Tag Archives: cycle touring

2083 – A number with a meaning.

27 Oct

Hey folks,

To most of you the number 2083 has no significance, but for me it does. To me it represents another little milestone achieved. Let me explain.

Some people cycle the world, others cycle continents, some cycle to the pub, but for me I just wanted to cycle 2083kms. I started out this African journey with the goal of cycling 5000km, but with the container arriving earlier than expected it meant the first half of the trip had to be fast forwarded with a bus ride. Then with everything else that has changed, my goal also changed. I needed a new goal to ride towards.

So why 2083kms? I wanted to give all these kilometres I’m covering a tangible representation, a number that meant something to me. One day I typed into google maps, Cape Reinga (sorry the spell check don’t be speaking the Maori so if I spelt it wrong apologies) to Bluff, New Zealand’s most Northern point to its most Southern. You guessed it, 2083km’s was the distance by road.

A couple of days ago about 50 km’s outside of Malawi’s capital Lilongwe I rode past that little milestone. There was no finish line, no bikini clad models with champagne, just a sweaty Hap with a sore arse and an African woman carrying 20 litres of water on her head whilst breast feeding.

As I write this I have now covered 2500km, and I’m on the shores of Lake Malawi. I have been looking forward to reaching here for quite some time. I even put in my biggest day of 153km to get here. And yep it’s pretty darn beautiful. Now I’m trying to figure out a plan of how to get up to the base of Kilimanjaro to start my trek. Looks like I’ll have to leave my bike here in Malawi and jump on local bus so I make it in time.

OK, hope you all well. Sorry for lack of posts of late. I have had them all written out off line but have had no internet to upload them.

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Life on the slow road

28 Jul

Mandy here as a guest writer, hello blog followers!

As most of you probably already know, we have made it to our work destination Katima Mulilo in the Caprivi region of Namibia.

We have been so fortunate to receive all the assistance that we did leading up to and including our arrival here in Katima, and we thank all of you for your support.

Since Hap has already taken you through the first part of our cycling journey from Rundu to Katima, he wanted me to fill in the gaps and tell a story or two about the remainder of our cycling trip.

This was the part that I was a bit apprehensive about: cycling through the 190km of Bwabwata National Park. This area has been made into a game reserve, so the native tribes and others are obviously no longer allowed to hunt the animals within this area, therefore creating a higher concentration of wildlife. Great if you’re on a safari, but not the best if you are planning to go through it on two wheels!

The B8 highway that we took during our entire journey literally bisects the park in two, so we were surrounded on both sides by game reserve. Additionally, the game reserve starts and ends either side of two different rivers, the Okovango and the Kwando, which means 50km or so on either end there should be an even higher density of wildlife as animals tend to not stray too far from a water source.

Judging by what everyone had told us, we were expecting to see elephants, not only on the side of the road, but in the middle of the road. We had read about, searched on google and cross referenced with everyone we met how to avoid being charged by an elephant. There are signs every 10-20km with exclamation! Elephants! 80km! Warning motorists to slow down and be aware.

In the end it was all a bit anti climatic! We spotted a few majestic giants from afar, but they were deep enough in the bush that we don’t even have a photo to prove it!

Our first day of part II of the trip was a big day for us, 80km to the first town we could stay at: we didn’t want to get caught having to camp on the side of the road! Once again the friendly Peace Corp train came through for us and we had smiling hosts awaiting us at Omega upon our arrival.

As soon as we wheeled our bikes up the main road of Omega and met our hosts, we knew we’d have to stay a couple nights.

Not only were we greeted with friendly faces eager to show us the most generous hospitality, but we were somewhat put under a spell by Omega’s unique existence and we had to have a day to explore.

Street lights with no running electricity in Omega.

We had been to quite a few villages and seen pretty much the same thing: thatched huts, mud huts, some concrete buildings. Usually there was one water pump for the smaller communities to share, and fences made of natural materials.

Omega is utterly and completely a different place.

Omega feels like a more western style town with all the power lines, water towers, brick buildings and leafy trees for shade. I guess ghost town might be a more accurate description. In the 70s this place was actually an army base, and you can imagine how it once was, it it’s prime.

I will not go into history of the war, but I can give you the general gist of what I know: Once this place was abandoned by the army, this village was given to some of the local tribes. Most of these tribes were hunter/gatherer people who depended on the abundance of wildlife in the area for survival and traditional ceremonies.

