To the city on the Cape

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Yesterday, a few minutes before the city’s noon gun was fired, we reached the Cape Town clock tower and the end of our journey.

Mum was waiting there to welcome us, pleased as we were to have completed our adventure – and keen to seek reassurance that we would not be doing something like this again!

The final section from Windhoek to Cape Town was tough, with heat, hills and headwinds all conspiring to slow us down. A detour to the spectacular Fish River Canyon in Nambia took us back onto gravel roads, several of which had some patches of deep sand.

But the promise of reaching the finish line kept us going – boosted by a roadside visit from our sisters, mum and sister’s boyfriend and the support of a cyclist we met near Cape Town, who took time off from work to ride with us into the city.

***

Since leaving Cornwall in September last year, we have cycled 9250 miles in 134 days (an average of 69 miles per day, with 35 rest days). Remarkably we have avoided serious illness and injury (only two days off for sickness seems pretty good going).

Travelling by bicycle has been an extraordinary way to see the landscapes and wildlife of Africa and to meet and learn about people who live there. We have been helped by the kindness of many strangers – from people who beckoned us into their homes to shelter from the rain, to people who let us pitch our tent in their backyard.

It would be easy to be overly sentimental now and there were of course many difficulties too – cycling when feeling ill, people who irritated us (including each other!) and struggling to find the huge amounts of food and water we needed to keep going. But our overall experience on the trip and of Africa has been very positive.

The adventure has been good for us and, we hope, others too. With the many generous donations we have raised over £4,800 for Street Child Africa and the British Red Cross (it is still not too late to donate via www.virginmoneygiving.com/cornwall-capetown.)

Finally, we would like to thank our family, friends, colleagues and the children of Gorran School and Broadway Infant School, who have supported us in different ways. Dan would also like to thank his girlfriend for her support along the way. We look forward to boring you all with tales of our travels in the weeks ahead…

Right, now we’re off to the beach!

Chris and Dan

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A Bicycle Safari – photos

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A Bicycle Safari

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Southern Zambia brought several days of the kind of light rain that we are all too familiar with in the UK. We then spent a day in Livingstone and visited the Victoria Falls, which were amazing. So many famous landmarks seem smaller or less impressive when you actually see them, but the Victoria Falls were more spectacular than photographs tend to suggest.

We then headed into Botswana. The first stretch passed near to or through several national parks and there was only one settlement in the first 300km. We knew that people had cycled the route before, but were still apprehensive when locals asked us “are you not afraid of the lions?” as there are large numbers in the area. We were also warned about the elephants because of the risk that they could charge. Nevertheless, your intrepid adventurers pressed on…

Early one morning we set off, wondering what wildlife we would encounter. Then, after less than a kilometre we saw elephants by the roadside, which we slowly rode by – we had not expected a sighting so soon. In the first hour we saw around 30 elephants, most of which were very close to the road, eating on the verge. It was quite nerve wracking to pass some of them – an elephant, trunk a swingin’, tusks a gleamin’ can be quite an indimidating creature as it turns its head towards you. Fortunately elephants have bad eye sight, so by us stopping an elephant that looked at all unsettled would calm down.

(We have photos ready to post, but this computer won’t upload them – we’ll try to post them as soon as we can).

We saw a few more elephants in the next few days, but never as many as in the first hour, although there was plenty of evidence of elephants having been in the area along the route. There was plenty of other wildlife though, from snakes to gazelle and exotic birds.

We had been told that part of the road was being rebuilt and that there were compounds where the workers lived, where we might be able to pitch our tent. Fortunately this proved to be true, which enabled us to pace ourselves, rather than cycling a near impossible distance to avoid camping in the bush which would have been dangerous.

Botswana was also impressive for its vast flat pans and huge skies, which make Norfolk look mountainous. We also had some interesting experiences asking local chiefs whether we could put a tent up somewhere in his village.

We have now reached Windhoek, where we are taking our final rest day before pressing on to Cape Town. The end seems to be in sight!

P.S. We are a little way off our fundraising target for donations to the Red Cross and Street Child Africa. It would be fantastic to reach the target and we’d be really greatful for any final donations, which can be made through our fundraising page: http://www.virginmoney.com/cornwall-capetown

Tanzania, Malawi and into Zambia

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The rough roads of Tanzania

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Happy New Year!

