From left to right:
- Sunset over the Zambezi River.
- Hippos seen from a safe distance.
- Me standing at the edge of Victoria Falls, on the Zambian side.
On Friday, 22 June, hours before I was to board my plane from Cape Town to Victoria Falls Airport, the fear and anxiety I had felt when I first booked my tickets, had not dissipated. My imaginative mind kept making a detailed list of all the things that could go wrong.
- My shuttle would arrive late and I would miss my flight. (And if I were to be honest, I would admit that there was a little part of me that was hoping this would happen. A “real” excuse not to do something that scared me.)
- There would be some problem at customs and I’d be forced to fly back home.
- There would be another National Shutdown in Zimbabwe and I wouldn’t find anyone willing to take me to the Zambian border.
- I’d have to argue with every taxi driver about the fare.
- I’d get lost and wouldn’t know how to get back to my hostel.
- I’d be underwhelmed and disappointed by the sight of the falls.
- I’d be painfully and achingly lonely. That after spending only a few hours in Victoria Falls, I’d want to flee home.
These negative thoughts would occasionally be offset by the highlights reel of previous travel experiences. I remembered each an every stranger, who helped me when I lost or didn’t quite understand how to use the subway. I remembered the old Turkish guy, who gave me a lift to the bus station on his scooter, placing my unwieldy suitcase firmly between his legs. I remember taking a “taxi” in Mozambique. The taxi was a bakkie*, with a canopy made of wood. And I remember marveling at the men, who stood on the edge of the bakkie, arms clinging to the wooden frame. And I remember wondering about safety standards of this particular automobile. But only briefly. When we started moving and I felt the wind in my hair, this momentary doubt was replaced by a feeling of being free.
And I remembered all of these things, and I smiled. For a moment, the fear and anxiety I felt about travelling, was assuaged.
*Bakkie is also known as a pick-up truck in other parts of the world …
Photos taken on Saturday. From left to right.
- Chocolate fondue at the Bastille Day Festival in Franschoek.
- My beautiful and stylish friend.
- Formation. Birds in the distance. Rising sun.
Currently reading, “My fight your fight” by Ronda Rousey.
Life is a fight from the minute you take your first breath to the moment you exhale your last. You have to fight the people who say it can never be done. You have to fight the institutions that put up the glass ceilings that must be shattered. You have to fight your body when it tells you it is tired. You have to fight your mind when doubt creeps in. You have to fight systems that are put in place to disrupt you and obstacles that are put in place to discourage you. You have to fight because you can’t count on anyone else fighting for you. And you have to fight for people who can’t fight for themselves. To get anything of real value, you have to fight for it.
From left to right:
- Painting I saw at First Thursdays
- Pretty flowers on Lion’s Head
- Carrot cake flavoured ice-cream from The Creamery
It’s been nearly two weeks since I’ve booked my tickets to Victoria Falls International Airport and since then I haven’t done much in the way of research and planning. I haven’t booked accommodation, arranged for any tours or check that my yellow fever certification is still current, which is worrisome considering that I board said flight in less than two weeks. Instead I’ve spent the last two weeks feasting (Ramadaan just ended), teaching myself some Python scripting, and being paralyzed by fear.
You see, days after I booked my plane tickets to Victoria Falls (which is situated in Zimbabwe), I would learn via Twitter of the national shutdown protests in Zimbabwe. This ultimately leaves me with the following questions:
- Is the Zimbabwean side of Victoria Falls safe to travel to?
- Is it ethical to travel to a country where a majority of the citizens are clearly fed up with the current government?
Anyway, I’m currently reading “Into Thin Air“.
Here’s an extract from the novel:
“Straddling the top of the world, one foot in China and the other in Nepal, I cleared the ice from my oxygen mask, hunched a shoulder against the wind, and stared absently down at the vastness of Tibet. I understood on some dim, detached level that the sweep of earth beneath my feet was a spectacular sight. I’d been fantasizing about this moment, and the release of emotion that would accompany it, for many months. But now that I was finally here, actually standing on the summit of Mount Everest, I just couldn’t summon the energy to care.