Once the Namibian government proclaimed the area a National Park, these people were prohibited from hunting or living there, and therefore were given this area to live. Since they could no longer go about their traditional ways, the government also had to start providing provisions for them on a regular basis. One of the volunteers we were staying with likened the situation somewhat to the Native Americans of North America and the ‘reservations’ of land that were given to them by the government there. The similarity of a traditional people being relocated and as a result becoming entirely dependent on the government is undeniable.

As a result these are the types of things you see in Omega: house after house of roofless, abandoned buildings; homes with zinc roofing as fences; giant warehouses that used to be the ‘supermarket’ of the army base, now housing a mini market of basics in what used to be the cleaning closet, leaving the rest of the gigantic building empty; swimming pools ¼ full with a toxic mix of stagnant water and rubbish; water towers that are either rusted out, leaking or just not working; electricity lines running all through the town, but not one person with power that does not come from a generator (and most don’t even have that, but have to rely on poaching power from the few generators that are in town).

It was a one of a kind experience to stay in this town and hear the stories about how dysfunctional things had become. There is literally an amazing, beautiful, wood burning oven next to the abandoned mess hall that could be used, but no one can be bothered. Maybe I’ll go back and start up a pizza restaurant!

The best part of staying in Omega was the warm dose of hospitality we received from Gretchen and Paul, both US Peace Corp volunteers, and the Romanian volunteer, Lucas. We joined their simple existence for a couple of days and relished in the experience. On our first night we were offered hot water off the fire for washing up, which was amazing! Even though they have no running water or electricity, there was no complaining. Everything just got done a little slower. Every morning and every evening a fire must be made to heat water and cook food. This is how most people live that we have come into contact with. It’s just part of the daily routine.

After two nights at Omega, Hap and I were ready to take on the rest of the game reserve. We slept our next night near the police station in neighbouring Omega III (just your average village with a school, water pump and some huts), and then made the long haul the next day for the Kongola area, signalling the end of the national park. We were happy to see water again, and even happier to get to the shop at the petrol station where they had fresh bread that was still warm! I think we both ate ourselves into a coma that day!

After visiting another bike workshop in neighboring village, Singalamwe, we were on a mission to get to Katima before the weekend. We wanted to have a bit of time to rest and get in touch with our contacts in Katima before starting the project on the Monday. After three days in a row of at least 70km, we were ready to arrive at our destination!

As recommended by people we met, as well as the Lonely Planet, we set up shop at the Protea Hotel campground, right on the Zambezi river. That was a welcomed sight after all our hard work getting there. Couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful spot……and they even had HOT showers! Amazing!

I never thought I would even ride my bike more than, oh, say 30km in one day. I guess I never really thought about it before, and when Hap suggested that we travel Africa on bikes, it took more than a little encouragement for me to get used to the idea.

The more I researched cycle touring, the more I realized how common and how easy it is to do, even for a true beginner. I have always enjoyed riding a bike, but am far from a serious cyclist. Hap’s the same! The 10-20km we would ride daily in Melbourne was the most either of us had ever ridden a bike.

Now that I have cycled 600km across northern Namibia, I feel like I could definitely do more. There are so many advantages to travelling by bike: less money spent on transport, the freedom to stop when you want, the luxury of setting up camp (pretty much) wherever you’d like to sleep, and an instant conversation starter, should you want to engage with the people you encounter. One aspect that can be a good thing or a bad thing is that you have no choice but to interact with your environment. However, if you choose the right gear, time of year, and time of day to ride, you can usually make it a pleasant experience.

Photos of our first bike trip

2 May

Last week my neighbour Maria like many people was asking me about the upcoming Africa trip. The conversation went something like this;

Maria: So have you been training?

Hap: No, we will just start off doing 50km a day and then build up.

Maria: Have you ever biked 50km before?

Hap: Ummmmmm, no.

It was quite funny, here I have been telling people all along that we will be starting off doing 50km a day (I heard from someone that is an actual cyclist that’s it’s a good starting point) as though I’m a seasoned veteran and know what I’m talking about. And it wasn’t until Maria asked me that I realised I have never cycled 50km in my life.

Well, at least now I can say “Yes, I have”. To tell you the truth I was rather happy how it all went, my body felt good and so did the bike, and I was quite surprised that my bum didn’t feel like I had fallen asleep at Elton John’s pyjama party.

