I am finished riding a bicycle solo across Africa, sleeping in the wild and conquering some of my deepest fears but one year on, I have now reached the Pyramids of Egypt AMA
Sep 30th 2014 by nohanging • 49 Questions • 3111 Points
Last year I started cycling North of Cape Town in South Africa with a dream of cycling alone across the Continent. Since taking part in an AMA near the beginning of the trip (Dec 2013) - I since have cycled 12,000km from Cape Town to Cairo, Egypt entirely unsupported.
I slept mostly in a tent with all my supplies to survive on the bicycle and covered 11 Countries, many deserts, wildlife corridors and very isolated wilderness areas.
With no cycling experience prior to this trip and no training, the extremity of weather, isolation, physicality and risks involved contributed to the greatest experience I could have ever imagined.
In December 2013 I took part in an AMA which received much criticism and predictions for the dangers and bad that might happen on the rest of the trip;
Now that I‘ve cycled the length of Africa, please AMA
www.facebook.com/NoHangingAround Proof sent via Twitter @NoHangingAround
Thanks a lot for an amazingly fun time doing this AMA guys. Genuinely the experience of meeting Africa on a bicycle has changed my life and so much that I only hope those who read the site will be pushed toward following their own goal or dream. My life was in a bad place last year but honestly, I return home in a few weeks a changed man - its all thanks to other people, people who offered up amazing encouragement like that has been seen throughout this AMA. Thank you - please give the page a like to see the next adventure ;) www.facebook.com/nohanginground Derek
I've been following you on facebook since you did the first ama, and must say that I'm really impressed by you and your journey. Now, to the question; What was your favorite place in Africa and would like to you visit it again? :)
Thanks Slashed, chuffed by your words !! I feel no reason to go back to Africa before I see another part of the world but it is undoubtedly the most amazing place I have ever experienced. My favourite places were always in between ie. not the touristy places....too many favourites but I loved Lake Malawi for so many reasons and cycling with the wildlife in lower Tanzania :)) cheers
How much did you spend approximately during the whole trip? (Essentials such as food and water)
Also, what was the most difficult thing you faced during your journey?
I'm trying to get my bank balance online for the final figure but it was less than $4,000 spending over one year - approx $11 per day
Most difficult without a shdow of a doubt was the loneliness, it is still a problem as I am cycling up through France at the moment enroute home to Ireland and unable to converse with having no French :( Cheers Liam
That isn't as high as I would of thought considering the time and the position you was in. $11 converts to around £6. I can imagine how difficult that is. Especially without knowing French. I remember back at school they taught me French, I can't remember a word of it to this day!
Well done on the huge accomplishment. I hope to do something similiar, and extreme once I'm older. I would do it now but I'm only 16 years old.
Good man Liam and you should definitely do something similar. My greatest lesson was how the challenge/adventure changed me personally - I could never have expected how much it did.
Good luck with your adventures pal! Derek
What was the most interesting thing you saw on your latest bike ride?
In Africa? I stopped with the bike at a roadside tea shop near Cairo and a group of elders came over in Jallabeyas (white robes). They all stood around like a panel of judges and began asking where I was going etc...I just sat there and watched them joke around about the bicycle like a bunch of school children. They loved it, it just seemed impossible to them that I was about to ride it "all the way to Cairo" - I smiled because I hadnt the heart to tell them I had come from Cape Town ;) To me these sort of moments were more interesting and beautiful than any scenery/sight! Thanks Nj
What advice would you give to people who want to travel to Africa? (in terms of money, packing, and what to be prepared for)
Tks Frik, Unfortunately you need to take cash $US is king everywhere.
Take a Visa or Mastercard too but definitely cash to exchange. Dont take travellers cheques no matter what a tour company advises (this is bullshit)
Dont wear a "bun bag", hide your money in diff places - I put it in socks, empty sunscreen bottles, empty lipsol
Be prepared for? Cold water, horrible toilets, no toilets and in general bad sanitation. Africa is special and beautiful in so many ways but for some reason many visitors seem to forget its a third world continent.
Locals in touristy areas can be tricky and dishonest but when you move away from that they are the most open, heartwarming and kind people....I say this having being vulnerable and open to it every day for a year ;)
What was the most dangerous situation you had during your adventures?
Probably cycling past the Bull Elephant on the side of the road - there was a distinct feeling of "this is actually happening, holy shit what am I doing??"
