Day102 Friday 21st January. 2011

Every thing changed at the border this time, the primate, centipedes and flying and non flying beetles all vanished. Very strange as I did not think they recognized international boarders.. the terrain was very flat only differing with the grass land having short but healthy trees on it or not.

At our first fill up it was great see, as we had been told, the fuel was half the cost of Zim. At the pump was three young men filling six hundred litres into twenty-five litre tubs. I could only guess he gave the customs men a back hander and he was selling it in Zim.

At one hundred clicks we stopped at a gas station whereupon asking the lady gave us the go ahead to camp on their front lawn, unfortunately it was infested with ants, just as she had warned. So we backtracked to Panda Camp where we met two south African guys, uncle and nephew who farmed near by. While Diane cooked up some food I battled with the chain oiler which has been a pain in my head since I first commissioned it at Wim’s. I found out no oil was reaching the chain due to a split in the pipe. Asking the south Africa guys if they knew of any suitable pipe to be had for a repair we walked the site in search ending up his truck where upon he took off his near side windscreen washer hose and gave it to me saying ‘this should do the job’! Astounded that he was willing to do such a thing for a stranger I thanked him and went back to my bike a tad dazed by his spontaneous act of kindness. With the oiler repaired it worked fine in ‘prime mode’.

Day103 Saturday 22nd January.

We left early due to being asleep by eight and intended to ride the two hundred clicks to Nata and stop and have a slow day.

We passed through the western side of Hwange National Park the road side was inundated with giraffe and elephant, we were only ten meters away from some of them and when they turned to face us, pawed the dirt and shock their heads it makes you realize how big an elephant can be, and if they wanted to damage could be done to us with out a problem for them.

As the trip odometer turned the one forty mark we had to stop and be disinfected again, this time the dip was not so deep. As I rode out the engine faltered on almost stalled as it dropped onto one cylinder, thinking it may be low on fuel I put in the spare five litres to no benefit. We were now at the gate to a safari lodge and two men in a truck soon came out and asked if we needed help. Not being shy to accept I said if I could not repair it quickly I would need a truck to get it to their lodge as it was in no state to be ridden. Discovering that it was the rear cylinder that had given up I took out the spark plug and tested it to see if it was sparking. It appeared to have packed up but I was not sure if the subframe I used as an earth was suitable. I got one of the spare plugs and tried that and it was OK. Plug fitted we carried on to Nata, following our two friends in the truck as they said they would help if it gave further trouble.

At Nata we ate at a café by the gas station, food was beans, rice, solid kind of maize porridge and a spherical bread that I could not tear apart and struggled to gnaw through the rubbery crust, but it all tasted very good. When we had eaten it was only half twelve and as Nata on a Saturday afternoon looked fairly quiet we decided to go on to Maun. It was another three hundred km, too far to go so we thought that we would camp out at the half way mark or so. As per usual in Botswana we saw nowhere suitable on the road and ended up in town at four pm. On entering The Old Bridge Backpackers I was reversed into by a BMW and pushed over. Can’t say knocked over as he was reversing out of a parking space, he caught the rear of the pannier and caused no damage but was apologetic enough to invite us to sit with his friends and buy us beer all night. He also invited us to use his house when we pass by in a few days as he stays at his girlfriends home.

Day104 Sunday 23rd January.

Spent the morning mostly battling with the chain oiler, again. I don’t know how something so simple can be so difficult to have working when fitted to the bike. It all fine off it, and in prime mode it drips oil, but on the road it does not seem to do a lot.

Calvin, (BMW driver), Joyce, (girlfriend) and Humberto, (good friend), came to buy us dinner and more beers at one pm, so fish and mash was my order of the day and the afternoon soon was spent in an ungainly heap of drunken bodies, well, as much as you can in a public bar.

Day105 Monday 24th January.

We left camp at half ten and went into town to hunt for another spark plug and some oil for the chain, the first spares place we found the owner of backpackers was also buying oil and he said it was the best place in town for me to find a plug. While Diane was sweltering in the thirty-eight degrees of humidity on the curbside in a little shade I waited and waited in the stuffy, warm, but familiar smells of oils and tyres . There was a pair of young men in front of me, one black mechanic and a white south African. Between them they held a prop shaft with a very worn universal joint one end a totally knackered one on the other. The parts man was failing to get through to the south African that the parts would have to order from maybe the UK, (Landrover) and would take a week maybe. This was going down like a lead balloon as the truck was stuck in the bush and the guy needed to get home. When my turn came the guy looked me up and down and carefully took stock of my mad Max impersonation, (clothing you understand) and said ‘the spark plug, it’s for a motorbike then’. Relieved that he thought I did not dress like this for pleasure I said ‘yes, yes!’.

Ten minutes passed when he said the cupboard was bare, but directed me to an outboard motor specialist that the owner was into bikes and its our best bet. Half an hour saw plug bought and we headed of to find Humbertos’ home. As we were a little under the influence when he gave us our directions we failed to find him and feeling bad we headed out-of-town to Ghanzi.

