’s a little bit more complicated. Let me just talk you through the process. Firstly, BEN Namibia needs to have found a community that is in need of a bike workshop, and a community that will get behind it and support it so that it is a success. Then once they have the support of the community, they need to find the funding to set up the container, which is roughly between $20,000-$30,000. Then once that gets the green light they need a sea container full of bikes.

That is where Bicycles for Humanity come in. But Bicycles for Humanity doesn’t have a warehouse full of sea containers ready to send off at a drop of a hat. The Melbourne chapter of Bicycles for Humanity send 2-4 containers per year dependant on supply and funding. At the storage spot they only have room for one container, and when that is filled it has to be sent off straight away to be replaced by an empty container so that the constant stream of bikes coming in have somewhere to go. For them to send the container requires $10,000 – $12,000 to cover the shipping costs. As you can see quite a few stars have to align.

Then if that wasn’t enough, you then have the shipping of the container. Getting the container to Africa takes a couple of weeks, but once it hits Africa it’s on African time, taking months to get to the destination. The last Melbourne container was unpacked and packed again twice at the Zambian/Namibian boarder because different officials wanted to see its contents! Trust me unloading and reloading 400 bikes is not a quick task.

What I’m trying to portray is that it was always going to be a miracle if everything aligned and we arrived at the same time as the container. From the get go we have had to play things by ear, for example we only found out Katima Mulilo was the destination six weeks before leaving Melbourne. But never did I think the container would be beating us to the destination by two months. I always thought that we would have to be extending our bike ride to kill time as the container had been held in customs somewhere.

THE REASONING

We had been building up to the cycling out of Cape Town, we had prepared for the cold weather, packed our gear accordingly, I even went and bought -5 degree sleeping bags six days before departure to replace our summer bags. Plus we had mentally pumped ourselves up to cycle the remote route up through north western South Africa, and then tackle the Namibian desert, something that I was really looking forward to, the challenge.

At the end of the day I couldn’t justify going on my little cycling adventure and missing out on helping with the container. Although I’m disappointed that I won’t be able to keep the human powered promise, I’m here in Africa to work, to complete my goal, to give back for all the generosity I have received on my working the world quest. Plus everyone who has donated towards the container, and supported us, have supported us to work with the container. Not to mention the documentary; it was no use arriving two months after the container as the majority of the container would have been implemented, I wanted to document the whole implementation process and be an integral part in seeing its completion.

PLAN B

Now we will be catching the 20 hour bus north to the Namibian capital Windhoek. We will stay four days in Windhoek, where we’ll do some filming at the BEN, Namibia HQ. Then we will catch another bus to Rundu on the Angolan/Namibian border. From there we will cycle along the Caprivi Strip, visiting bike work shops along the way to Katima Mulilo, arriving early July to meet the container. As planned we will work a couple of months setting up the container. Once it is implemented we will then set off on our big bike trip cycling through Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and possibly Mozambique. In the end we still work with the container of two months and do five months of cycling but all in a different order.

So that’s that folks. Now we have our heads around it we are quite excited. If only I had thought about all this before leaving Melbourne I wouldn’t have had to pack my puffer jacket or run out last minute and bought warmer sleeping bags. But that’s the nature of the beast.

We had a big flattie!

15 Jun

Flatty

Yip, we had a big flattie. The tyres are fine, in fact the bikes are still in the box. When I talk of a flattie I mean Mandy and I were flat when we hit Cape Town. It was rather ironic, after planning this for so long you would have thought we were would have been bursting at the seams with excitement. But we couldn’t be bothered doing anything, our bodies just seemed to shut down, the colds that we had been fighting off with pre leaving adrenaline caught up with us, we just wanted to sleep on arrival.

I kept thinking, I should be excited, but sleep was the only thing that excited me……………………….and the amazing hamburgers they have here, best hamburgers in the world I reckon. Our friend Shannon (pictured beside me above before our Dive Master Snorkel test) who I did my Dive Masters with in Thailand had just the ticket for us and had booked us into her Mum’s B&B in quaint Simonstown for 2 nights. It was just what the doctor ordered, we chilled and slept.