Realistically the most dangerous was in Namib - bit of more than I could chew one day and with no shade, got absolutely crucified by the sun. Luckily I reached a building when heat exhaustion set in, I couldnt move for 24 hours and spent another 24 hours in bed after that - it was harsh lesson.
This is amazing.
Have you had any troubles with theft?
What were the roads like? Bumpy, Smooth, Non-existent?
Hey! I hate to admit this but I got mugged in Addis Ababa by two adults and a swarm of streetkids. I managed to catch the ringleader and the police still let him go lol
Anyway I was so annoyed because this was the only time anything like this happened and it was in a major city, without the bike, in broad daylight on a busy street. Otherwise I found most people were too afraid of the strange looking bearded guy on the bicycle so no problems haha
Roads were great actually, sometimes they were shite like in Ethiopia or dirt roads i Malawi - Northern Kenya is also called the "road from hell". But for travelling such a long distance I have to admit they were surprisingly good condition!
Yeah a very close one with a Bull elephant, after one hour waiting near Makgadikgadi pans botswan I was left with a choice to go past him or risk being caught out there in the dark with god knows what. I have pics on the site and video in the trailer too ;)Otherwise it was often scary in the tent alone listening to the sounds and not knowing what they were...i shivered one particular nihgt near the botswana border - frightened!!
What was your biggest motivation to keep going? Also, it'd be great to hear your favorite story from the trip.
To be honest there were times when I had no motivation at all and kept going for the sole reason that staying in the same place wouldn't change anything! Other than that my motivation was usually bourne from the fact that my life was in a downward spiral before the trip and the longer it went on, the more my attitude changed :) Thanks for the question....many of my favourite stories are on the Facebook posts but one that stands out was a particularly crap day in Ethiopia...the locals had brought on intense attention and were quite often not very friendly with me for the six weeks there; but one particular day I had to climb 1500 metres asl out of Abay Gorge and the locals began applauding, giving me cold drinks, cheering and kids began pushing me from behind. It was a bit of an emotional moment :)))
Amazing! What was the most memorable part of it all? What motivated you to do this "untrained and inexperienced"?
And hey, I live in Cairo, so if you're bored and are looking for anything to do, feel free to contact me!
Thanks Ronny, for the offer too - Im in France now cycling home ;)
Most memorable part has always been the people, taking me into their home, lifting my spirits, asking to be friends...the children wanting to talk, to touch, always smiling - the most memorable part was how an entire year of experiencing this feeling from locals changed me completely!
What motivated me; I was a bit lost in life, no interest in future goals, bored, very unhappy with the person I was becoming - I wanted a challenge that interested me but also one I felt would help to change me and my attitude aswell. Thnks again
Did you ever think of giving up and head home? What made you go on? Also, what was the most terrifying experience?
Yeah every single day in Ethiopia, it just got so intense - the grabbing, shouting. To give you an idea, the morning I entered Sudan it felt like going on Yoga retreat after being stuck in an Ibiza nightclub for six weeks! All of this was without the fact that the mountains were some of the biggest in Africa
I kept going at that point because I knew from earlier in the trip; every single time I was low, there was always something that would happen afterward that would make it feel worthwhile. In ethiopias case, I left feeling a lot more humble and grateful for how difficult there lives are and how easy is mine.
Most terrifying; Shivering in the tent listening to animals around it and not knowing what they were. A praticularly paranoid night near the Botswana border. Thanks Perhapslater
Next summer I'm planning on doing the American challenge, a ride from east to west across the US, so what is some of your tips for cycling trips that long?
Take an ipod, keep drinking water esp when you don't want to and esp when you finish riding (ie the rest of that night). Use the experience to prove to your body, through your mind that you can do fr more thn you thought possible.
It will change you,delighted to hear you are doing this - Best of luck with it
What are your deepest fears ? Favorite food? Favorite book? Thanks!
Specifically Hyenas for which I had and still kind of do have an irrational fear. I woke up so many times in the night to sounds around the tent and convinced myself it was a pack of Hyena! Otherwise, I was quite concerned in Northern Kenya re bandit & terrorist threats - Al Shabab are in that area. In general I was afriad and nervous of being alone & vulnerable on a bicycle
Favourite food: Ethiopia all dishes, unreal, spicy and different to everywhere else I travelled.
