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.

Gravel: 1, Stephanie: 0

The day started off ok. It’s was super windy and we left out to Walvis Bay. The wind was blowing me all over and I struggled to keep it in the track.

The roads were not good and had a lot of sand and loose gravel piles on the sides of the road.

It was cold so I had put lots of layers on and thick gloves but I wasn’t able to feel the throttle so I took a break and changed into my normal riding gloves and removed some layers.

I got back on the bike and checked for traffic and there was a car a little bit away so I just started out again.

Next thing I know, I’m sitting on the ground with the bike on its side a little ways away from me. Nothing on me is broken, just bruised and sore.

Looking at pics, I could see where the bike got squirrelly again and I must have fought it instead of relaxing and letting it straighten out naturally.

Luckily some nice people stopped and gave me a ride back to the lodge. Andrew wanted me to get checked out so he coordinated a ride to the nearest hospital 260km away.

The ride he coordinated, was a really nice man Reinhard and his friend but their truck kept breaking down and turning off while he drove. He also had a fork stuck into the side of his radio to keep it in place. The roads were super bumpy and he drove really fast over some big bumps and his friend in the back seat flew up, hitting his head on the top of the truck and had to grab the front headrest and yelled at him “you have a patient in the car! Slow down!”. I just laughed and laughed.

We eventually got to the hospital and I walked in, the nurses immediately took me back and did X-rays, cat scans and the works. Every came out fine but the doctor said I had to stay for 24 observation so I was taken to the general ward and had dinner before I went to sleep.

The next morning started very early, nurses and staff kept coming in. Cleaning, taking out the trash, opening windows, taking blood sugar levels and blood pressure.

I am already a terrible morning person but worse since I was more sore. The doc came in and talked to me and said I would have to stay another night since we checked in at 6pm the night prior, it hadn’t been a full 24 hrs. That really sucked and was frustrating but I just slept and watched tv. Laura and Andrew stopped by and spent time with me in between them dealing with the medical insurances and all the bike insurance stuff.

Finally, the next afternoon I was released and we drove to the next town and their friend Quinton is letting us use two of his rental suites. I just relaxed and took it easy. Different parts were getting sore when others were feeling better. Taking naps on the couches.

We got to see a lot of Quinton’s businesses and he took us to see some of his friends planes and different helicopters that were used in the Vietnam war.

We had dinner at one of his restaurants called Tiger Reef. It is right on the beach and just laughed and laughed at all his crazy stories and his wife didn’t hold anything back.

We don’t think that the bike can be fixed in time before I have to fly home so we are trying to figure out a plan for the rest of the trip.

I really feel terrible about messing up Gerrit’s bike and I hope the insurance process goes smoothly and it can get fixed quickly.

It really sucks that this has happened but I’m ok so in the end, that’s the important part.

Stupid fucking gravel and sand

Fixing bikes and hearts

The road from Hammerstein (that’s not its names but what I called it) was the worst that we have encountered so far.

The corrigation tracks were very deep. It’s caused by cars and trucks driving too fast on the gravel roads. It looks like mini waves.

I had to stop many times because I was so scared. The backend kept sliding on me when I would get stuck in a deep track and when it would narrow to a tire width and the sides would be piled up gravel and sand.

To an experienced rider like Andrew, he just flies over the road but for me…..not so much.

I just pulled over and the tears would not stop coming down.

Andrew keeps watch for me in his mirrors and if I take too long to come behind him, he turns around comes looking. I could barely get the words out to him “I’m not ok…”

I just shut the motor off and walked away to the fence line and let the tears go. Andrew just hung back and gave me space. Then encouraged me the best that he could.

I was broken.

Physically and mentally.

But there was no other choice but to get back on the bike and keep going.

Taking breaks so I could shake out my hands from gripping so tightly, quads burning since I was riding standing up most of the time cause that is the only way I could see the tracks and feel in control of the bike.

