Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Mum, I did it! What's for dinner?

Monday 14th April

I woke up with a view to doing a video diary every few hours to document my last day. Throughout my ride I have taken video clips but I didn't want to rely on it the whole time. The majority of the most amazing things I've experienced I haven't caught on camera because they've happened so quickly so the video has been there to help document feelings and thoughts rather than moments of madness. I think it's better that way anyway, if I was too worried about catching everything on camera then I wouldn't of lived the ride the same way and probably wouldn't of met half the amazing people I have done.

The day began with a massive breakfast that I soon regretted a few miles into the day's ride. I had a late start as I was being extra meticulous about savouring and taking everything in that I possibly could. Cleaning my teeth took twice as long and packing Nigel took forever as I knew this would be the last time I would do it during a bike ride through Africa.

The day didn't really good as I had planned it. It was a cold and windy start and the road was dusty. I didn't expect there to be many cars about but annoyingly there were and so I got a little frustrated. After a bit of huffing and puffing I had a word with myself. "Come on Harding, this is the last day, stop being an idiot, suck it up and put a smile on your face because in a few weeks time you'll be back in England wishing you were back on your bike with dust in your eye heading towards to Lesotho!"

I was worried a little about the ever degrading condition of my front wheel aswell and the potholes didn't exactly help matters. As always, I knew it wouldn't be the end of the world if it did split my front tube because I already had a strategy to fix it but with every thing that goes wrong, it's just a real inconvenience and I'm a man that loves progress.

I had a few stops to make a few videos here and there and the headwind delayed my progress somewhat but I was still getting there slowly but surely. I don't know whether I was more emotionally drained than physically but my legs felt really heavy. I'm in the best shape of my life but I think all the excitement and anticipation had finally taken its toll on my thighs and I really struggled up the hilly terrain.

On my way down one of the many hills I spotted a car at the bottom that had stopped and the driver stood by the road and waved me down. Little did he know that I had disconnected my front brakes to stop them rubbing on my broken rim but thankfully I spotted him early enough to allow just the rear brakes to stop me in time. It turned out that he just wanted a chat and was interested in where I had come from. This hasn't been the first time this has happened and again it helped me to take my surroundings in more. I've learnt that time is the cheapest but the most precious gift you can give someone. Last year I wouldn't of stopped, and every now and then I've been guilty of not stopping. It's like when you're back home and you pretend to be in a rush when a homeless man or charity worker asks you a question. Are you really in a rush? Is your life really so important or the next shop really that important that you can't stop for 3 minutes? We had a chat that lasted no longer than 5 minutes but I would like to think both of us left feeling better than we did when we started. What amazed me even more was that when he left, he drove past me the other way which meant he must've initially drove past and then turned around to speak to me!

It wasn't long after the chat before I saw my first sign for Maseru. A place I had no knowledge of a few years ago. A place I've been heading toward for the last 8 months and even though I have never been there, I have been thinking about it as much as I've been thinking about home. I got to the top of a hill and the sign said Maseru 1km. This is it I thought. I strapped my camera to my chest and started the video. I had done it! I could see the border patrol at the bottom of the hill and motored my legs one last time letting out the biggest WOOOOOHOOOOO of the ride. As the wind blew louder and faster past my ears my handlebars began to wobble aggressively and Nigel veered dangerously to the right towards an oncoming lorry. Something wasn't right and I thankfully managed to avoid the lorry and get Nigel veering back to the left side of the road. 

After 8 months and 4 days and nearly 10,000 miles of some of the most extreme terrain our beautiful world has to offer, my front wheel had finally given up 200m from the border. I would say I couldn't believe it but I could. It was a typical end to the roller-coaster ride I have been on and I ended up pushing Nigel through customs and across the bridge into Lesotho. Typical indeed but would I have it any other way? I got my entrance stamp into Lesotho and stood at the border with the question, "do I fix the wheel or just push it the rest of the way?" I didn't want to end the ride by pushing Nigel but I knew I was close to the football for hope centre so couldn't really decide if there was much point in changing the tube. In the end I decided to duct tape up the sharp wheel edges and change the tube, I couldn't guarantee how far the centre was exactly and the big hill ahead of me would be easier to cycle up than push up.

The weather was grey but holding up so I didn't mess around with changing the tube and managed to get myself tentatively riding again in no time. After a quick picture in front of the "Welcome to Maseru" sign, I was fortunate enough to get good directions to the centre off the first person I asked.

