I really didn’t have a plan or even an idea of what the end of the trip would look like, but some how in the final two weeks it all started to fall into place with the key issue of bike transport resolved with Econotrans. With the help of Antoinette who heads up the local branch of Autism SA, in the couple of days we were in East London, transport was arranged for the bike to Cape Town courtesy of Kargo, ‘the’ national logistics company. Flights arranged and a week after arriving in East London SA, we were landing in West London UK.
As part of preparing for the journey we had moved out of our rented house and into a caravan, and on return, the caravan was wheeled out again until we found a permanent address. I thought this would take a couple of months, but after a week and a half, I was done with out-door life and creature comforts were calling me very loudly. Again, thinking that it would take time to find somewhere we would like, I was surprised that the second appartement we saw was perfect and empty and a week later we moved in.
It was strange having all our stuff out of storage, and so much of it as well – one of the wonderful side effects of travelling for a long period is that you let go of material attachments and keep only those things you actually need. So, as I started up packing boxes, I started throwing stuff away. I would say about three-quarters made it down to the dump. Of course I have kept a few sentimental items, but even most of my books made it into the trash, and I love my books.
The bike arrived in port a few weeks after us, and Mick took it straight to his workshop to give it a work over and MOT so it could be taxed for the road. The list of work was long, and mostly associated with the wheels which had become a main issue at the end of the trip. The engine was fine, but the timing had been set incorrectly by the South African mechanic, and the gear box is having to be reworked as the efforts of the South African mechanic made the 3rd gear issue we experienced in Ethiopia return. The side car alignment was also incorrect as well as the rear wheel alignment – the two may be connected, an expert would know, sadly the issues they created all appeared after the bike’s ‘overhaul’ in South Africa. All in all, it seems sending the bike to South Africa for an overhaul was a massive mistake. Whilst there may have been pre-existing wear on the bike that may have contributed, that they didn’t make note of it and warn me of any potential future problems after releasing bike leads me to assume that there were no potential issues other than those that they had created. And with out a doubt, a missing collet and a broken universal joint, incorrect timing and gear box problems would have all been avoided if the bike had not been in their care.
Sofia has settled down really well since moving into the apartment and started school the week after. Her emotional well being is remarkable, and even now after 4 weeks, she is still positive, optimistic and looking ahead. I hear last week that she will often apply her travel experiences to what she is learning in the class room which is wonderful. I had originally wanted her to go to a more specialist school and had stopped the appeal process because I couldn’t find the mental space to focus on it whilst on the road, so I was really worried about how she would cope being on a large campus with a lot of students. I’m please so say though that the special unit to which she is attached is making sure that she is fully supported in finding her way around and ensuring that she uses the unit as base between lessons.
On a personal level, the change in Sofia has been something I get to appreciate every day. She is no so easily upset by change, personal hygiene has improved, contributing to the house by doing a few chores is no long a world war 3 scenario. Generally her fight with me is 20% of what it used to be and I would say, it have moved into a more normal range of what you would expect of an 11 year old girl. I am so proud of her, and every second of the journey we have taken across Europe and Africa has been worth every ounce of increased confidence she feels in herself and every inspired effort she makes to challenge herself.
For my part, I have not settled so well. Once the first several whirlwind weeks of our return died down, I felt myself left wanting and not entirely sure why. The sense that I was living in the real world and now had to return to a surreal world was confusing, and being at the Overland Event saw me starting to plan another trip with the idea of being back on the road in 6 months. I had heard from other travellers about this, but I had not expected it to be so overwhelming and such a fight to redefine my identity. None the less, I started to write, notes mostly so that I could start to get to grips with the story we had just lived. A couple of weeks ago I found a starting point and now the first draft is under way. I am still struggling to make sense of on my new static identity, but it is not nearly as distracting as it has been, and the more immersed I get into the book writing process, I’m sure it will eventually dissipate.
Going forward – I hope to post photos with stories of our travels, some might make it into the book, but many sadly won’t and yet still need to be told. I hope you enjoy them and thank you for continuing to follow us. We are still raising money through Africa With Autism (see donation links in the right column of this website) – I’ve not decided on what we will do with the money just yet, but will keep you posted of any progress on that front.