• 11 May 2017

Africa South Africa South Africa ……. South Africa on bike

Africa South Africa South Africa ……. South Africa on bike

Africa South Africa South Africa ……. South Africa on bike 900 600 Gürkan Genç
  • Hello, welcome to Algeria
  • Hello, welcome to Morocco
  • Hello, welcome to my country Oman
  • Welcome to Ukraine
  • Have a nice riding in Bulgaria.
  • Welcome to Japan (By the way Japan is still number one among the countries I have traveled in on my bike so far.)
  • ……………

The 50 border gates come in my mind while waiting in the line. During every border cross I get excited. “What will happen know? Do they let me in? Do I have to pack my bags out? Do I encounter any problems?” [Since the last year I encounter from time to time problems due to the drone I’m carrying along me]. Every border gate has a different story. In time the border gates turned into places where I took a brake spent long time on purpose and observed the local people. Especially, I like the crowded gates where everyone meets everyone at which I laugh a lot.

  • Hello
  • Hello
  • Your passport please

It takes only 15 seconds to scan the passport and apply a stamp on an empty page. Look, I argued many times for this empty page issue. Jerk you see the pages with previous stamps! But you chose an empty page to stamp on. Once, I frowned upon that they immediately ordered me into interrogation room. This happened while crossing from Tanzania to Malawi. I need the empty pages for the visas I apply for. Anyway, the officer applies the stamp and that’s all, at some borders you don’t spend more than 30 seconds.

At the customs area:

  • Your documents?
  • What do you have in your bags? Open your bags.
  • What’s that? A drone?
  • But you cannot enter the country with this.

Fortunately, I didn’t encounter such a problem in any of the African countries I’ve visited so far.  I guess there are many movie production companies, documentary movie makers, journalists who were not able to cross the border with a drone. While mentioning about this subject let me say a few words. You have to take into account that you might have to leave that expensive device at the border or even it might get seized. Think about what the villager will do if he sees a foreigner alone far in the countryside using a drone? It is pretty dangerous to use these devices where ever you want.

The town Mahikeng was my first stop in South Africa 20 km away from the border. Mpho I met online while I was in Botswana said she would like to meet me when I’m in the town. I said I would like to but at that time I was not sure where I would stay.

While on the road to Mahikeng I saw sunflowers reaching hundreds of ares. I was assuming that this country must have a well-developed agriculture. Of course I’ll use the opportunity to observe this issue while traveling in this country. All the sub-Saharan countries after Ethiopia import almost all of their grocery products from South Africa. The size of the market is incredible. This being the situation I bought a magazine in Mahikeng about agriculture and agricultural equipment used in this country. An article in the magazine was mentioning that the country increased its agricultural product export by 400% in 2015. A really high amount.  Actually they are not selling their goods only to the African countries they also export fruits and vegetables to England and Scandinavian countries. Sharing this information on Twitter a Turkish farmer sent me a message: “Our citrus fruits remained on the trees this year, we couldn’t sell them.” I was sure that he was writing frankly. Thoughts passed through my mind while looking at the screen. Sharing my thoughts, talking about or writing on somewhere won’t change anything I guess. Furthermore, the wine yards and wines are famous worldwide.

Mahikeng is known by South Africans for Siege of Mafeking a famous British defence which took place over a period of 217 days. There was a museum which I could visit and get information but it was closed due to renovation works. A monument in the garden on which the names of the people who died under the siege were written caught my attention. Also the reason of their death was written. Most of the people had died due to malaria. At the present time malaria is encountered only at the Mozambique border of the country. Actually, Mahikeng was the capital of Botswana during the end of 19th century. Then, British declared this region as the territory of South Africa. Well, with whom had the British fought? With Zulu tribe.

The Dutch settlement in this region started in Cape Town in 1652. But, they were not the first Europeans who came to this region. The first Europeans who discovered South African coasts were Portuguese in 1480. The famous Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama who was killed in 1524 by the Ottoman soldiers sent to Ethiopia during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent made it possible to sail from Europe to India along South African coastal line. He came to South Africa in 1497 (3 years after the birth of Suleiman the Magnificent) opening the route to the wealth of the East. This merchant route to the East was under the control of Ottoman Empire and Iran until that time. With the new route through South Africa, Atlantic Ocean was connected with Indian Ocean resulting in the loss of Ottoman superiority in seas.

This was the discovery leading to Global Imperialism in the world history. The stagnation period of the Ottoman Empire started 100 years after this discovery in 1574. Among the reasons for stagnation the geographic discoveries of the Europeans are generally mentioned but not the details. If this discovery wouldn’t have taken place, the Ottoman Empire would have taken this region under control or if Ottomans would have made those discoveries, then when would the stagnation period have started or would it have begun? The Ottomans would control the merchant routes and as a result the wealth and prosperity of the Empire would increase proportional to the increasing population. I think such discoveries would have resulted in different outcomes. What is the main reason of the wars and conflicts nowadays?

If I would be a Turkish explorer living in the 15th century my lifetime would probably very short. But I have no doubt that I would succeed in doing extraordinary things.

