Cycle Across Africa
The next great adventure | BLOG#2
I’ve heard it many times while travelling “the reason people don’t travel is because of fear”. Usually the people saying this have been on many interesting adventures around the world and love nothing more than going on about how others are wrong for using excuses such as “I wish I could do that BUT” or “you’re lucky, I couldn’t do that”. Really, the people who say these things are self absorbed idiots, I should know – I used to be one before this Cycle tour Africa.
Actually, the reason why people don’t travel is usually because they have priorities. I really admire the commitment it takes to raise kids, work hard on your career or focus on studies and watching many of friends and family persevering with both makes it obvious to me that these things are so much harder than travelling on an Africa overland tour by bicycle.
Expectations for the cycle tour Africa
Prior to this trip, I had a reasonable idea of what to expect travelling on an Africa overland tour by bicycle, and this reasonable idea was miles off. It has been enjoyable for the most part, but what you imagine it might be like and the actual reality, are still two very different things. Here are a few thoughts on everything I have learnt so far on the cycle tour Africa.
The Bike is heavy, the road is hard
It’s heavy, never talks back and I have even given it a name, Forrest.
However, the dirt tracks on an Africa bicycle tour rattle the crap out of your bones and not even a singsong is possible without sounding like a goat. You see, the tracks are often half the distance of tar roads and far more scenic, but this usually makes for less than ideal cycling terrain. South African roads have been pretty good so far, but I am conscious there are far more challenging trails on a cycle tour Africa.
They are driving me crazy. I can’t outrun them, they happily bite all day long and usually in what I have learnt is the most irritating place, the back of my legs. I risk everything in an effort to retaliate and have even thought about taking a taser to one, but considering I’d be aiming it at my own body, it’s probably best to stick with the slapping.
Nothing lasts forever
It gets tough (understatement) but there’s no room for negative thoughts no matter what you do in life and I needed to keep moving.
Last week I was faced with the mother of all mountain passes, it was never-ending, tearing my thighs to pieces, and in 30 degree heat. With motivation wearing thin, I began stopping at various point during the climb and was bordering heat exhaustion. It could easily have felt hopeless, but after a few stops I began telling myself that “Nothing lasts forever”. Amazingly this actually worked and two hours later, I was stood on top of the mountain wondering if this was one of those moments, when it was okay to have a little cry to myself.
Honestly, it was the first time, in a very long time, that I experienced a distinct feeling of pride and the whole world seemed to glow when I came across this shaded picnic table a few minutes later.
No desire to meet Simba
On an isolated stretch toward Elands Bay with my eyes fixed a few metres in front of the bike, I didn’t see it until the very last second and my heels shot up faster than any white man you’ve ever seen. Two feet away, a black cobra coiled itself while facing onto the road and I rolled right past without any idea what was happening.
It was only afterwards too, that I would learn of the species of this scary looking reptile, but unfortunately I did not overcome my fear of snakes through this experience. There were more that day and they mostly roadkill, but I couldn’t help wondering what would I do if a snake bit me? It would take ages to get to the next town.
It was a reminder of the wildlife down here and a reason why wild camping alone is always on my mind. Despite my hopes of keeping this adventure travel blog interesting, I’ve no desire to meet many more snakes, lions or any other scary animal on my cycle tour Africa.
The effort it takes to move a touring bike uphill on a Cycle tour Africa is nothing compared to the sun beating down, which makes heat exhaustion the biggest danger. It becomes a very serious matter as finding shade is often difficult, with no buildings or roadside trees around. Cycling the Northern Cape of South Africa would leave me in some pretty stupid situations, like being found fast asleep in the middle of some road-works.
Solo Travel Blog: How it feels to be alone
I feel it’s important to be honest on my solo travel blog and admit how I struggled desperately with being alone in the first two weeks. Cycling the Western Cape was a series of ghost towns after complete with an enchanting mist rolling in from the sea. It would be quite pretty to see, but then I would easily go a whole day or more, without speaking with another person. In fact, when I do try to speak my voice seems so unprepared for the even, that it begins to break and sound terribly erratic.
All these dusty dirt roads and mountain passes are the most remote surroundings I have ever experienced, and it is often so quiet that this eerily silence becomes almost too loud.
However, it turns out these factors were something I needed on the cycle tour Africa. I have to remind myself that I don’t have to be here and that being alone was a choice.
Strangely, the silence, the time alone and unfamiliar surroundings was now giving me the most incredible opportunity to get to know myself, something I believe is usually absent from most people’s routine in the busy city.
Happiness is only real once shared
“It’s very healthy to spend time alone. You need to know how to be alone and not be defined by another person”. Oscar Wilde
After a hard day of punctures and dirt road across the mountains, I arrived in Nuwerus. It seemed like a bizarre and backward town, but it was here, where I found Hardveld Lodge and Cuevas, the owner. I ended up staying an extra night such was the hospitality.
Cuevas provided complimentary dinner, wine and locally fresh picked honey, as we sat at his quaint kitchen table and spoke about travelling Africa overland. On the second day, I even joined him on a trip to the vet in Vredendhal with his dogs and enjoyed sitting on a small bench while the locals went about their daily routine.
Despite him mentioning how much he enjoyed my being there, it was me who was truly grateful as Cuevas is the first person I will remember on this solo adventure and our time chatting reminded me that “happiness is only real once shared”.
A few days later, South African bikers, who it turned out were journeying Africa overland and had also stayed with Cuevas that week, stopped to ask if I was the “Irish adventurer”. I wondered what was an adventurer? and felt embarrassed for how many glasses of wine I must have had in Hardveld lodge to refer to myself as such a thing.
As the bikers disappeared over the hill, myself and the bicycle had a little laugh together as we imagined passing them later while then tried to fix their big shiny BMW F850’s. Now that, would have been happiness shared.
Help comes from the unlikeliest of places
During a bad fall in the Northern Cape I damaged the front wheel. I’d had enough for the day so decided to wait for a vehicle to take me 15km back to a town I had passed earlier. It seemed like forever until at last, a white pick up was trundling down the hazy road on the horizon. Too hot and tired to hold out my thumb, and unwilling to take no for an answer, I stood right out in the middle of the road as the car approached and waited. It was only at the last moment I realized that it was in fact, a police van.
I was still happy though as I was sure they would help, and they did, they threw me and the bicycle in the back of the van with 2 prisoners on their way to court.
Take the good with the bad
A re-occurrence over the past two weeks on the cycle tour Africa is something which likely happens in all of our lives at some point in that just when something bad happens or we’re not feeling good, something special follows to help restore our faith.
After two hard days cycling the Northern Cape and not much in between, I got up at 4am to head for the Namibian border. It should have been exciting but instead I cycled up the town hill in darkness singing Abba “You’re so vain” to myself – except each time I would substitute the word “vain” for “stupid”. It didn’t stop there, after some brief karaoke, I continued with a half hour argument about why I couldn’t just do something normal with my life.
Cycling the weight of a tank uphill, while having an argument with yourself at 5am in the morning doesn’t make life any easier.
It must have been during this argument when the road evened out and the sun began rising over the mountains alongside. I cycled on 15kmh, 18kmh, 25kmh ….now it was completely flat and moving over 30kmh!! I was now laughing hysterically and wondering what was going on? The setting couldn’t have been more perfect and the rest of that day was every cyclists dream – all flat and downhill. I covered 70km in 3 hours on what was by far my favourite day thus far and when I rolled up to the border post, the officer reminded me of how far I’d really come in the past few weeks:
“Vehicle Registration?” …Bicycle
“haha are you serious?…..crazy”
It’s not about fear it’s about…..
A friend recently messaged me to say she was “living vicariously through my trip until her next adventure”, I absolutely loved this message, her attitude obviously being that it’s not even a question of whether or not another adventure was coming up (go Andrea & Wiley) – we should all try to think this way and look forward with positivity.
After crossing the Namibia border, I know the oldest desert in the world is ahead tomorrow morning and likely a taste of what is to come on the Africa bicycle tour. It’s hot and this is without doubt the biggest challenge I have ever faced in life. Truthfully, I’m nervous and if you’re wondering what other fears I’ve had about doing this trip alone? Imagine you were here instead of me, alone on the bike, living in a tent, think of everything that might scare you, everything you could worry about and there….this is your answer.
When is the best time for adventure?
So far the bike trip, like life itself, is rarely easy and finding your way can be a challenge so in this sense we are all in the same boat. But for those of you unable to plan your own adventure just yet, remember – when the kids are old enough to fend for themselves, you finish college or finally decide to take the career break – there is plenty of time for the next great adventure, travel or even just new experiences in general.
It’s not about fear, it’s about “getting all your ducks in a row”, and sticking with them.