Why are you doing this?
Partly for the challenge and adventure, but also because I’m curious to explore and learn more about Africa. By raising money for the Against Malaria Foundation I also see the challenge as a great way to raise funds for an important cause.
Why the bicycle?
Riding a bicycle through a new country is one of the best ways to learn about it. Not only does it give you the freedom to stop and explore the places that motorized travel often misses, but you are exposed to the physical elements, as well as the sights, sounds and smells, without being screened behind glass. Bicycles are simple to fix, free to run, harmless to the environment and you can generally eat as much as you like after a day on the saddle and not worry about getting fat, at least not where I’m going.
Have you attempted something like this before?
Yes. Between 2005-2008 I cycled from Japan-UK. I called this 50,000km journey The Long Ride Home. It was a short way into the beginning of this journey that I decided I would make an African expedition next.
Are you doing this alone?
For the most part yes. The truth is there aren’t many people who want to cycle through Africa. For those that do, most have their own itinerary of places, routes and time scales. I met and cycled with other people on my last journey and I’ve been fortunate to meet and be joined by a few so far on this journey. Since starting I’ve had company on the road in France, Portugal, Morocco, Senegal, Nigeria and Cameroon. I’m usually happy in my own company, but enjoy sharing the experience with like-minded cyclopaths. If you’re reading this and heading to Africa with a bicycle, get in contact.
How long will it take?
I envisaged The Long Ride Home to take between 18-24 months. The fact that it took closer to 36 was because I extended my route to include more countries. I spent as many days off the bicycle as I did on. My journeys are less about the physical pursuit of cycling as they are the experience gained from travelling through places at a pace that feels right. Some days I cycle 60km, but if the scenery is boring, the road is flat and I have a tailwind, 160km or more is possible. I won’t cover as much distance through Africa, so predict the expedition to last 18-24 months. I know, I said this last time.
Where do you sleep?
A combination of budget hotels, Guest Houses and hostels, but when I’m out in the countryside and it’s not pouring with rain often in my tent. In large cities I try to make contact beforehand on the Internet with people working and living there. If they offer a spare room I happily accept. Good budget accommodation in African cities is hard to find.
What is your daily budget?
On my last expedition I spent between £6000-£6500 over a period of 3 years. Through a combination of staying in cheap hotels, camping free and self-catering (unless it was cheaper to eat in local restaurants) my daily costs were never that high. I rarely bought souvenirs or went on tours. Parts of Africa are likely to be more expensive than many Asian countries, particularly the capital cities. Visas are also more costly.
Who is paying for this?
Other than the support of the sponsors listed, who have donated equipment and IT services, the Big Africa Cycle is being self-financed. Saving hard and spending little during the years I taught English has been the answer.
How are you raising money for the charity?
Apart from kind donations provided by friends, family, the people who read this website and others I meet during the expedition, I visit international schools and organisations along the way. By speaking both about the charity and the expedition I encourage people to pledge their support.
How are you updating this website on the road?
Finding Internet connection is very easy in Europe. Many cafes and public places offer free WIFI access. In Africa WIFI is less common, but is growing quickly. In big cities I go to out-of-my-budget hotels and kindly ask the staff if I can use my laptop. It is rarely a problem. The surroundings are usually more peaceful than in Internet cafes.
Isn’t it dangerous to be riding a bicycle through Africa?
There are certainly some countries I’m planning on cycling through where the security situation is far from secure (Mauritania, Guinea, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo), but for the most part I don’t consider Africa a dangerous continent. It is often ignorance about places that installs fear in peoples’ minds. I will pay close attention to security issues and don’t plan to cycle into any war zones. One of the main reasons I don’t have a specific route planned is knowing that situations can change quickly.
Are you not afraid of wild animals?
This is proving to be the most frequently asked question in Africa, and I usually reply with ‘I’m more scared of wild people than wild animals’. Gone are the days when large animals roamed freely in the African bush. Those that do exist are in National Parks. As for all the other small creepy-crawly things. Well there are plenty of those, but unless you go kicking your feet through long grass or lifting up large stones it’s less likely whatever exists out there will find you.
What is the plan after Cape Town?
I have a lot of time on the road ahead to think about this. Sit somewhere and write a book perhaps.