The start of a new year feels like a milestone for us on the trip, after nearly four months on the road (although there is still a long way to go…).

Since the last blog post, we have completed our crossing of Ethiopia, ridden through most of Kenya and into Tanzania. We’re now in Dodoma, the political capital of Tanzania.

We were glad that the second half of Ethiopia was much easier going than the first. From Addis the road wound down into the Rift Valley where we recorded our longest day cycling of the trip to date, 174km. There seemed to be much more wildlife in this area and we saw eagles circling above us as we passed a series of lakes.

Not all nature has to offer is so welcoming – opening the door to an outside loo at a roadside cafe led to more than usual scurrying and buzzing. (On this subject the worst loo experience to date was in Sudan, where at night large bats would fly to and fro in the tank, just below the hole in the ground that was the loo, which is a little off-putting!).

The road then led into some hills with tropical vegetation and plantations of bananas and coffee, which was atmospheric in the early mornings as mist would mix with smoke from the villages, lit by the rays of the rising sun.

The landscape we passed on the final section towards Kenya was much drier, with many termite mounds and we had to wait for several large dust devils to pass as they spiraled their way across the road.

On arriving at the Kenyan border, we had a difficult decision to make, which was whether to cycle the first few hundred kilometres. This section was potentially dangerous because of bandits and the high numbers of guns in the area. Disputes, mainly over cattle in this poor area, had led to the deaths of many local people. We knew that the risk to tourists was not so great as it was for the locals and that people had cycled the section, but did not want to be the statistic. In the end, after taking soundings from several local people (all of whom advised us against cycling the section), we decided to take a bus. Although it is a shame to have missed out a section, we think the decision was the right one – there was an armed escort on the bus for much of the journey and we came across trucks in a compound in the evening, waiting for the next day to continue because drivers had been killed by bandits on the road at night.

The bus was by no means an easy option. The journey was horrendous because the unsurfaced road was in a bad state as it crossed the rocky desert and the driver drove at high speed. The bus shuddered and vibrated violently for most of the 18 hour journey, leaving us with aches and pains far worse than anything we’d picked up through cycling. We were concerned about how the bikes, which were strapped to the roof, would have fared, but fortunately damage was only cosmetic.

The bus dropped us at the town of Isiolo and we spent the next day recovering from our ordeal. As taking the bus had put us ahead of our schedule and Isiolo was near to some national parks, we decided to arrange a safari for the next day. The town was not set up for tourism, safari vehicles passed through from elsewhere, so we decided to try to find a local with a suitable vehicle to take us around the park. After some searching we found somebody with an old and rusty pick-up truck, who was prepared to take us for a reasonable price – the superbly named Mr Wako A. Wako.

The safari was a success – before passing the park gates we had already seen elephant and giraffe- and highlights of the day were sightings of a lioness and later a leopard. Wako’s pick-up truck had seen better days and it broke down, just after we had left the park, but fortunately some Kenyan tourists gave us a lift back into town.

From Isiolo we rode through the rest of Kenya, crossing the equator, passing close to Mount Kenya and arrived at the Tanzanian border at Namanga, in Masai country.

On the Tanzanian side we came across yet more roads being built by Chinese companies, which made for good progress, at least on the sections that had been finished. Our map showed the road through the central Tanzanian highlands as being gravel, but we hoped that the Chinese might have got to work on it! On the first section we were right, but then we reached the gravel road, which has been by far the worst and toughest section of road.

The surface is badly corrugated in many places because of the passing traffic, and the bicycles bounce over rocky sections and sink and slide in the sandy parts. Every now and then buses thunder past throwing up clouds of dust. It did not help to meet an engineer who told us that work was going to start on repairing the road on the the next day! Despite the difficulties of the road, it has taken us through remote and interesting places.

Dodoma is about half way along the bad road, which we will ride for another three or four days. We should then meet better roads as we head towards Malawi – our tenth country.

Sudan/Ethiopia Photos 2

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Sudan/Ethiopia Photos 1

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