5 minutes later I had arrived, now I could say I had done it!!! The fat lady that had been warming her throat for so long could now belt out her first tune and as she sung loud and proud in my head, I took a few minutes to stand and breathe in the surroundings. The Kick 4 Life centre really impressed me and I walked into reception and asked if one of my contacts was there. He wasn't, and the lady had no idea about an Englishman cycling to Lesotho. I laughed, I wouldn't of had it any other way. I walked down to the next building where I was greeted with great smiles and open arms! I had arrived a day earlier than what I had initially said but as I didn't have Internet I couldn't inform the guys. It didn't matter in the end though. I was happy to be there and everybody was great at welcoming me in and making me feel immediately at home. In that split second I knew why this organisation has been and will be, so successful. The love that is lost in so many places throughout Africa was in abundance at Kick 4 Life and I was so pleased to be a part of it and done something towards it.

Kick 4 Life had kindly organised a place for me to stay at a staff members house called Moses. We immediately hit it off and that night he very kindly cooked me a meal and we watched a movie. It was a perfect way to end the day. Tomorrow would bring the mayhem of media interviews and a fancy meal out with other staff members but for that time, I was happy to chill out and relax.

I sat in his home, a home, a place that I had been without for so long and now I knew I could go back to my own one very soon but at least now I had the chance to reflect on what i had finally completed.

It was a dream come true, an idea that was made a reality and something that so many people told me was too dangerous or impossible that i had finally made possible and I could now live for the rest of my life knowing that i can do anything I want, if I breathe and believe.

Keeping grounded

Sunday 13th April

My alarm was welcomed by a dark and brisk morning but i was excited like a kid at Christmas and looking forward to a little flight over Welkom as an early finishing present.

Jaag was in the car park waiting for me and had already bought me a milkshake for breakfast. It's people like Jaag that I've met constantly along the way but they still never cease to amaze me with their kindness and generosity. I don't have idols, or one person that I look up to and want to meet in my life. Instead I have many people that possess many traits that I look to add to myself to become a better person, and Jaag is one of those people.

I stood and watched Jaag as he carried out his pre flight checks. He said all his flying mates take the Mickey out of him for doing them but I was more than happy to wait for him. The last thing I wanted to happen was to crash just two days before my finish!

The sun was just rising as we set off on the runway. Another different vehicle to tick off I thought on this "ride for their lives" and there was no way I could've scripted this one! We began to float softly over the town. It felt slow and surreal at the same time. We were just hanging in mid air in a vehicle not much heavier than Nigel! Jaag did a few steep drops that made me throw up my intestines but luckily I love that feeling and it got even better when we flew just a few metres above the ground alongside deer and other wildlife.

It really was a great start to the day, a lovely gesture and i was pleased to hear that Jaag enjoyed it as much as I did even though he's done a few by now. Jaag was a bit of a boy toy fanatic and had remote control jets and motorbikes etc. I don't know what he'll get next but no doubt it will be great fun to drive! He dropped me back to the guest house bang on half 7 and Chris and Sonja were looking a bit worse for wear. I told them my not to worry about breakfast as I think I still had some adrenaline flowing and wanted to get riding as soon as I could.

I said my goodbyes and hit the empty road. It was still cold but I took the opportunity to really open the legs up and get the blood pumping. After a few hours of hard cycling I could hear and feel some rubbing coming from my front wheel. At first I thought the brakes weren't aligned properly but the running continued even after I moved them slightly.

After a few more minutes I stopped to inspect the wheel rim. Damn! It had happened again. The rim had split just like the rear wheel a few weeks ago. I knew it wasn't going to be an easy finish and now I had that suspenseful end that was only typical when considering the last 8 months. Nigel was a ticking time bomb and I really didn't know when the wheel would break completely but I knew it was inevitable so my job was to go as careful as possible and nurse Nigel to the finish line.

I detached the front brakes so they didn't rub further on the wheel rim and so the noise didn't annoy me for the next 2 days. I was lucky that the road was in good condition and quiet so my sole focus was to avoid potholes and sharp turns and hopefully the rim would last. The intensity of focus increased further when my music ran out and I was left with just the ambience of clicks and squeaks coming from various areas of the bike.

After lunch the road unfortunately took a turn for the worse and I could've been back in Ethiopia with regards to the road condition. I was back to wincing at every bump, stone and pot hole that I rode over, it was as if I was back in Europe again when I was worrying about the rear rack. 