We were 12km from town and I needed another break so Andrew went and took Laura into town to organize camp for us then was going to head back and ride with me.

I sat there drinking water and made my mind up to go. Climbed on and headed to town, meeting him half way there. He stayed right next to me as I crawled into town.

As soon I got off the bike, the both wrapped me in huge hugs and a cool sprite.

The tentsites were fully booked but we spoke a German family who let us tent on their site and use their fire pit.

I walked into the desert some and used my Garmin to send messages to my family, asking for prayers and telling them about the day.

Susan sent me a message, a simple but complex question. “Are you finding what you are seeking?”. Pondering that question brought the tears on as I struggled to find the words to answer.

“I don’t know yet but I know that people are being put in my path.” It’s helping to restore my faith in everything.

This trip is forcing me to my breaking point and beyond to where only faith exists.

Faith in myself, the bike, my team and lastly God. Repeating to myself over and over out loud. “You can do this”, “find the track”, “breathe girl, breathe” and “he hasn’t taken you this far to leave you now”.

Just nonstop talking to help me concentrate.

It’s amazing what a good meal, cold shower and deep sleep can do to restore my soul.

We woke up early to try and catch a hitch into Sousevlay. They don’t allow bikes into the park and it is about an hour from the entrance to where the dunes and drybed is.

We managed to flag down a big tour bus. He driver cab was separate from the cab with the tourists but he waved us on. The tour guide was not happy about it, claiming it was against company policy in case of accidents but she couldn’t kick us off without looking like an asshole.

She did not like Andrew at all but warmed to me and we chatted sporadically when she wasn’t speaking German to the group of people she was guiding in a semi-supported bicycle trip. They ride the bus and stay in lodges but ride bikes 20-30km a day.

When we got to the “entrance”, we had to get on 4×4 open air trucks since the sand drifts are hard to maneuver in cars.

The parking lot was right on the edge of the dunes and you had to walk through them to where the drybed was.

I had just watched a documentary about this place before I left and now, here I was standing among the dead and twisted trees. It talked about a folk lore that God was upset at the trees so he ripped them out of the ground and put them back in with the roots up to the sky.

The earth was so dry and cracked, it was about 7-8 football fields long and maybe 1-2 wide. You could hike to the top of “Big Daddy” but it takes normal people about 4 hrs then to get down, you just run straight down the face of the dune. It was hilarious watching people come down. One boy just tucked into a ball and rolled down the hill. His dad did crazy antics right next to him.

The dune had green plants and yellow flowers growing on the side of it. I could believe they could grown like that.

As I walked from the far end, I realized that there were deep footprints dried into the ground from where someone had walked across after a rain storm. Now the footprints were harden and would remain there until it rained again and again and the earth could fill the holes again.

It made me think about it in terms of a heart.

When you are most vulnerable, someone will walk into your heart and leave deep footprints. Sometimes it’s for a good reason, most times it’s not. So your heart becomes like that dry desert bed. Dried, cracked and nothing grows on it and everything planted there just withers away. Then everyone that comes afterwards walks on the hardened surface without leaving a mark, unable to tell they were there at all.

I think I am that way now. I am just waiting for the rain to come.

We caught a ride back with a super nice group with mostly Australians and one Swiss girl that I sat with. Turns out the tour guide Kenneth, knew Gerrit and Alta. The people were rented the bike from and had a great first few days with. He gave such positive feedback about the road that we packed up camp and got on the road to the next town of Solitaire. Only 80km away. Easy day…..right?

The roads were still terrible but I knew to stop as often as I needed and talked to myself.

Andrew and Laura had just topped the hill in front of me when I started out again when suddenly the bike dropped down 1-2 feet. I knew immediately something was wrong. “Oh shit….the shock broke”. I remained calm and since the rear wheel was still able to spin, I just pulled in the clutch and let it roll to a stop.

Right then, a car came from the other direction and flagged him down to go and catch the team and tell them what happened so we could make a plan.

