I’m sitting at my desk in Johannesburg waiting for a delivery. The courier phoned to say he’s on his way. It’s my new Brookes saddle and a special touring carrier. I was going to head off for a morning training ride but now I’m waiting.
I glance at the calendar above my desk. The picture above the dates is of a beautiful leopard. It’s looking up, about to jump. It’s the 31st of August. Twenty-four years ago today I stood in the back of the Ratel armoured vehicle and gazed out at the Kavango River as we drove in convoy along the Caprivi Strip. Huge trees lined the river’s banks, in contrast to the acacia and bush I was used to in the area we usually operated. I was excited and apprehensive. We stopped for a break and someone took a photo of three of us on the high bank overlooking that wide, cool river. We look relaxed and happy. Being away from the tedium of base life was something we always looked forward to. We didn’t know then, but in a matter of days, we’d be yearning for boredom again.
Not long after the river crosses the Caprivi, ceasing to be the border between Angola and Namibia, were the river turns south and heads for the Okavango Delta in Botswana, we turned left, and headed for the front line somewhere north of Mavinga.
Twenty-four years ago today I stood in the back of that Ratel waiting for the unknown to reveal itself: tense and excited. Today, I sit at my desk waiting again for the unknown to reveal itself. Again it is Angola: I wait for my letter of invitation to be rubber stamped by their Ministry of Tourism and Hotels, I wait for the courier with my Brookes saddle. Excitement mingles with anxiety. This time I cross the border voluntarily. On a mission of my own. The final leg of a journey of peace.