south africa

Two Wheels to Addis: The Journey Continues

by Spencer

This isn’t how I planned it. A month late and only four minutes long! We’ve met some incredible people. To the dozens who have helped us, thank you. As we continue down the road, we hope to share more stories of people like you.

The awesome music is the Jimenezi Hop, written by Tim Drinan, preformed / recorded by The Trolleys. http://www.thetrolleysband.com/

Slept Here: The Mountain View

by Spencer

If you find yourself in Mokopane, Limpopo province, RSA, there is no better budget accommodation than the Mountain View. For but 140 rand, ~ $22, you get a personally themed Elite Room. I stayed in the Tiger Room. It had a tiger-sticker bed head, tiger lamp shades, tiger throw carpets and Chinese-y paintings!
The seven rooms share two bathrooms and one kitchen. There is also a DVD collection of extraordinarily obscure B movies. You can watch them for free!

Please note: At the Mountain View there are no mountains in view.

Tomorrow The World is Ending (no really)

by Spencer

We were first introduced to familyradio.com in Polkowane, South Africa. But they’re everywhere. Harold Camping’s Rapture is on a billboard next to the largest shopping mall in Zambia. Their theory is simple. Judgment Day is May 21st. As in tomorrow. Hope you’ve got someone special to spend the night and repent with…

Update: The Times is on this story as well.

To Ride the Precipice, Straight and True

by Spencer

This is maybe actually a real adventure. To be completely without institutional support is challenging. At the end of my hospitalization, the nurse asked me where I was staying. I didn’t know. I was wounded and didn’t have a place to stay, a problem, and she couldn’t fill in her box, also a problem.
Every day is a challenge. Staying clean, eating enough, finding affordable shelter, just attempting to stay safe. Yesterday I washed the blood out of my shirt in a public sink. I scrubbed the fabric against itself. I watched the water turn a mud red. I wanted to film that moment. But there was no one to hold the camera. There wasn’t even time for the shirt to dry. So you put the shirt on. Feel the hole where glass passed to slice flesh open. That’s all I could do. My means are so limited. There is much I want to do but I just don’t have the capability.
It’s humbling.
Getting back on the bicycle was nerve-racking. It took hours for the adrenalin to subside. We were back on R101, “The Road of Death.” There isn’t much of a shoulder. You pedal the yellow line, as far left as you can, straight, without wavering. In New York, I’ve found it’s best to declare your presence. Get out in a lane, stay visible, the traffic will go around you. But here the busses and taxis (minibuses) will just run you over.
A few days back, I had the luck of meeting Paul Morris. He’s about to tour Angola. I expect he has a story to tell. (Check out his blog.) When I was injured, I called out for help and he answered. That means a lot. Briefly we talked about writing. He told me that his is at its best when he simply explains the world as he sees it, but even that is hard, because if you truly say what you feel, not everyone will like you more.
I am loathe to admit to it, but I made an idiotic stupid mistake. When I left Pretoria, I left a crucial piece of bicycling equipment behind. I didn’t want to face the coming morning. I had a hard time sleeping. This journey has been an exercise in facing consequences. You get back to Pretoria, you get back on the bicycle, you keep on going.
To be honest, I wish it was easier. I wish I had more control. I wish there was another person to help with the filming, that it was actually possible to get online. My friends and most everything I know are on the far side of the world. I had a great little life in New York, but now I have little choice but to face the reality of where I’m at, to trim the sails, baton the hatches, brave the storm, and hope that I, or maybe fate, will allow myself to make fewer mistakes.

Drip drip drop drop

by Spencer

I can’t remember why or how; it was all too quick. I’m not used to riding a bicycle loaded with bags weighing 70 pounds and I’m not used to riding my bicycle on the freeway. I guess the traffic and crossing those four lanes got to me and I made the turn too sharp too fast and ended up with my head in a puddle of glass.
I can distinctly remember the asphalt, its ubiquitous scratchy dark texture. I remember flying towards it, the impact of my head crashing into it and then opening my eyes but being able to only open one, to see blood dripping onto broken glass. I remember Ben. F*ck. F*ck!! Are You Okay? He handed me an antiseptic pad. It didn’t seem up to the task. But yes. I am okay. I could open the other eye, though it blurred out and then hazed red. I realized it was only blood slipping under the contact lens. I’m okay.
I remember sitting up, standing up, kind-of, in shock, crouching over the asphalt, looking downward. There was glass everywhere. A condom dirtied black. And my blood. How did I end up here?
There’s the simple answer – I was inexperienced, the bicycle was poorly weighted, freeway traffic is intense, we didn’t know we were getting on a freeway, those were the directions we were given, there wasn’t much of an alternative. And then there’s the attempt at the larger answer. I wrote that we were riding bicycles through Africa to remind ourselves what it means to be human. I can’t remember her name but I do remember her. She was in her mid thirties, wore a head scarf and of all the people that went by, she was the one person who stopped and helped.
She took me to the hospital and I got my stitches and antibiotics. She got Ben the address of the hospital and got the police to help him get the bikes to the hospital. I can’t remember her name but she helped me remember how you react when you see someone in pain. You help.
I am humbled and now intimidated. The journey has only but begun. I wonder if I’m being reckless, if I’m needlessly worrying and inconveniencing others. But there isn’t much of alternative. Tomorrow I get back on the bicycle.
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White People Do Some Crazy Sh*t

by Spencer

Why leave everything, every last comfort, to venture into the dangerous unknown? It’s a good question. There are even a couple good answers. But I know that sometimes I act without fully thinking it through, without justification, simply because to do so is easier, more expedient.

We decided to climb Table Mountain, the epic backdrop to Cape Town’s city center. We didn’t think it through. The mountain’s summit is a massively wide mesa 1300 meters (about 4000 feet) above sea level. Our hike took us up 1000 meters in an hour under the afternoon sun. There was no shade. Every step had to be placed carefully. It was tiring.

Dehydrated at the summit, we went in search of water, but despite having great tap water, in South Africa free available water can be hard to find. I have seen only one drinking fountain and it was broken. By the time we were back half way down mountain the sun had set. Climbing down a mountain without a torch (flashlight) in the dark was slow going and naturally there no taxis to be found. So we walked some miles through Cape Town at night attempting to find our way home.

Why did we do that?

When you tell someone you’re going to bicycle through Africa, it’s funny. The reaction is rarely complacent. It’s either that’s awesome or oh my god you’re going to die. And yet bicycling through Africa isn’t crazy, I don’t think. It’s been done, many times. Sometimes you get a different reaction.

Take the first night in Cape Town, drinks at a bar that is more like a house, two stories, haphazard decorating, and a bed. The patrons are high, eyes blazed red. The conversation is of Miles Davis, JFK and the nature of truth, I kid you not. They’re not surprised to hear of our trip. White people do some crazy sh*t. They climb Everest, bike around Africa, but do they go out to the township?

People are funny. The endeavors we choose to tackle. I’m still trying to figure out why I’m here. But maybe that’s why I’m here? To figure out why I’m here?

We made it!

edited 1/1/2015