noordoewer, namibia to cape town, south africa.
Done… North to south of Africa, 10 countries, 11,852kms done, 95 days of cycling and oh average speed of 21km/h. A trip that was two years in the making pouring over many a map whilst envisaging what it would be like has come to an end. So much seen, much learnt and proud that we’ve all managed to sit on our bikes for so long.
So I write this from our hotel counting down the hours before we fly out and until my hangover dissipates. Its certainly going to be short for both of the previous reasons (excuses.)
South Africa – As soon as we crossed the Orange River marking the border from Namibia we noticed immediate change i.e. sealed roads, associated infrastructure, different soft drinks etc…
With this being the shortest duration in a country for the trip it was hard not to shift focus from Cape Town, something we’ve being aiming at for 4 months. To slow down just a little for the final few days we got of the main highway to avoid the traffic and constant ‘supporting’ beeps and headed towards the Atlantic ocean, where we again hit gravel roads despite thinking they were done. We literally hugged the coast managing to experience various little seaside towns, the constantly changing weather and the wildness of some stretches. At times it made me think of the renowned skeleton coast in Namibia, a place consisting of sand dunes, big waves and not much else.
With us having some shorter days coupled with a very relaxed atmosphere we managed to slow down a little indulging in some long lunches. A few days prior to finishing we stopped at a seaside town for some local seafood coupled with a couple of bottles of wine and beers. For those around us asking questions of our trip it certainly didn’t resemble much of a struggle. Oh and for the record after enjoying such luxuries at lunch we did manage to stick to a 25km/h+ average over gravel service roads until the next town.
We certainly noticed the same treatment of the blacks (or coloured as I’ve heard) here in South Africa with service jobs, defining blue overalls, riding the backs of utes as also seen in Namibia. Compared to other African countries it really seems that colonist times have been retained here despite independence. Very unique as an outsider to witness comparing the situation to the other countries we have visited.
Cape Town – Our day leading into Cape Town was perfect with a 40km tailwind assisting us for the 120km ride. It felt like it would’ve been more appropriate to be a struggle although no one was complaining. Arriving here I was secretly hoping that all of the ‘characters’ we’ve meet along the way would be here to greet us. Whether this be the hospitable family on the ferry to Sudan, ‘Arthur’ our contagiously positive weight lifting police guard in Sololo, Kenya to ‘Roy’ the Zambian truck driver who saved us from an apparent certain death by lions in Botswana and then many, many more. They unfortunately weren’t… Instead it was just 4 lycra clad cyclists (us) drinking champagne in the rain, which I am sure was a mystery to those around us.
Once done we were all a little lost as what next to do considering we didn’t need to get back in the bikes again in a hurry. In the end beers were obviously had and then we all went separate ways to start ticking off our final lists. Gavan and I celebrated in the local food court… Where we actually had some really good seafood coupled with a bottle of veuve. Our final night together was spent at the 2011 restaurant of the year with fine food that didn’t consist of tinned pilchards or pasta with minestrone soup.
Locals – Starting from Namibia we passed many South Africans mainly from Cape Town who were all very keen to hear about our trip. All offered great advice, connections and in one instance a bottle of red for our dinner. Although we have had this interest before most times when you mention cycling from Cairo not many think its much further then the next town.
Our final night was spent with ‘Patty and Ernst’ a couple we meet in Namibia who simply stated that ‘sure you can stay with us’. With thoughts on the finish we nearly kept going but so glad we didn’t as we experienced some amazing local hospitality with an amazing braai (South African barbeque), many wines, great beds and a fitting final riding breakfast. This was a great end to the many varied types of hospitality we’ve received whether it being feed by separate individuals for an entire day in eastern Sudan, taking over someone’s shop floor in Namibia or invading/interrupting an entire village in Tanzania.
Riders – From here it’s going to be a case of separation anxiety considering we’ve literally lived in each others pockets for 4 months and despite the numerous questions we haven’t had one decent argument/disagreement… boring! I really couldn’t have asked to do this with 3 better, more important people. I feel we all individually bought so much to the trip, each complimenting each other and finally all offered support where required. From Shanes medical skills i.e. self cleaning of his meerkat mauling, Gavan’s bike knowledge to allow make shift repairs to Justin’s ability to support the milkshake industry throughout Africa coupled with his spirit.
Shane – will possibly missed being called ‘dad’ and having sounding boards for his ‘jokes’
Gavan – can have a coffee that isn’t out of a sachet.
Justin – is stoked as he no longer has to stare at our ass’s day in and day out.
Wade – Getting out of the necessary routine of eating a massive meal and going straight to bed by 8pm where he snores much to the love of his room mates.
The end – Surreal’ is the only word I can think of to sum it all up. Something that has been in the planning for so long prior to the trip first as a mere conversation over beers to being on a plane to finally riding for 4 months with this as our end point. So many incredible individual experiences on a reoccurring daily basis.
Various things have been learnt along the way, for me it’s simply ‘that you can do it’. A cliché I know but in this instance despite having hard moments whether its mental, physical hardness on the bike we’ve always managed to reach our destination for the day. Putting this all together it resulted in us riding a long way and to finally reach Cape Town, 4 months (including rest days) later.
Once back from my two week break of doing nothing in a secret location (Thailand) I will post a final summary of this incredible journey. I will also start sorting through the plethora of images so I can upload them for people to check out and purchase if anything grabs their attention. As previously mentioned the aim is to use this as an opportunity to raise some money for our selected charity and hopefully aid in replacing one of the 4 cameras that broke during the trip!
For now I thank my three fellow travellers, my bike, everyone back home for their support and to all the amazing people we meet along the way who assisted in debunking the myth ‘Africa is dangerous’.