The family sped off and I got the bike off the road. It was too low to use the kickstand so I just sat on it to keep it upright. I figured Andrew would drop Laura off in town to figure out a truck and then come to me. Eventually I just let the bike rest on the boxes briefly while I shed my gear and searched the road for the bolt that had come loose.

Andrew came back and we got the boxes off with my stuff and had a guy named Gunther Heimstadt with Bateleur Helicopters stopped and gave me a ride into town while Andrew stayed with the bike.

Laura had already left and rode with the owner of the lodge Pasquale and they came back and he organized his men and a truck to load the bike.

We decided to take of it in the morning so we set up camp and had dinner. Turns out the same group and tour guide was staying here as well and Kenneth felt terrible about his shitty road report and what happened to the bike.

The next morning we started looking at the map and making a plan over coffee when the mechanic Robert came over and we got the bike off the truck. We tried to call the local BMW dealer but they never got back to us so Robert, who is an aerospace engineer by the way, manufacturers and completely new bolt and bushings with his lathe. He is incredibly smart but like most geniuses, his peoples skills are lacking so I stayed out of his way and not talking while he did his measurements and used the lathe. I went through and checked all the other bolts on the bike, just in case.

He got it all completed and we helped him reassemble the bike and then we went to his house and he showed us his 4 KTM bikes. Literally, this guy is building a biplane in his living room. He slowly warmed to us, even cracking dry jokes and flashing smiles. He lowered the tire pressure on the bike and I went out on a test ride with Andrew.

It was a completely different ride. The bike absorbed so much instead of my legs and arms. It was mind blowing.

Andrew pulled off to the side and we spent a long time talking and I finally asked him questions about his trauma and we both ended up opening up and letting tears fall without embarrassment and watching the desert in all its glory.

I think it was healing for us both. We are riding out tomorrow so hopefully my angels can keep up again cause they are working hard to keep me safe.

Mak’n a plan

So we have our first break down.

The rear shock bolt that goes into the axle came out while I was riding on a shitty road. I felt the bike suddenly drop and knew immediately that the shock “broke”.

Lucky the angels were on my side, I wasn’t going very fast and the rear wheel kept spinning so I just pulled in the clutch and rode it till it stopped.

I flagged down a passing car and sent them up the road to stop Andrew and Laura who didn’t see what happened then waited.

Andrew dropped Laura off at the next town of Soliatire, only 25km away then came back for me.

A man in a truck named Gunther Heimstadt from Bateleur Helicopters stopped and we loaded my stuff and me into his truck and he took me into town.

Luckily Andrew knows the owner so he got a truck to come out and load up the bike.

If there is anywhere to break down, this is the place. Their mechanic Robert is an engineer who used to build aircrafts and is insanely smart. He is currently lathing a new bolt in case the BMW dealer that is close to us doesn’t have the parts in stock or if it will be too expensive to have them curriered out to us.

We are blessed.

Rough ride

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking the past couple days and even though I have experienced so much, that it has taken many days to absorb it all.

We rode all the way (basically) across South Africa to the Atlantic coast. How is that even possible.

The roads were still very busy but it was the wind that was the most challenging. At times I thought it would blow me off the road and it was even worse when large trucks came from the opposite direction. I basically stayed in a constant battle with the bike, forcing to stay in line. On one curve, an oversized truck was so large that it came over halfway into my lane, I had no where to go. The yellow line had a 3” drop off then a guardrail, I just said “oh, shit…” and hugged that yellow line as close as possible. I needed to change underwear after that.

We saw lots of blooming flowers, and there were a lot of green bushes. It had rained the week prior and it was just carpets of purple flowers.

I crested to top of the hill heading into Port Nolloth and suddenly I could see the ocean. The beach town just looked so picture perfect. Miles of beach as far as I could see and the white caps from the waves were visible from miles away.

We stayed 2 nights at Bedrock Lodge, right across the street from the ocean. I must have talked to the operator Auriel and the chef Aunt Maggie for hours. They were so open and prayed over me and our trip and we had beautiful fellowship.

