Editors Note. This is part 3 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. For part 2 click here.
What were some of the challenges you faced…
There are always challenges, from finding food and water, legal issues, broken down bicycle parts, infections, diseases (such as Malaria), fatigue to having to deal with isolation. I think my biggest challenge was in South Africa, along the Wild Coast. I was walking with my bike from Kei Mouth to Coffee Bay along the massive isolated beach.
If I knew what I was getting myself into, I would have refused the decision a thousand times over. I was crying more than laughing, carrying and pushing my bike well over 90kg through loose sand, over rocks and cliffs and crossing countless rivers through rafts that I built from driftwood. I suffered from fatigue due to lack of eating. I had blisters on my hands from supporting the bike as I pushed it through the sand. Aside from the physical fatigue, it was mentally exhausting.
You mention isolation. How did/ do you deal with it?
I’ve had some bad experiences with isolation, even before my journey started. The first time I experienced it, I told myself that I never, ever want to go through that again. I told myself it’s unhealthy. But after some time I was able to see the benefits of it.
The biggest personal growth within has happened when I am by myself with no distractions. Being isolated for too long though can make you feel disconnected from reality.
Isolation is most definitely one of my biggest struggles. How do I deal with it? I guess I just endure it as a teaching.
Tell us about the time you got Malaria and how you overcame it?
This is a Facebook post from the 21st August 2015. Aside from a few grammar corrections and edits, this is the exact post.
I was sleeping in the bush for two nights. I was not feeling too well again. My toe was actually healing quickly in those few days so I thought my immune system was giving its last. I just kept sleeping the whole day and drinking vitamins to build up my immune system. But then the next day, something was wrong, seriously wrong. This was no infection.
I could barely move, my eyes were so sensitive. My head felt swollen with a mild headache and I could only do slow movements. At first, I thought, there is no way in hell I’ll be able to cycle so maybe I should just sleep here one more night. But I had no more water left. So I thought, I should either go look for water or pack my things and find a doctor because I was starting to feel worse as I was standing there thinking about it.
I slowly packed my things and I made my way to the road. I walked slowly with my arched body, pushing my bike up the road. As I was walking, my body just felt weaker and slower. My eyes were going droopy and I could barely open them. They were extremely sensitive and I could not move them.
Everything was happening so slowly. Then I started to ask people next to the road for a doctor. Some just laughed at me. Some could not understand me. One person told me how I could get there. He said it’s about 4km up the road. 4km was a far way away for the way my body was weakening.
My breathing was getting heavy and I could not walk straight anymore. I could not keep my eyes open. I felt like I could fall down any second. So I parked my bike next to the road and I went to lay down in the grass. I closed my eyes and then the tears start streaming down my face. This feeling I had was frightening me.
I can’t walk, I was not going to make it to a doctor. After some minutes, someone said, “Mister! Let’s go. Let’s go to the doctor.” But I could not talk or open my eyes. I just cried. Then again he said, “Come! We will take you to the doctor.” He repeated this a few times. With some effort, I tried to open my eyes and through my squinting tears, I could see a whole crowd of people standing in the road.
I just said “Water”. So someone came to me, helped me sit up and held my head back. He put a bottle to my mouth. It was liquid porridge. I drank and then he helped me stand up and get onto the bicycle. He said he is taking me to the hospital and someone will bring my bike.
I just sat there on the back of his bicycle, with my heavy head resting on his back, crying. It felt like we cycled forever. When we eventually stopped, I got off and he took me by my arm and he guided me. I could not open my eye. We entered a room. I could feel the temperature was cooler. He helped me sit on a chair and then someone was asking a lot of questions. I assumed it was the doctor.
I tried my best to just get some words out. Every now and then the man helping me, wiped my nose for me because it was running. As I was sitting there I started to hallucinate. I saw this person in front of me. He just stood there, staring at me and I pointed at him and I kept saying to him, “you…you…you”. it went away when the man took me by my arm again and he lead elsewhere. There they did a Malaria test and they said it was positive.
Then the man lead me to another room where they said they are going to feed the medicine directly into my blood. They need to fix needles in my hand. I just started crying again. I did not know why I thought I felt safe. Then the man helping me held my hand. I remember him saying to the others in English “He might be white, but we are all brothers.” I just raised my hand to indicate I agree. I sat there with my heavy head bowed in front of me, while the man was holding my arm up so that they could insert the needles.
After the first injection, they helped me to a bed and then I started to get a cold fever. I was so cold. I was shaking. Someone just came to tell me, my bike is safe and that they locked it up in a storage room. I thought these people are all a God send. I have not seen one face yet, but I was so thankful for everyone helping me, so incredibly thankful.
The drugs were working quickly, in an hour I was able to open my eyes and I was able to speak again. I saw the faces of the men helping me, and I will be thankful for them for the rest of my life. Innocent and Gift were their names. They also brought me some food and a cold drink. As to this moment, I’m still in the hospital, they will monitor me until I am healthy again also addressing my toe at- Benga, Alinafe Community Hospital.
How long do you plan on doing this for?
Planning? I don’t plan on anything. I’m just living it out in the moment. I have nothing waiting for me back “home”. I don’t think this journey will have an end though. Obviously the travelling will stop one day, but the journey in my heart, to keep seeking for growth will never stop.
What advice would you give others who are looking to quit their job and embark on a life changing experience?
To not fear life or your society.
Have you encountered similar challenges in your life? How did you overcome them?