Editors Note. This is part 2 of a 3 part series on Reynier van Zyl who quit his job to live life like there is no tomorrow. He is cycling from Cape Town to Israel, with no money, relying on the kindness of strangers. We recommend starting with part 1. For part 1 click here.
Tell us a little about some memorable stories from the road…
A summary out of my diary (January 2016) – Tanzania
After leaving the hospital, I just entered complete wilderness. The road was so badly destroyed by erosion, that there was hardly a road at places. I would just follow the cattle route around all the erosion or at times even carve my own way.
I also stopped seeing people, (maybe now and again I would see someone of the Mang’ati (pastoralist Nilotic people of Manyara Region,Arusha Region,Mara Region, and Singida Region of Tanzania) tribe wandering around in the bush before they disappeared.) So no people means no water. Later I had to dig up dry riverbeds in search of water and I even killed a poor tortoise in my state of hunger.
After some days I reached a very small village, they helped me with water and I then found a tree outside the village bearing berries. I knew they were edible, so I went into feast and then a Mang’ati man passed me and talked to me, no English of course.
(The Mang’ati people are very reserved, so I was surprised he came to talk to me). I told him I’m hungry. He said, we should go to his place and that I can have milk and meat there. He took my bike and then we started walking. We walked so far into the bush, I don’t know how they manage to find their homes. They live such a simplistic and all natural life.
I stepped into the open plan mud house and there was a woman with her three children, all naked busy preparing chicken, but later they went to cover up.
She made the cream by putting the milk in a container and by hanging it off the roof. She constantly shook the container. Then after a while, the fat separates and she added it to the chicken and prepared it with ugali ( a dish made of maize flour), served with milk. They just kept giving me food until I was stuffed.
They wanted me to stay and only leave the next day, so I did. The man showed me where I could rest. On the floor was a cow skin (the bed), so I laid down and I was fast asleep in no time.
That evening we had two young men joining us for supper. We had chicken and cream again with Ugali served with milk and we sat under the stars eating and talking. They were asking lots of questions about my journey.
The next morning we had ugali and butter served with milk. They eat so much fat and meat and they literally live off milk from their cattle. When know one is very active and there is a little to eat, a diet like this makes sense. One can eat less and have enough sustainable energy for the day.
After leaving there, roads became nonexistent. I knew I needed to head West and keep following the line of the mountains on my right. I did not even go very far, maybe 10km. I then took a rest under a tree to write in my diary, when a young Mang’ati man passing me stopped next to me with his bicycle.
He was asking where I was going and I told him I’m heading for Shinyanga and then he said, “twende” (let’s go) so I followed him. At least I’ll be going in the right direction if I follow him. After some time, we stopped and he pointed to where he stays.
They don’t stay in villages, they stay in the bush with their families and livestock and their premises are surrounded by thorny shrubs. He said I must come in and eat something. We had food and they said I should stay for the night and proceed on my journey the next day.
I agreed but told them later I think I should probably go as this terrain was delaying me a lot and I was starting to think of my visa. So this guy (Pablo), said he will go with me. I thought, thank goodness, it’s been a long day and at least I can have some guidance. We crossed a massive river with a canoe. We crossed open planes of grass fields as far as the eye can see with no one to be seen, but us going through dense bushes.
The sun was starting to set. He suggested a route we take where we would sleep for the night. I assumed we were going to his family. We arrived just as the sun started to set.
We sat down and talked to two men there and then at dark Pablo said let’s go. I had no idea what was going on, but I just did what he said, so I got my shoes, stick and shuka (Masai blanket). We left the bicycles there and off we went into the dark. We were walking for quite a distance and then he pointed to a thorny shrub wall.
I don’t know how they can navigate like this, especially at night. We entered and there were three young men. They were sitting around and had prepared food. We sat down and we ate. They were asking many questions about my journey and after supper Pablo showed me where I would be sleeping. I was just so confused. We sleep here?!
But I lay down on the cow skin and I covered myself with my shuka. The next morning I was up early. They were milking the cows (different to how we do it), and the woman prepared chicken and cream with ugali for breakfast served with milk. Afterwards, we had chi and cream.
After finishing we collected our bicycles and proceeded with the journey to Mwanyomba. At noon, we reached Mwanyoba a small town but as we walked in there I felt like I was in the time BC.
We came out of the bush (I can’t even remember how long I was there for), and all around us, there were people buying and selling and eating (a market of sorts). We went to sit down somewhere and Pablo bought us food. After eating, he showed me the road to Shinyanga, a gravel road! Hallelujah! And off I went.
Staying with these people was special beyond the words written here and the most memorable one so far. Hands down.
And what has the journey taught you?
I’ve had many, many days of struggling for food. When the body is so weak you cannot move and all you do is lie down, let the tears flow and pray for a miracle.
So if there is food and my belly is full, I’m blessed and I would bow my head in sincerity and respect to my God for blessing me with all my needs, to stay alive to embrace this beautiful life. It’s not just food, but food and life are a daily appreciation.
Once I’ve seen how my body obeyed so loyal to my mind, beyond what I’d ever thought it’s capable of, I have more respect for my body. It really is sacred and I’m doing my best to look after it and if I look after it, it will take me places.
Kindness & Selflessness
A few stories highlight this…
“He did so much for me, he took the clothes of his own body to give me, he borrowed money to buy me food and he organized a house for me to stay in for a week because at that time I was in real need of rest! I felt why is he doing this? He needs it just as much as I do. Why give it to me? But he said, “You need it more”. He told me, we should love one another like we love our selfs, and he is the only person in the existence of my history that said these words and lived it out. He truly opened my eyes. He gave me the balance to my thoughts” …and I’ve had countless incidents like this.
One person once told me, “your problem is my problem, so let’s go find a solution together” Love others like you would love yourself, it’s not just words to me anymore.
My boss took me out for pizza a few weeks after my arrival and as we sat there in luxury, him on his phone and me staring around quietly in awe, I could feel the knob in my thought and the tears heavy on my eyelids, how can you explain this to someone.
I came out the bush, just living off opportunities for a long time now and all of a sudden I’m sitting in a familiar place I forgot about, looking down the balcony, seeing the people on the street, with their dirty, torn clothing, begging, that’s me, but now I’m sitting here and I almost felt ashamed for sitting here. I could not control the emotion, I bowed my head to let tears flowing.This outing was really special.
I know love, but not the kind I’ve seen outside the westernised life. Strangers embracing me with open arms, it would be like a long time brother or sister embracing me or my mother or father whom I’ve not seen in a long time.
They would protect me at all cost. We would walk and hold hands, eat from the same plate and sleep in the same bed and when it was time to leave there would tears. I’ve seen more tears upon leaving then what I can remember. We are not strangers to one another, we are all family and one.
These are but a few, what only words can describe what I’ve learned and these are things that let me feel like I’m a very small part of something massive and it leaves me feeling small and humble.
**Follow Reyniers’ journey on his Facebook page 11th Emotion. This is part 2 of a 3 part series. For part 3 click here.
How did this post make you feel? Have you experienced a random act of kindness in your life?