Although I learnt one lesson, rehydrating after cycling 60km with beer is not a good idea. And whilst in the midst of rehydrating with beer, if you happen to experience the most excruciating cramp of your life and find yourself sliding under the table trying to move your leg as far away from your body as possible you can only expect your mates to help you once they have finished laughing, put down their beer, taken photos and laughed some more.

Umm, I think I just contradicted myself above. Apart from the hellish self inflicted cramp the first night, the body felt pretty good. I think the Melbourne cycling culture helps,

Anyways, here are some photos of Mandy’s and mine first bike trip.

Day 1: I was like a little kid before Christmas. The two previous nights I had been up till 2am preparing the bikes and gear. This was my first time hopping on my bike all loaded up. EXCITED!

Day 1: Mandy’s bike parts still hadn’t arrived so she had to do it all on her $30 bike we picked up from a garage sale when we arrived in Melbourne a year ago. This photo taken in the rain in central Melbourne enroute to the train station.

Day 1: 30 minutes after the previous photo the sun came out, and like a tattoo’d, black jeans and Jim Beam T-Shirt bogan getting his photo in front of his V8 Holden Commondore, I had to do the same – minus everything in the example I used.

Day 1: Mandy with the bikes for our 1 hour train trip to the peninsula.

Day 1: After cycling 60 km we made it to our destination at St Andrews beach where we had a house rented with mates for the weekend.

Day 2: A bit of beach action.

Day 2: We did a 40 km round trip to the pub in Portsea for Lunch, friends drove, Mandy and I biked. Once again the victory photo after a day in the saddle. Apparently my hair style is all the rage in the cycle touring community.

Day 3: Easter Sunday. What better day for a day of rest. Beach and back yard cricket day.

Day 3: I used every excuse to try out all my gear. It was common throughout the weekend to hear my mates saying “Hap, we’re going to the bloody beach not Africa, you don’t need your GPS, walkie talkies and dry bag”

Day 3: BYC

Day 4: Home time. Packed and cleaned. Then met for fish and chips and beers at Flinders. Everyone pictured in food coma above. Was OK for them, they were heading back to Melbourne, Mandy and I had another 20 km to cycle to get to our proposed camp site. Note to self, fish and chips and beer don’t go well with cycling.

Day 4: Arrived at campsite to try out our camping gear. We only cycled 40km this day, but the weekends festivities and cycling had caught up on us. We were both in our sleeping bags, Mandy asked me what the time was, I checked my phone and it was 6.20pm!

Day 5: Woke up full of beans, 60 km ride back to the train. Found some cool bush trails.

Day 5: By day 5 I had a bond with my bike. On the bikes we met heaps of helpful people, a lovely couple told us about this bike path that led all the way to the train station. Oh yeah, we found out the hard way, cycling on narrow roads in Easter traffic don’t mix. Oh yeah, when planning a route, just because the paper is flat doesn’t mean the roads will be!

Mandy’s stallion of bike lapping up the sun and view.

Day 5: Another 60km day, that was a grand total of 200km (actually was more as the GPS ran out of batteries for awhile). The first cycling trip can be put down as a success. We are planning one more trip when we have all our gear (more camping gear arrived today, and Mandy’s bikes parts).

Some motivating cycling shots

30 Jul

Hey guys,

In my last blog post I mention how I met Swede Carl-David whilst living in Ushuaia, Argentina looking for work in Antarctica. Well for Carl Ushuaia was the starting point of his epic bike ride of the South American continent, in fact I took the photo below as Carl cycled off from our Hostel in the most southern city of the world.

Below is an email from Carl (I inserted the photos), and below are some of my favourite photos of Carls South America bike trip.

Hi Hap!

I DO remember you (and your t-shirt), haha! I’m glad to have inspired
you, cycling is such a nice way of travelling. I love your mission
about working on all continents before 30, that’s so awesome =)


Lots of luck with Africa, please ask about equipment or general tips
whenever you want!

I am now in the lowlands of Bolivia. It rained during the night and
the road turned into a muddy hell. Wasn’t able to cycle (nor walking)
at all! Attached is a photo =) But I really like it here though, much
more animals etc. than on the altiplano, and people like to talk more.

Cheers!

Carl

Now for Carl’s photos. I love eating my lunch in my 30 minutes off work and just surfing cycling websites and watching slideshows of peoples cycles trips to far off corners of the world. And Carl has some wicked photos, if you like what you see then go and check out his blog.