Favourite book; I got absolutely slted in the lst AMA by people comparing me to Chris McCandless but I will still admit my fav was "Into the Wild" - doing this trip I could completely relate to how he felt. Unfortuntely I agree he prob went too far though with his fateful journey.
Are you there now? Cause its gonna take a lot to take me away from yooooou
My biggest goal in life is to travel. How much culture did you experience in each country you visited on your trip? Where do you recommend to visit in Africa, and finally, will you be doing this again, say across the States or maybe through Europe?
That was the best thing about travelling by bicycle, you are forced to experience the culture :) I slept outside African huts, in locals houses, ate with them - you are almost always immersed with them when travelling by bicycle which can be difficult but its also the greatest part. I spent a lot loinger doing this (one yer) than other groups do and very happy I did so now.
Visit Namibia for scenery, Tanzania for animal safari, Malawi for people :)
I'll be doing more trips on www.facebook.com/nohangingaround but not for a period this long. I am currently cycling up from France enroute home to Ireland via UK ferry ;) Thanks iDobo
So many questions!
How would you describe your daily routine?
What was the most useful thing you brought with you, be it tool or supply? (Besides the bike)
Get up cook oats, pack the tent, leave early to watch the sunrise (and cycle with less heat). Try to get a bit of distance done in the morning, listen to music, wave, wave, wave,wave, talk to locals, take photographs, wave wave...lol think you get the point. Keep an eye out for places to get water all day and possibly lunch....in the afternoon start thinking about where to sleep ie. a village or the bush. In the second half od the trip I was too tired to camp and there were often too many people though.
Best tool; Go Pro camera for unintrusive filming so handy), ipod, kindle and the tool that takes the casette off the rear wheel. lol I had a right time trying to replace broken spokes the first time without the right tools to take the wheel apart and hd no clue what i ws doing!!
Are you secretly hoping someone tries to make a movie about your journey?
I'm not sure anyone is ugly enough to play me....but no lol I hve hours of footage I might make something small myself ;)
I thought they'd be like the tree trunks you see on the pros but they look average to me now still. In saying that they are still 100% muscle and I cn cruise up hills with a 60kg bicycle no probs anymore ;)
In general I didnt put on any weight not because of the exercise but because I couldnt sustain enough eating to keep up with it! - make sense? cheers ;)
Which person in your adventure impacted you the most? Congratulations on completing your trip successfully!
Thanks reduce! wow shit that's really really difficult!!
I had a terrible time in Ethiopia, locals often gave me hard time (unknowingly) but at one of my lowest points in a small town one elderly homeless man shouted after me in the street one day "Hey Ferengi, I love you"....it picked me up no end.
In general it was always the unexpected and random acts of kindness that made me think differently (i know how cliche this is but its true). Ive been offered food, water, safety, beds too many times to remember and they never asked for anything in return either - experiencing this would chnge anyones life or outlook!
Looooads, always on the back - approx 30?
How often were you on a road compared to the wilderness? Is the infrastructure there as bad as everyone thinks? How common is electricity/Internet?
Well the roads ran through the wilderness but yeah theres people everywhere, even in the desert. The most remote places were probably Namibia, Botswana and Northern Kenya - but still there were usually people or villages every 50 - 100km.
Internet is booming in Africa, theres even little huts with computers in places youd never imagine. I just bought a sim for each country and the data was really cheap with good coverage.
To give you an example, in North Kenya I saw nobody for the first day but 100km up the road there were lots of little huts. They gave me water and I put the tent up next to their village - you can do this almost anywhere really
Struggling to decide this one myself, moving to Canada in January for a change in lifestyle/new experience but in terms of Outdoor Adventure - I don't really know
Long term; a long hike or climb through particularly challenging Wilderness appeals but nothing on the scale of what I have just done.
In the interim I'm thinking of a mini challenge back home in - to cycle around Ireland with no money (3 weeks, no cash, no credit card, just the bicycle and tent) Thanks Stooooo
I think that's the end of it for the bicycle. Looking into trekking/camping somewhere remote for the next one but undecided. South America would be great but its been a long year alone and I thikn the bicycle would like a break from me talking at this stage :))!
I used to have it on the .com site but honestly there are so many websites out there who offer this sort of information I asked myself why was I doing it and instead deleted it!
Didn't carry anything out the the ordinary; clothes, wet gear, tent, stove, pot, food, water, netbook, bicycle spares
How many tires and tubes did you go through? Was it difficult to re-supply on bike parts?
