Horizons Unlimited - The HUBB

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-   -   Cape Town to Europe (http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hubb/sub-saharan-africa/cape-town-to-europe-11390)

albert 4 May 2005 06:15

Cape Town to Europe

I am new to this forum, but just from what I have browsed I can see that people who post here know what they are talking about.

I posted on the thorn tree about a trip I am thinking of doing, but you guys have the expertise. I'll paste:

Fellow travellers, I need your advice. I have a gap in my studies coming up, lasting from November this year to September next year. I was thinking of getting a couple of motorbikes, and with a mate travel from Cape Town to Europe (either Sweden or France). The trip would probably start in January or a little later. I give myself six months, as I want to linger in some of the nice places we'll encounter.

So a few questions:

East or West?

What about safety? One of my main sources of funding, my parents, will not like that I go somewhere dangerous. I have been doing a bit of research, and it seems to me that it is possible to reduce risk. But then, there is the argument of the "theory of the survivor": you only hear about the ones that got through. Any thoughts on this? I am leaving it a bit vague, I know.

I would also like to know about the logistics of this trip. Tricky visas, the carnet, buying a motorcycle in SA (how cheap can I get?), anything else you know and I forgot to ask.

I know this is very long, but I would appreciate any help, not matter how small,


Luke 4 May 2005 13:37

Hi, don't think crossing east-west is possible at the moment, but we're talking about Africa. It can all change quickly.
Check out
for travelogs new and old.

LuckyStriker 4 May 2005 21:49

This is indeed a good site to get all the info you need – most of the people here are genuine travelers and don’t just rant and rave about who’s bike is the best etc.

I’m planning a trip up the Eastern side in 2007. I’ve done almost exhaustive research on all possible routes and the reason why I decided on my route is the following:

1. Less borders to cross on the East (bigger countries) thus saving money on crossings.
2. All the countries up to Kenya are friendly to South Africans and most don’t require visas.
3. There is a (relatively) good road all the way up to Cairo (with the exception of a few stretches in Ethiopia and Sudan)
4. Zanzibar and the Red Sea are on my route!

1. Sudanese borders – I’m told that crossing into Sudan from Ethiopia and into Egypt from Sudan can be a nightmare.
2. Violence in Sudan (though the Northeastern parts are supposedly quiet)
3. Egypt can supposedly be a pain but it is doable if you persevere.

I spoke to a Sudanese guy who currently resides here in S.A. and he confirmed my opinions about the Sudan.

The West has too many unknowns for an n00b like myself – I have no desire to screw up on my first continental crossing! There may also be too much Sahara for my heavy bike and pillion on the Western routes.

I hope you get all the info you need – but not too much and spoil the surprises!

albert 4 May 2005 23:33

Thank you Luke and Cyril,

I was thinking of going West originally, but after looking at the political state of things thought about going East instead. I have done a bit of research, bought the new bradt guide on Sudan, and asked people questions, and although it looks like a pain, it looks doable. But then I asked someone else his opinion, which I paste just below. This guy rode (bicycle) through Africa for three years not so long ago:
I recommend travelinng via Angola, DRC and/or Rep. of Congo, Gabon,
Cameroon, Nigeria or Tchad.
The route became more common and actually safe within the last three
years, since Sawimbi, the leader of the opposition got killed and Angola
became a choice of real alternative. Quite a few people now do travel this
itinerary and they all, incl. me , speak positive about. More
adventurous...However, some say, that they didn't like Angola. It was one of
my favourites , after Cameroon.
But from information I currently have, it doesnt consist of any risk
involving getting close to civil wars or unrest. But of course, countries
like Rep of Congo, DRC, Angola, Gabon and even Cameroon right now are more
volatile i terms of politics. However, even on short notice, you can stay
out of trouble.
The route via Central Africa( no, not CAR, this is really more risky) will
bring you into some pristine lands of REALLY untouched Africa, tribal people
like the pygmaes and game like gorillas and elephants, hippos ... beyond the
borders of nat. parks... which is hard to find in this way in East Africa.
In Central Africa you will to some point encounter soldiers, who will try to
rip you off at the borders. If you are not the kind of person , who is in
for a little fling of argument, this might totaly put you off. But nothing
to worry, they will soon leave you alone, as long as you stay firm, see also
my article.
Another off-turn for you might be the fact, that French and not English is
widely spoken in Central Africa, and Portugues in Angola, Spansih in

