How? When? What? Why? Where?Since we decided to go to Africa by bicycle, we have been asked lots of questions by our families, friends and acquaintances. We have tried to answer the most frequent ones here. If you have any further questions, please let us know.
"By bicycle? From Germany to South Africa?"
Usually this is the first question after we have made
clear, that "Africa by bicycle" does not mean
but a bicycle-trip from Northern Germany to Cape Town. After some head
scratching people often try to enlighten us on the fact that
In "About the tour" you can read more about our plans and which countries we will travel. In most cases, something like "Wow, that is brave." and "Man, I like that idea.", follows. And then the real "questioning" starts. The most frequently asked questions and our attempts to answer them, are listed below. If you want to know more, just send us an e-mail (), please. But let's go on now:
"For how long are you going to travel?"
We plan to travel for approximately 2 years. It can take much longer (or maybe we are even faster than we think), but who knows? Maybe, we decide to make a longer stop somewhere. To make it short: Our journey will last as long we both enjoy it and as long as there is money in the bank. Inevitably, the next question follows:
"And what about your jobs? Can you take a sabbatical for such a long time?"
No, we can't. But we don't worry about not having a job to return to. Just the opposite: Without a fixed return date we feel much more free. Anyway: who says that we will want to return to our old jobs?
"How about the funds? Did you win in the lottery?"
That is often the first reaction, when we mention, that we have quit our jobs to be able to travel. Unfortunately, we did not win in the lottery, but we have saved a bit of money during the last years, so that we are starting the trip with some funds. And if this should not be enough, we will try to work a bit on our way.
This would probably not be that easy, because most countries do not allow foreigners to work, but we simply rely on our good fortune. And maybe, you have got the straight tip for us, how we can earn some money in Turkey, Cairo, or somewhere else. It can even be cleaning toilets or herding sheep, although we do have quite internationally suitable occupations (Michael worked as an accountant and Silke is a travel agent, who has worked in business travel in the last years).
We do not intend to rest our weary bones in luxury hotel beds, but we will generally camp, so the costs should be moderate. The biggest expenses will be visas and insurances, entrance fees, repairs (hopefully not too many) and food.
Moreover, we are trying to collect as much money as possible to donate it to a children's home in Zimbabwe (Montgomery Heights, Silkes second home). Here is more information on how you can donate, too. We will deliver this directly to Silke's African "family". And believe us: it is a really good feeling to do something good ;-) – and the children and the ones who look after them are really, really grateful for every single cent.
"But are there camp sites everywhere along the way?"
No. We intend to camp mainly in the open country and enjoy the comfort of a guesthouse or a "civilised" campground (to take a shower, do the laundry and load our rechargeables or as a shelter if it rains for 2 weeks) only from time to time.
"Don't you need a lot of luggage? How are you going to transport all that?"
Well, Silke would surely love to take a whole library with her, but even without this, there is a lot of stuff, which we one could take along: a fully equipped pharmacy, the whole content of ones wardrobe and such staple food as chocolate and noodles. But first of all, we couldn't carry all of this, and second, we don't want to.
Usually it turns out that you travel with too much luggage. Most of the stuff is simply not necessary, and (nearly) everything else can be bought on the way, since in most countries, through which we are going to cycle, there are people, who are eating food, wearing clothes and brushing their teeth ;-).
And: no, we are not going to pull a trailer behind us. That's neither very practicable (it might work in Austria, but it will certainly become a challenge in the rush-hour in Cairo or during the rainy season in Tanzania) nor is it necessary. After all, there are cyclists, who have travelled on this or similar routes alone, and we can split up such things as cooking equipment, tent etc. on two bikes, so it should be possible to squeeze everything in our panniers.
We will not need much more clothes than for a 3 weeks tour in an average German summer, that means: many layers of clothing plus rain protection. The same goes for the rest of our equipment. Consumable articles will be replaced on the way or sent from home (e.g. spare parts for the bicycles, that are hard to find, chocolate,…).
"But there are lions, snakes, spiders, scorpions,…?"
Oh yes, everywhere. O.k., to be serious, it is very unlikely, that we will come across a lion in the wild, especially during the day. And if one should bump into our campsite at night, he will most probably not know what to do with a tent – it smells delicious, but everything else is not compatible with his idea of a nice snack (Silke has already made the experience of lying awake in a tent in Botswana, not daring to breathe, while a lion was wandering around the tent – a little sniffing, and that was it).
