Cycling through Africa. Discover the bikepacking essentials for adventure cycling and the touring bike, bike gear and bikepacking bags you need for an amazing bicycle tour travelling through all kinds of terrain!
Hello, my name is Frederick Marie, I am cycling around Africa. I began in Johannesburg 3 months ago. From Johannesburg, I cycled to Mozambique, then Lesotho and from Lesotho to Port Elizabeth. I cycled the coast to Cape Town, and from Cape Town I cycled to Namibia along the western coast of South Africa.
I am now in Botswana and tomorrow I will cycle to Zambia, and after Zambia I will cycle to Malawi, then Tanzania. I will climb Kilimanjaro – not with a bicycle, for sure! I will go to Zanzibar, then afterwards I will return to the eastern part of Africa. I will go to Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda to see gorillas. From there I will go back to Kenya. I will cross the north west of Kenya and go to Ethiopia, and I will probably stop in Djibouti.
In 10 months, I think I will cycle 18,000 kilometres. Until now, I have cycled 4,500 kilometres.
My bicycle is just here. Now we can have a look at the equipment.
The bicycle is made of aluminium, so it’s very light but it’s also very strong. The bike with all my luggage is around 50 kilos. I have everything I need to live for one year on my own. I have, for example, a filter – because I need a lot of water, and in many places, water is not good to drink. So I can filter it, and I can drink water from the river. We are very close to the Zambesi River, and it’s possible for me to drink water from the river. I have a stove to cook and I use gasoline – unleaded fuel – because it’s very easy to find everywhere in Africa. A tank, because in Namibia, for example, the distances were very big and sometimes I needed to cycle 300km – which means 2 days – with no access to water. So I have a 5 litre tank, plus 3 bottles. My stove – it’s a very small stove, which works with the gasoline.
A small GPS, just to check my position. Every day I use a map, and I prefer to use a map because if I use a GPS it means I have to charge it, and sometimes it’s not easy to find a place to charge the batteries. I have special tyres. They are supposed to last 15,000 kilometres with no punctures. But in 4,500 kilometres I have had maybe 10 punctures, because the bike is very heavy and the road was very bad. The wheels are also special, with 36 spokes. Because of all the luggage, the wheels have to be very strong.
To speak about my equipment, my clothes, I don’t have a lot, because clothes are very heavy. So I only have 2 t-shirts, 2 sweatshirts, a few pairs of shorts, cycling shorts, and 2 pairs of shoes – cycling shoes and normal shoes. In fact that’s it, because I don’t need more. I try to wash my clothes every week when water is not a problem. In Namibia, for example, water was a problem so I didn’t wash a lot. But when you travel alone it’s not a big problem, because if you are dirty, you can stay dirty for a long time. My legs are two colours because of the sun. I was badly burned in the first 3 weeks but it’s ok.
Photographic equipment, because I’m a photographer too. My front bag has a few cameras, my GoPro. I have a small compact camera, a very simple one, but it’s very good because in some places you can’t use a Reflex because it’s not very safe. So I have this one, a very simple but quite good camera. I have this Reflex with protection because of dust. It’s a very simple Canon 600D because it’s quite compact and I can put it in my bag. I have quite a big zoom. What is interesting is that it’s quite light and I can use just one lens in any condition. But I am a photographer so I also have 2 other lenses. I have a very simple Canon fixed lens. Very bright, very interesting to do portraits. And I have a wide angle lens, very interesting when you’re inside with no space. It’s a 10-24, it’s enough. It’s not too heavy.
I only have about 2 kilos of equipment. It’s very important not to have too much equipment.
Instant noodles, because they’re very light and they’re full of carbohydrates. Tomatoes, cheese – when I can find it, and bread. The bread is quite good in Botswana. I am French – bread is very important for me. Tea, coffee, sauce, salt and spice. I try to eat proper food, because it’s important to eat good food when you cycle as you need a lot of energy. I have quite a lot of sugar. I never eat sugar when I’m in France, but when I cycle, I need to eat a lot because I need energy. I have dried milk to put with cereal. Today I have tomatoes, because it was possible to buy them. On other days, I have other vegetables. I don’t eat red meat, because when I do I have cramps the next day. So I avoid eating red meat and I just eat fish and white meat.
This is my tent. I sleep almost every night in the tent. I have met many people along the road. I’m travelling alone, so it’s quite easy to meet people, and I’ve stayed in many places. Last night, for example, I stayed with a family. It was very easy, I just asked, and 5 minutes later I was in the garden with the family. They made a fire and it was very good. Here in Botswana, people are very friendly, so it’s quite easy to ask people to stay. For example, a few days ago I stayed in a shop because it was quite cold. Before, in Namibia, it was not that easy, because it is a very big country and there are only 2 million people. So I camped a lot in the wild, in the bush. I met people but not a lot in Namibia because the country is very big and it’s like a big desert.
If I have to speak about South Africa, it was not so good, because people were quite afraid of me. It’s a bit strange to me, but when I was cycling in the middle of the country, people stayed very far from the fence when I asked to camp, and they were afraid of me. I saw that apartheid is not finished in many places. The black people were afraid of white people, and the white people were afraid of black people. It wasn’t very easy for me to live in those conditions for 3 weeks.
I also carry a laptop because I’m a photographer and graphic designer, and I try to make movies like this one in Namibia with many seals.
So to finish, if you would like to follow my trip, go on Facebook and search for Africacycle – all one word – and you will find me. I put many pictures and a few words about my trip in French and in English.