Auriel spoke some very key things about my healing that I couldn’t help but cry. She spoke about my fear of finding great love again, of starting over and she only knew that I lost Frank recently. She didn’t know about this blog. She too has had a lot of things happen in her life and is very strong in her faith. She said that pain speaks to pain. Even though ours was different, it is still the same language. She said that the people praying for us all over the countries were like little points of light that al connected to create a shield over me and our journey.

Aunt Maggie just let me sit in the kitchen and talk to her like I was a child. We spoke about family, kids, music and the problems we all face world wide. How we all worry about kids falling into the wrong crowd or their schooling. Young girls not respecting themselves and sleeping around and the getting pregnant. All the things that parents in the US experience. We talked about the racial problems in South Africa and classifications that are placed on them. It was very eye opening to see going to places like the market and seeing how everyone is treated.

Leaving Port Nolloth was the start of my off-road adventures. I was absolutely terrified. I could only drive 30km an hour and was death locked on the throttle and standing up most of the day. We didn’t make it very far that day and I was mentally and physically exhausted. The roads are dirt/gravel and sand and there are tracks from where cars have driven past but the hardest part is the corrugation. It just non stop small ruts that make you feel like you will be shook to death. The sand makes the back end get squirrelly so my quads got a work out from me popping up and down in the saddle when I felt it slipping.

We didn’t make it to where Andrew wanted to camp originally so we just found a tree to hide the bikes behind and camped in the bush. We had packed out some steaks and some Alfredo noodles packets so we cooked that over an open fire. The fire had to get down to coals before Andrew put them on so it wasn’t hot enough for the noodle mixture and it ended up becoming a clumpy, gross looking mess. It basically looked like brains. We didn’t have plates or knives. I just had a coffee cup so Laura gave me some but it had the consistency of cake batter. Andrew had the bright idea to put some beets we had brought in it and it did help the taste but it just looked like brains or intestines. It was so terrible that we just laughed and laughed until no sound came out and my side ached. We used the paste packets to wrap around the steaks and just tore pieces off like wild animals. I swear, it was the best steak that I had ever had in a long time. We brewed some coffee and sat talking and looking at the stars for a long time. I eventually got in my tent but kept looking at them. There were so many and the Milky Way was just breathtaking.

The next day was a lot better, I just relaxed more and went a lot faster, which actually made the ride smoother. We camped at Canyon River campsites and after setting up the tents, showering and hanging laundry up to dry, I went for a short walk up a hill and just sat and had a conversation with frank and I think partly with God, just asking what I am supposed to do with this gift I had been given. I just cried and held his sphere and talked to him like I haven’t done in a long time.

After I came down, we went to Fish River Canyon which is like a mini Grand Canyon. It was pretty and I got to see a small herd of Oryx run across the rode in front of me. I just slowed down and let them all pass. We got back as the sun finished setting. The sky was pinks and purples and reminded me of driving through the desert with frank so many years ago and felt such a connection to him.

The next day was very nice and the roads smoothed out a lot. I got a lot better and could go much faster so we made great time getting to the next spot to camp.

We met a guy named Richard Baath who is 8.5 months into his trip from Sweden to the tip of South Africa. He is supposed to finish the same day I fly home, only he is riding a bicycle. He is the coolest guy and I talked his eye off asking questions and wanting to see pictures. We all had dinner together and are camping out. 3 tents all in a row. You can find his blog at richardbaath.com or Instagram @richardbaath. Some of his photos are incredible. I can’t even imagine what his journey must be like and to be doing it alone.

Rays

The first ride on the 1200 went well.

I struggled at first getting it off the property since it has brick tracks for car tires and then grass everywhere else but I managed to keep the rubber on the road.

We drove through a very nice road with some twists and then through town stopping to pick up supplies and meeting A&L’s friends.

We ran in Pepe and he invited us back to his house so we took our time and went up a dirt road so I could get used to being off tar roads.

