If you ask us now, we cannot remember how we came up with this stupid, insane, dangerous, brave, crazy, awesome, amazing… call it as you like… idea? We knew for a while that we wanted to travel – travel somewhere out of our comfort zone, somewhere where we could experience raw nature.
People use different words to describe our upcoming trip through Europe and Africa… especially through Africa. “Dangerous” comes up a lot, “stupid” is pretty common and not to forget “suicide mission”. But there are also gems in between like “incredible”, “fantastic” and “once in a lifetime”. We still don’t know what the correct word is – but hopefully not one of the first three.
There’s one region that literally defines our existence: East Africa, where the roots of humanity were planted. It’s also home to some of the most amazing wildlife on Earth. Nature is not a day trip or afterthought here. It is a way of life. Nature is still very much alive across East and Southern Africa, though for how long is another question. For this trip, we want to live in the here and now and what better inspiration than to experience this part of the world.
Sadly, the link between humanity and nature is declining extremely fast, including in South Africa. But even as ‘developed’ as South Africa is, there is still a strong link between humans and wildlife. It is something that is cherished and still respected. In a lot of the world, wildlife is defined by what people see in a zoo. We teach kids that animals are merely here for our amusement, their habitats replaced by concrete walls and glass windows. Something disconnected and artificial.
We want to feel a connection to nature again. We want to live simply and minimize our negative impact on this planet while still having great rewards. The feeling of being part of the wilderness is very moving. Sleeping under a starry sky in the Sahara desert, feeling the waves of the Indian Ocean wash over you, seeing the Wildebeest migration in the Serengeti… trekking to the Mountain Gorillas, biking the skeleton coast and hiking the orange desert sand dunes of Namibia, cycling the “Elephant Highway” of Botswana, taking a canoe trip in the Okavango Delta and of course, watching a bright red & orange African sunset with a cold beer. These are just some of the things on top of our to do list. In reality, the best experiences might not even be the ones we are contemplating. Africa still seems largely unknown, a path less travelled… somewhere where the backpacker invasion and unsupervised travel hasn’t happened. All of these ingredients make for an epic adventure.
But why with a bike? Sweating up every hill, feeling the wind over every mountain pass and feeling muscles ache that you probably didn’t even know you had: cycling makes us appreciate and respect the landscape with every pedal stroke. A hill is not just a hill – you feel the gradient of the slope, you feel the strength of a headwind pushing you back and the heat of a midday sun. It might be tough but we feel the reward will be worth it. It gets you closer to nature, closer to wildlife and closer to people. They identify with you, with your struggles and joys and reach out to you in ways they probably wouldn’t if you were isolated in a metal can with glass windows. Apart from the obvious rewards with cycling, we like the idea of doing our journey “by fair means”.
But before we set our eyes on Africa, we first want to explore closer to home. Europe was an obvious choice – some of the best climbing in the world is right on our door step! We both love climbing and what a perfect excuse to take some time off and climb along the way. So the trip morphed into biking + climbing – that means 20 kg more gear! But hey, we’ll have some good cardio by the time we get to the crag! Finger / arm strength on the other hand – that’s another issue. Sometimes you go to the other side of the world, but you don’t experience what’s on your doorstep. So combining our love of climbing with a diverse continent such as Europe would make a fun, familiar and interesting start for us.
The familiarity of Europe lets us ease into the cycle touring way of life – it gives us time to learn how to be efficient hobos while getting a rock solid butt! By the time we’re in Turkey, we should be confident enough to tackle Egypt.
In Africa, there is so much potential for climbing but there is not a lot of developed climbing, unless you are in Kenya or South Africa. This also means us giving up climbing for over a year!!! We’ll hang on to our shoes though.. if we find boulders along the way – some good spotting and soft landing might work. We’ll let you know! In the meantime, you can catch up with our travels by reading our blog.