Recently a good friend to yours truly announced that she was planning to come to Gaborone. The German friend, Victoria Schneider is presently based in Johannesburg, South Africa. A dear friend and sister, the news about her latest visit was kind of funny. Since her first visit to Botswana, she has flown and used a bus, but what she was proposing this time around was surprising.
She was planning to ride her trusted bicycle from Johannesburg to Gaborone. Last week, the topic about the impending visit came up again and this time, it seemed like she was really serious. Schneider and a group of ecstatic cyclists were planning an adventure that would seem impossible to cycling virgins. So, on Wednesday, Schneider confirmed that indeed, they had started what would turn out to be a three- days journey to Botswana. The colourful group is made up of ten cyclists, two women and eight men. Around 1730Hrs on Friday afternoon, they crossed into the Botswana border.
They are a complement of different backgrounds including a restaurateur, an entrepreneur who is always hunting for opportunities, an urban farmer and bee keeper, renewable energy guru, to mention but a few of their jobs, proving they are just a bunch of regular lives, after all.
Tired, and still nursing some aches and bruises from the 380 km quest the eclectic group met with Style on Saturday at the Grand Palm Hotel; to share more about the motivation behind this ‘impossible’ dream. The group comprises of two Germans, unknown to each other until the trip, a Zimbabwean who was tasked with maintaining the Bikes, namely Prosper Mlilo who had to turn back at the border due to issues with his passport, a Portuguese (Bruno Lopes) and South Africans. The colourful and jovial cycling buddies, without a real formal name, complement each other.
You have Thembalezwe Mntambo, the quiet one, and very friendly and then there is the group leaders namely Senzo Mncadi and Mofihle Molaba, who all bring different dynamics to this group. All in all, everyone here has a place, and the array of character traits that they display all adds to the dynamics of this lovely and unique buddies. Other members include the jovial Kganyapa Kganyapa, Mangaliso Masuku and Lesego Button Konupi. Sharing the vision of the group, Senzo Mncadi explains that the group are mostly from the Maboneng City Riders, which comprises of close to 200 members and other riding communities are also represented. The objective is very simple, do what they love which is cycling and tour different places while they are cycling. “We want to explore and are seeking adventure,” he says.
To date, they have cycled to different provinces in South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland and Botswana was their fourth country. In all the places they have cycled to there is a funny story that accompanies the adventure. What is adventure without a funny story, anyway! Take for instance, their Swaziland trip; they somehow found their way right inside a national park, and only realised this when they saw a board that read beware of lions, a scary moment that however, did very little to deter them from continuing with their journey.
Now back to the Botswana maiden trip. On the first day of the trip, they covered close to 140 kilometres, a difficult task. It was on day two that the dynamics of the group and their personalities kind of split the group into two along the way, between Koster and Zeerust towns. For starters, the group does not agree that they had planned to cycle through the N4. Somehow, the group split into two groups, the first group made up of Motlatsi and Schneider took the N4 head on, while the other eight trusted ‘GPS’, as they were hoping for a short cut, only to find themselves in a dusty trek in between farms.
The two groups had to endure lonely time on Day two and were missing each other so much throughout the 100 km that they covered that day. The big group had to contend with trying to cycle on dirt road which really challenged them. Eventually, they were rescued by farmers who gave them a ride in their bakkie, a 40 km sub-trip that could take a whole day to be narrated on its own. Until this point in the story, the group has been on the same boat about the trip, but it appears that some were still unhappy about the decision to split into two groups, and it took a bit of time before they eventually let go.
As fun as it appeared from the outside, the journey challenged them to the core. And they are very open about the fact that their bicycles humbled them, that part they all agree on. The terrain, they say, was not as easy as it looks. Take for example, between Magalies and Koster, that is when they started to really feel that this fun joy ride was a mission and a half. But they had a mission to accomplish which was to cross into Botswana, and so they soldiered on, leaving no man behind.
Funny enough, they narrate how at some point they were so happy to see a board of a Caltex garage, and were hoping to rest and get some refreshments. You can imagine their shock, when they arrived, to find the garage closed. “This meant that we had no place to buy refreshments and water,” recalls Henrike Bachem, one of the two females in the group. But she says that what made this journey amazing was the fact that they shared whatever they could, and worked as a team. For Bachem, who is on a three month trip to South Africa from her home in Cologne, Germany, she surely has some beautiful memories and stories to share with her family.
According to Mncadi, Day three saw them doing more climbing. “Everyone was strong and Henrike had an injury but still continued with the journey,” he says. Bachem adds that this was a really amazing experience. “We were challenged physically and mentally,” says Mncadi.
He also notes that there was a point where Bachem would have loved to nurse the injury but couldn’t. He also notes that one of their highlights was the support they received from the community along the way. Motorists hooted and waved at them as they passed them. On their arrival in Gaborone, they lodged at Hana Bed and Breakfast in Village and did some sight-seeing in the city. On their way back to Johannesburg, they opted for public transport, and departed at 1400HRS on Sunday. One of them had misplaced a passport, which they eventually found. So, what is next for the cycling crew? they are in talks with the Gaborone cycling club, and mulling about cycling to Zambia and Namibia,