I immediately popped up out of the saddle like the BMW performance rider training taught me and was able to handle the bike really well. I am so grateful for the training. I would have been lost without it.

The road into Pepe’s home was quite rough but his land is beautiful. Pepe and his wife Marie have huge dogs that are a pretty red brown color and super sweet. We just visited for awhile before we had to get back home.

We had promised Boeta that we would ride awhile with him but when we got home, I was spent. It was very hot and I had not snacked or drank any water so I chose not to go. Andrew and Boeta rode till almost dark and we had a yummy dinner again.

They call a bbq, a braai and they cook thick pieces of steaks, potatoes, beets and other veggies.

We took the next day off and spent the day packing the pannier boxes and checking the tents out. Alta and Gerrit’s grandkids were there so we played with them and they helped us set up the tents. They were super sweet but very smart since we can’t speak very much Afrikaans and they don’t speak English but hand gestures work perfectly.

We were invited over to Pepe and Marie’s house for a braai so we went over there in the evening and had a really good time just chatting and getting to know each other. They have travelled the world via boats and we really got along great. I gave Marie one of my bracelets.

I couldn’t sleep so I stayed up reading my kindle. I had thought about Franco all day, especially after his sister and mom both commented on my last blog and it just made me tear up. I showed it to Laura cause she saw me start crying but I couldn’t get the words out to tell her what they had written. It was just so kind, loving and beautiful.

I woke up early and got the rest of my stuff packed and loaded on the bike. We hugged Alta and I gave her one of the bracelets that I had made and couldn’t stop the tears from falling. She knew that I was scared, nervous and she did her best to calm me down and gave me a big hug. It made me feel like a little piece of home was hugging me.

We headed out to Mug n Bean for coffee and a small breakfast and Gerrit met us up there. He rode with us for a very long while. He is a phenomenal rider. He was doing crazy antics like standing up and waving both arms around, standing on one side of the bike and taking one hand and leg off. He gave truckers high fives, stole a puffs of cigarettes from random cars and was just dancing around the whole time. I know he really put the show on for me since he was watching out for me and trying to get me to relax. He is such a kind man.

The time came and we split to the left and he kept going on his own trip and we turned onto a stunning side road. It was very flat and almost no trees and looked identical to California.

The sun had been playing peekaboo all day with us and I just looked at the rays shining from behind a cloud and all I could think was “I see you Franco”. I know he was with me and making me relax.

I was very nervous on the main roads with all the traffic and everyone maneuvering past each other on a single lane road. I just took my time and was very careful when I passed people and made sure to get over to the far left of the lane so others could pass. We got up to about 90mph/140km on the straight parts but we were mostly cruising at about 70mph.

It got very cold as the sun got lower and I got very stiff and crabby. Luckily we made it to the hotel before the sun went down. Checked in then went for a quick bite of dinner.

The power was out so I am still waiting to take a hot shower and warm up properly. There is a lot of noise in this hotel. People, dogs and road noise.

We have about 600km to do tomorrow and will probably be tenting so time to get some rest and get warm!

First days in Africa

I left the blinds open in my hotel room so the dawn would wake me up. All I could think when I saw the view was “beautiful”. I got dressed, wrote a note for A&L and went downstairs for coffee and breakfast.

I can’t lie, it’s very strange to walk into a room and not see another white person but everyone pretty much kept to themselves except for a few good mornings exchanged in the elevators.

I had only been downstairs for about 10 minutes before A&L made it down and got coffee. They hardly ate any breakfast and Andrew was chomping at the bit to get going and find a “real cup of coffee”, so I finished up and went upstairs to pack my few things since my bag didn’t arrive.

I took a few minutes at the window again, this time with Franco and just tried to absorb the fact that I was actually here. It still feels so surreal.

We managed to find a Mug n Bean, get the team some caffeine and we started driving to Tzaneen, where we would be staying with some of their friends names Alta, Gerrit and their son Boeta.

