Reflections

I can’t believe that this once in a lifetime adventure is more than halfway over. In a few short weeks I will be touching down in the good ole US of A and starting real life again.

Africa has changed me, the people have changed me in incredible ways. I find myself making plans for the future and being excited to bring this joy that I have found to my friends and family. To share this lightness in my heart and tell stories of the people and places who crossed my path, changing me forever.

I had lived in the desert when I was in Arizona so I was used to heat and flora that grows but South Africa and Namibia are both completely different from each other and anything I have ever experienced.

South Africa:

Each home is gated or fenced in for security so you drive past high walled fences but inside is a private paradise. In some of the poorer neighborhoods, the walls aren’t as high but they have jagged glass cemented along the top and barbed wire.

No one goes out at night so right before sundown, everyone is rushing to get home. It’s eerily quiet on the streets and most people that are out at that time, are plotting terrible things. Farms/homes are attacked, owners killed in the most horrible of ways and no one talks about it. The racial tensions are very high right now as there is a divide between the white South Africans, the black South Africans and the colored South Africans. They make a huge point to call someone colored if they have mixed race heritage. They are treated very harshly and are considered very low in social standings by the black South Africans.

There are some political issues that are being reviewed where it would be possible for the government to seize property owned by white South Africans and give it to away without compensation. They call it Repatriotism. It obviously has every one worried and it is increasingly more hostile environment as the white South Africans don’t have a lot of options to leave the country.

Since it is a very real threat to their lives, the people here live differently. They don’t have 401k’s, or savings to pass on. They spend their money on their homes, vehicles and toys. The homes are huge and beautiful mansions that would easily be million dollar homes. They have multiple cars, bikes, boats etc. I don’t think they realize how much someone like me is in awe of the things that they have. They take wonderful care of everything and share it willingly with friends.

They explore their creative sides and really pursue their passions.

Alta:

She is about the same age as my mom and she has a really great laugh. She is so talented in creating embroidery items, making things from cool and funky fabrics. She seemed very shy at first and it took awhile for her to talk to me. She told us a story about a woman who complained about her English while she was teaching a sewing class so she stopped speaking it the rest of the class. We assured her that it was perfect and we had no problem understanding her. It really made my heart hurt for her that this woman had treated her so harshly. She has so much light in her and she deeply loves her family, especially her grandkids. She is also very stern with them and even though I couldn’t understand her when she was speaking Afrikaans and yelling at her son Boeta, I could tell he was in trouble. She shared stories about how she and Gerrit met and the different adventures that they loved going on. She shared how they used to be huge into horses, then scuba diving and now motorcycles. She joked that they get a new hobby every 10 years. She prepared huge and delightful meals and changed my mind on several different foods. Each dinner had a dessert and a “storming elephant” an espresso coffee with steamed milk and the liquor Amarula…..with lots of conversation. I just wanted to be around her and learn from her.

Gerrit:

This is a very manly man. He owns BDM Diesel and is a diesel mechanic. You can tell how mechanically inclined he is as he looks at parts and is so smart. His garage is kept sparkling clean with every tool having a matching outline on a board so he can tell instantly if something is missing or out of place. Each little drawer is labeled and every vehicle is immaculately kept. He has a way of looking at you intensely as you speak as if he is trying to find out how you work inside. I felt bare under his gaze, just exposed like he could see every flaw of mine and if I was worthy to ride his bike. He was very kind to me, teasing me and taking time to build my confidence and would start sentences by saying “listen girl…” with his index finger pointing in the air to emphasize his point. When he rode with us on our first day, he did crazy antics and kept reminding me to relax my arms and breathe. He loves to ride and is completely in control of the bike, loves showing off while riding, sharing his adventures with stories, videos and pictures. He takes such care of his family, home and vehicles that I am so afraid to face him and see his disappointment after totaling his bike. How can I apologize for something like that? For taking a treasure that he has had countless adventures and memories on……and I just destroyed that. I know that it was an accident and I would never intentionally do that but it doesn’t help my guilt over ruining it all.