It was early in the afternoon of May 10, 1996. I hadn’t slept in fifty-seven hours. The only food I’d been able to force down over the preceding three days was a bowl of ramen soup and a handful of peanut M&Ms. Weeks of violent coughing had left me with two separated ribs that made ordinary breathing an excruciating trial. At 29, 028 feet up in the troposhere, so little oxygen was reaching my brain that my mental capacity was that of a slow child. Under the circumstances, I was incapable of feeling much of anything except cold and tired.”
Two things I’m proud of:
Booking plane tickets to Victoria Falls
Ever since completing the Comrades Ultra, I’ve been plagued by the relentless question, “Now what?” After hours of contemplation and staring at my 2016 bucket list, I decided that I needed to travel.
Picking a destination was easy. I wanted to go away almost immediately and didn’t want to go away for too long, a week max. These two factors meant that I had to select a country that didn’t have lengthy AND expensive visa process (hi America), and had a maximum flight time of 8 hours. (If I was only planning to spend 7 days in a country, I wasn’t going to spend a large proportion of it cramped up in a plane.)
After briefly considering Malawi (for all of 5 minutes), I eventually settled on Vic Falls.
Actually booking the flight took A LOT more time. For a week or two, I kept visiting the Travel Start website on a daily basis. I’d type the dates into the search engine and then I’d sigh. I did this every single day. And every single day I’d say, “Tomorrow.” I’m not sure what exactly I was waiting for. I guess I was afraid of making a mistake. I was afraid that Vic Falls might turn out to be a disaster; that I’d be underwhelmed; that I’d be lonely; that something would crop up and I just wouldn’t be able to handle it. And then I remembered feeling THIS exact scared before booking my flight to Turkey. And yes, there were times when I was incredibly lonely, scared and confused. But there were also some beautiful moments; moments that I will cherish forever. So in the hopes that I will have some beautiful and memorable moments in Zimbabwe and Zambia, I booked the damn ticket.
Frame the Instagram pictures I printed 6 months ago
One things I’m grateful for:
My sister and her unflinching honesty.
A few weeks ago, I was a little too heavy handed with the blush. My sister’s the only one who said anything about it. She didn’t sugarcoat the truth. She didn’t say maliciously. She said it, because it needed to be heard. I need more people like her.
My intention for July is:
I read the following quote recently and it rung true, “I opened my mouth, almost said something. Almost. The rest of my life might have turned out differently if I had. But I didn’t.” My intention for June is to speak up, ask questions and be interested.
I also plan to take a SHIT TON of photos on my trip to Vic Falls. I plan to document everything – the food, people, conversations and adventures.
Crossing the finish line of the Comrades Marathon, I was filled with sheer relief, immense accomplishment and astonishment. I couldn’t quite believe that I’d managed to achieve my goal; that I’d battled exhaustion, despair, self-doubt and minor cramping to finish THE FUCKING COMRADES in 11 hours. Days later I would think back to THAT moment, the moment when I actually crossed the finish line and I’d smile like a lunatic.
And even though that feeling of accomplishment has yet to diminish, it was soon followed by the question, “What next?” I’d started this year with the simple resolve to make this year amazing, which meant that other than improving on my running, I needed to travel. So after visiting the Travel Start website on a daily basis for the last week, I finally entered my credit card details and booked that damn plane ticket.
More details to follow soon.
Anyway, here are a couple of links to my favourite travel posts and Instagram accounts.
- Nasrin Suleiman posts pictures of her life in beautiful Zanzibar.
- Olivia Rae Jame’s bachelorette party in Harbour Island.
- 9 American habits I lost when I moved to Germany.
- Hoping that I can one day tick Bolivia off my bucket list.
- Hailey Wist is currently in Italy at the moment.
