Archive | August, 2011

Jolandie’s Progress: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

28 Aug

Although I have been a little quiet on the blog front of late, that is not to say that Jolandie’s travels have not progressed. It has certainly been an eventful month, and below is the latest post from Jolandie’s friend Hanret (with some rather upsetting news)…

Jolandie contemplating the road ahead

” Getting ready for my daily walk in the park with Jolandie’s favourite hound this morning, we were chatting about the night that was and the day ahead. She wasn’t feeling great – she’s fighting an awful cold and had a restless night. However, she was up and going and had already passed N’zeto!

And then I got the message I had always been dreading. Funny, I was never concerned about Jolandie being abducted or taken hostage or anything like that. Not only because of the excellent tactical training she received from Tacmo, but also because of who she is.

She is incredibly level-headed, she always remains calm, she is brilliant at thinking on her feet and she has a mental fortitude way beyond her years. I always felt that she would cope better than most in a sticky situation.

However, I always feared most for Luna’s safety. I forever implored her to tie a piece of string to Luna and to her wrist when sleeping in her tent out in the open!! But I somehow never thought Jolandie and Luna would be parted the way they were today.

There she was, coughing and cycling along when she heard a vehicle coming up from behind and slowing down. Nothing unusual about this – well-wishers and good Samaritans do this all the time. A black Ford ‘bakkie’ (small truck thingy for the non-South Africans) with four youths pulled up alongside her.

They motioned for her to get off her bike, laughing and joking. Jolandie thought they were inebriated and at first thought it all a joke. But when they got out of the ‘bakkie’, flashing knives and pangas, she knew it was no joke, though they were still laughing.

Quick thinking Jolandie said she wanted to keep her handlebar pannier as she had food in it. There was some food in it, but also her passport and money! And she also took her one front pannier – the one with her toiletries in!! What a girl!! Have passport, money, food and toiletries – can travel!! Good thinking!!

When the ‘bakkie’ with the laughing, inebriated youths and Luna disappeared over the horizon, Jolandie realised it wasn’t just a prank. This was for real.

She started making her way back to N’zeto on foot, feeling vulnerable and shaken. Hvir and I were pacing up and down because Jolandie was in an area where the cell phone reception was exceptionally bad and I couldn’t get hold of her to talk to her. I had to rely on the odd message she managed to send when there was a bit of a signal.

Werner, one of her friends in Lobito contacted someone in Soyo who doesn’t know Jolandie from a bar of soap, but he immediately started driving to N’zeto. Between Candido, her hosts in Luanda and Pedro, her contact at Hoteis Angola – her kind and generous sponsors in Angola – the Zaire province police commander was contacted and the N’zeto police was sent looking for her.

Now, and this is the part where all South African’s jaws will drop, not one but TWO helicopters were dispatched from Luanda to go and look for the perpetrators AND road blocks were immediately set up on all roads leading north looking for Luna!!! And by all accounts, if the perpetrators do get caught, they’ll sober up VERY quickly, lose their smiles and probably some other body parts too!!

Shortly after Jolandie and Luna were separated

Oh, and it only gets better! Back in N’zeto Jolandie was interrogated by about 30 police officers, wanting every bit of detail of the youngsters and then she was taken to a hotel and two guards were placed outside her door!! She said it felt as if she was in a witness protection program!! The governor of the Zaire province was notified of the situation. He hopped into his Lear Jet (OK, I’m getting carried away and am exaggerating – it was a Cessna, but still!!) and flew to N’zeto, picked Jolandie up and flew her back to his personal residence in M’banza Congo!!!!! Here a doctor was summoned to examine her and he gave her loads of vitamins and tablets for pain and fever!! (It did occur to me that a traditional healer may be called upon and that he may arrive with rabbit feet and hen’s teeth, but then I live in a different part of Africa – clearly!!)

Jolandie will be staying with the governor for the next two days while the search for Luna continues!! And while she recovers from her dreadful cold!!

I am truly and utterly stunned, amazed and humbled by the generosity, kindness, love and gentleness that is being bestowed upon her by so many, until recently, complete strangers in a foreign country. And so incredibly saddened that ‘them criminals, they are everywhere’.

I know I speak for Jolandie when I thank everybody, the incredible people in Angola, the wonderful facebook friends and many others who have been sending good wishes and support. You guys are all awesome and without people like you in her life, none of this would have been possible.

I’m very pleased that Jolandie has a warm bed to sleep in tonight and is being taken care of, but feel sorry for Luna who is with unkind and malicious strangers!!

But Angola seems to be the country of miracles and it would not surprise me in the slightest if I’ll be sitting at my computer in the early hours of tomorrow morning informing you that Luna has been found!!

Tonight I would not only like to thank Hoteis Angola for their incredibly generous financial sponsorship, but also for pulling out all the stops today to take care of Jolandie today. What an example of what sponsorship is all about!!

I have had many messages from people offering to help. If you want to help financially, please visit Jolandie’s SPONSOR A COUNTRY page. You can make donations via PayPal or directly to her bank account. And thank you so much!”

Happier times with Luna

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Good Samaritans, friendly goats, and reaching Angola

1 Aug

26th July:

I have been cycling for 11 days solid now. No rest days. I just simply can’t afford to take a rest day. The time limit on my Angolan visa puts me under enormous pressure. So I simply have to push on. We (Hanret and I) have worked out that I have to maintain a minimum daily average of 70km, and I can only afford 3 rest days! That’s only 3 rest days from Windhoek all the way to the DRC!!!

On my way from Windhoek to the Angolan border, I have experienced immense kindness! FNB Namibia has helped, not only financially (by sponsoring the Namibia leg of my trip), but the staff at branches on my way North have welcomed me with open arms! Helping me with organising sponsored accommodation, taking me out to dinner, making me feel welcome! I have also experienced kindness from strangers on the road. Like Terry, who I met on my way to Otjiwarongo. Terry drove 70km that evening to fetch me so that I wouldn’t have to sleep next to the road! And then there’s the family who gave me N$100 at a picnic spot on my way to Oshivelo! Strangers who have given me shelter and even offered their own beds for me to sleep in! I have given motivational talks at a number of schools in Namibia, as well as to FNB staff at some of the branches on my route going North! The responses have been amazing and I feel so priviledged for the opportunities given to me to share my story!

From Oshivelo onward it became a very different ball game! I had been told that 80% of Namibia’s population resides in the North. Meaning: that I would now start to see more and more people! At Oshivelo I went through a control post. Here I got shouted at for attempting to take a photo! Then I had a group of kids surround me and chant: “Miss, miss, give me one dollar”. After that things got better though. I did see more and more people! Mostly friendly. People would wave and greet me with big smiles as I pass them by. Some would just stare with confusion written all over their faces. Even the goats would run up to the road and bleat at me in greeting!! (I kid you not!!) Halfway between Oshivelo and Ondangwa I spent the night sleeping next to the road. No problems whatsoever! And now I find myself sitting just a few hundred meters from the Angolan border!

Oshikango is a chaotic town! I picked up a tail about 10km from town (local boys riding in my slip stream). In return for my hard work, one of them had to guide me around. I cannot adequitely describe what it is like riding into this town on a bicycle! People shouting at you from all directions in Portuguese, English, Afrikaans, and other local dialects. It feels like there are millions of people here! Even had my first Portuguese conversation! Yay! Staying at Piscas tonight, for free! Had pizza as my last meal in Namibia! Tomorrow morning I cross the border and say: BOM DIA ANGOLA! 🙂

Last night in Namibia!

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