The afternoon turned into a real drag and the only thing that got me through it was my terrible singing. The scenery was unchanging and there were no houses or people to look at or say "how do" to. I happily arrived at my penultimate destination of Marquard. A place that nearly a year ago I had picked off the google map as the best place to stay the day before Lesotho and now I was there and gently wheeling my £450 dying bicycle up to a guest house that had no idea how significant they were to my life and this ride.

I knocked on the door, "hello?" A tall man answered as his wife followed up behind with a baby. "Hi there, I was wondering if you had a room for the night" (I was over camping and thought I warranted at least one more guest house!) "Sorry mate, we are closed and we have no rooms available." I wasn't surprised, i told them about my ride anyway and ended up having quite a long chat with them. They were gutted they couldn't put me up but they did their best to ring around and they found me a place called Vine Lodge that was available just 2 miles away. It was annoyingly in the direction I had just cycled but at least I knew I had a place and apparently it was really nice and the landlady was prepared to cook me Sunday dinner despite it being very late by the time I arrived.

I said thank you and moved on before the sun set towards Vine Lodge. I've told you about my perception of certain names and if its got the word "Vine" in it then you can add a few quid on for that too! I pushed Nigel up Vine lodge's long rocky driveway. I knew this was the last time I would be pushing my bike up a long driveway so I didn't mind that much.

The place was beautiful, I've been so blessed with such amazing places and yet again I had the whole place to myself if I don't include the owner and the two dogs running around on the huge front lawn. The lodge overlooked the vast open land of South Africa and in the distance I could see the mountains of Lesotho as if I was on the set of Lord of the Rings. Dinner was something special, I was sat alone at a 10 person table in a huge country manor with a selection of different foods and I just sat in pure silence an tool in for one last time, where I was and what I was doing. Meal times have always been a time of reflection, a rare peaceful calm after the mayhem of dangerous roads or physical torture. 

One last time alone, one last time on the road and one last supper. Tomorrow would be the end of something amazing and the start of something even better I'd hope, for now though, I was content, I still hadn't finished! 

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Decisions on the fly

Saturday 12th April

After a long sleep and thankfully a decent breakfast, I began a relaxing short ride thanks to my long ride yesterday to a place called Welkom. Unlike yesterday, the road was a lot more relaxing and the terrain was less strenuous which I was happy about as my legs struggled to find a rhythm and ached a lot.

I cycled through a town called Allan Ridge. I wondered if the town was founded by a man called Allan Ridge and he proudly named it after himself or if in fact it was a ridge called Allan. I think it's quite strange to give a place the exact name as a person but that's maybe what has happened to a town near where I live called Lee-on-Solent. This name may have developed from Leon to a more acceptable (and less chavvy)  Lee-on and so that sparked me to think of more places with names of people.

This helped pass the time and before I knew it, I had arrived in Welkom. I was extremely disappointed not to find a big sign saying "Welkom to Welkom" (I'm sad like that) but I was still happy to have finished another day cycling.

I cycled through the town of Welkom quite quickly despite it being slightly bigger than I had imagined. Welkom is a nice place. Clean, well built with a good mix of different people. I was enjoying the ride so much I had cycled through the town and found myself cycling around an industrial site on the exit side of the town.

My plan was to pootle around a little and possibly cycle onwards to the next small town as I still had a lot of daylight left and I was sure I was never going to find a campsite or a Guest House in an Industrial Estate. After a couple of minutes cycling past car garages and machine building hangars, I stumbled across a tiny sign saying "Chris and Sonja's Guest House" I was shocked to say the least but thought it must be a sign. (Excuse the pun)

I pulled up to the garden area of the guest house and had a look around. The place was decent; pool, outdoor projector screen, BBQ and seating area etc. I met Sonja and Chris and found out that all the rooms were sold out and that they were expecting a kids birthday party but they were both very keen to put me up and find somewhere where I could camp for free. We looked around the car park for a safe area but Chris said the big guard dogs may get a bit funny at night if I'm there. Chris had quite a few little dogs running around as well so i told him of my unfortunate past experiences with dogs. I asked him how many dogs he had, "14 all together" he said. 14!! Never mind Hyenas and Elephants. I feared for my life! The majority were only Corgis but its amazing what animals can kill if they hunt in packs!! If Lions can take down Elephants and Helicopters can take down King Kong then I can see no reason why a pack of 14 orchestrated Corgis can't dispose of myself, Beirdre and Nigel whilst we slept. Thankfully one of the guys that was staying in a room (David) piped up and said I could stay in his room for the night. David was studying in the area and his room mate wasn't starting for another week so I had myself a free bed for the night!