The three hundred km was through grass land much like England then this gave way to trees. As this is part of the Kalahari desert I was surprised that it was so green, at the back of my mind the name rings a bell but I can’t remember why. Maybe it’s because it’s a desert with no sand??? The roadside, as normal for this country was inhabited by donkeys, wild horses and cows, which often stood in the middle of the highway not knowing what to do or which was to go. As they are totally unpredictable you have to slow to a possible stop until they take off at a bolt in any direction….

We hit town at four pm and tried to call Calvin and Joyce, but as in Ethiopia and Zimbabwe my cell appeared to have no roaming in this country also. After Diane gave a heart rendering story to the young girl at the phone outlet in the entrance to the Spar shop she had contacted our new-found friends and they arrived to pick us up. Welcoming taken care of they took us to the house. We followed them the one or so km and parked the bike under a huge porch, and got our gear in. The house was only a year or so old and was really nice. Very comfortable, and so much more room than a tent!

As he did not really live here any more we had free run for the time we needed to stand still. Later in the afternoon we were taken into town and bought heaps of food, as we chose fish, fruit and veg he was shaking his head saying ‘why don’t you guys get some meat, have chicken that’s not really meat. Here are some frozen chicken feet you can made a running soup, but you have to cut off their claws first as they aren’t nice!!’. Back at the ranch we had a beer and a chat with them and our new neighbour, Umbongo, that how the Europeans say it but I’m sure in Shona in sounds very different.

Calvin is a Jamaican who lived in the UK for a time then after the second war was taken the USA at the age of seven and stayed there till he was a young man when he travelled with his work to other countries in the east of the world. He has a very Western outlook on the African people he deals with in his day-to-day in the local government.

The animals that roam the highways and byways of the country are rounded up if they stray to neighbouring farmland, or are a pain on the roads and kept for six months at government expense whereupon if claimed in that time the legal owner has to pay two Pula and fifty Thebe a day for their care. (twenty-five pence). Often they are not claimed and the government then sells them at market.

The government, apparently also give out aid to the local bushmen, called San people. This is in the form of boarding school, (where the children often escape and run free and head back home to the bush, usually taking two to three days!!!), and giving them cattle, worth maybe a thousand Pula each (where upon the usually sell them for one to two hundred Pula, a day or five later).

Day106 Tuesday 25th January.

Wondering into town late morning, about two km, and having a mooch about is a pleasant way to wind down from the road. Finding your way around a town that will be home for a long time, (more than a day or two) is a relaxing way to spend an afternoon. Early afternoon saw us pouring over maps and looking at our roads west then south to Cape.

Calvin rolled in at five or so and took us to Joyce house where she was cooking food for her niece, her son and friend.

Later on as I was taken with the television and Megatrucks, at a North Canadian diamond mine, us two MEN were in awe of the vehicles, (and I of the television, which I find more surreal now than I ever did in the UK, even though we had not had one there for over three or more years. When the power failed fifteen minutes later the candles were bought out and they talked of poor national government and corruption, though the fury was softened by alcohol!!

We went back in total darkness and much nervous giggling (not from me but Diane as she does not like thunder), under a black sky full of millions of stars thanks to the lack of light pollution.

Day107 Wednesday 26th January.

Soon after waking I had another play with the chain oiler again as it is still being bad boy. After dis, and re-mantling it, I was happy it was working, in theory, and we hit town early as the bright blue sky and light wind was very welcoming after the dark slate grey skies we have been enjoying.

We managed to find a spanner to fit the sump plug, as last time I had to borrow a socket off Dave at Wims. We failed to change money as the A.T.M. was closed at one and did not like Diane’s card at another. So cashless, beerless, but rich in our spanner purchase, we walked back in full, hot sunshine.

Day108 Thursday 27th January. Nicky’s Birthday

We we walked our legs off this morning looking for oil as with horror I realized that it the bike was due for an oil change at the least. Finding synthetic oil can be a problem and as Calvin’s house was the ideal place to do it as he has a porch and concrete floor. It is not ideal working at camping grounds as I often spend time looking for screws or tools in the grass. It really could do with tappets checking too but I don’t have the kit to adjust them if necessary, so it is best to ride in ignorance and kid my self they are fine. If I knew they had closed up it would worry me due to the possible engine damage. Ostrich syndrome I reckon.

We spent a few hours on the internet, Diane looking for the possibility of finding a little work In SA. Myself, uploading pictures from Kenya and Tanzania to the blog. The connection was OK but they took two hours to upload but failed to embed into the blog so I gave up as I have limited patience with computers. Diane had little success also, so we walked back happy with our purchase of oil. More so due to the Indian sales assistant being interested in the trip and visas for the UK, and at the finish he discounted the oil by twenty-five percent. Result!

Day109 Friday 28th January.

Spent most of the day shirt off working on the bike in the warm January sunshine, (sorry!!). Due to having to remove the waterproof bag, front tool tube, crash-bars and water cans, both fuel tanks, both front fairings and sump guard an oil change takes about four hours. Add into that cleaning and getting distracted with other jobs you find as you go it takes all day!! However I had to stop work around two as the skies opened and we had a real tropical storm with high winds and torrential rain. Tomorrows another day so I’ll finish it then.