Curve ball

As well as chilling out, we had a pretty massive decision to make. The container will be in Katima Mulilo in the first week of July, in a couple of weeks! This shouldn’t have come as a major surprise as we knew the container had already arrived in Africa. But with all the hype around leaving, it just didn’t cross my mind. Then all of a sudden, it dawned on me that if we cycled up to Katima, then we would arrive 2 months later than the container.

So as well as our blah state of mind, we also spent the first three days in Cape Town trying to get our heads around our situation. Cycle to Katima Mulilo and miss out on implementing the container, or fly to Katima, implement the container and miss out on cycling there.

Now that we’ve got our minds around the situation we’ve come up with a pretty good plan B. I should have it sorted out by the coming day and I will fill you in on when it’s finalised.

Great South African Hospitality

But enough of the blah state, poor me bullocks. We are in Africa, and after repairing our flatty, it was time to pump up the tyre (I know, pretty amazing cycling metaphor, LOL – Yep, I just wrote LOL). We were taken into Shannon’s extended family and have been shown some of the best hospitality, WOW, what a weekend, rugby, wine tastings, dinners, BBQ’s, sunshine, good times. I feel like a new person from the deflated person I was talking about above after a great weekend. I will let the photos do the talking.

Great seats for the Stormers vs Bulls (yep, the only photo I got was of the cheerleaders)

Walking the dogs on Sunday down to the café for breakfast. Table Mountain in back ground.

Our own personal tour with Paddy, Nicole and Debbie.

Beautiful coast line.

A photo of some freak we came across on our way up Table Mountain, this guy thought he was climbing Everest, he had quick dry everything, compression socks, goretex shoes, waterproof bag, zip off trousers (queue head shake). Anyway, I will do post on our hike up Table Mountain. Stunning.

Time to walk

10 Jun

Pre departure chaos

Bikes stands finally arrive in the mail on Thursday, 4 days before departure, bike pants need to be bought, pack up the apartment, still need to thank people for Beer, Bikes and Bands, first half of book needs to get to editor, need to get travel insurance, what kind of plugs do they have in South Africa? Do the neighbours want to buy our kitchen table? Taxes need to be done, must tell employers of address to send tax forms, radio interview on Joy FM, meeting Mum, Dad and Jarnia for lunch, Chiz and Matt’s joint 30th birthday party, tequila shots, Sunday morning good bye to Mum and Dad who have been staying, a last minute bike repair Sunday night after I bent my derailleur and wheel in an accident (thank you Riley), checking things off the gear list. How much sun block do we need? Shit I still haven’t got spare spokes, 2am in the morning, packing bikes into boxes, there’s a cut in the side wall of Mandy’s tyre, must get a patch for that in Cape town, camping and cycling gear strewn all round our shoe box apartment.

Three hours sleep,up at 6.30am to finish off the packing, to see if all the other stuff lying on the floor can be put in a pannier, should I put the sleeping bags in the front left pannier or back right? Can all our cooking gear fit in the one pannier – ummm, this is why people say you need to do multiple practice runs before going on bike tour. Camp stove, best I clean this to get the fuel out of the lines, ummmm I’ve never cleaned it before, best I learn quick. OK, bikes and panniers packed, Shaun our down stairs neighbour loads his truck up with our boxes full of accumulated pots, pans, duvets etc, and to think we arrived only  a year ago with two back packs. Store boxes and other random stuff in Sarah and James’s garage, Sich rings and wishes us well. Take our boxed up bikes and panniers to Matt and Linnley’s house where we will sleep the night before flying out tomorrow.  A rush to the store to get some last minute camping gear, adding to the Cape Town to do list, get bike pants, spare spokes, bum cream. Carpet cleaner arrives on the dot at 2pm, no time to eat. Must clean, flat inspectionat 4pm. Next thing we know Mandy and I are in the kitchen furiously cleaning, racing the clock to move out. “Have you done the oven?”

