Yesterday while I was cycling, the temperature rose above 45 degrees. It’s about the same as Mauritania and some parts of the Western Sahara, but feels different. I’ve had a head/side wind the past two cycling days which has been seriously slowing me down.
The scenery is interesting but only changes very slowly. Theroads are in fairly good condition and traffic has been sparse.
The other side revealed
There’s a big contrast between Windhoek and the other places I’ve seen up until now. Where Windhoek is very well developed, it seems that the rest of the country has been forgotten or left behind in time. The first town South of Windhoek is called Rehoboth. While just 95km away, it could just as well be 950km away as the signs of poverty, alcohol abuse and unemployment are everywhere. Right now I’m in Mariental and there’s a 230km gap of almost nothing between here and the next town of Keetmanshoop. The map shows a petrol station about 100km away, but I’ve been told that the petrol station was decommissioned some time back and that the town there has all but died out.
I’ll need to carry at least 2 days of water then, and my current drinking consumption is at 3 litres per day, that excludes cooking and evening use. So I’ll need to carry about 8 Litres minimum.
I’ve ditched my 460 gram 3 legged camping stool and replaced it with a 22 Litre, 520 gram lime green cooler bag. I’ve asked the hotel where I’m resting at to freeze my 2 water bottles and I’ve opted to buy 6 x 500ml Energade sports drinks (with electrolytes) which will also be frozen. This will all be packed into the cooler bag when I leave early tomorrow morning. I look forward to a frosty Energade on at least the first 2 or 3 stops of the day J.
What are the odds (Synchronicity)
When I arrived at Mariental I cycled to the first sign ofaccommodation that I could find – the Mariental Hotel (2 star). I just needed to get out the sun and have something cold to drink. I sat down in the hotel’s pub and asked for a glass of ice water and a cold Coke. Both were downed in less than a minute. I had another glass of water and could feel the energy seeping back into me. A man sitting at the bar started making conversation. He wanted to know where I came from, where I was going and so on. He then asked me how old I was. The conversation changed after that. He then became intensely interested in my background and I couldn’t initially figure out why. I told him I had to check in and secure my bike away, but he asked that I please come back and continue the conversation.
So, later that afternoon I came back into the hotel bar and found my new friend still sitting there. I had a cup of coffee and he bought me another Coke.
He wasn’t sure how to say what he was going to say and he hesitated for some time. He then told me that by virtue of my age and original nationality that he knows that I was in the South African Army. He then said that he was from Owamboland, but he had crossed over to Angola in the early Nineteen Eighties and had joined PLAN (the People’s Liberation Army of
Namibia). He reported directly to a Cuban Colonel and they were involved in many attacks on the South African bases and soldiers during the years.
Oshikati, one of the bases where I was stationed as an ordinance driver in 1986 and 1987 was a very safe place (as much as you can be safe in a conflict zone operational area), but it was attacked twice in the time that I was in the area. I mentioned to him that there was a mortar attack on Oshakati in late 1986 or early 1987, I couldn’t remember exactly. What I do remember was the Bosbok recce plane flying the whole night round and round the area – this was out of the ordinary. We were later awoken by the incoming mortars and the response from our military base – the long air sirens howling away and our mortar pits and gun towers firing into the night as we scrambled to the perimeters of our areas. He remembers the night very well – said with absolute confidence that the attack happened in March 1987 just after 2 AM.
I asked him if there we any hard feelings about everything, he then laughed and said no – that was long go – water under the bridge. Later on though, he made a few jokes that made me feel uncomfortable. Like my friend Manny says – “rarely a truer word spoken in jest”.
I asked him to his knowledge how many South Africa soldiers had been killed during the conflict years. He said about 5000. I asked how many PLAN soldiers were killed. He said about 15,000. I think the numbers are innacurate and way too high, but they are mentioned here all the same – because it’s the ratio and perceptions that are important.
I declined his offer of having dinner, but he asked that I write about him on my blog and tell the story. And so I
do. Paulus Tshilunga – I hope you find peace in your heart my brother.
Our African Explorer friends
We met Sheelah (Africa Girl Child) and Oyvind (Viking Explorer) in Rabat, Morocco in early December, then later again in Dakar in February. They've travelled extensively and have many interesting stories to tell. Sheelah and Oyvind have exchanged their high income London lifestyles for an African adventure. They are living their dreams.
We’ve enjoyed their company and it was good to meet up the way we did. They mentioned us on their blog – so thanks Sheela and Oyvind for making us sound like legends.
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Here are some photos of the past few days. It's only me, so excuse the monotony :-)