Boeta:

He is so tall and slender with a mess of blond hair. He is so smart and such a respectful kid. You forget that he is only 15. He set and cleared the table and was very respectful to his mom and dad, even if he did normal kid stuff and got in trouble. He has such a great energy and enthusiasm that I had a fabulous time just watching him ride his KTM and his crazy antics. He is a great rider, due to Gerrit teaching him. He was a pleasure to be around and I look forward to seeing him grow into a great young man. He wants to visit the US and he definitely has a place to stay if he does. He rode all around his property and Andrew took him off-road riding with photo shoots.

South Africa is covered in green evergreens and tall trees. The dark green is a huge contrast with the dark red sand. Lush ferns, green grass and bright flowering bushes are along the fence lines of homes. The trees are twisted and no branches are straight. Lots of small bushes everywhere in the populated town areas.

We took an easy dirt road and practiced for the off-roading we would do in Namibia. We went to visit a friend of Andrew and Laura who owns business that makes hand stitched things like place mats, pot holders and other cloth items. She ships them all over and we actually saw them in a shop in Namibia. We also met their friend Pepe in town who invited us over. The first time was a short visit with him and his wife Marie. The second time, we came over for a braai with Alta and Gerrit. Their home is really beautiful too, it reminds me of a Spanish style home and they had farm animals and a garden with vegetables growing.

Pepe:

He was so funny. He used to be a very successful business man but left that life to live overseas and on a boat. There is a lot more to his story but I don’t remember it all. He was quick to laugh and openly admitted to being a terrible braai man, meaning he burnt the meat into charcoal every time he tried to grill. It was obvious that he loved the sea and misses it so we bonded over that, motorcycles and dirty jokes.

Marie:

She was so sweet and open with us. I just wanted to hug and love on her. She told us how she and Pepe had met and the different companies that she had worked for and products that she had helped develop. She has a keen eye and her house was similar to mine with lots of colors popping. She is so outgoing and I really enjoyed talking to her.

The towns are very much like the US. With a lot of name brand businesses and I could get anything I wanted at the store. One thing I marveled at was edible flowers were so cheap and readily available in a basic supermarket. I made them buy some so I could add them to our salads.

We drove all tar roads for three long days. Watching the scenery change as we left the large cities behind and got more remote.

The desert also got an infrequent rain the week before so it had more blooming plants and small flowers in purple and yellows. There was lots of small bushes and everywhere had fence lined properties.

Succulents of crazy varieties live near the sea, some are so thick that they look like a spiny carpet surrounding trees and in lawns.

There are small water fountains in the fancier lodges surrounded by small gardens with succulent plants.

Wineries with acres lined with grapevines that are dry and empty since this is their winter. It looked so much like Northern California that it took my breath away.

Things are kept very clean here. Even though it’s an endless task of keeping the sand out, everything including the bathrooms are spotless. The tiles just shine.

The tar roads are beautiful stretches without a hint of pothole. They are better than any road that I have ever been on. The roads are signed well and pretty easy to navigate.

When we crested the hill and got to the top when we were close to Port Nolloth, the view was outstanding and took my breath away. To see the entire coast line and small city, instantly took me back to living in Hawaii when I crested and saw the North Shore for the first time. The blue water as far as you can see and white waves. The beaches have lots of polished tumbled white stones and pieces of broken shells. When the tide is out, the large rock reefs are exposed, I don’t know how they are made but the stones/maybe hardened sand have unique ripples and are stunning in their ruggedness.

We took a walk along the beach and I picked up lots of rocks, so many that both my hands were full when Andrew started telling me a story about when he was first riding around by himself. He had to be very careful with weight and what he took with him so he was debating between two small stones that he had been carrying for awhile when suddenly, he just dropped them both and walked away. It really hit home with me and how I am probably holding on to a lot of things that is just weighing me down but I am afraid to let go of due to the memories associated with them. With that in mind, I took a hard long look at my hand full of rocks and eliminated all but three. A round black stone that reminded me of Franco, a round all white stone for what I wanted to become and a white oval stone with black lines through it for what I am now.

