We had to go round four ATM’s this morning before we found one that either worked, had money in it, or accepted a foreign VISA card. But at least we now had enough cash for fuel and for the border crossing. At most crossings there are a few shady characters hanging around to change your currencies for you – usually they’re appalling exchange rates, and today was no exception. But with no large towns on the horizon we felt we had no choice. So, we eventually got into Zambia, which didn’t look much different from the last 4 countries, but which was very lovely nonetheless.
Had a long’ish day to get to the capital, Lusaka – the roads are occasionally pot-holed and bumpy, so we couldn’t really get any decent speed up. And rather than get lost in the middle of the city decided to stay on the outskirts. But we found a quiet motel-cum-lodge which had an OK restaurant, so we were happy. The temperatures have certainly reduced now, so it’s fairly pleasant riding at about 22 degrees, and OK when we stop too.
We decided to stay a few days in Livingstone, so found ourselves a reasonable campsite with a bar right on the Zambezi River. But this wasn’t the highlight – we caught a taxi, and lo and behold we were at Victoria Falls. What an incredible sight – we got thoroughly soaked but it was just amazing. Definitely “the thunder that roars”.
Victoria Falls, Zambia side.
We had a few miles to do to get to the next border. And this one also involved a pontoon ferry crossing, to get into Botswana. The roads were pretty good, and one of the first things we saw was three large elephants crossing – not surprisingly we gave way to them. Yet another incredible sight.
No barriers in sight.
There seems to have been an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in South Africa, so every so often there are police barriers and agriculture inspectors making you drive through sheep-dips and asking you to get out any other shoes, so that they can be swabbed as well. And dance on a piece of soaked sacking.
The road was OK to begin with, and then it was “under construction” - for the next 160km. So that was a lot of fun. But the biggest surprise was how many Mercedes, Audi and BMW cars there are – I hadn’t expected to see luxury cars until we got to South Africa. Botswana is definitely more affluent than the other countries we’ve seen so far.
Some people at the campsite came over and invited us for coffee before we left this morning. They were originally from North Rhodesia but were forced to leave when there was a ‘redistribution of wealth’. They were lovely people, and forced us to take some of their homemade rusks for breakfast, which were very welcome.
Guess where, Botswana.
And to our final border crossing – to South Africa. The place was almost deserted, but still took around an hour to sort out our paperwork. The roads were excellent (apart from the detour in Mafeking where the detour signs ran out and we couldn’t get back to the main road). The most surprising thing is that the rural areas resemble outback Australia – even the colonial-style single storey houses are the same. This is their winter, and the temperature has definitely dropped – we even had to put back in our Goretex liners.
Different scenery and skies, SA.
Stopped at a place called Jeffrey’s Bay, which is a well-known surfing spot apparently. We found a motel opposite the beach, and decided to stay a few days, since it’s got Internet access, and we need to try and arrange our shipping back to England. The original plan was to ride back up the west side of Africa, but we’ve curtailed the trip to stop at Cape Town now, just because it seems the right thing to do. It seems like ages since we last saw the sea – this one is the Indian Ocean, and it means we’ve travelled from the north of the continent to the south, which is good enough for us.
The Indian Ocean.
Today we drove to the southernmost point of the continent of Africa – Cape Agulhas. The Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic at this point, and we got our bikes as close to it as we could, so we’ve gone the whole length of Africa. The further south we’ve come, the more familiar things have felt – although the most-of-day power-cut made us feel as though we were back up north! I suppose the pizza by candlelight was fairly romantic though.
As close as we could get.
We finally rode into Cape Town today, well its suburbs anyway. We decided to stop at a beach resort called Muizenberg and found an excellent guesthouse for a few days. We contacted the shipping company again to try and sort out shipment of our bikes back to the UK.
Caught the train into Cape Town, and visited the “Castle of Good Hope”¸watching the Key Ceremony, and the firing of a small cannon – it has to be said that the British do this sort of thing with a lot more pomp and tradition. But in this case, the English were the supposed recipients of the Dutch ordnance.
We also had a discussion about going up Table Mountain, but the weather was very changeable, and the “tablecloth” hung over it, making it impossible to see anything.
Not quite fending off the Brits.
Took the bikes to a local shipping agent, who will crate them for us and put them on a boat back to England. We cleaned out the panniers, ate the last of our emergency food supplies, and threw away the tea-bags that had gone furry! Craig, the owner of the guesthouse followed us there, and brought us back to the digs – he couldn’t have been more helpful.
We moved in to a more central part of Cape Town into a hostel. Our first job was to go up Table Mountain since it was a clearish day, and the top was at least without its customary tablecloth. Incredible views of Cape Town and the ocean, and the peninsula we’d just come from. Definitely worth the wait.
With a tablecloth…
...Ta-da. And without.
We are doing some sight-seeing now until our flight, so today we visited the Aquarium, and watched the penguin-feeding. It’s been fairly rainy here and cold (17 degrees) for the last few days, but I suppose that’s not so bad as it’s the middle of their winter at the moment.
We set off early morning to fly back home, stopping at Abu Dhabi on the way – so I suppose that counts as another country. The bikes are expected to be about another month, so fingers crossed that they arrive safely.
So, now we’ve done Sheffield to Cape Town overland.
Time away - 3 months / 12 weeks / 88 days
Countries - 21
Miles (from GPS) 12,321
Our route through Africa.
This is the final leg of our round-the-world trip (as far as we know.) We missed out South America due to lack of funds, and cut short this Africa trip by not returning to the UK via the west coast of Africa as had been originally planned. But we think we’ve covered most of what we wanted to cover – and some parts that we weren’t fussed about!
The point of the trip was just the journey – not particularly the destinations, although we’ve seen some spectacular sights. It was about being on the bike, every day, and having our eyes opened to the rest of the world.
You do come to realize that the world isn’t as big as you thought it was. Last year’s circumnavigation was 23,500 miles on the bike, and covered as much land as we could find, going east as we left the UK and just getting up most mornings and riding east.
Yes we know we’ve only seen a snapshot of each country, but that’s enough for us. If there had been a place that we wanted to go back to, then we would be doing just that.
But it’s made us appreciate England much more, and we’ll be exploring more of the UK in the next few years, I hope. Not least because we now don’t have any money for foreign holidays, and we’ll both have to start looking for work in the next few days.
It’s been an eye-opener though, and we have no regrets about any of it.
If you’re contemplating doing a similar trip, just do it. We are not special people – we don’t have lots of money – we’re not making exciting and witty media appearances – we just made a decision to go, and did it.
So can you.
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