As it was Saturday and I had arrived early, I still had all the days sport to look forward to. David was expecting some mates to arrive at the bar so in the mean time I walked to the local shops and got something to eat. The place was pretty derelict but I didn't feel uncomfortable at all. As I walked I got a few shouts in Afrikaans that I had no idea what it meant. I smiled and waved and hoped that they didn't say "if you smile and wave at me I'm going to killing you"

When I arrived back at the guest house I found out that the shops I went to is quite a rough area and not even the white guys that live there go there. When I was told this it did click that there were no other white people but I'm used to living the last 6 months as the only white guy so I never really worried. Another classic case of ignorance is bliss. I wish I could take it as prejudice is void or equality is rife but the truth is that I have felt the most intimidated in South Africa compared to every other country unfortunately. I think this is mainly because they are the only country where there isn't such a majority of one race and from what I've learned by speaking to a range of people and noticing particularly billboards etc is that it seems to me that the South African government are trying to make up for apartheid by flipping the tables and suppressing the white people. It's sad to say and see but racism is still a major factor because of this and when I've sat down with a beer and talked to the locals, the subject of racism doesn't take long to enter into conversation.

I finished the night with Chris, Sonja, Dave, a few of his mates and a parent from the kids party called Jaag. We were having a good laugh and a few beers and Jaag then invited me for a fly on his micro light. If you don't what a micro light is then image a kite with an engine. This was a lovely offer and I'm certainly not the sort of person to pass up an opportunity like that!

The airport was just down the road and Jaag was going to pick me up at 6am so I would be back for breakfast at half 7, perfect! Soon after I hit the hay for at least a few hours sleep before what was going to be a very long day tomorrow.

The joys of meeting new people ay? you never know what tomorrow will bring!

No Botha

Friday 11th April

I woke up with a smile, a great sleep and now I was ready for a great breakfast. I wandered down to find an empty restaurant area. This didn't faze me as I'm used to breakfast alone. There were two waitresses sat talking and in standard African fashion it took a while for me to grab their attention and for them to get off their J-Lo booty's and actually serve me.

I asked what was on the breakfast menu and they looked at me as if I had just poo'd in their kettle. They had no clue and they just nervously laughed at my ever frustrated accent after the third time of not understanding "what is there for breakfast?"

They eventually went and got the chef, not the start of the day I was hoping for but maybe the chef could save it. "Hey bro, what is there for breakfast?" I clearly and eloquently asked. "Hey man, I CAN understand English you know!" He said. We laughed until he said, "yeah, this is what you get for breakfast but its going to be about half an hour as I'm pretty tired you know" then I stopped laughing and very disappointedly walked back to my room. Not a problem chef, it's not like I have 100 miles to cycle today and need an early start etc, you go ahead and take your time! 

When I arrived back at the table I was provided with probably the worst breakfast to date. One piece of bacon, one slice of toast, half a tomato and a sausage that didn't even register on my tongue it was that small. To say I started the day annoyed and still hungry is an understatement.

I shook off the disappointment of the morning and got my head down as I knew I had some miles to do. Unlike yesterday, where I didn't think about finishing at all, my mind wandered into thoughts of what I've been through. I thought about how i would answer people when they undoubtedly asked me about my experiences. It's very easy to focus on the negatives in life and think about all the hard times but surely it's much more worthwhile to see how I've overcome the hard times and praise the people that have got me through those times.

I thought of the illness I experienced throughout Europe, the time in Sudan with no food or water for 3 days, the hostility between rival tribes over Christmas, the shattered collarbone in Kenya and the constant breakages to Nigel I had to fix. All this combined with other situations can make my ride seem a very dark, dangerous and hellish journey. However, I also thought of the immense generosity I received from absolute strangers in Europe, the Guest House manager in Sudan that saved me financially, Team Norway that housed me for 6 weeks and made my ride possible and the protection and understanding I received from two separate Kenyan Police units. I feel i could write two completely contrasting books and tell two completely contrasting stories but the truth is that the positive acts of kindness far out weigh and are far greater in magnitude than the negatives and as I realised this I began to get very emotional.