And that's what many wildlife-guidebooks say as well. We suppose, that the non-existence of contradictory reports is not merely because all other writers have been eaten by the objects of their studies. It goes without saying, that we will sleep in a closed tent only, do not walk around by night without a torch, shake out our shoes in the morning before we put them on (favourite hiding place for scorpions and spiders) and do not move away any rocks without checking for snakes etc., never walk barefoot, always wear long trousers in the bush and step firmly (almost all snakes flee as soon as they feel the vibrations).
With these and a few more precautions, our chances to reach Cape Town without being eaten/stung/bitten are quite high :-). And: no, we both don't panic when it comes to spiders, snakes and so on – but we will treat them with all due respect.
"Are you not afraid of being attacked or robbed?"
Not more than necessary. We surely won't bike about absolutely carelessly, but we are not going to travel armed to the teeth. A few miniature distress signal rockets and some pepper spray are our weapons for self defence, and we will simply try to keep out of danger.
We will do our best to keep us informed about the latest news (via newspapers, internet, local people, other travellers) and avoid potentially risky areas. Of course, we are aware of the fact, that it is not a good idea to walk around with our most expensive jewelleries or display our technical equipment or other things that may excite the envy of other people.
"What are you going to do if you get ill?"
We'll see the doctor. Sounds simple, doesn't it ?!? It clearly depends on the kind of illness. If we should struggle with an ordinary cold or something similar, we will rest a few days until we feel better. There's no time limit for our trip, and we have taken all these cold-, diarrhoe- and I-really-can-not-sit-on-my-saddle-anymore-days in account.
Apart from that, we got all vaccinations possible. We will try to eat healthy and we will immediately take care of wounds. In tropical areas even a small scratch or a mosquito bite can lead to a nasty infection, which could keep us from going on, and therefore, we are taking along a well equipped first aid kit .
Should this turn out to be insufficient, we will seek help from a doctor (yes, of course, we have got a travel insurance). And if there is no doctor available, we've got a few books that might help us: "Where there is no doctor", "Self diagnosis and treatment" are two of them. And even though we both are fainting quite easily when confronted with blood, we will hopefully be able to see us through with these two guides. Anyway, it's only an emergency-package and what we need to do is to get the other one into a condition that he/she can be transported to the next doctor or hospital (we are not only travelling with a cell phone but with a list of more or less reliable doctors in every country, too).
We are often asked, if we will take anti-malaria-drugs during the whole time in which we are travelling through risk areas. No, we won't. No-one who is living there for a few months or longer is doing that. It would not only be very expensive, it would also do more harm to the body than an acute malaria-attack. We have got "Malarone" as a stand-by-drug in our luggage and will not hesitate to use it if necessary.
"And what happens if your bikes break down?"
Of course, we will carry with us a minimum of spare parts and tools. In case this is not enough, we will rely on our ability to improvise. And if this should prove insufficient, too we will seek help from locals. In most so called developing countries, they are well-known for being masters of improvisation, because they don't have all those super specialised tools, spare parts and shops.
Should worse come to worse and we are in need of a part that cannot be found where we are and cannot be replaced by a similar part, we will take a break and try to get it sent from home by mail.
"Talking of mail – how can we contact you?"
Easiest, of course, would be via cell phone, but we will rarely switch it on in order to save energy and costs. So, the preferred way is via e-mail – we will check our mail-boxes more or less regularly.
Then, there is the good old "snail-mail". The advantage is obvious: one can send parcels, too and of course it is something special to receive a "real" letter once in a while. But the disadvantage is: mail is very slow and unreliable in many countries. There is a possibility of sending mail to the main post-office of a city (if you want to do so, please send us an e-mail to get detailed instructions for this).
"What are your plans after you have reached Cape Town? Are you flying back home, then? And what are you going to do back home – without a job, a place to stay and furniture?"
Good question. If everything turns out as intended, we have at least two years to think about it. In case we still like each other and our bicycles when we reach Cape Town, maybe we feel the urge of cycling back home via the Western coast of Africa. Or we will continue our journey to Asia. Or hop on a boat and sail to South America. Or we will open a hostel on a beach in Mozambique, and offer "Spätzle mit Soß'" and buttered pretzels with homemade bread, "Labskaus" or "Maultaschen" (all Swabian and Northern German national dishes). Or… there are two more unemployed former long time travellers. Or… or… or…
As you can see, we can't really answer this question at the moment. But right now it is very hard to imagine to be travelling for 2 years - and then just board a plane to return to a totally different life within a few hours.
And as for jobs…, we will most probably find something which will provide us with enough money to see us through in the beginning – be it stocking shop shelves or weeding at the market-garden around the corner – and if all that doesn't work, we will become writers :-). Our furniture is stored away, we will find a flat or a room somewhere, and in case of emergency, we have some offers from our families and friends to stay with them for a while….