Saturday, February 24, 2018

Cycling from Pretoria to Somabula Game Reserve, South Africa.

By 7:30 am my bike was packed, breakfast was eaten, plus a peanut butter and jam sandwich stowed in my front pack for a hunger attack on the road. Using the app I was off. In about five days I would figure out how to let it direct me verbally but with a few wrong turns, like heading onto the interstate highway, where no bicycles are allowed, and backtracking to a stoplight so I could cross the busy street, I was heading out, about an hour later. 

Fortunately it was cloudy and cool, because it had been sunny and really hot the first few days. The Map. Me app has special routing for cycling, which takes one off the busy fast, high traffic roads. For the first ten miles it was only slow, heavy traffic through black municipalities with frequent road construction, causing  traffic snares, which I often walked my bike around. The sidewalks were always crowded, so I would walk my bike there, too, just to avoid the potholes and traffic.

Passing through one community with double lanes in each direction, a bull and cow leisurely strolled across all four lanes without one horn beeping. Drivers wove around them in an even flow of traffic. It was all so casual, I was more of an anomaly than that.

Being the only cyclist and a white granny in a neon yellow cycle top with black cycling shorts on an expensive bike, all bikes here are expensive to the locals, but mine is a new custom-made Bike Friday and quite dear, I drew stares. I tried to nod and smile when I could. Greetings to me varied from Hello, how are you? To Sista! And a hearty cheer Go, go, go as  I cycled up a rolling hill. I felt cheered and welcome.

At one point the misty drops turned into larger splatters, so I pulled off the road and took shelter under a plastic tarp propped up with large branches, occupied by two twentish black men. They made room for me, and asked if I was cold. No, I am warm from exercising. I asked their names and introduced myself. Daniel, One of the young men, was eating a sandwich, so I pulled mine out and ate half. Looking back, I wonder if he bought it from the other man, whose name I simply could not understand, had a loaf of bread there. And perhaps I should have done so also.

Soon it cleared and as I prepared to cycle on, Daniel asked if I was cold. I laughed, no, I am cycling and waved goodbye.

The main, and very efficient, form of public transport here are white mini vans. These can pull over to the curb at any moment to pick up a signaling pedestrian. The vans are cheap, plentiful and vie for passengers by honking, most all the time. Usually only used by black people, and there are only black people here, these are busy picking people up from the road-side markets with shopping bags. Thankfully they are careful not to crowd me and I must watch carefully to avoid them as they start and stop. It was a little disconcerting at first, but I did want to see the everyday life of a black community and soon adjusted. It was just a glimpse but I was happy with only that.

One interesting sight in a field, all this area is strewn with garbage, so not lovely, was a small group of women, children and men standing close together and just in front of them were a few people kneeling before nuns dressed in white habits. 
Shortly after that I saw two nuns in the same white habits walking down a sidewalk, so I was not just imagining the sweet scene. 

No comments: