I now work steadily on A Solo Mountain Bike Adventure in the Richtersveld Mountain Desert, which will be published early in December, if all goes well.
Last night, as I was working on a new chapter, I sat back and smiled to myself as I relived an episode from that trip …
“There were only three cells at the Steinkopf Police Station, and I was ushered into the one in the middle, bicycle and all. I was told that the cell would be locked for my own protection. The door was closed and I heard the key turn in the lock. This was fine with me; I had everything I needed with me. As long as they let me out early the next morning.
I unrolled my sleeping bag and placed it on one of the mattresses on the floor. With a thought about fleas and possibly other creatures, I settled down for the night. The time was about 20:30 and the only sounds were those coming from the activities at the police station. Now and then a police vehicle would drive off and return a while later.
At some stage I must have fallen asleep, because I was rudely awakened from a deep sleep by loud voices and the door of one of the other cells clanging open. The lights were turned on and a drunk individual was flung into the cell without ceremony. He staggered to a mattress and fell down, half lying, half sitting, uttering profanities and cursing someone; me, the police or whoever, I didn’t know, and I wasn’t going to try and make conversation with a drunkard. By then it was 21:30. With a sigh of resignation I closed my eyes, preparing for a sleepless night. Little did I know that this was only the beginning. Not much later the process was repeated, only this time it was a woman. She was placed in the other cell and she, too, cursed the world in the most colourful language imaginable.
This carried on until there were about seven or eight inmates in the cells on both sides of me, males in one cell, females in the other. They were all intoxicated beyond reason and most of them had bleeding injuries from what I suspected must have been fighting. I realized then that this was probably a regular Friday night occurrence for the law enforcement officers of Steinkopf.
By now I had made ear plugs out of toilet paper, but this didn’t help against the racket. But I must have fallen asleep in spite of this, because at 02:00 I was awakened again, only this time it was my cell door being opened! Oh no! Not one of them in MY cell! But when I lifted my head to have a look, expecting the worst, I was much relieved to see a young man dressed in a South African Navy uniform being ushered into my cell.
We introduced ourselves and it turned out that he had a weekend pass from the naval base in Simon’s Town, and was heading for home in Namibia. He had hitched a ride with someone who lived in Steinkopf. The police had picked him up outside Steinkopf and suggested that he should spend the night safely in a cell, rather than stand at the road side. With nowhere else to go, this was how he ended up in my cell.
Our neighbours settled down after a while with only the odd muttering here and there. There was no movement from my companion, so I assumed that he was asleep. But, being a light sleeper, I found it difficult to fall asleep again. It must have been close to daybreak when I finally fell asleep, this time to be awakened by the door of our cell being unlocked. I was free to go!
After wishing the navy guy a safe journey and thanking the police for their hospitality, I cycled away from there as quickly as I could, promising myself that I would never voluntarily seek accommodation in a police cell again.”
Well, that’s all for now!