We spent two days in Port Nolloth. I spent so much time with Aurial and Aunt Maggie, the two women who ran the Bedrock Lodge. We had lunch and dinners in town but came back and had long conversations and sharing of hearts over “storming elephants”.

Aurial:

She is a beautiful girl, petite in every sense of the word. Same age as me with a beautiful clear mocha colored skin. She spoke to us about her goal to open a center for kids to have a safe place to go to during the day. To learn healthy habits, have a positive environment and learn to exercise as a way to help self esteem and other internal issues. She has such a heart for others and a capacity for love. She herself battles those internal struggles that are world wide problems. Self doubt, fear, pain and loneliness. She shared with me how she had been engaged but it fell apart and she was deeply wounded by that person and by God. She couldn’t understand why God would give her this desire to love another person and then take it away without warning. She would get so animated talking about how she would almost be yelling at God about her situation and how she felt inside. She feels so strongly about this calling to help the kids and still needing a building. I shared with her a way to start small and just help one person at a time. She didn’t need a building to start, she could just walk on the beach. That didn’t cost anything and she could watch that grow as more and more people saw her doing it and let people get interested in joining her when they see that it isn’t going away and is something they can trust and start building relationships together. She showed such strength to let her pain show, to be defenseless and share how hurt and angry she felt. How she fights those battles daily but her faith is incredibly strong. Before we left she prayed over us with Aunt Maggie and asked for protection and blessings over our journey. She continues to send me songs and different audio clips that speak of overcoming fear and trusting God.

Aunt Maggie:

She was so straightforward and had a no nonsense attitude. She was constantly on the move as she was either cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry and taking care of running the household. She let me sit in the kitchen and talk to her as she prepared breakfast. We had a lot in common with music and I shared an artist with her, Rag ‘N’ Bone Man, that I had on my phone. She really liked him and she loves country music. Especially Luke Combs. We talked in-depth about the problems in the community with kids getting in with the wrong crowds, drugs, teen pregnancies and I told her that those same things happened around the world. We all have that in common, where we want to protect our kids and keep them on the right track. To give them more than we had and clean up communities. She helps to take care of her Granddaughter who was only a month old. She works in the early morning till about 4pm then goes and gets the baby from the sitter and takes care of her while Mom is gone. She also has a strong faith and was incredibly encouraging to me.

The day we left Port Nolloth, you could see an immediate change in the landscape as we crossed the border into Namibia. More importantly tar roads ended and we started off roading.

Namibia:

There is this barrenness in Namibia that I could never have imagined. Dunes of sand just rippling, a tan color and also a burnt orange color.

Further inland, there are lots of big rock piles that appear out of nowhere and the sand changes to having small pieces of white quartz with veins of orange and grey/black volcanic rock shards.

There are small bushes, some with long thorns and others with bright green round leaves, almost like succulents. The cactus that does grow is not traditional where it is round and grows up, it is spiny and looks almost like the top of a pineapple.

The silence in the desert is absolute. No animals, road noise….nothing. As I stood there just in awe, I could hear my heartbeat in my ears. Just endless silence. It made the remoteness and how far from everything I know just hit home.

At night, the skies are completely clear from pollution and the stars shine brightly. The milky way was just an endless river of stars across the sky. We could see bright planets and constellations that are normally hidden.

I was and am so mind blown that the Northern Star doesn’t shine here.

My mind automatically searched the skies for it as well as the Dippers. As a sailor, it’s so hard for me to wrap my mind around not having that as a navigational guide. How do you find your way without that ever bright guide?

The small towns are clustered close to the ocean but all around them is just emptiness and desert. It’s like little oasis’ spread out by miles and miles of desert. There are small farms and petrol stations in the remote parts but everything is more spread out.

Beautiful old cars are used in decor in the larger lodges, I have friends that would die if they saw the cars just rusting away in the desert. They have gardeners that literally rake the sand each day to remove the footprints of the guests and provide a cleaner look.

