But travel by motorbike is a much richer experience than travel by car. For one thing you are more part of the environment and theres a feeling of freedom which is a thing all humans aspire to. You also tend to see more.....you see the drudgery of tilling the land by hand using the hoe which has been used for millenia for the same purpose and get amazed that such a big piece of land could be tilled by one person...often a woman! At this time of year you see the roofs being regrassed on houses , bricks being burnt and houses going up since this is house building season. Mosquito nets seem to have a million different purposes...though not the one some Ngo had distributed them for! I have seen them covering vegetable patches, guarding young trees, fencing, tying bundles of firewood and I found myself sitting on one as a mat while visiting an orphan family ! As julius observed ...”that anti malarial project was really successful “...but priorities are priorities. It reminds me of all the uses condoms are put to. So we now know that Food is the priority above all else . !This is also “Initiation “ ceremony time for boys but also for girls....and celebrations are seen all over the place with dancing and music to celebrate the occasions. We met some of the boys on the way down our track today together with the initiators...however the boys were hidden in a tent made of reed mats and so we could only see their legs.
Riding on the back of the bike is by no means a passive experience! You have to be alert for all sorts of eventualities since you wouldnt hear the warnings from the driver. First of all theres all the bumps...its like riding a horse, you have to go with them, then theres the ricketty bridges where you have to be ready to jump if necessary though Julius is good at not attempting the worst of them. What about chickens, goats and children either sitting on the road or running across and so you have to be ready for a jerky stop. Then we have the dust whirlwinds which travel across the scrubland and across the road...you have to accelerate before they hit you because if they do you will be absolutely covered in dust...up your nose , in your mouth etc. Probably my two most dreaded experiences are the soft sand where I have to be ready to fall off in a good way as we slither and slide this way and that, but no...the really worst is the corrugated main dirt road. This is really like a touch of torture....as its not your seat that suffers but your intestines, head teeth and brain are put into spasm and you just hang on and wish for the torture to end...that I really hate .
However you get used to being ultra alert and you can still enjoy the scenes of life as it is... in the moment you pass. Its a must to wave to children, they hear the bike from afar and are there ready and waiting for their wave. I find it amazing to find a child of no more that 3 years walking along alone with no visible person in sight and I put it down to that sense of security which they have had from being tied on their mothers back untill the age of 2 or beyond and experiencing life in all its manifestations. This may be why I find most Africans to be so secure and “comfortable in their skins”. I also like travelling on the motorbike as I myself am less conspicious...although people are so observant that the glimpse of a white ankle is enough to find my “fame” as the children shout in excitement “ msungo, msungo !“( white person).
But you do see life as it is and all life as it is lived...at least outside of the home and bearing in mind that most life is lived outdoors. Any houses that Ive been in in these rural parts have nothing in them except for grain, and any other precious pulses, maybe also a sleeping mat and if people can afford it a blanket or two....but other than that ,,,..nothing, completely nothing. Animals are also seemingly welcome as Ive also met chickens in houses , in Mthobwa's house I recall that the top of the computer was the hens favourite perch.
I cant believe that I actually traversed all these roads and tracks on a bicycle for years...I must have been really fit.....climbing down river banks and through rivers in the rainy season pulling and pushing that bike. It was a happy day when I got the gift of a motorbike which served me well until my leg couldnt manage the kick start and so Im now relegated to the pillion..... but the Motorbike really is the best means of transport in rural Africa...it can manage roads, tracks or no tracks...long may our motorbike live and with it those on it in safety.