It’s 5am and we are gunning it full speed from Polokwane to the Groblersdal border gate. The journey is about 206km. This means about two and half hours of thinking time. Its fascinating how much time the open road gives one to reflect and question their own actions. The first thought on both our minds was how emotionally prepared were we for the remaining 4100km given the first day’s rain-fest? So occasionally we throw a concerned glance towards the skies and prayed for a few hours of dry roads.
Inside my helmet I’m busy thinking about how we got here. So let me rewind a bit. A few years before this trip we made our way from Benoni on the East Rand of Johannesburg to Victoria Falls using an overland truck. Packed in with all sorts of strangers from all over the country, all headed for the Victoria Falls Carnival. The one apparent thing was how few young Black South Africans travel outside the country. We immediately decided from that moment on that we needed to live the change we would like to see; namely to travel, live and experience more of our own continent. It had become instantly apparent how uninformed a lot of young South Africans were about the rest of the continent.
Fast forward to January 2016, and we had now traveled to various countries across the continent. We would fly out for a weekend in Uganda, a road trip to Namibia to go sandboarding, a flight to Zambia to go bungee jumping over the mighty Zambezi River, but afterwards we would always be travelling back to the comfort of Johannesburg. The one thought that stayed with both us was: “Is this what we really mean by pan-Africanism?” One weekend here, maybe two weeks there at best, in places we would never return to again? When would we learn to speak Pemba? When would we know to stay long enough in a place to learn the difference between the Mijikenda of the Swahili coastal towns from the Nilotes of the Western Kenya Rift Valley? So when 2016 began we committed to living out a freedom that many had fought and died for. The opportunity for us, as young black Africans to break down these barriers that were setup to divide us and prevent us from learning about each other. This bike trip would be the first time we go on holiday on a way ticket with no return date. We would be leaving our support structure behind; our friends, our jobs in corporate and most importantly our families. As we approached the Groblersdal Border gate I remember feeling braver than ever before, knowing that we had just passed the 10% mark of the road trip.
We chose to go through Botswana as the ever busy Beitbridge border between Zimbabwe and SA is always a mess over the December period. We exited SA with no qualms and entered smoothly into Botswana. The plan was to ride over 500km through Botswana and enter Zimbabwe at the Kazungula border gate then ride through Bulawayo all the way to Victoria Falls town. We had already lost half a days travel with us leaving hung over and late on day one. As we rode into Botswana the first thing we noted was that Botswana was celebrating its 50th year of independence. It was amazing to me to think that SA was only 22 odd years old when our nearest neighbor had been celebrating the ability to determine their own path for nearly a quarter century longer than we had self determination. We flew through Palapye and quickly onto Francistown, a town we had camped in for two nights over December 2013. The roads in Botswana had wide lanes, well marked road signs and were extremely well built. So we made up a lot of lost time. We hit the Zim/Botswana border by 2pm. We were about 1300km into the trip now. Only 3100km to go… then the plan started to fall apart again!