We were able to go to Fish River Canyon, which is a very popular thing to see. It’s like a smaller version of the Grand Canyon. It’s inside a park with wildlife and in route to the view point, a group of wild Oryx crossed the road and I was just in awe of their muscular bodies and long horns. The viewpoint was beautiful and we sat near the edge and just soaked it in. On the ride back to the campsite, it was the first time we had ridden with the sun going down. The pinks and purples across the desert sky was breath taking and I was reminded of my road trip with Franco in 2012. It made me smile at the memory and just soak it in.

Richard Baath:

Meeting Richard was pure happenstance. I am so in awe of his adventure. To do something as grand as bicycling from Sweden to Cape Town, South Africa and to do it primarily alone takes huge balls and a huge leap of faith. I’m sure he heard all the stories I did about what could happen to him but he did it regardless and was able to see for himself, the kindness of the people, the realities of their lives and even some unfortunate sides of people along the way. He shared stories, pictures and helped me to see that I don’t have to wait for others to join me on adventures in the future. I can just plan them and go. Check off the boxes from my Bucket List, my Dream List and stop making the excuse that I don’t have anyone to go with me. He truly opened my eyes to the world of possibilities.

The roads were getting worse and my confidence was taking a huge beating as Namibia just kept beating me up. I kept forcing myself to rise up again and again. Pulling on strength I didn’t know I had, leaning on friendship with Andrew and Laura and praying over and over to God.

The remoteness of where we were riding made it impossible to be “saved”. By saved I mean, having a quick way out. Having someone drive out and ride the bike through the rough patches for me. I had to do it, I had to figure it out cause there was no getting out unless I did it. I am so grateful to Andrew for his patience with me. He and Laura would ride ahead and then he would watch in his mirrors for me and would wait for me after a particularly hard patch. I knew he was never too far away but he also gave me space. One, for the dust to clear so I could see the road and Second, for me to figure it the hell out.

Most days I was battered emotionally and physically at the end of the day but they would pick my spirits up, share funny stories with me and my heart would again feel light and I would be ready for another tough day.

After the day that the shock broke, I was introduced to a group of men who are creating an oasis in the middle of the desert called Solitaire.

Pasquale:

This man is a professional adventurer. He climbed Mount Everest 3x, summited 2x. He is an American veteran, has done countless adventures and experiences around the world. He has had businesses around the world, has millionaire besties and has chosen Namibia and a small petrol station as home. He has his own plane and flys back and forth as needed for meetings and supplies. He is fixing up the petrol station and including a lodge that has a restaurant, refurbishing the bakery and is buying land all around the station, just to conserve it and give it back to the animals. He works as much as possible with local suppliers and farms. He employs almost all locals and teaches them from the ground up, all different tasks. From how to wash dishes, to how different people from different countries like foods to be cooked. He is so observant of every detail, from changing the brands of mustard and ketchup to name brands, to paying attention to the customers in the restaurant and changing the music playing in the background accordingly. He is very well read and stays current with world wide news. He has a very humble blue collar working man appearance. He wears work clothes and a ball cap. He has surrounded himself with key players that are very smart and handle different aspects of his daily business. He values people’s opinions and asks his workers questions, you can see he is intently listening to their feedback. We had a round table discussion about Namibias future, everyone had their own opinions and it was a very open discussion. He talked to me about the history of the land, the different tribes and traits of workers that he employs. He seems intimidating but he is so kind. He without hesitation, arranged for the bike to be recovered after the shock broke and again after my accident. He loaded his team and came out to rescue me when Laura called/text him. He transferred me from the truck I was in to his vehicle and took me back to his lodge. He opened one of the rooms and arranged for the bikes and all my stuff to be safe and locked up until the insurance recovery team came and got it. He came running without hesitation and continues to help as much as he can. I can never repay his kindness in organizing such a fast response team.

Saki:

I would call him the head manager for Pasquale and he came onboard just a few months after he had bought the property. He has vibrant blue eyes and a great white/grey bushy beard. He has a slim build and didn’t speak often but when he did it was highly intelligent and thoughtful. He listened and observed everything. He reminded me a lot of Frank so I went out of my way to talk to him and get him to smile and laugh. I made sure to pay attention when he spoke. He was the one that went out with the team to recover the bike each time. He was in the truck with Pasquale when they came to get me. He is so humble and respectful of Pasquale, you can tell how much he admires him from the way he speaks about him. He joked that when they were flying, Pasquale would tell him to fly, showed him some gauges to watch and he would close his eyes and go to sleep. Saki would be sweating and flying while Pasquale just snored, sound asleep. Saki would wake him up right before they had to land. He respects Pasquale so much and tries to stay in the background but that doesn’t work so well since he is one of the main men and Pasquale tries to include him in events.

Robert:

He is a tall, slim, tanned man with vibrant blue eyes, 5 o’clock shadow and tousled dark hair that he kept back with a flat billed hat that was similar to a cowboy hat. He is still a mystery to me. I wonder why a man with his talent and brains chose to walk away from an aerospace mechanic career to work as the mechanic at a small up and coming petrol station. He maintains the diesel equipment, builds homes and is on call for any kind of break down that might occur like my shock did. He chooses his words carefully and tends to look away into the distance when he spoke to me. I felt like he didn’t open up to most people and tended to keep to himself but I saw glimpses of his kindness. While walking to his workshop, he stopped to pick up what I called the “lodge cat” so it didn’t get run over from all the tourist coming in for gas and to eat at the restaurant. He snuggled it, talked to it and put it on a stone wall, far away from tires and feet. When he spoke about the country and the direction it was headed, it was very thought out and a realist view. Andrew and I stayed pretty close to him in his shop while he created the parts we needed. I stayed quiet so I wouldn’t interrupt his thoughts and tried to stay out of his way as I watched. I think most people leave him alone to do the repairs and almost no one came in to talk to him. Not only did he manufacture a brand new bolt, bushing and spacer….he compensated for the natural wear on the bike for a perfect fit. During the lathing processes, a piece came loose and according to Andrew, Robert just kept working. Measuring and working with blood dripping down from his hand. Not even bothering to wipe it up or wash his hand. After the repairs were complete, he took us across the road to his home to show us his collection of older KTM’s that he has refurbished. He has kickstart 500cc two strokes that he lovingly talked about. He joked he only had one registration and he just switches the plate to the bike he is riding at the time. He has a very shy smile, laugh and quickly goes serious as he gazes intently at me as he bent down to draw in the sand about tire pressures, counter steering, drifting and off road riding. He showed us the biplane that he is currently building in his living room and when I asked him how he planned to get it out, he motioned to a wall behind me and said he was going to install a sliding door. He also came out with Pasquale and stopped to make sure I was ok.

I have never experienced such selfless people. Even strangers riding by in trucks and cars slowed down if I was taking a break on the side of the road, I learned to flash a thumbs up. That is just how South Africans and Namibians are. They will never leave someone stranded on the road cause it is not safe due to animals and mostly bad people.

I don’t remember the accident but we have pieced together from pictures of the road and the condition of the bike that I lost control of it in deep gravel. The lines in the sand/gravel show how the bike swerved and I must have fought it instead of relaxing and letting it straighten up naturally. I am extremely lucky to walk away like I did. The bike itself is totaled. They think from the damage, that it did a 360 flip end over end, possibly more than once since there was damage to the top box and the front screen was flattened. Apparently I was walking around, trying to get my helmet off when some ladies stopped to help me. The helmet is scratched near the top and the vents are broken off. I “woke up” sitting with my legs out in front of me, covered by my jacket like a blanket and Andrew behind me holding my weight. He was asking me questions about my pain and I told him that I just hurt on my left upper arm and my shoulder blades. I could feel his hands move up and down my spine feeling for damage. Laura was squatted in front of me with her cellphone and Garmin in her hands, typing away. The bike laid to my right, looking like I had just forgotten to put the kickstand down. I couldn’t figure out what went wrong. Andrew and Laura managed to get an SUV to load me up and Andrew went with me as we headed back to Solitaire. I could walk and move but it was painful and I didn’t cry till I got sat in the car. Andrew was on the lookout for Pasquale and flagged down his truck and we switched to his truck. Andrew went back to load the bike on a truck and Pasquale took over checking me out and talking to me. People who had stopped, collected my things from the boxes that had scattered onto the road and put them in a pile on the side of the road. Luckily Franco’s sphere wasn’t damaged. That was the only thing I was worried about and had Laura check it for me once we were back at the lodge. As I sat and tried not to move, many people came to check on me: Robert, Pasquale, Saki, two German men who helped with the bike. Andrew, Laura and I talked and even though I knew nothing was broken, I knew I needed to get checked out. Andrew went on a mission, calling people to figure out how to get me to a local hospital. It was going to be an enormous cost to get an ambulance and after talking to everyone, the easiest route would be to try and find someone already headed to Walvis Bay. He went up to every single person in Solitaire, explaining the situation and what happened. He left Laura to watch over me and she just hugged me and got teary. I know she was so worried for me, they both were. Andrew managed to talk to two people who couldn’t take me but were actually ER nurses on holiday from France so they came and checked out my reflexes, eye movement, sensitivity to light and gave me a pain pill to take that would help. Andrew eventually found me a ride with a local Namibian and his friend and even though the truck kept stalling, I felt very safe with them. Andrew and Laura followed on the bike, after coordinating to get the bike back, stored and a friend to meet them in Walvis Bay.