As I was deep in thought throughout most the morning, before I knew it, it was lunch time. This came not before not before an annoyingly close shave with a car that could've easily been avoided if the driver had just waited a couple more seconds. Instead he chose to overtake wildly on a corner and put me in a bad mood. Time continued to fly after lunch and I amazingly got to my planned destination at 2pm. Seeing as my planned destination didn't look to appealing and it was only 2pm, I decide to carry on until either I found somewhere nicer or my legs gave way. 

I ended up cycling to a place called Bothaville. After having a bit of "Botha" myself with yet more close shaves and idiotic drivers I decided to call it a day and preserve my life for another day at least.

Dangerous drivers can really tarnish a days ride but I was happy to be safe and another day closer to Lesotho!

Thursday, 8 May 2014

5 star finish

Thursday 10th April

It rained last night, I didn't get wet but my cycling clothes that I left outside to dry did. It was also a cold start to the day so there's nothing like putting on cold wet clothes to start your day! I had a friendly bit of company for breakfast in the shape of a meerkat who wriggled himself into my tent and just sat and watched me eat the rest of my cheese and ham sandwiches.

My ride started with a steep hill climb and then evened off into a nice rolling road for as far as the eye could see. When the road is a good as this and the weather slowly warms as the day progresses, thoughts have normally turned to finishing and what I may feel like. Today though, and yesterday for that matter, I haven't thought about finishing at all. It seems the closer I'm getting, the more focused I'm getting on not making any mistakes and so thoughts of finishing haven't been able to creep in and distract me.

The road and the hills got a bit more aggressive which I much prefer as targets that i set myself are closer and you can complete them more regularly. I had a very unglamorous stop for lunch at a petrol station. If you're thinking that this cycle touring lark attracts all the good looking ladies out of their places of work to stand on the roadside, throw underwear and cheer me on then you are very much mistaken! Today I sat on the floor next to a smelly bin and ate sausage and chips from a "fast food" joint inside a Shell garage because they didn't have any benches to sit on. 

After lunch the road got a bit harder, the cycle section ceased to exist and the material of the road was a lot more coarse. As I battled uphill against a headwind a car pulled up in front of me and a man got out and leant up against his boot and waited for me to cycle up to him. Jacques waved me down because he was a keen cyclist and he just wanted a chat. I didn't mind as it broke up the hill and we stood for about 10 minutes talking. He gave me his card and said if I got into any trouble at all I could ring him as he didn't live far from the area. After that he got in his car and drove away. I absolutely love stuff like that, I have to be honest and always think initially, here we go, what's going on here then! But I always leave the conversation happy and pleased they stopped.

I carried on just another 10 miles to my planned destination of Colligny where I couldn't find anywhere to stay. I saw a signpost for Colligny Hotel but cycled along the main street (looked like the set of a Western film) and couldn't see anything, not even a guest house. I cycled out the otherside and asked a man cutting the lawn outside the church for directions to a place to stay. He directed me further down the road to a campsite around 5km away. I knew I had to turn right at Colligny and so if I was going to cycle to this campsite, I would be going further out of my way. I wasn't keen on that. I turned around and cycled back down the main street to see if I could see a sign for the hotel. Sure enough I did, there was only one sign facing one way and I stumbled upon what was arguably the best hotel room of my whole ride!

The place was pricey but it was the only place in town and the room, sorry rooms, were amazing! I had a twin room with a partitioned seating room and a separate en suite! High ceilings, sparkling bathroom with shampoo and body wash dispensers and every TV channel known to man made the perfect end to a previously standard day.

If the room was like this, then I literally couldn't wait to see what the breakfast was like tomorrow. 4 days to go and I was still getting surprises and excited feelings as if I had just begun!

Friday, 2 May 2014

Blood, pets and gears

Wednesday 9th April

I woke up excited for my breakfast initially and then my border crossing into South Africa (priorities are spot on!) I mapped out my last 6 days last night and checked the distances of each leg. Today would be the longest but was split nicely into two with a lunch stop by the border in a place called Lobatse. I only had 130km to do today so it wasn't even a long ride compared to the majority of Botswana.

Breakfast didn't disappoint and I savoured a couple of bowls of cereal along with a cooked breakfast that strangely included minced beef. I felt fit, full and ready for anything. The road was good and I had a beautiful section to myself. The weather was colder, something I have not experienced that often and i don't have too many items of clothing to deal with this so I just cycled harder and kept warm that way.