But , respectively, national parks are easier to get access to in East

The danger in traveling East Africa is of a different gender:
There are waay more tourists, even or especially organised tourism, which
doesn't always spark good emotions among the Africans.
Muggings and violence against tourists or whites is a rather common thing on
the streets of Jo'burg, Nairobi, Lilongwe, Dar es Salam...
-Hey, Al , I don't know you, most likely you are fine! But just know how
many travelers already got mugged in East Adrica or lost all their
belongings is beyond any conception- me included in Zimbabwe 10 years ago!

Quite an extensive answer really, and one that goes against what I hear, but he may be right.

Luke, I have been looking at that site and found some good travelogues. By and large people don't have too many safety issues; the worst I read was someone driving past people with guns, passing them and hearing a gunshot. Don't know if it was at them. But what about general safety concern. How easy is it to get into trouble?

Cyril, you're right, the only way I'll get all the answers is by going, but I'll try to get as many as I can beforehand :-)

thanks again,


inyang 10 May 2005 18:36

A German/Swiss couple passed thru Nigeria this past April. They came in thru Cameroon (Congo, Gabon previous to that) and said route was Ok. 2 weeks ago, they were in Ghana taking a rest before doing Bukina Faso, Mali and then across the Sahara to NA - Europe. Political unrest looks big from outside but from inside, you can have 20 people die in the next town and no ruffle in a town 10kms away. The German couple were in Togo during the elections- had to stay indoors for 2 days though.
Travelling by bike is inherently dangerous so best you can do is minimise the risk.
Like the person that replied you said, if you are not impatient and are ready to withstand some 5-10mins of argument per checkpost, you dont really have to part with money.
Bike is doable across Nigeria for now.
If you need an invite for a Nigerian visa and a place to stay, drop me a PM.

albert 10 May 2005 23:52

inyang, thanks for the offer. I might take you up on that.

So it seems like the West route is feasible. But which would you recommend: East or West? If you could tell me why that would be great.

I want to get a light, reliable, easy to work on bike for not too much. I was thinking of USD2000, but I don't have much of a clue of the South African market.

Also, I read that there were problems with carnets, SA, and Egypt. I am not rich enough to put up big money for a carnet. What can I do there?


Geoff van de Merwe 11 May 2005 01:16

Hi Albert,
Welcome to the HUBB. You'll find a lot of information on this website which will help you to find your answers.
Take a few days-or even weeks and browse through all the information which Grant and Susan have compiled, then trawl through the past postings and you'll find yourself heaps more informed (which will probably result in heaps more questions)
Also follow the links to other travellers websites (and perhaps buy some of their publications)to get an idea of what decisions they made and how those decisions influenced their trips.

Good luck and enjoy your researching.

inyang 15 May 2005 03:00

You need to do some more research and select a bike you are comfortable with (both riding and repairing). Sounds obvious but actually being on the road is not constantly as much fun as its pictured in books. My first trip by road (as a passenger in a commercial taxi) from Nigeria to Ghana, I lost half of my money at the Nigeria/Benin border to 'official' thiefs.
Check out the routes, see stories on this forum, check other sources and decide which way you want to go (you will bear all the problems when they come so its only right you have the pride of place in the decision making process).

Take care and wish you good planning & trip.

albert 22 May 2005 06:37

Thanks guys,

I followed Geoff's advice: I have been browsing this site and I bought Chris Scott's AMH. Excellent book, my hat off to Chris.

Inyang, for the moment I am thinking of going East. I don't know yet which bike I am going to buy, since that will be largely dictated by my budget (not big).

As Geoff said, I'd have more questions after doing more research, so here goes:

Chris Scott reckons that for a trip like this, it is better to get to know the bike for a while before hand. My problem is that I am in the US right now, and that I will be in Australia in July until sometime around November. Then, I'll be somewhere else (don't know where) until I hit South Africa in January/February. I don't have a bike back home (Oz).