The hospital was very clean and I was seen very quickly. The nurse initially thought that I was in a car accident with a bike and her eyes got huge when I explained I was riding the bike. The doctor checked me over, listening to my chest and back and sent me for X-rays. My ankle had swollen up by this time so she had that checked too. I was scared to go into the cat scan machine, the X-ray tech strapped in my neck so I couldn’t move and it hurt to lay down and then get back up. She helped me but went too quickly so my head swam and I thought I was going off the table onto the floor. I had to concentrate on breathing while she did the rest of the X-rays. Nothing was broken or fractured but the doctor was worried about the ligaments in my ankle since it was swollen so they wrapped it and admitted me for observation since I couldn’t remember the accident. I had to stay two days since we had checked in so late, it had to be a full 24 hrs. During this time and since Andrew and Laura have been on the phone with everyone. From Gerrit giving him the shitty news that I wrecked his bike, to the bike insurance people, medical insurance person, all their local friends, lawyer and many more. The doctor told me I needed two weeks to recover and use crutches but I couldn’t figure out how to use them and not hurt my upper body badly so they are just collecting dust. My ankle still has some swelling and my toes are bruised but it doesn’t hurt to walk on it and I elevate it as often as I can. My abs started hurting the second day and has been my biggest hurdle. It’s amazing how often those muscles are used daily. Moving, breathing, laughing. I still have pain in the upper rib area and around to it’s matching side on my back but the rest is ok. Almost all the bruising is gone from my shoulder and arm.

We have been in Swakopmund for a week now and we are still trying to figure out what to do. There just isn’t any clear path due to Uuzilo’s finances and the paperwork issues. We have possible leads on other bikes but insurance paperwork takes weeks to get ready plus paperwork to cross the different borders. Andrew and Laura are weighing every option to figure out what to do and they are very private so they keep it all to themselves. I think Andrew doesn’t want me to worry but I want to help and it’s hard for me to see them going through all this stress, knowing I am the cause. They had so many thing planned and it’s all gone away now and I feel terrible about it. I think it’s making Andrew question himself, like he didn’t prepare me enough but there is no roads that could have prepared me for this. Just like there isn’t really a way to prepare to hike the A.T., you just have to live it, day in and day out.

We have been staying at the flats of Quinton and Keren while I have been healing. They are such giving and beautiful people. They have gone above and beyond to take us out to dinners and treating us like royalty. There is no way we could ever repay their kindness. They have been taking us to their different restaurants and we have these long, in-depth conversations filled with laughter and stories of their adventures gone wrong. So many bottles of wine, shots and coffee have been shared.

The sunsets are out of this world here. They have so much red in them and very little purples.