The change in terrain was become more obvious, hills were longer and taller and vast fields less common. I arrived at the border in no time after a quick fried chicken stop in Botswana. I normally like to get in, get out and get over the border as soon as possible (probably since the Kenyan incident) but today I decided to spend some time with security and have a chat. I wanted to make the most of this moment, my penultimate border crossing before reaching my destination and now, gone were the days where I felt like a dreamer as I told the locals where I was heading. Now I was making that dream a reality and receiving compliments and words of congratulations instead of sarcastic laughs and constant warnings of dangerous countries en route.

I didn't let it go to my head, in my eyes I've done nothing other than cycle a minimum of 60 miles a day for a lot of consecutive days over a period of 8 months...and rarely showered. I do however dislike negativity and pessimism which I can understand in the early days but having experienced what I have done over the last 8 months I feel I have a good idea on what to expect in the remaining 6 days. "Where do you finish?" One of the guards said. "Lesotho, not far now" I said "just 6 more days" "Nooooo" he said "at least 10 days" No sorry you're probably right, I've planned and cycled 15,000km over some of the toughest terrains in the world but these last 6 days in flat lands of South Africa will actually take me twice as long! he could be right but really? I don't know. You can't win them all I suppose.

As I made my first turns of the pedals into South Africa the first song in my ears was their World Cup song "Waka Waka." Another country closer and another buzz of adrenaline as I repeated to myself, "I've cycled to South Africa," It didn't sink in..."I'VE CYCLED TO SOUTH AFRICA" I laughed as I have done upon every entry to a new country and got my head straight down and pumped my legs as the head wind increased and so did the hills.

Shortly after this my first memory and mental image of South Africa that will stay with me forever will be of a roadside calf head butting its mother's udder for more milk and consequently forcing her to urinate. I not ashamed to say I found this absolutely hilarious and so I laughed my way up and over the rolling hills for the next 10 miles or so. This may seem immature to some people but if you're easily pleased about the tiniest of things, it's a lot easier to stay positive and complete such tasks. I would say that this characteristic is probably more important than having quads like Chris Hoy, because I don't have them at all!

The terrain was hilly but nothing that I couldn't deal with, the kids on the other hand were less relaxing. School seemed to kick out at 2:40pm and I found myself having to meander through large mobs of very vocal and some quite intimidating youngsters. South Africans in the north were nothing like Botswanans in the South and I felt an air of hostility. Was it because I was white, hairy, dirty or all three? I don't know, but I wasn't exactly comfortable and so I put both ear plugs in and blitzed it down the middle of the road to avoid any collisions. I received more people laughing at me and pointing at me in the short distance from the border to Zeerust than I had done in the whole ride. I wouldn't mind it if I was telling a joke but I wasn't, I wasn't even singing! 

They would shout things and get quite close to my personal space but I've been there and received that so I just kept going. I don't know if I'd feel differently if I knew what they were saying but what I did know is that everyone said something that sounded different but it all sounded like a 1 year old with a dummy half in its mouth...crying. 

The kids may have made the second half of my day feel longer but nevertheless I eventually arrived in Zeerust where I saw a nice campsite almost immediately. I cycled past it to get to the city centre and ATM and then returned. As I jumped off Nigel and wheeled him up to the entrance of the reception, a car had parked up and let out their two dogs. One dog came running up to me whilst barking but I ignored completely and propped Nigel up against the wall. To my complete shock the dog wrapped his teeth around my leg and bit down on my calf drawing blood, I couldn't believe it!!!! 

"Oiiii!" I said! He ran back to his owner after he realised that I wasn't pedigree chum and left me completely stunned! I mean, what do you do when you get bitten by a dog?! And what do you say to the owner?! The last time a dog bit me I carried on cycling up the hill in Ethiopia but I had reached my destination this time! Just as this happened, a pet meerkat came running out of reception and jumped up onto Nigel. What sort of place is this? I didn't have a clue what was going on?! The owner said sorry, not much else she could do other than pay for my rabies jab that I have already had luckily and I walked into reception all a little bit confused and shaken up.

