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Back to Africa, 2013

In the early 1980s we visited Kenya and Tanzania and fell in love with Africa. Soon, in 1982, we moved to Zimbabwe with our sons for a three-year teaching contract. (Above, Josh and Jeremy in the Vumba mountains, 1984)  When we came back to North America in 1985, we felt sure that we would return to Africa soon. Life got in the way, however, and it has now been 28 years!

In January 2013 we are returning at last for three months. We will cycle in South Africa for about two months and then revisit Zimbabwe. We'll spend part of the time in Zimbabwe working for the Zienzele Foundation. At least this is the plan.

Ready... Set ...

Preparation for a trip like this is sometimes the most stressful part. Packing is a challenge. We bring two recumbent bicycles, camping gear, photography and computer equipment, clothes, and more. (The stress in this part of the preparations arises from arguments between Barbara and me about what we can or cannot leave behind.)

The gear in this photo is not for both of us — just for me! The large box contains my bike. Barbara has gear exactly like mine. Each of our suitcases is nearly filled by a mixture of bike parts, bike sandals, panniers, tools and spares, camping gear, hiking poles, toiletries, with little space left over for clothes. Therefore each of us also has a red pannier for clothing, flashlights, kindle, computer, camera, and much else.

They got to know us well at the Lebanon Airport. That's because we frequently hauled boxes and suitcases back and forth to the airport to be weighed. The Cape Air staff was very helpful and patient with us! We've just made it on weight, with not an ounce to spare.

All this gear also made it hard to arrange ground transportation. We agonized for days about moving all of it around in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Most cabs in South Africa are small, and there's no way they could handle it — especially the bike boxes. Thanks to help from Margie Goldring, an old friend from Zimbabwe who now lives in Johannesburg, and also thanks to good advice from Servas members in Cape Town, we think everything is sorted out.

The second challenge has been getting in shape for cycling in conditions about which we know little — only that it's likely to be hot and hilly. We revived our membership in the CCBA, a community fitness center in Lebanon, NH, so we could take lots of spinning classes — three or four every week for three months. Friendly spinners and supportive instructors made getting in shape more of a pleasure than a chore. Here we are, in our last class at the CCBA, just a few days before our departure.


January 9 - 12

On January 9 we flew from Boston to London – for a 14-hour layover in Heathrow! We found a couch for much of the time but we dozed only a little. The next evening we flew overnight to Johannesburg, arriving around 9 a.m. Margie met us at the airport, and we left the bikes and one big suitcase in storage – very convenient.

It was great to see Margie again. She made us very welcome. Her daughter Caitlyn was charming. Caitlyn's boyfriend Corbin was a handsome young man from Zimbabwe. Margie now works for an upscale safari travel company; Caitlyn, who just graduated from university, is on probation as an art director at a Jo'burg advertising agency; and Corbin is in IT. It was fun to meet them  and to see Margie again after so many years.

Margie's house was wonderful – thatch-roofed, part rondavel, handsomely decorated, in a good neighborhood with lovely gardens, including a small fairy garden.

On Saturday, Margie and Caitlyn took us to the Apartheid Museum. There's too much to say about the place, but the takeaways for us were how long and difficult was the struggle to overcome apartheid; the common-sense and good will required to make freedom possible – including that of some Afrikaners in the government; and the immensity of the challenges that this country must still overcome to realize the dream of a New South Africa.  If there was anything negative we could say about the museum, it's only that there was too much to take in at once. Also, we wish the Reconciliation section had been open, but it wasn't. 

Photos from the museum are below. Notice the entrances – a reminder – and be sure to read the text of the posters. The first was near the entrance, and the second was displayed near the exit, at the door of a small room containing two piles of stones. Read together, they show how far this country has come.

January 13-14

Sunday morning Margie was so helpful; she took us back to the airport to retrieve the bikes/luggage for our flight to Cape Town. Just as we hoped, when we landed in Cape Town, a Way2Go cab was waiting for us, a big Toyota van that easily carried us and the gear to John and Rita Woodley's home in Brackenfell, an industrial area and suburb northwest of Cape Town proper. 

John and Rita are Servas hosts. John is retired from the swimming pool business and has been building Austin Healey kits for work/hobby. They put us up two nights, Sunday and Monday. 

Much of the day Monday was taken up with building the bikes, getting a cell phone, changing money and finding maps. Rita cooked great meals, and John organized the shipping of our bike boxes and suitcases back to Margie's in Johannesburg. They were both super helpful, which meant a lot to us starting out in a new place. \

Below: John and Rita

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