Last night when I got into Springbok, South Africa there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. This morning I can’t see 5 meters ahead and it’s only about 5 degrees Celsius. I’m not prepared for this type of weather. I don’t own a sweater. I don’t have gloves or long underwear. Preparedness is not something I do well. Hell, I just drove a scooter across Africa without a first-aid kit or body armour.
I poke my head into a local PEP store and pick up a $9 sweater without trying it on. I grab a pair of snow gloves from a rack and pay quickly. I have a bit of a long drive today, and though I don’t know it yet, it’s about to get longer.
Under the shade of a bit of tin awning I pop my new hoodie over my shoulders, but when I push my hands through the sleeves, my hands won’t fit out of the holes. Too lazy to exchange the sweater, I take my knife and slice the cuffs allowing my hands to fit through. I toss the hood over my head, my polartec jacked over it, squeeze my gloves onto my hands, drop my helmet on my head, and dive into the blistering winds of the Northern Cape.
No more than 10 kilometers down the road, Anne starts failing. I can tell that it’s the spark-plug. It’s a similar problem I had in Ghana months ago. This time, however, I convince myself that it’s a result of the wind, and cold. We surge and stall over high mountain passes where light snow falls before touching the ground as rain.
I’m surrounded by beauty, the only saving grace to today’s ride. Rolling hills force the road to meander, to rise and fall. From dark mountain passes to sun swept valleys, each corner provides a new eco-system.
Freezing and soaked, I pull into a small town with the hopes of warming up over a cup of hot anything. I order a toasted sandwich and cup of coffee and open my iPhone to search for a wifi signal. But before I can, a man with a markedly Kiwi accent barks from the table next to me.
“Is that your scooter outside.”
“Yeah,” I laugh through chattering teeth. “What a terrible decision that was.”
He and the rest of his table laugh at my tragic tone and we begin to talk about my trip, about their trip, and about Anne Murray.
“Why a scooter, mate?” The eldest Kiwi asks.
“Thought it’d be funny,” I say with a stupid smirk on my face. “I guess the joke’s on me today.”
“What’s the road like ahead?” They ask. “Does the weather improve?”
“Well, not until Namibia,” I say. “And it’s uphill the whole way for you.”
They laugh while picking up their things to leave. “Well, at least we have heat in our vehicle.”
I hop back on Anne Murray and spin towards a town that will be able to replace my spark-plug.
I think sometimes the comedy of this trip really must be lost on the world. For some reason, I thought that the sight of seeing a white man cruising through African villages on a little scooter with his bags draped over the back would be funny. But there’s no footage of it. There are no photos. Those are only stories tucked away deep into my childish mind. But at the end of the day, that’s the only place they need to be.
As I surge and stall up a hill at about 30kmph with heavy winds and a piercing rain battering my face I can’t help but think about the scooter scene in Dumb and Dumber. I laugh after I say the lines from the movie out loud. What a crazy trip. How funny has this whole thing been?
Just before my destination for the night, I see a sign: Cape Town 285km.