As I was still trying to come to terms with the dog that I wish I had kicked and the meerkat constantly running around my feet, the man at reception eagerly bombarded me with questions as he was fascinated about my ride. I tried to explain but I was still a little distracted from my bizarre welcoming to South Africa. I regrouped and set up the tent under close supervision from the meerkat. After that I took a quick wander into the city centre to buy some treats for being a brave lad and not crying during the vicious attack of the border collie.

Things went from bad to worse. I thought I had bought myself a nice strawberry milkshake, it turned out to be absolutely horrendous and the bread I bought was half the price in the next shop I went to. I was in South Africa and not exactly happy with the current experiences. Zeerust as a town reminded me of the set of American Gangster, it was rough. Mostly super saver discount shops, run down buildings and the golf course next to the main road really didn't fit in with dirty streets. I got back to my tent and took some time to enjoy my cheese and ham sandwiches and eventually change my mood to being happy with my arrival. 

As I've said before, the fear/excitement of the unknown is the joy and attraction of travelling. When it comes to Zeerust, I've came, I've seen, I've bled and I will hopefully never return.

Bots-wana watch a movie?

Tuesday 8th April

It's fair to say that when I woke up I felt disgusting. Not in a hangover sense, in a film of dust and dirt covering my body sense. The sand was the wet sand that is possible to shake out of a towel only it wasn't in a towel, it was in my hair, in my pores and in my bum. I had a breakfast that echoed yesterday's cycling performance...gritty. It was a chip butty that I made myself (obviously bought the chips) but they must make the bread on the floor because I'm constantly buying loaves, cutting them into slices and crunching on sand that has found itself mixed in with the flour.

The second I got on the road it felt like I hadn't been away from it. My legs were tired and the headwind didn't help this but the fact I didn't have far to cycle thanks to my long day yesterday meant that mentally I could pull my body through.

The road was really good and my legs soon loosened up the closer to Gaborone I was getting. When I arrived in Gaborone I have to say I was pretty disappointed. I was expecting big things, big shops, big malls etc but I managed to cycle through it in 2 minutes. There were big buildings but none of any interest to me and my search for a place to stay was pretty unsuccessful. I couldn't see any cheap guest houses or Motels at all and so I had to cut back on myself and go slightly of the main road to see if my senses could guide me to somewhere decent. I saw a sign saying Kgale view lodge and seeing as I hadn't seen anything else in 15 minutes I was just hoping the price was right.

The place looked nice, probably too nice for a mess like me but I met the manager Irshaad and he was immediately interested in my ride. "Seeing as you're a traveller in need" he said, "I will give you 50% off" what a legend!! After discount the room was still a little over my budget but I wasn't going to haggle and I accepted his generosity. (I would make it up over the free breakfast) The room was very nice and had all the creature comforts you could imagine. It was a great way to spend my last day in Botswana and the Lodge was right next to a mall which are always fun to look around in, get stared at and dream about buying new clothes in the future. 

All I really wanted was a shower. My skin was disintegrating like rubber shavings from a heavy-handed artist. I had movie channels (rare) I had free tea and coffee (more rare) i even had free wifi that I could access from my bed! (only at the Ritz!) but did I have water? Course I didn't! When the water finally arrived I was lucky enough to have a shower that was the temperature and consistency of a sneeze from the an Ice Queen. It coughed and spluttered and in the end the towel did more cleaning than the shower did as I scraped myself down to a state of just a bit grubby as opposed to soiled.

I walked around the Mall and decided against a fancy lunch. Wimpy is not actually that cheap, I have no clue what the fuss is all about! I moseyed around the supermarkets comparing prices of Shoprite against Game (I had time on my hands, what else was there to do!)

Due to the lack of selection (I honestly can not wait to see my good friend Asda again!) I struggled to decide what I was going to have for dinner. Well I have the movie channels, I thought. Why not a movie night with chips and dip to celebrate finishing Botswana!!! I know what you're thinking, did I wax my legs and dye my hair as well? But even the blokiest of blokes enjoy a movie night and if its got fancy kettle chips, garlic dip and the odd packet of Haribo and bar of Cadburys chucked in there then it would be very hard for me to think about doing anything else! I didn't even check the calories, I didn't have to, I was cycling to another country tomorrow so I could do what I liked!

As I got settled into bed I was pleased i had pushed so hard yesterday. Despite cycling a bit in the morning, today did feel like a rest day especially compared to previous days on the bike. Tomorrow I will be entering South Africa and I can officially say I have cycled from England to South Africa, has a nice ring to it doesn't it.