Should I buy one in Oz or in SA? My budget is tight, but I know that I need to be prepared. Any websites I should be looking at for prices and all?


LuckyStriker 23 May 2005 15:30


There is a huge selection of dual-purpose bikes in almost any South African city or town. Unfortunately these types of bikes have become increasingly popular over the past few years and they are no longer the cheap scoots they used to be. (Africa Twins and 650 Thumpers are notoriously expensive)

Visit someone like www.mitaka.co.za for prices but bear in mind that while they are trustworthy, they are also expensive. Rather get a local to take you to the cheapest grey-importer. I would be happy to assist you if you decide to buy one in Cape Town.
Grey-imports are legal but the bikes receive no warranty from the manufacturer. The importer usually provides a 6month guarantee but you will be travelling and obviously unable to use it (use this excuse to get a further discount)

Check this thread again in a few days – I will contact my local AA branch and find out how hard it is for Aussies to get a Carnet and a bike registered in S.A.
I will also visit an importer of second-hand bikes (from Japan) and get prices (I will e-mail these to you). You can then decide if you want to bring your own bike or buy one here.

If I were you I’d like a few weeks on the bike before I attempt such a trip. Buying in Oz and shipping to S.A. would be wisest but the expense could be defeating.


y_kiwi 24 May 2005 04:00

buying a bike as a kiwi in South africa was easy - just some paperwork required to become a registered vehicle owner, & used my guest house address and NZ drivers license.

Not sure, but are the carnet requirements different for South African registered bikes? If so then buying here could save a lot...
However the recent appreciation of the Rand has not really filtered through to bike prices..

Matt Roach 24 May 2005 16:48

A couple of thoughts....

1. SA bike prices are up to 20% more than equivalent prices in Oz. For example, a new KTM 640 in Oz is about A$14k but in SA will set you back 80k Rand, about A$16K. This extends to the used market as well.

2. I found the second hand market in Cape Town to be a little scarce for good value single cyclinder 600 cc overlanding bikes. Plenty of Yamaha R1s but not a great selection for overlanders, and I tried all the dealers, Cape Ads and Bike SA. You can find them, but it takes time....just make sure you check into a good hostel or hotel in the meantime! Try Ashanti in Cape Town if you like to drink.

3. Carnet on Aussie passport is no problem, although you will have to post 200% deposit if you enter Egypt. Just remember that you get to value the bike to determine the level of the deposit. Sudan carnet doesn't have any special requirements from the AA. All this is ok with address from hostel and Oz driver's licence.

4. To fund your deposit, you can use cash, credit card or guarantee. To avoid handing over US$20k, I had to get an Oz bank to guarantee an SA bank to guarantee the AA. Took six weeks of hastle while I was riding the garden route, but all worked in the end. I have previously posted details of the AA and banking contacts in this forum if you want further info.

Other than that, enjoy the ride!

albert 26 May 2005 03:53

Thank you everyone,

Cyril, thanks for the link and the tip. I'm looking forward to what you will find from the grey-importer. Thanks for offering to help me, I might take you up on that :-)

Lance, good to know that you didn't run in any problems. I was thinking of getting an international license. Do you know if they differentiate between bike and car licenses with them?

Matt, thanks for the price estimates. So SA is more expensive... If you were in my situation, with only a few months (maybe 1.5) in Oz before the African trip, would buying in Oz justify the hassle?
The carnet thing is good. I was a little worried about that. I think i'll try to arrange things with my bank and fingers crossed, with a SA bank before I leave.

Matt Roach 30 May 2005 18:37

Considering your budget, I would probably just buy in SA and save the hassle of trying to ship.

Just make sure you give yourself some time in SA to find the bike, do the paperwork and arrange a good weekend test ride to iron out any issues with the bike.

albert 4 Jun 2005 01:00

Thanks Matt, I think I'll buy something in SA.

As I research the trip more, I have new questions. Here are a few:

Sudan and visas -- the situation seems to be changing a lot. Where is the best place to get a visa for Sudan coming from the South? Are there any other visas I should be planning ahead for? I'd be travelling on an Australian passport (i do also have a French one)

I am an avid hiker. Any places I shouldn't miss on the East side of Africa?


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