Only had pprox 25 puncture believe it or not!! carried six spares and no I actually carried ll the spare parts from the beginning except spokes which were esy to find ;)
I've always wondered something about people who do this kind of journeys, travelling for a whole year: how about the money? I'm guessing you had no income during this year, right? So, how can you afford not only to make this trip, but also to survive after it? Do you have a job waiting for you when you return?
No working while on the road, I spent less than $4,000 for the 12 Months - most people on minimum wage could save this much if they tried ;)
I've been offered a job labouring back home (building site) Tks
What language would have been the most useful to know apart from English, and how useful was English?
I suppose English was better than Spanish but mostly useless outside of tourist areas!
Swahili would be good though - Tanzania & Kenya
Out of genuine curiosity, what ethnicity are you? I'm only curious because I want to do something similar and my African friend said "those guys will rob your skinny white ass so fast, you'd be lucky to make it out alive".
White, Caucasion, Irish, huge beard
I refer to myself as a skinny white bearded guy on the bicycle in my blog all the time. Trust me if anyone stands out, its me! The locals will love you for coming to visit their land
Probably the heat, I know this is not what you were probably expecting but there have been a few times I suffered severe heat exhaustion and ws in a pretty bad way.
Otherwise, having to cycle past a huge bull elephant in Boswana on the roadside was a hairy moment...he wasn't too happy about it either! tks rpt
I feel a great admiration towards your accomplishments and could only dream of doing something as adventurous as this in the future. I have two questions, what were your highest points during the trip and what were the lowest? Thanks for having this ama! :D
hey I relly appreciAte you saying that, honestly thanks!!!
Highest points were usually the people but other than that Cycling with giraffe in the Tanzania wild was incredible, so too was the feeling of making it through Northern Kenya & Ethiopia!! The lows always revolved around loneliness, having no conversation, none that understood what I was feeling......there were many dark dark times :(
Honestly thanks again, you really should go do something big. I said the same as you before doing this !!
What would you say was the most common European nationality you encountered trough out Africa? And also, what was the most frequent foreign security personal? I'd love to know! Thanks for doing an AMA and sharing your impression
I didn't meet a whole lot to be honest, even the tourist spots were very quiet but I imagine....English or australian....met quite a lot of swiss in Sub sarahan africa too!
Most frequent foreign security was British army in north Kenya but thats because they have a training base there. Near Nanyuki. Saw heaps of UN vehicles but not much else ---- you'd have to travel into the more danger zones to see it I guess
Yeah I have, actually I listened to it on the road with the ipod. Brilliant!
In your travels, what hs been the most interesting/bizarre flavor of potato chips youve seen?
Cant remember the name of it but Ethiopia hd one of their national dishes as a flavour ----equivalent of say "Irish stew" (only in the capital)
Do you have any awesome stories from the trip you'd like to tell?
Heaps, I usually post the best ones to the facebook page above ^
All the locals in Ethiopia helping me up the hill trying to get out of Abay Gorge was a great one - cheering, clapping, kids pushing the bike
Otherwise; On new years eve last, I was asked to take part in a rescue party of an elderly group who's safari vehicle had gotten stuck in the middle of Mackagadigadi pans. I went but when we reached them it was apparent their vehicle ws going nowhere. As a result the elderly people took my plce in the rescue vehicle and I, with four others slept in the open on their "stuck" safari vehicle overnight. I say slept, it rained and was freezing, none slept.
Anyway, they were able to call us the next morning to advice the flooding was so bad that no vehicles could come in to get us. We were literally stuck in the wild, approx 50km from the road....We spent New Years morning walking out of the African bush by following tyre tracks. It was in the papers in the Uk at the time...crazy way to start the year!
Not to let the habits I formed this year die and become a more positive influence on the lives of others
You're an inspiration to us all. What made you dream of cycling solo across Africa, and what were the events that ultimately led up to it?
I quit my job one monday morning and realised I had no interest in the future. I felt i wasnt doing what I really wanted and was convinced tht if there really was some meaning to life, then it had to be out there somewhere to experience.
I decided on this challenge as a means to change myself, to chnge my attitude. I used the loss of both parents some years ago as an excuse to thread a very self destructive path and enough was enough.
I loved Africa, I knew it would be lesser unknown , I chose the bicycle as a cheap and challenging way to travel - it became my dream because everyone told me I couldnt do it and I felt like saying "but I WANT to do it".....so I did lol :)