After TDA spent four days in Cape Town as a tourist. Photos and descriptions of some of the local sights are included below. Also decided to include a few “lessons learned” or notes I have that might be useful to future riders about TDA in general. I also cleaned up some minor things on the web site (e.g. the maps page) and added an “Epilogue” page for travels in the USA that immediately followed TDA.
A few lessons Learned
- My Equipment List page has been annotated with reflections of what equipment worked for me, what was broken and what I might bring differently if doing the trip again.
- Africa has lots of thorns. While my Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires had only two flats on entire trip. This was lower than average. Bring good tires, particularly for off-road with good thorn protection (e.g. some riders had more than 10 flats on the first off-road day). What I did find was that my thermarest developed a leak after camping on thorns on day #30. People who brought a small foldable cot seemed to avoid this.
- Africa has sand. I went through three basic point-n-shoot cameras that each got jammed due to sand. Next time, My tent zippers also failed through the trip. Next time I would bring a more dust-proof camera and be a little more careful taking photos of sand storms.
- Africa doesn’t have much in way of “real” bicycle shops prior to Namibia or at least we didn’t find them. Sectional riders joining later were helpful to bring extra parts (e.g. for me a spare rim to Nairobi). Riders that sent parts via DHL or other courier services sometimes encountered very high fees for parts.
- Electronics. I and other riders had our share of electronic toys including laptop, kindle, cell phone and GPS odometers.
- Solar chargers such as Goal Zero worked pretty well at keeping small pieces charged. With so many phones and other toys – outlets were frequently at a premium when we did encounter them.
- Wifi was sporadic and 60 riders can quickly clog up simple systems we encountered (particularly if some riders skype or video skype). SIM cards and cell phones worked at least as well in some situations. See also web updating below.
- Weather. Africa surprised me that most days were is reasonable temperate ranges. It got particularly hot (>40C) in the desert of Sudan and next time more re-hydration salts are in order. It also got to ~3-4C once in Ethiopia and at end of the trip in Namibia/South Africa. I ended up buying more warm weather gear in Windhoek, which was very helpful at end of the trip. Rains we had were mostly all warm rains in areas such as Tanzania. Otherwise surprising amount of time with daytime highs between 25C-35C and overnight lows ~10C-~25C and generally reasonable for cycling.
- Budget; one of the TDA mailings suggests approximately $100 per week as spending money with perhaps some more if you plan extra accommodations or excursions. What I found was:
- Most on-the-road days are inexpensive. Coke stops are a dollar here or there and there just isn’t much place to spend money during most riding days. Instead it is more rest days and cities.
- Visa fees in the first countries (Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi,…) come in cash and can be $50-$100 here and there, an expense I hadn’t factored into the equation.
- Kenya onwards seem to have ATMs in border towns or soon thereafter. Some folks had issues with their home banks freezing accounts or more difficulty with Mastercard linked accounts, but with some patience this works. There also are much more limited places north of the equator to use credit cards such as visa cards (even in hotels). This got easier as we went further south.
- Web page updating. I received feedback that my web site was among those most kept up to date. I did that with combination approach including (a) bought a local SIM card in each country. Used a cell phone and WordPress for Android to provide a short two or three sentence update most cycling days (b) brought a laptop to edit photos and including more complete text when I could, e.g. at rest days (c) organized the site in advance with photos/categories/links so structure/navigation was all set up.
- Favorites. A common but strange question since part of what makes a trip like this interesting is the variety in cycling from one place to the next. However, if I were to list countries in order of my most to least favorites, it would be as follows:
- Namibia – beautiful off-road cycling through the desert
- Tanzania – off-road cycling through smaller villages on clay/mud/sand/gravel road, challenging but beautiful. Taking a safari was a nice change of pace.
- Ethiopia – intense and challenging in its own way. Different than countries either before or after.
- Sudan – friendly people, hard to get to. Initial route bypassed most towns on excellent roads and later route went through countryside but on awful off-road. Too bad there wasn’t a mix between the two
- Botswana – longest riding, flat stretches of road, but chances to see elephants and good weather
- Zambia – Victoria falls, good roads and slightly rolling hills
- South Africa – excitement of finishing the trip and some off-road cycling. However, highway riding was longer stretches without many places to stop.
- Kenya – wish we’d been able to ride more, good riding but elections this year meant we couldn’t do as much
- Malawi – Infected/swollen leg, caused me to miss some riding
- Egypt – Nice desert riding and excitement of starting the trip, but enjoyed other areas more. Assertive people selling things.
Now a few photos from trips looking around Cape Town.
Large waterfront statue
Eat or we’ll both starve
Took a trip to Robben Island. Nelson Mandela was imprisoned on this island for 18 of his 27 years. Overall an informative half day trip and well worth the visit.
Hike up Table Mountain gave nice views of Cape Town and the coast
Visiting the district 6 museum. Described an interesting and recent history. District 6 was name of a neighborhood in central Cape Town. In 1966 under apartheid laws, the government made it a white-only neighborhood and after that point 60,000 people were forcibly resettled in other areas and building also torn down. This continued until early 1980s when laws were reversed.
If wanting to bike north through Africa what time of year would be good to leave Cape town, Which ways do the winds generaly blow. Thanks Doug
I didn’t do an extensive study on climate since this was an organized tour. However, my perceptions were that the following were important in our trip: (a) it gets very hot in desert of Sudan. We came through at end of January and it was already getting warmer – so coming through earlier (end of December or start of January) might have been better (b) rainy season in Tanzania came not long after we were through in mid-March (c) winters in South Africa can get cold.
So if I were leaving South Africa, I’d probably shoot for spring/fall – then avoid being too hot in Namibia – and avoid rainiest times in Tanzania/Kenya and hottest times in Sudan – but not quite sure how that adds up. We did get mostly tailwinds heading south from Egypt but not sure how common that is.