It has been brought to our attention that this blog is perhaps presenting a fairly rose-tinted view of our last eight months. Therefore, in the interest of unbiased reporting and to show what lies behind the smiles and the sunsets, we have compiled a series of photos which should illustrate the somewhat less glamorous side of cycling from China to Africa.
Back to basics: bread, water and bikes have been our staples.
Not usually a fussy drinker, but the homemade Tajikistan brew was not to our liking.
The floor is often preferable to the bed.
With a limited wardrobe, all fashion sense was discarded early on.
The reason communism failed: an ex-soviet en suite bathroom.
Uzbekistan was hot! Taking a post-lunch nap under a bus shelter.
There is simply no greater (nor more widely available) refreshment.
Bike rebuild in Istanbul.
Language barriers occasionally require a more hands-on approach.
You know that storage room behind a hotel reception…. our first night in Egypt.
Finding a pesky thorn.
Another unsatisfactory breakfast.
Fire up the bedroom stove, again.
Beans for lunch and beans for dinner. Hope you like beans if you’re heading to Sudan.
Who would have ever thought that camping in a thorn field would result in multiple punctures?
Low key birthday celebrations this year.
‘Hotel’ rooms: there have been some heart-sinking moments.
Pursuit of cash in Africa has been a challenge: queuing for another empty ATM.
An invisible boundary seems to exist in Tanzania, separating the gin-and-tonic-drinking, land-cruising safari goers of the north, and the far more rugged, relatively untouched centre of the country. Both areas have their merits, but one is certainly far less appropriate for travel by bicycle.
The central ‘highway’.
In a quite significant route selection error on our part, we found ourselves day-upon-day battling sand and gravel tracks, as our futile search for the new tarmac road through central Tanzania rattled our bikes to within an inch of submission (sand incidentally, being second only to ice as the surface you’d want to avoid on a bike). The days were long and slow going, and one even delivered our slowest average speed for the trip; a truly pedestrian (yet exhausting) 10.8 km/hr, beating our previous low set in the winds of Kazakhstan – a record we were certain would never fall. However, once we’d stopped feeling too sorry for ourselves, it became apparent that we were in fact riding through a pretty authentic slice of this continent; with its friendly locals, enormous baobab trees and red dusty roads cutting through the lush rolling green hills. If we could have conjured up an image of what cycling down Africa might be like before embarking on this trip, then this was it. What a joy.
Both parties equally entertained.
The Africa we had imagined.
Negotiating a camp spot with the locals….
All that being said though, given that the final 50 km into the commercial centre of Dodoma was a corrugated and rocky cycling nightmare, we were very pleased to once again see tarmac, before a much needed rest day.
Gently does it…
Africa has provided a mainly carbohydrate diet.
Waiting for Tanzania’s signature dish: the chip omelette.
Given the nature of this trip, our primary objective on any given day is to keep our wheels turning and (crucially) pointing in the right direction, so as a general rule of thumb we seldom deviate more than 10km from our route for any sight or attraction. However, on account of our first wedding anniversary we made an exception to this rule, for what turned out to be a pretty exceptional place.
The Ngorongoro Crater provides a focal point of the Tanzanian highlands and was formed from the collapse of a gigantic volcano, leaving behind the expansive caldera which exists today; and so it already confidently ticks the boxes of unique and impressive place on earth. The fact it is now teeming with African wildlife, who share the nutrient-rich crater floor with Maasai tribes protecting their grazing herds, makes for an environment we’re unlikely to experience again anytime soon. This quite unbelievable setting, coupled with lodging and service from & Beyond – at a standard which was difficult to imagine could have in any way been bettered – made for ample justification of the New Year detour.
Sunrise over the Crater.
Early morning game drive.
Beats our usual breakfast offering of oats and instant coffee.
Fran looking for the Crater…. it’s over there Dear.
The ride from Nairobi in southern Kenya, to Arusha in northern Tanzania was a cracker. The roads were quiet, the scenery spectacular and the people of the Maasai tribe who populate the region made for a very unique and colourful sight along the way. Even the border crossing was a breeze (and actually quite enjoyable), as we had our first taste of the laid back and friendly Tanzanian style. Africa was delivering a splendid end to 2014.
A passing Maasai.
Getting rid of the final Kenyan Shillings.
Not the grandest entrance, but certainly one of the easiest for us.
Mount Meru obscured by afternoon clouds.
Once into Arusha (the first major town in Tanzania), we fell into the flawless hospitality of Claire and Niall, who were kind enough to host us for a few days under the impressive shadow of Mount Meru. What’s more, we were also able to share New Year with some of their friends, which was a situation far preferable to our Plan B: seeing in 2015 from a roadside camping spot. The group were interested to hear of our journey to Tanzania and in a collective act of generosity, decided that a New Years Eve poker game was in order, with the winning pot to be donated to Bicycles for Humanity (B4H).
B4H is a voluntary, not-for-profit organisation providing second-hand bicycles to developing countries, from donations made around the world. There will be more on B4H as we make our way down Africa, but for now, if you wish to find out more about this organisation or follow the lead set by Tanzania’s finest, then feel free to click on the donate tab at this website: http://www.bicyclesforhumanity.com