DAY 63. THURSDAY MARCH 28th 2013. KLOOF, DURBAN. SOUTH AFRICA
My journey is running down to a natural ending now. I am left with sorting out what I take home and what I leave for another trip; arranging what needs to be done to facilitate that next journey and making aide-memoirs to help when I get back. I will need two new tyres, an oil change, a few small fixes and the terrible seat needs to be rebuilt and re-covered. I have found a very good small company locally who will fix the seat for me. It has been the worst designed, most uncomfortable seat for the last eleven thousand kilometres! It is designed with a dip into which I slide always, with my long legs. I have asked for it to be padded and re-covered while I am away.
Riding round to the local seat cover place I left out my earplugs – and realised that my rear brake pads are just about down to the metal. Whoops… To be fair, they are difficult to see and check visually, and they were all right 11,000 kilometres ago.
This evening we went out for dinner to the smart restaurant above the fine gardens again, where we went some weeks ago. A pleasant party of some of my hosts’ friends.
DAY 64. GOOD FRIDAY, MARCH 29th 2013. KLOOF, DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA
My last full day of this trip. Washing the bike, fixing a few things, sorting my baggage and getting ready to lay the bike up for at least ten months in the garden here in Kloof. We went to purchase a cover and lock but the relevant shops were closed for the religious holiday. I must do that tomorrow. The motorbike has washed and polished up well. I feel I will recoup a lot of the money I spent in buying it when I sell it next year.
I’m ready to be home now. I am marking time and fielding plenty of emails from Boston about my next creative project.
DAY 65. SATURDAY MARCH 30th 2013. AIR FRANCE, FLYING NORTH
My trip is over. My 106th journey out of Britain, bringing me to a total of 3445 days travelling, of which a massive 3205 are recorded in my extensive travel journals!
The red BMW is stored in the garden at Kloof, beneath a cover I bought for it this morning. With battery removed to the garage and a couple of padlocks, it will sit there until I return, perhaps in about ten months. I am very grateful to my old friends Yvonne and Michael for their patience. While I am away they will take the seat to be rebuilt and recovered, which will make another journey a lot more comfortable and the bike more controllable.
Well, what about this trip? Unsatisfactory in some ways, enjoyable in others. I am sorry not to realise my objective of visiting Zimbabwe and Zambia. The interruption to go to USA was unfortunate and completely broke the flow. I now understand that what attracts me to South Africa is actually the proximity of its neighbours, not the troubled rainbow nation itself. That country too often offends my sense of social justice for comfort. These pages must reflect my discomfort at travelling in this divided and unhappy country. Every time I crossed a border to Africa – the real Africa without the baggage of division and the extraordinary disparity of wealth between races – my spirits lifted and the smile settled back on my face. I LOVE Africa but I find South Africa unnatural. There is no way I could live there, no way at all. To live behind bars, security gates, armed guards and razor wire; to live in white enclaves and not to know and understand my black neighbours; to always talk about ‘they’ as if ‘they’ are different to me – no, it would not be for me.
The biggest delight was Zimbabwe, so friendly and calm and such very good looking people. I sometimes wonder what would have happened had I discovered Africa much earlier, before the obsessive independence was so strongly formed. I find Africans so attractive, physically and emotionally, that I would probably have a half-African family by now! Those Zimbabweans were just so lovely.
The biggest disappointment was Botswana, a country I probably won’t bother to visit again. I did not feel very welcome; one of the few African countries of which I can say that.
But Lesotho, and to an extent Swaziland, have all the attraction for further visits. I will be back on top of Africa next year.
I rode 26 kilometres less than 11,000 kilometres; stayed in 34 different locations; paid £592 for 30 nights’ accommodation; put 473 litres of petrol through the bike at a cost of £441. Some days I got a consumption rate of 77.25 miles per gallon out of my 650cc motorbike, very economical (double my old Elephant). My longest daily ride was 490 kilometres across the Karoo to Bloemfontein but my average ride on the 40 days I rode was 275 kilometres or 170 miles. I have no idea of the over all cost of the trip until I add up my credit card bills at home. I know I withdrew something around £1850 from cash machines. Airfares were about £1000, plus the £870 or so that it cost to fly to USA and back (but £570 of that will be expenses – the equivalent of a flight from England to Boston and back). Travelling these days is no longer cheap! Those were the days when I travelled on £35 a week back in 1973! Mind you, I do travel a lot more comfortably these days. I feel I have nothing to prove about budget travel!
Now I am somewhere above the Sahara, where I began to write this journal. Cramped in a large 777 of Air France on the ten hour flight to Paris from Johannesburg alongside two very delightful young black girls from Johannesburg and Botswana travelling to Ireland for a holiday and full of excitement. For the very pretty young woman next to me it is her first flight and first time out of South Africa. Her friend managed to get tipsy on free airline beer and they have been a delight to watch, enjoying themselves fully in holiday mood. And I must say, this Air France flight is the best I have taken for a year or two. Even the food was edible, which is remarkable. Pity I have to arrive in the awful Charles de Gaulle Airport…
Time to stop writing another journal. Sometimes I wonder if a lot of the justification of the journey isn’t in the daily diary writing. It is a remarkable discipline that takes me up to a couple of hours a day. Another 66,000 words here (- that’s the word count for you!) A thousand words every day; written while the thoughts are fresh and un-rationalised.
Now I shall be home for a mere ten days before I am off again to USA. Just as well I never like to know what tomorrow will bring. I guess that’s what all this restlessness is about…
MARCH 30th 2013