I had the opportunity to meet and chat with Mpho where I stayed in Mahikeng. She was a nice, cheerful, cosy person. I suggested to stroll around in the city but she didn’t accept. She told me that people still prejudice a black and a white walking next to each other since this was a small town. The next days while I was strolling around I also recognized that thinks were somewhat different in this town.  I saw that the bars, shopping malls, restaurants where black and white men go were generally not common. Of course people don’t prohibit you from entering here and there. This is a situation still remaining from the Apartheid lasted during 1948-1994. There are still racist issues happening in the country as “you did this to us, now it is our term”. Nevertheless, this grudge has started to die away from year to year. The young people are not grown up with grudge and anger. In the end they try to form a society living in peace.

Till the capital Pretoria the most impressive small town on the road I stayed was Lichtenburg. One of my followers who had visited this town advised me to stay at Scott’s Manor Guest House. As I first saw the guest house I said: “Dude, I can’t afford this but let’s go in and ask the price”. I met with the owners of this place at the reception. Since they recognized my bicycle we talked about my tour around the world and they made a discount for me. I paid only 15 USD for a room worth at least 100 USD or more. The house I stayed in was really amazing and strolling around in the town was incredibly enjoyable. Everywhere, every street was covered with trees aside the main road. It was a tidy town. Till this town I met with people shouting Turkey from their cars pointing the flag on my bike, telling me “Turkey is a nice country, we have been there for summer holiday”, asking whether I need help on the road. No body called me mzungu nor wanted money from me. This was a country just contrary what I had been heard of it before entering the country. By the way, aside in large cities people knowing Turkey are rare in this country.

On the road I stayed one night in the small town Kastene. I couldn’t find a place to camp on.

All the fields were fenced and the gates were locked. I tried to find a place in the town but both hotels were occupied. It had gotten dark and had started to rain. Nothing to do, I decided to go to the police station. The police officers at the station got a little surprised recognizing me and asked where I was coming from and going to. As I said that I was looking for a place to stay everyone looked at the others face. I said: “I can put up my tent on the backyard, no problem.”

The police officer Rosina said: “You can stay at my home. My children are by my parents, only me and my husband are at home. You can sleep in my children’s room” and took me to her house. After taking a shower we went out for dinner. This time it was my turn and I paid for the dinner.

Rosina was one of the higher rank officers at the station. They were working 4 days and then were off for the next 4 days. The house was given by the government. She also apologized for the other police officers at the station.

  • Why are you apologizing for them?
  • Those people are not used to this. Here people even don’t trust to their neighbors. But you are a foreigner, I couldn’t leave you on your own out there. Therefore, I’m apologizing for my colleagues.

Just that week, a couple of theft and injury issues had happened in the town. They kept calling and asking how I was till I arrived in Pretoria.

I used side roads where ever is was possible in South Africa. After sunflower fields I came to orange and mandarin gardens. There were farms all over. Most of the agricultural fields in South Africa are run by white people. According to police records every year 2000 people were murdered in those farms, most of them white people. Some of the farms reminded me the kibbutz’s I saw in Israel. Also, those farm roads were desolated. But those guys increased their export by 400% despite these conditions. I had mentioned in my previous Africa reports how delicious the chickens were. But this flavor was lost in South Africa due to the numerous chicken farms. On the other hand, the meat was still delicious. Due to the high rate of murder the European immigrants had started to leave the countryside. Local people were settled by the government in those unoccupied fields. Of course, the government provided also the crops and the farming equipment to those people but the amount and type of production decreased tremendously. Everybody started to produce just enough for themselves. To me there is no difference between black and white, every farm owner seeing me chatted with me and asked whether I needed anything. Even, I found a “Warm showers” host in that region. I sent him a message, he responded quickly and invited me to his home.

Paul is an architect his family was among the Dutch who had come 400 years ago to this region.  He was born in Johannesburg but getting sick of the city life he came to Magaliesburg, 200 km away from to city where he has established his farm. He had built an ecological house for guests. I became the first guest of this eco-lodge. It was hard to find the house which was somewhere in the mountains outside the village road. I rode on pathways with awesome landscape. Actually I was very tired after riding 120 km on that day but he was very excited and helpful. He offered me to accompany for a walk around and I accepted. Chatting with him I got why he was that much excited and happy. This guy had traveled most of Africa on his bike during 1990s. He had followed the route of David Livingstone the famous missioner and explorer. Men! How interesting stories and experiences I was listening to. We walked for hours. When it got dark we had arrived the summit of the hill behind the house. From time to time warthogs were coming to this place, he showed the hole they dug. University of South Africa placed night vision photo traps and video systems there to examine the animals. He also told me that the wall made of piled stones was made 10 000 years ago to hold the animals together. Cucumber growing near those stones served for dinner. I had never eaten such delicious cucumber before. I guess that was the ancestor of our cucumbers.

By the way, during the excavations in this region bones belonging to very ancient people were found and new museums in relation of these findings were established. I couldn’t find both of the museums on the GPS. I couldn’t find the buildings. This was a place to be visited when in Johannesburg. Well, there was also a lion’s park nearby to which I didn’t go either. The photos arm in arm with the lions are all taken in those parks.

Arriving in the capital Pretoria our ambassador Mr. Kaan met me and hosted me at the embassy. Then after, a hustle and bustle has started. : )


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