Diane spent the most of the day washing our kit and her bike gear. She gave me a shout when her bike clothes were finished, to come and look, more at the water than the items. It was actually black, not brown but black. Dread to think how much dirt is in mine especially after being in the back of the truck on the Moyale road. As they are leather I will try to get them cleaned in SA.

We had a barbecue, (called a braai here apparently), with some colleagues of Joyce and Calvin in the evening. The conversation was dominated by the topic of ‘Lbowler’, which is the dowry paid to the brides eldest uncle. The difference between Calvin’s American way of thinking to the local Shona way made for interesting listening. Some of the stories that were told of past wedding dowry complications could make you either laugh or cry. Money always can have the opportunity to muddy the water.

As they talked the sun sank in a brilliant display of orange and reds, streaked across with dark blues of cloud, while behind us the sky was filling up with stars. I thought about the sunsets I have watched round a fire at my brothers home and whether anyone else from our Wadi Halfa boat group was watching the same spectacular display.

Day110 Saturday 29th January.

The first day we have had with no rain or storms since we have been in Ghanzi.

We went to town to get one of Diane’s boot repaired, change a little money, and send an email or two. At the bootmans’ hut we realized we had left her boot at the house and later that the internet closed at twelve, but we did get half an hour but it was in very slow mode so we headed back and I finished off the bike while Diane washed more of our gear. As the afternoon was really hot we sat in with the fans running and watched a film called ‘Imagining Argentina’, recommended viewing. We have never watched films before and it was nice to just sit and unwind.

We had food at Calvin and Joyce s’ house and had to sit through a football match on TV. As he was so enthusiastic about it, it made watching it with him enjoyable. I don’t like the game at all, so that surprised me, but we a had a pleasant evening.

Day111 Sunday 30th January.

Today was Joyce’s daughters birthday so at midday we went to a lodge out-of-town. They had booked a dancing castle and a braai. It was supposed to start at one pm, so we were told, by three the guests had mostly rolled in. It was bizarre to be in Southern Africa at a children’s party being treated like family amongst people we had known for less than a week. At seven we packed up and headed back to their house for a few beers.

Day112 Monday 31st January.

We intended to head out into the wide blue yonder this morning, however Humberto has ‘phoned and he is coming to Ghanzi from Maon on Wednesday afternoon to see us. So we said we would leave on Thursday but it was insisted that would leave on Friday morning at the earliest. We have had a fantastic week here and it has been great to really meet folks and get to know a town. We both have got a great deal of jobs done and are looking forward to heading off on Friday.

We took the bike into town this morning on a post service ride, to buy food supplies and fill it with fuel. Was really great to be riding again and we both wanted to keep going for hours.

Diane thought it would be a thoughtful thing to cook lunch for Calvin and Joyce as they have an hour break at midday, and cooked food is not something they often do. So she cooked, and after they dropped us back in to town to kill a few hours.

Day113 Tuesday 1st February.

While Diane cooked I cleaned the bike as it’s not been done since Niarobbery in Kenya.

Diane cooked jacket potatoes with cheese and beans, as Joyce has not had them before. She added fresh chilli into the beans and Joyce was very impressed and said she would cook it as a meal for their friends.

We got a lift to town after lunch as its been mostly thirty degrees in the shade and up to forty-seven in the sunshine, to pick up Diane’s boot from the bootman.

Day114 Wednesday 2nd February.

We walked into town before it got really hot and succeeded in updating the blog, with text only. Sorry, but as I said, hopefully SA will have a faster connection.

At the bank our friendly teller advised us against changing money due to the double transaction. At Victoria Falls we changed GBP to BWP without going to USD beforehand. Guess it was an error as we thought at the time.

With beers bought for our fair well party tonight we headed home in the hot sun. Umbongo told us on our return that the rest of Botswana has rain, bloody typical, if its wet in the morning I’m gonna be grumpy. The last few days has been clear and sunny. Back at the ranch we cleared the decks, I packed what gear as best I could while Diane swept and washed the floors.

At the thought of riding out in the morning, I felt like a schoolboy (but its illegal here too), on a birthday morning. Cabin fever has set in big time and rain or not we are heading west at daybreak.

Day115 Thursday 3rd February.

As I sat in the bath i noticed a strange thing today, (no change there) but the bath water went down the plug hole in a clockwise direction. In the north it aint that way. Or is it the other way round?

The two hundred km to the border was achieved in warm sunshine, and we were sat in warm sunshine by nine am eating Weet Bix.

I have noticed in the last few days even though we are at the edge of the desert there is bird song in the mornings, mostly at daybreak as I reckon the daytime is too warm for singing!!

The customs buildings looked new and reminded me of a holiday camp. The officials inside were pleasant also and soon we were at the road fund rip off office again. There the slightly grumpy lady would not take US dollars. So the nice policeman said I could ride to the gas station one km away and there I could change money. The cashier warned me of warthog on the roads, especially after rain, and the road side signs backed up this advise.

With the fee paid we road out just avoiding incoming rain.