- Truth Slinger normally posts pictures of his home country, Kenya, but he’s currently in Iceland.
“I went to the hospital when my time come. So I could be easeful. I didn’t want to have it at home like I done with the boy. They put me in a big room with a whole mess of women. The pains was coming, but not too bad. A little old doctor come to examine me. He had all orts of stuff. He gloved his hand and put some kind of jelly on it and rammed it up between my legs. When he left off, some more doctors come. One old one and some ones. The old one was learning the young ones about babies. Showing them how to do. When he got to me he said now these here black women you don’t have any trouble with. They deliver right away with no pain. Just like horses. The young ones smiled a little. The looked at my stomach and between my legs. They never said nothing to me. Only one looked at me. Looked at my face, I mean. I looked right back at him. He dropped his eyes and turned red. He knowed, I reckon, that maybe I weren’t no horse foaling. But them others. They didn’t know. They went on.”
Extract from the novel, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison.
I recently stumbled across this quote on social media, “I opened my mouth, almost said something. Almost. The rest of my life might have turned out differently if I had. But I didn’t.” It’s a quote from the novel Kite Runner by Khaled Housseini and it resonates deeply with me.
I’ve the best version of myself when I travel. When I travel I’m a little braver, a little more confident. I’m not afraid to ask strangers questions about their lives. But when I’m home, I tend to bottle up my questions. It’s not that I’m uninterested. I’ll have a thousand questions I’ll want to ask someone, but I’m simply afraid to speak up and that could cause me to appear aloof.
I wish I could be the best version of myself everyday.
Talking about travelling, have you seen this blog post by Olivia Rae James?
Two things I’m most proud
1.Completing the Comrades Marathon
Weeks before running the Ultra, I’d told my dad that this was the first and last Comrades. I was convinced that I would hate every second of it. I was afraid that I would fail badly; that I wouldn’t make it pass the 20km mark before I would start vomiting, cramping or crying.
Well, I did it. I managed to run 89km in under 11 hours, earning my second bronze medal for an Ultra this year. And I only wanted to cry at the last 5km of the race.
Insert quick rant: To get the start of the race, my peers and I took an official Comrades bus from Durban to Pietermaritzburg. Our bus driver got lost IN Durban and we arrived to the race late! At some point my fellow runners and I told the bus driver to stop, we bolted out of the bus and sprinted the last 1km to the start line. By the time I arrived at the start I’d miss the national anthem and the race had already started.
2. Hiking Lion’s Head on my own
Hiking up Lion’s Head is something I’ve wanted to do for ages now, but it isn’t always easy to find a partner in crime. In the end, I simply decided to go up by myself.
Two things I’m grateful for:
1. My brother-in-law
He found me at the last 5km of the Comrades, the point at which I finally hit the wall. The point at which I’d decided that I’d simply walk the rest of the damn thing. It was at the point that he delivered some vital information. He told me that I had 38 minutes to do this in under 11 hours. Realising that this was achievable, my body responded positively.
2. My Comrades running partner
On the day of the race, I met a guy who would pace me for 90% of the race. He told me when to run, when to walk and urged me to eat. Unfortunately, I lost him at the last 10km when I stopped to use the portaloo. Without him by my side I found it really hard to urge my body forward.
My intention for June:
To track every kilometre I run during this period.
Try to figure out my next big goal or adventure. I want to hike the Fish River Canyon but I’m not really sure how to make this happen. This isn’t something I’m keen to do on my own. This is something I would need to do with a group.
Rusch to Glory
I’m currently reading “Rusch to Glory” by Rebecca Rusch. 50 pages in and I am completely and utterly captivated.
