Starting Our Africa Bike Tour… With a Little Help from New Friends
Six months ago we were torn between several locations in which we could take our next cycling tour. The general requisites were that the place(s) have a warm climate (Gin hates the cold), posses unique and interesting cultures, and send us off through beautiful places…
Although we haven’t yet pedaled too far from the typical reaches of Cape Town, we have met many ridiculously nice people who have helped us plan our route through South Africa. The interest and genuine excitement they’ve expressed in our journey is inspiring. We are more excited than ever to experience the wonder and grandeur of the route that lays ahead.
During our first few days in Cape Town, as we fended off some hearty jet lag from our two-day journey, we relaxed and took in several of the popular sites around the seaside metropolis. From the get-go, the warmth and kindness of South Africans was evident. While in CT, one of our goals was to gain route insight, especially recommendations on getting out of the city safely. The few folks we approached were not only helpful, but bent over backwards to get us information. I met Jaco on the street (he was finishing a ride and I flagged him down); that evening he emailed detailed turn-by-turn directions and a map that would navigate us out of the busy streets of CT. Ten minutes into our city exit a commuting cyclist stopped and insisted on escorting us through an area of several interchanges. Shortly after, were were stopped by another commuter, Liesbet, who invited us to her and Sean’s home where we would stay the night, gather connections, and be treated with the utmost hospitality (Frank’s distant Daschund relatives included). Also in the suburbs, we met up with John Lucas (a connection we made via Mike V.) who installed Tracks4Africa on our GPS and helped plan several legs of our journey. And, as I was writing this passage at a coffee house in Franschhoek, I met to touring motorcyclists who shared some great off-road routes. A hearty thank you to all!
Although there is not a great deal of riding news to report just yet, we have taken in a couple of gorgeous secondary dirt and gravel roads meandering through the Cape Winelands and the Wemmershoek Mountains. Most mountain bikers we have spoken with warn against attempting any of the backcountry tracks amongst the craggy peaks in these mountains, but we tried one out anyway. The ECR / Knard combo has been whispering in my ear to push into the bush. Anyway, the suggestions proved to be accurate… the loose, rocky extreme riding conditions we faced on just a short track were pretty much impassable for a loaded bicycle (well, for our loaded bikes and not yet fully conditioned selves anyway). Things are looking up though. We’ve heard great things about off road and dirt routes in the Karoo, Garden Route, Swartzberg and Lesotho. We’re looking forward to it, but all in due time. For now, Ginny’s really enjoying the gently rolling gravel and tar roads, and the wineries where they’re leading us.
- Tracks4africa is a great GPS mapping of a lot of great routes, but it requires some translation from locals.
- Dirt Busters is a book with great off-road motorbike touring routes; seems like a great resource for pedal bikes as well.
- The dollar goes fairly far here it seems; wine is dirt cheap; food is seems to be about $.70 on the dollar, so far.