Hi Fellow Chippenham Wheelers!
It’s been several thousand miles since I wrote about my trip, the last one I was still cycling in West Africa. I have since taken evasive action for ebola border closures, travelled through and into another 6 countries, circumnavigated two mountains, Mt. Kenya and Mt. Kilimanjaro (Much easier to cycle around than go up, also a lot cheaper!).
Adaptability seems to be a key attribute required for travel in Africa, changing routes to avoid problems, planning safer tracks and sometimes just to add more miles in for the fun of it. The closure of the Nigeria and Cameroon border effectively put a stop to West Africa for me, an indefinite stay in Nigeria until the border re-opened whenever that may have been did not appeal so I decided to fly over to Kenya in East Africa and continue my journey from there. I must admit I was very disappointed to have to break my continuous line down through Africa, but the circumstances were out of my control.
Thinking positively, flying over from Burkina Faso to Kenya opened up the possibility to see a completely different side of Africa including lots of places I wouldn’t have visited otherwise, seeing Mount Kenya to cross the equator, cycling around Mount Kilimanjaro, game parks in Zambia, Victoria Falls and riding along the Elephant Highway in Botswana.
I have now ridden in and through Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana and into the last country of this trip, South Africa.
Changing country is always a fun experience, Malawi was no exception, border easily crossed and money changers explaining the currency I was changing was worth nothing and that further on I wouldn’t be able to change money at all.. Annoying at first, fun if you turn it into a game.
The bicycle has needed a bit more maintenance since West Africa, punctures I had only 1 in Mali since leaving the UK and that was a slow one so I am not sure it entirely counted. Not far into East Africa I had experienced another 6 punctures. One while travelling around Mount Kilimanjaro where several Maasai complete with spears came running over to assist. How does one go about explaining to several Maasai tribesmen holding spears and knives that there assistance was more of a hindrance? I couldn’t work it out either so thought it best to smile and allow them to point out the obvious problem and keep saying thanks!
5 more punctures in as many days and I conceded that the tyres may need changing to the new Schwalbe Mondials I had been carrying in my panniers. The amount of tread left on the old tyres was more than sufficient for riding in the UK and Europe, however the extreme temperatures in Africa and the hot tar roads simply softened the rubber to allow everything through to the tube causing the punctures.
By the time arrived in Port Alfred in the Eastern Cape of South Africa the original rear sprocket and the current change needed to be replaced, the horrible noise they were making was too much to bear, even for me a self recognised mechanophobic when it comes to maintenance of my bike. Cycle Asylum in PA lent me a chain whip, I’m surprised how quiet the bike is again.
The hospitality throughout the whole of Africa has been wonderful, I have been welcomed and invited into peoples homes, whether that be a mud hut or swanky plush places in cities or family homes by the sea. South Africans are especially friendly; I am writing this update from Kleinmonde whilst staying with a lovely couple I met on the road on the way to Port Alfred who invited me to stay after I left Port Alfred. Port Alfred I stayed with a family I met in Malawi.The hospitality never ceases to amaze me.
On days that I am riding to cover ground I tend to ride between 100 and 130km, now I have reached the coast and my visa lasts until 20th March it’s time to slow down, Cape Town is my target in time for the Argus, or Cape Cycle Tour. The worlds biggest cycle race (yes they call a sportive a cycle race here), with an expected entry of 35,000 to 40,000 cyclists riding the 109km (68 mile) course should be a fitting end to the ride so far. I have one last decision to make, what bike? Borrow or rent a road bike or cycle it on a fully loaded touring bike.. decisions, decisions!
Not far to go to Cape Town so… keep pedalling..
I have a website with more information and a Blog which I update while travelling when I can, it’s www.longbikeride.co.uk if you are interested in seeing how I progress or more on my journey so far feel free to take a look. [Note: You need to be logged into the website to see the attached gallery photos]