Quinton and Keren own a lot of restaurants and other properties here and because they know everyone, they are careful with who is watching them and how they act around their staff. We got to meet her parents and Andrew asked me to tell Uuzilo’s story so I told it from my point of view and what we had been through so far. Of course I cried through it, cause that’s just what’s happens. We were in a coffee shop with lots of people around but I wasn’t embarrassed, I just can’t stop it from happening. I think Keren and Quinton were surprised by how open I was and I think it touched them. Keren got misty when she was talking to us after I got done and I just laid my head on her shoulder and squeezed her hand. She hinted at a past pain and I just wanted to wrap my arms around her for allowing her brokenness to show. Like Aurial said, pain speaks to pain. I think because of their position in the community and at the business, they have to be constantly on guard with what they say so they can’t be open with most people. Quinton also was very thoughtful and he wants to know so much more about me and who I was before this. He encourages me and helped me to not be as embarrassed about the accident, even if he calls me an “Offical Road Inspector”. I jokingly reply that I test it with my head and that since I’m so squishy, I bounce really well off the road since I’m well padded.

Keren:

I heard about her from Quinton before I actually met her. She is a petite blond with boundless energy that matches his and she is observant of everything. Especially in the restaurants and you can see her on pins and needles with seeing stuff that is not correct and she wants to fix it all. Her frustration is evident when she points out things that they have had countless meetings over with their managers. She is super loving with her son Tarquin who is away at school and her daughter Tatum. She understands their vastly different temperaments and puts them into activities that help them blossom. She wants them to have their own opinions, follow their passions and be tough in this harsh world. Both kids will be at boarding school this year. Tarquin is there now. It’s is a strange concept for me but is something that is done regularly here. I guess because local schools are not available or up to snuff. They literally send them out of the country to Cape Town in South Africa. It’s really only a 3 hr flight so it’s more like sending them to the next state. Tarquin has been able to work with horses and has gotten into riding in different competitions. She hopes to find a ranch for him to work at in in the States during his Gap year after graduation before he either goes to college or starts working. Tatum is the artistic one. She loves to dance and has qualified for several competitions on her first try. She is also great at drawing. You can tell how loved that Tatum is by her confidence and how much affection both parents give her. She was very interested in how she sounded to us and our accents. Keren was hysterical when she was telling us a story and used her “American” voice. It sounded just like a valley girl. I think it’s cause they watch reality tv so that is all they hear. Keren and Quinton have been to the States before and they told of their misadventures with wild gestures and sound effects, talking over each other to properly tell the story.

Quinton:

He is an adrenaline junkie, through and through. He is very intense and goes a mile a minute making plans for wild adventures and is like a whirlwind and we just smile and nod. He has done so much in his 49 years. Triathlete, international rubber duck boat racing, kite surfing, life guard, flying his own plane, adventure biking, skydiving and so much more. If it’s dangerous and he can go fast, he’s game. He is very much an man’s man but we saw a softer side of him as he snuggled with Tatum and when he opened up about different accidents and misadventures that could have ended badly. He is very strict with himself and his business. He is the single owner and controls everything from portion controlling to accounting for every sugar packet. He has everything for his restaurants manufactured in one main building and portioned out for them. Even spices are weighed. At first I thought it was overkill but then I realized how much petty pilfering happens and what he has to do to avoid that and still make a profit for all his other business ventures. Without a board, he has to deal with every single problem but it lets him have the freedom to use his gut and make decisions based on long term profits and not a get rich quick scheme. He has an intense CCTV security system with zoom functions with vivid clarity through out each of his properties.

He showed us his man cave in the making. It’s literally 4 small aircraft hangers that he made into one long hanger. He stores his off-road Jeep, motorcycles, rubber duck boat, canoes, cranes, plane and restaurants kitchen equipment. He has all his gear there

and has plans to make it a proper man cave.

He is right on the small airport strip so he took us over to meet some of the airport officials and people that own the skydiving business and we were able to watch them coming down, mostly in tandem. We also got to see Helicopters used during the Vietnam war that they use for skydiving now.

He like Keren has a hard time relaxing at his restaurants. Constantly talking to the managers and observing the staff and food. He is the best story teller. He does sound effects, with wild gestures as he tells real stories about things that happened. He told us how he built up a game farm and how he snuck in animals at night since he didn’t have permits and the crazy ways he had to transport them. His camel transfer story had us dying with laughter. Each of his stories was just as insane. He is just so excited about everything and shares it with us.

