Friday, February 20, 2009

Orian wins big scholarship!

We're trying to work out a way for him to go.

Francistown, Botswana

We are in Francistown right now at an internet cafe where some joyful music is playing. There is a mural on the wall featuring a map of Botswana, including our destination in Botswana: Kasane, in the northeast corner, where we will be taking a ferry into Zambia.

Outside it is very hot. says it is only 86F here, but it feels hotter, at least 95F or 100F! The sun is very intense. Beating down all day, it can be so tiring. The past few days, to deal with the sun, I have been folding my bandana on the diagonal and then tying it around my head, over my baseball cap, babushka-style. I'm thinking of bringing back the old-fashioned bonnet for bike touring here.

Across the way is Mr. Chang's Chinese Restaurant. Chinese has been a much more useful language here than we almost every town we have met at least one Chinese person! From the owners of one of the main groceries in Bultfontein, South Africa (who didn't own a separate living residence and slept on the floor of the grocery) to the large crew of a construction site in Gaborone (who agreed in Chinese to let us stay at the construction site and who slept on the construction site themselves) to the Chinese restaurant here, we have been finding many Chinese people to communicate with. Minwah is the most fluent, but Orian and I get a chance to practice our Chinese as well.

Minwah has gotten two marriage proposals, one from a guy at the bar in Serule yesterday, where we stopped to eat fat cakes (bread dough deep fried, the local specialty, available for 1 pula (or ~12 cents), and one from a police officer in Mahalapye. She's going to have to start telling people she's married! A lot of people want U.S. work visas.

Our favorite camping spots have been the cow fields by the side of the road. There are many gates with local dirt roads, and we follow these a little ways, through the thorn trees and sleep amidst the cow pies. But they are very nice spots with threes and the cows have eaten the underbrush so they are quite open, and we get the occasional bovine visit. The cows here all wear bells so that their owners can find them amongst the low bushes of the veldt.

We have been getting up early to ride in the cool part of the day. Have experienced part of the saying, "the night is darkest right before the dawn"...We are so far from light pollution here that even with the thin crescent moon the other night, the light was bright enough to see in the tent and move about. Then, about 5:15-6:00, as the sun's rays peeked above the horizon, brightening the sky but not the ground, it was difficult to move around.

Should take us about another week to get to Kasane and Livingstone, Zambia, is another day past that. Expect some more posts from us then as well as picture updates! And check out the pictures B.J. Welling posted for us.

We've had some pretty interesting experiences so far in Botswana and are looking forward to some more. As we head north, past Nata, we hear we will have to watch out for the wildlife...keep an eye out for elephants, baboons, and the like.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

First Posting of photos

The first posting of photos of the trip can be seen at

Border crossing!

We crossed the border into Botswana yesterday. It was fast and easy. We spent the night in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana with two friendly students we met on the streets. We are now heading north towards Zambia.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Rusk Recipes

Another food item we have discovered here and loved is the rusk. A rusk it like a biscuit or a scone that has been dried in the oven on low heat until it is crisp and dry all the way through. It is a little bit like zwieback or biscotti in this way and also in that you dunk them in your tea or coffee to make them soft. When we stayed with Marielize and Bruce in Middelburg she had a full two gallon or so jar full of fresh made rusks and we ate half the jar.

Middelburg- Marielize's Buttermilk Rusks:
Mix together:
1.5kg self-rising flour
3 t. (teaspoons) baking powder
2 t. salt
Rub in in 500g (~1lb) margarine into the above.

In a separate bowl, combine:
2 cups sugar
500mL buttermilk
3 eggs

Mix the contents of the two bowls (flour and buttermilk mixtures) together, spread flat in a greased baking pan, and bake ~1hr at 180C (~350F) (until batter is done all the way through). When done, slice into rectangles ~ 1.5{" x 3", then spread out and bake at a low heat for an hour or so, until hard.

Bultfontein- Elize's Rusks:
2 cups of flour
2 cups of nutty wheat (wheat flour?)
2 cups of bran
1 cup of sugar

250mL baking powder
5mL cake soda
5mL salt

Rub in:
250g margarine

250mL milk
5mL vinegar
1 egg

And combine this liquid with the dry ingredients. Then bake for 15 minutes at 200C.

Bloemhof: Jeanne's Rusk Recipe:
Mix well:
750g margarine
1L buttermilk
500g sugar
4 eggs

Mix in a separate bowl:
750g muesli (granola)
350g bran
1500 g self-rising flour
60 mL baking powder
8mL salt
Then add the above to the wet ingredients.
Press into a greased pan and bake 30 minutes. Cool, cut, dry in the oven, as described in rusk recipe #1.


Wow...keeping up with this blog in Africa is a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. On our cross-country bike trip we found internet in many of the towns we went through, but this trip has been much harder. Looking back at past posts, I see that our last post was in Port Elizabeth...this seems like a lifetime ago! Indeed, we have been on the road twice as long now...We started our bike trip on January 13, and today is February 13.

