Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Cape to Kapp: Notes from a Very Tired Cyclist

Teresie Hommersand grew up near Stavanger, a city known as the oil capital of Norway. She remembers eating supper every evening off plates with the logo of the national oil and gas company on them. Somehow she became the "green sheep" of the family. She has lived in Uganda, Oregon, and Australia. She currently resides in South Africa.  Learn more about her 13,700 km ride going from South Africa to Norway and her charity crowdfunding campaign on her Facebook page and Instagram.
(This is her third journal entry for us)

Powering through Zambia is rough. It's one hill after the other. Extremely hot. Often windy and always blowing from the front. I was doing 100km each day on my Soma Saga weighing in about 45kg with all my gear. Although physically challenging, it was the kids that got to me...

Typically, I would be coming up a hill, super tired and out of breath. Then the Mzungu (white person) alarm would go off. A kid would spot me and start screaming this word, "my favourite", over and over again from the top of his or her lungs - letting everyone in the whole village know who had just arrived. Kids would then come running from all sides, some sounding like they were having a fit when they saw me, joining the --by this point-- horde of kids screaming on repeat: 'HOW ARE YOU? HOW ARE YOU? HOW ARE YOU? HOW ARE YOU? HOW ARE YOU? HOW ARE YOU? HOW ARE YOU?' It doesn't matter if you say "Hi", wave or ignore them. They keep going, each one wanting your attention. Runnning after you, sometimes holding on to your bike. While this is all happening, you also have to mind the traffic. Trucks weighing tons shoot past you, expecting you to get off the road, threatening to flatten you if you do not. Under these circumstances, I found it very difficult to take my hand off the handlebar and wave and give someone a heartfelt smile. I felt like an object. An amusement. A circus animal. For the first time since I started cycling, I felt lonely.

"again have I been reminded of the importance of connecting with people in order to be happy"

Notes from a not so tired cyclist:
When you are as exhausted as above, everything looks different. In the moment, you don't have enough energy to remind yourself that this attention is not coming from a bad place. They are kids. They are curious. They see you as something positive. Funny how you end up cursing them and even wanting to shout 'shut the fuck up!'. Sometimes I did. Silently. I've heard of other cyclists' various methods for how to deal with this. My favourite is perhaps one guy that pretended to be retarded. I laughed until I cried when he demonstrated it for me, visualizing how the kids got a fright and ran in all possible directions to get away. It might not be politically correct, but if you are desperate...?
I don't want to give Zambia a bad rep. I am positive that if you take the time to get to know the people and not just power through, you will have amazing experiences! For me Zambia is one of two countries in Africa that I am choosing not to spend much time in, in an attempt to find the right balance between enjoying what is along the way and making decent distance on the saddle. I learned quite a lot about myself from this whole experience, and again have I been reminded of the importance of connecting with people in order to be happy. This time, it was learned the hard way;-)