Plan your trip
SAA and Kenya Airways fly from Joburg or Cape Town to Nairobi, from around R6 300 pp. SAA transports bikes free.
WHEN TO GO
They chose the end of the rainy season from late February to the end of April; there is still some rain about but the temperatures are milder, around (25°C).
NEED TO KNOW
Register with Warmshowers.org, a hospitality exchange network for bike tourists. You’ll meet lovely people who’ll offer a bed and a warm shower.
Navigate using Maps.me, a free app used by cycle tourists who bookmark hotels, hostels and shops so travellers can find them easily. Use it on flight mode to save battery power.
Don’t underestimate goathead thorns; they’re sharp and they’re everywhere, so use robust tyres. Guard against heat stroke by drinking lots of liquid. And check your water bottles regularly for mould.
Methylated spirits can be bought in most towns so an alcohol stove is good; a wood stove is also brilliant as wood is abundant.
Namibia is a fantastic place to cycle tour; camp at the truck rest areas where there are picnic tables, here and in Botswana (but use your discretion regarding safety).
It’s easy to buy data top-ups in each country. Carry extra biscuits and tea bags as gifts for people you meet.
In addition to mostly wild camping, these are recommended spots:
Tanzania A basic room/bathroom just before the Mtera hydroelectric dam was the only place for miles around.
Malawi The Beach Chamber Motel in Karonga is a great setting (on Lake Malawi) and it has cold beer. Find it on Facebook. You can also camp on many beaches along the shore of Lake Malawi.
Zambia Livingstone Backpackers is a good, chilled base for visiting Victoria Falls, and close to all amenities. There’s a pool, communal kitchen and laundry facilities. livingstonebackpackers.com
Botswana Panda Rest is the first campsite on the Elephant Highway, in a great setting with a bar where food is served. Camp or stay in a rondavel. stay-botswana.com
Namibia Only camp in the Namib Desert if you are well prepared – and leave no trace. In Windhoek, go to Chameleon Backpackers and Guesthouse. chameleonbackpackers.com
South Africa Thornbay Accommodation in Doringbaai on the West Coast has a beautiful setting, good rates and is selfcatering. doringbaai-accommodation.co.za
EAT AND DRINK
Stock up on supplies in towns as village shops often sell only biscuits, fizzy drinks and (usually) water. Buy unsweetened doughnuts (vetkoek) at the side of the road in Tanzania and Malawi. ‘Chips mayai’ (an omelette with chips inside) is magnificent and found throughout Tanzania.
Most Spar supermarkets have a water machine that recycles waste water – it’s cheaper to fill up from these than buying bottled water (it’s safe to drink and also environmentally friendlier). Or fill up at taps in service stations. They took water purification tablets but never used them, preferring to use common sense.
Ask local people where to get food; often they’ll take you to someone who will cook a meal for you. This will cost around R25 to R90 in rural areas, more in towns but under R150 a meal. Maps.me is also great for finding food stops.
WHAT IT COST
Their average daily budget was R130 each (less some days or more when they stayed in guest houses due to rain or needing a rest). The entire trip cost R13 000 each, excluding flights.
ABOVE The grounds of a church made for a good ‘wild’ camp near Karonga in Malawi.