I am not sure when we will have a chance to upload more photos. Working on the blog here takes all day because the internet here is so slow. We have sent some pictures and video back to the Wellings...I hope BJ may be able to get them online somewhere to post.

We are currently one or two days away from Gaborone, the capital of Botswana, right over the border from South Africa, so we have almost crossed our first country. The biking has been very hard, what with many days of head wind and the very intense sun, but the people have been very friendly. We have had many people take us into their homes and share their lives and experiences with us.

On the way into Cookhouse we rode up and down Olifantskopp Pass and ate a lot of prickly pear cactus fruit. From there we went to Cradock, where we had a place to stay thanks to Romano in Port Elizabeth. The lady who ran the hospice put us up there, and we learned a little bit about her efforts to assist patients with AIDS and tuberculosis in helping out their families and having a place to spend their final days.

Recently, we had our first braai (barbecue) in Bultfontein thanks to the Rautenbachs and Elize's family, visited three schools (including one in Bloemhof...we have some great footage of this that I hope we can get posted in the next month), got caught in the rain and slept in a bed and breakfast thanks to a lovely couple in Wolmaransstad, and then were put up on a farm between Ottosdal and Lichtenburg. At this last place we got to taste some homemade liqueurs, see some sunflower fields, and ultra light, and lions up close (we even got to hold a cub!).

After visiting the schools, Orian and I were talking about setting up a fund to bring some tourism group students to the United States. We are not sure how we will be able to set this up yet, but are talking about it, maybe an exchange-type thing. Let us know if you know people who have done this or have ideas.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Herald

Romano got us into the paper:

Port Elizabeth

We had been at Knysna Elephant Park ( see Nate's blog, less than 24 hours, reveling in showers and unlimited access to a kettle for instant coffee and tea. Although Greg, the main guy, offered to let us stay another night, we were getting antsy to hit the road again. It had seemed so luxurious, at first, to be able to just sit around and do whatever we liked, but by early afternoon, after walking with elephants and a lovely breakfast, we yearned to see a new place. We hopped on our bikes the latest we've started a day of riding yet, 4:30 p.m. And we rode about 6-10km down the road to Plettenberg Bay, where we camped behind a gas station.

The gas station was luxurious by bike touring standards in its own way. There was a large patch of grass behind the gas station, between the gas station and the road, but was blocked from road view and noise by some bushes. We also had access to a 24-hour toilet with running water, which may have been more appreciated by the girls than the boys, but was still quite nice. Everyone worked on little sewing projects (I will write more about our projects in a separate post), and we made good progress. Orian made a little coin purse out of a piece of leopard-print cotton he found on the side of the road, Quinn and I sewed some bike inner tube onto our panniers to hold extra goods, and Minwah and Nate both made belts.

Next day with the wind at our backs we made good time to Tsitsikamma bungee jump site. We saw a solar eclipse, a baboon road crossing, and our first border crossing (from Western Cape into Eastern Cape) on the way. Tsitsikamma is the world's tallest commercially operated bungee jump, at 216m. We hung out there for awhile watching people jump of the bridge.

This day and the next day we rode and rode, hoping to get to Port Elizabeth within two days just because. Because there wasn't much between Plettenberg Bay and Port Elizabeth and because we had been trying to get there since leaving Cape Town two weeks prior. It would be our first big milestone of the trip.

And rode we did, first our first over 100-km day, and 83-mile day out of Plettenberg Bay, to the drainage culvert mentioned in an earlier post. The wind was at our backs the whole way, helping us up the hills and letting us coast on the flats. The next day we also broke 100-km into Port Elizabeth, celebrating with a mess of pizza. This is where Romano Satanassi met us, gorging ourselves on pizza and celebrating our arrival to P.E. with a bottle of South African wine.

Romano Satanassi was our contact in P.E., a family friend a couple of degrees removed (though now we consider him a direct contact). He is a charming Italian man with an accent that makes one think of Italy and an infallibly positive and laid-back attitude. He has eight lovely children, three of whom we got to hang out with in P.E.: Maria, Valentina (Val), and Martina.

We arrived at P.E. and Romano's on Tuesday in the afternoon. We rested in the evening, and Wednesday morning Romano took us all around to carry out the little errands we have to run. So efficient, everyone was back by 1p.m., and able to start working on their projects at home. We had a number of little bike repairs to make (Quinn needed a powder coat on his frame, O wanted to change his handlebars, Nate needed a new headset) and other minor bike maintenance.

We stayed one more day, finishing up bike repairs and waiting for a package that never came, as it was held up in customs. Hopefully the package can be forwarded on to us in Bloemfontain, where Romano has a friend. Bloemfontain is on our way to Botswana.

I'd like to talk more about the amazing hospitality we have seen and the friends we have made in another post. This is mostly to catch you readers at home up with some of the things we have been doing to get where we are today: staying at a Hospice in Cradock, Eastern Cape, South Africa.

I would also like to write a more serious post about the remnants of apartheid, catch up with some other food-related bits, and write about the climate. Orian wants me to write about the uncomfortable bits we experience too, "Readers like to hear about grit," he says. So that is six posts for you to look forward to.

With love,