Stage 3: Africa
The cradle of humanity and an
array of wild and diverse creatures,
allow one to experience the vastness of global history…
Natural history becomes the prime attraction as Stage Three takes me though eastern and southern Africa. The chance to see probably the most unique collection of flora and fauna on the globe will certainly provide the highlight of this Stage. Of course, I've made statements like that in the past only to discover that cultural encounters were, perhaps, even more entrancing. No matter, in either case I'm sure that I will be better off for the experience after a marvelous ride.
The relatively flat terrain and the fact that, for most of the time, I will be traveling during the cooler, dry season should mean that the physical challenges of this Stage will be a bit more manageable than some of the others. That doesn't mean that everything will be easy, however. There will still be biting insects, poor roads, and the infamous maniacal truck drivers to contend with. Not to mention the possibility that an occasional wild creature may not take too kindly to yet another two-legged (and two-wheeled) beast intruding on its former habitat. Nevertheless, with both flexibility and determination, I expect to deal with whatever impediments may arise, cover a lot of territory, and have a great time in the process.
The route begins on the Kenyan coast, at the port of Mombasa. From there I will head north, up the coast, for a short distance before turning inland passing though Tsavo and Amboseli National Parks. The ability to cycle through the great parks of Africa is still an uncertainty at this point. I know that some are open to bicycles, and others are not. In many cases I don't have reliable information either way, and so I will have to make a determination along the way. This could require some significant detours, as many of the game parks are huge, and going around will add a considerable distance to the route. That's just another one of the possible pitfalls to cycling in far-off places, I suppose.
In the vicinity of Amboseli, I will turn south and cross into Tanzania. Once there, the next couple of weeks will be spent at some of the world's great destinations. I hope to leave the bike for a few days and sign on for a summit trek up the legendary 5,895-meter Mount Kilimanjaro, which will be a dream come true if I can pull it off. Hopefully my previous experiences in the Himalayas will have enhanced my high-altitude performance in a significant way. Also in northern Tanzania are the great wildlife viewing areas of the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, and Arusha. I am fairly sure that these parks will be off limits to cycling, so I may be forced to go with a "normal" tourist safari. Not my first choice, but there may not be any other options. The remainder of the route through Tanzania will be through the less-famous central part of the country, towards the southwest.
The next stop along the way will be the small, landlocked nation of Malawi. However, one might believe that the sea is nearby, as most of the country parallels the coast of one of the Great Rift Lakes, Lake Malawi (also know as Lake Niassa, if you happen to be standing on the opposite shore.) The lake hosts probably the most diverse assortment of fresh-water fishes to be found anywhere, featuring the famous endemic family of brightly-colored swimmers, the chiclids. I hope that I can find a few places for a relaxing swim. Lake Malawi National Park, near Monkey Bay at the southern tip of the lake, is a good possibility
Departing Malawi at its southern end, I will cross into Zambia and ride across that nation in a southwesterly direction. Most of that distance will be fairly uneventful. However, the prize at the end will more than make up for that. It could be no other than Victoria Falls, one of Africa's most famous landmarks. I can now only imagine the pleasure of walking through its mists after many days of dusty travel.
In my original plan, I would have crossed the Zambezi River there, and continued on through Zimbabwe. However, the current situation with the Mugabe government made me feel that a route though Botswana would be a wiser choice. After looking into that option, I realized that I probably would have preferred that route in any case. Botswana has an interesting history, and has often been cited as an "African success story." Despite the dubious implications of that label, it looks like a nice place to tour, though the early part of the route will cross some long, lonely stretches. To make up for that, I plan to break for a few days at the Mahatsu Game reserve at the southern end of the country.
The next segment of the Stage will be though the northeastern part of South Africa. From the Botswanan border, the route will head generally east for a while, bypassing the urban chaos that is Johannesburg, and eventually reaching the small nation of Swaziland. After a visit there, I will enter South Africa once again, and make a quick dash towards the sea, for my first sight of the ocean in many weeks. Moving on, I will head inland once again for a visit to the small nation of Lesotho, which is surrounded entirely by its large neighbor South Africa. Lesotho has a distinct geography and history. It is a mountainous region surrounded by the more gentle terrain of South Africa. The nation also had separate path through colonial times, which kept it from becoming a part of South Africa, thereby avoiding much of the turbulence of its neighbors 20th century history. It should be a fascinating visit.
At this point I will leave the mainland for several weeks and make my return to the beautiful island of Madagascar. Due mostly to mechanical problems and a very off-the-beaten-path route, I was not able to visit many places on the island that I had planned on seeing during my first tour there. These included several beautiful parks, and missing them has been nagging at my spirit ever since.
To compensate, I will ride from the north of the island, at Sambava, along the northwest coastal area and through the central highlands, finishing at Fort-Dauphin at the southern end of the island, the scene of my previous misfortunes. That should more than exorcise any demons remaining from my earlier bad luck. Since I should be able to stay on the main roads for most of this route, my chances should be much better this time. Lamentably, there may not be any effective sea transport from the mainland to the island. So, once again, I may be forced onto a short air flight. Perhaps something will come up once I am in the vicinity.
The final stretch of the Stage is one last ride through South Africa, from Durban to Cape Town, through a part of the country known as the Garden Route and considered to be one of the most beautiful places on the continent. All in all, it should be the end of another amazing ride though one of the most unique continents on Earth. I can't wait to start.
Stage statistics are below the map, and highlights are in the sidebar.
Dates and Distances
Approximate Start: June 14, 02006
Finish: around October 30, 02006
Estimated Distance: 11,700 km
Ride days: 93
Rest days: 43
I think that the roads in the vicinity of Mt. Kilimanjaro
get up to ~2,500 meters
Countries to be visited
; Coast, Rift Valley
; Arusha, Dodoma, Iringa, Mbeya
; Northern, Central, Southern
; Eastern, Central,Southern
; Chobe, Central
; Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Kwazazulu Natal
; Masoala Peninsula, Nothwest coast, Central highlands, Southeast coast
; Eastern Cape, Western Cape
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