Extract from the novel,
“Though I have some great scars from climbing, mountain biking, and paddling. I got my favourite scar while rebuilding that truck. It’s on the front of my left thigh, halfway between my knee and hip, a straight, thick line across the quad. On that day I was using a heavy handheld rotary grinder to prep the inside of the truck bed for painting. Filthy, sweaty, and holding a big power tool, I felt supercool. I turned the grinder off and stood back to admire my work. Funny thing about grinders – they continue to spin even after you turn them off. My proud moment was interrupted by the smell of burning flesh. The grinder had buzzed right through my Carthartts and seared the flesh of my thigh. The heat of the blade had cauterized the skin so it wasn’t even bleeding, but I now had a big, deep burn on my quad.”
The Comrades Ultra-Marathon is less than a week away. I’m not going to say anymore than that in case I fail.
My niece is still adorable.
Yesterday, I asked what she was doing and she replied, “Peeling my fish fingers.”
And she proceeded to peel her fish fingers. Like an orange.
Above two photos taken in Sea Point.
I’m currently reading “Black Diamond” by Zakes Mda. It’s not my usual fare. I generally prefer more poetic pieces (think “Jazz” by Toni Morrison), but this story is funny, raunchy and has so many truths about South Africa. Here’s an extract from his novel.
“With all this talk of deployment, Don cannot help wondering how the government became so enamoured of military vocabulary. In this brave new world accumulation of personal wealth is dressed-up in militarism, as if capitalism is the continuation of the guerilla warfare that was fought during apartheid. It is as if they are compensating for the fact that most of those who are enjoying the fruits of deployment are not the freedom fighters – the foot soldiers – who bore the brunt of the war. It is mostly the leaders whose fight against apartheid was in the capitals of the world, and the trade union bosses who crossed to the other side to be at one in body and spirit with corporate bosses. Or perhaps it is compensation for the fact that the actual war itself was a very limited one, and the liberation movement was denied the glory of an outright military victory when liberation was won mostly through ordinary black civilians who made the country ungovernable, and the workers who brought the economy to its knees, and of course the western community which pressured an erstwhile ally to negotiate with the blacks now that the feat of the Soviet Union was a thing of the past. More than anything else, the so-called mass action brought the government to a standstill; we did not see platoons of cadres in a triumphant march into Pretoria after felling the Boer forces.”
A few months ago, my three-year-old niece (and her parents) moved into a place 10 minutes from my apartment. It’s such a delight having her close y. A few days ago, I turned up at her place after a run. My running tights were slick with sweat (so gross). She touched my thigh, looked up at me and earnestly asked, “Did you pee in your pants?”
Asking the Universe for a big slice of adventure
A few friends might be immigrating to the States soon. This depresses me. I feel like everyone is leading such exciting lives and nothing ever happens to me. Eat, run, sleep and repeat.
On 29th May, I’ll find myself in Pietermaritzburg attempting the Comrades Marathon (89km or 56 miles). That’s little over a month away.
Photo taken after a 20km run.
Friends keep asking me if I’m excited for the Ultra and I’ve been rather tight-lipped about the endeavour. Excited doesn’t describe how I’m feeling. Terrified and anxious is a more accurate description. But I don’t say any of this to my friends. I’m afraid that they won’t understand exactly how worried I am. I’m afraid that instead of listening, asking WHY and trying to understand how I’m feeling, they’ll simply brush away my concerns, offer empty platitudes and advice. None of which I want or need.
Right now I simply want to say, I’m scared. I’m scared that I won’t complete the thing. I’m scared that my body won’t be able to cope with the distance. I’m scared that I’m not mentally tough enough. I’m scared that I’ve taken on more than I can handle. I’m scared of how crushed and devastated I’ll feel if I fail. I’m scared.
Typing this I realize that the biggest truth is that I’m afraid of feeling disappointed. And it is this fear that making me cautious, less hopeful, less willing to dream, less willing to aim higher, less fearless. Instead of aiming to finish in 11 hours, I’m simply hoping to scrape by. TRUTH.
From left to right:
- Milkshakes at The Creamery. I went with Lime Curd. Yummy.
- Ships at the Waterfront.
- The Big Wheel at the Waterfront.