They took us off-roading on sand dunes in their jeeps and it was crazy, scary fun. It was like a super intense rollercoaster ride and I’m not ashamed to admit that I threw up…..but I wasn’t the only one. Laura was the only one with an iron gut that day. They called it going for a “sundowner” basically drinking a beer and watching the sunset.

It was staggeringly beautiful watching the sunset over the ocean, sitting on a sand dune in the desert.

The next day he arranged to have a pilot take us up in his Rallye 235e Cessna plane. It only fit four and his license is expired so his instructor took us up. It was insanely beautiful to see the birds eye view of the city and ocean. Seeing the dunes and salt flats. I have never been in plane that size. It was slightly cramped since I was upfront and tucked my legs up so I wouldn’t accidentally push the foot petals and crash us.

During one of our dinners that went late into the night, Quinton said that I needed to get back on the horse so he made plans for us to ride his bikes. To instruct me, to let Andrew ride his 450 and play off-road. We met him at the hanger and I climbed on the back of his 990 Dakar KTM as we ripped through town and onto sandy roads outside of town. Andrew followed on Quinton’s 450 and Laura in his truck. He was constantly talking, explaining and showing me how simple it is to take control of the bike and not be scared. He had me stand up with him while going over some bad road and I was terrified. He swerved in and out of the sand and I have to admit, I felt that clench of fear in my stomach when he first drove to the side of the road. Tears just flowed down as he talked to me and I tried to answer through the knot in my throat. He took me to a nice road and had me ride the bike by myself. I kept it to about 60km and third gear. Just getting used to riding gravel again and standing up as necessary. Trying to get myself to relax and stop holding on so tight. He rode next to me on his 450 and I was able to relax some as I knew he was watching out for me and I wasn’t alone. We pulled over at a scenic spot before it got too curvy and he just gave me the biggest hug and slaps on the back. He was so proud of me. I tried to take a minute to be alone cause I could feel the tears starting but he didn’t let me go and just talked to me and hugged me as the tears flowed. We both got on his bike again and I relaxed as much as possible while we drove through the curvy road. We stopped for a bite to eat and quick coffees before Andrew and Quinton got on the bikes to tackle the sandy riverbed and I joined Laura in the truck.

Laura and I had a wonderful conversation and she shared with me about her past, and her life leading up to meeting Andrew. She shared a beautiful story about her friend Courtney who passed away and we were both in tears by the end of it. I just put my hand on her leg as she talked and drove.

Quinton showed us the “Singing Rocks” they are a rock pile that when you strike certain parts of them with other stones, they ring out kind of like a steel drum used in Caribbean music. It was so cool and it was in the middle of nowhere, just following dirt tracks through the desert. We had talked about meeting up for dinner again but Quinton and the family decided to stay home and watch movies so A, L and I just had a quiet dinner and I was asleep by 8:45pm.

I still don’t know how the rest of the trip with unfold but I know this.

I feel a lightness that wasn’t there before. I am able to laugh easily and often without feeling shame. I realize that joy and pain can live in the same space, without one overcoming the other. I still miss Franco more than I can ever express and it’s still hard to think about never seeing him again but that pain doesn’t rip through me like it used to. Instead of wanting to shrink away from life, I find myself reaching out to connect with people. Excited to share my travels, spend time with friends and open my home up. To travel and experience life in all its glory. I’m not as scared to potentially find great love again. I’m working on lowering my guard when it comes to saying things out loud and not just in black and white. It’s always been hard for me to verbalize things, mostly cause i always end up crying. But that doesn’t matter anymore, the tears comes when my heart can’t hold it back anymore and with them comes as cleansing feeling.

I don’t know how to express my gratitude to Andrew and Laura for their selflessness and willingness to take a stranger into their lives and share this wild adventure and meet people who changed my heart. They have given me back my song. They sang it gently to me when I forgot the words.

Author: firemaker1

When I lost the man that I loved, the life I knew shattered in an instant. Not only did I lose him in my life, I lost him and all the plans we had made for our future. This is my journey to learn to live again.

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