The country side was beautiful. Brown but with gnarled trees everywhere. Some parts were very lush and green and reminded me so much of California, where my family is from.

The driving is very aggressive. People will just move to the side of the road to let you pass. There are people walking everywhere and lots holding out their hands almost like hitch hiking. There is a van that drives around and stops to pick people up for just a little money but anyone can choose to make a couple bucks (rands) by giving people rides.

The towns seem laid out similar to the US where there is the poor neighborhood with houses that look more like shanties and lots of trash everywhere and neighbors that look more wealthy with brick/stone and glass windows. Everyone has a fence with barbed/electric wire running across the top and bars across the windows.

We managed to find our way after a few wrong turns. After a brief stop at a grocery store and a butcher for dinner supplies, we arrive at the house.

The house has a huge sliding metal green gate and it is a huge property. The house is made primarily of wood and runs on solar and battery power. They have 3 smaller cabins that they have started renting for Airbnb and it runs right next to a beautiful river. There is a really pretty wooden staircase that leads down to the water and a floating dock. They tell me that sometimes Hippos come up the river. Crazy.

Since Andrew was anxious to pick my brain with a problem on the R1200GS. I dropped my bags and went to work. The rear brake light was burned out and they had gone in and bought a new bulb so we started there by replacing that first, no go. I started working systematically and eliminating known good parts and we finally realized that the front brake lever was not hitting the brake switch fully. We decided to wait until Gerrit got home to solder a mm or two onto the where the lever hits the switch.

Alta, Gerrit and their son Boeta surprised us by coming home a day early, so Andrew made a great dinner for us and we had a dessert coffee made with amarula (?) it’s a fruit that grows native to South Africa and tastes very similar to Kahlua.

We got to watch the videos from their time in the Bush. It’s pretty much like camping but they get to see much better wild animals lol.

The next morning I slept in very late, till almost 10:30am and A&L got to experience first hand how not pleasant I am before coffee.

Then it was back to work going over the bikes to zip tie any loose parts and tighten all bolts

I have to admit that I was not as helpful as I should have been. I was too busy having fun with Boeta and filming him riding his KTM. He is such a nice kid and we laughed a lot.

It was also nice to walk around their property and see their animal Jessica. I forget the official name of the type of animal she is.

I finally had to break away and start helping.

It was nice to be around their family and the interaction made me miss my own.

We finished up for the day and went down to the dock so we could sit and watch Boeta and some neighbor girls swim. It was nice getting Andrew to relax and take some time to enjoy the stillness. He has a very restless soul and wants to be constantly getting things ready for us. I don’t think he realizes yet how much our casual conversations in the quiet times are soothing my soul.

After dinner, we all kind of went our own ways. I am reading in my cabin and reflecting on a beautiful few days.

My bag arrived this evening so tomorrow the real fun begins with actually riding the bikes. I’m nervous to say the least. Especially since it is Gerrit’s bike and it is pristine. I really don’t want to mess it up.

I just have to push the fear away and get out of my own head and just ride.

I’ve been able to talk about Franco more and tell stories. I showed his keepsake to Laura and she said she may know someone with a boat that could help me when I go to bury his ashes in the sea. I know she was just being helpful but it made me tear up. I was able to choke out that I wasn’t ready to let him go yet and when I was, I was planning on organizing with anyone who wanted to drive or ride down with me as a final send off.

The idea of letting him go is terrifying. Even though it’s not really him, just his ashes.

I joked with my coworkers that I would be back at work after the trip, unless I met the heir to the diamond industry and he whisked me away on his yacht.

Honestly, I don’t know if I will ever want to be in a real relationship again.

Unless a person comes into my life and completely knocks my world off orbit, I’m not going to bother.

I refuse to settle for anything less. I don’t know if there is a person out there for me again but I’m willing to live my life without waiting for them to arrive.

Tomorrow will be coming soon and I must be sure to wake early since I know Andrew will be foaming at the mouth to get going.