“Shit, we have no oven cleaner”

As I’m belly button deep in the oven with windex, the property manager arrives, keys handed over, another apartment lived and worked from. Drop my Melbourne bike off with the rest of the Beer Bikes and Bands bicycle drop bikes that will be put into the next Africa bound sea container. Walk to Matt and Linnley’s, send off some thank you emails, open a beer, friends over for our good bye dinner, curry, beer, wine, laughs, good byes, tears, thanks yous. 11pm, Mandy and I on couch, best we book our travel insurance.

Go time and good people

Wake up, ahhh the day of departure, the day we have been working towards for over a year. But still not organised, where’s my credit card? Must ring my editor, let her know that I still haven’t finished the first half of the book, but will get it to her soon.  Coffee with Linnley, taxi arrives. Bugger the station wagon has a metal grate that doesn’t allow us to put down the seats, our bikes won’t fit. Our friendly Indian taxi driver who doesn’t speak much English says “maybe you miss plane.”  But he’s on our side, it seems today everyone will be. He rams the boxes into the back seat as though we are already in Africa, I look to him asking “where do I go”, he smiles and points to the back seat “make sure no one see you.” What a legend, risking his taxi licence and livelihood so we can get to the airport on time.

Arrive at airport, taxi driver stops away from main area for me to walk the last part as to not raise suspicion, then carries onto the drop off point. A lady sees us with our bike boxes and offers her pre paid cart. Our taxi driver helps load the cart, but our bike boxes don’t fit through the airport sliding door, another friendly parking attendant helps us unload and reload. Then the guy behind us as we navigate through the roped off check in queue looks like Xavier Rudd, one of my favourite singers, what, it is Xavier Rudd!(check out the photo Mandy took before we noticed it was him) At check in we tape our flimsy $2 bags up with packing tape so the zippers don’t bust, 100kgs of gear checked in, thanks to Emily our travel agent friend $2,300 of excess luggage avoided! The Final Continent Expedition begins.

How you feeling?

This is a rather common question lately.  The truth is, I haven’t really thought too much about Africa. Firstly we were working towards Beer, Bikes and Bands, had Sich here filming, then when that finished we had to pack up the apartment for move out and get our gear packed for Africa. It has only really been today that it feels like we are embarking on this little adventure.

Yeah, of course there is a little apprehension.  I have basically dedicated the first two weeks to a sore bum, bum boils, sleepless nights, unorganised packing, thoughts of “what the hell are we doing?”, head winds and rain. I’m just expecting the worse and anything else will be bonus.  But after the hard yards will be a two wheeled life of simplicity and adventure. We will have our “house” organised, everything will have its place in the panniers, life will fall into routine, the bum will be hardened, mornings will be early and nights earlier. The people and landscapes will be amazing.

Yep, we’ve heard the stories, Namibia is the one of the driest, least densely populated countries in the world. Lonely Planet writes “Namibia is totally unsuitable for cycle touring”, yes it has the largest cheetah population in Africa, yes it’s one big desert. Yes I agree that we don’t know what we are in for. We are cycling virgins, we are naive as to what to expect. But I think if you constantly worry about things and everything that can happen then you’re still at home on the couch wondering. Sometimes you just have to do it, and find out. All you can do is get the right gear, get as much advice and instruction as possible, then eventually you have to go and find out for yourself. When people start getting worried I just say “people have circumnavigated the earth on penny farthings, I’ve been following numerous blogs of people cycling from London to Cape Town, our little cycle is just a walk in the park compared to the crazy expeditions other people are undertaking.”

How am I feeling? I’m looking forward to the adventure, I’m looking forward to the challenge, to this new lifestyle that awaits, a new way of travelling, to the people, the uniqueness of the African continent. I’m looking forward to working with the container, to meeting the people and being a part of the community in Katima Mulilo. Ok enough of my talking, it’s time to walk the walk.

Once again, a big thank you to everyone who has helped us get thus far!

Well taken care of in Cape Town

8 Jun

Just a quick one to let you know Mandy and I have arrived safely in Cape Town. We’re being well looked after by our friend Shannon and her generous family. Post to come on our journey here once I’m connected with my computer.

For now you can listen to the podcast of a radio interview on the Joy FM Detours travel show Mandy and I had the Saturday before leaving Melbourne.

nbl

Hap