#13. Two capital cities, four countries visited, a 50 year birthday, Victoria Falls in flood and then a big tour decision made...

Beyond the Saddle ....Cairo to Cape Town
Howard Fairbank
Tue 17 Apr 2007 23:16
17:50.608S 25:45.382E
   Issue #13

Two capital cities, 

four countries visited,
a 50 year birthday, Victoria Falls in flood
and then a big tour decision made...


With no big game around I had to look for exotic ‘small game’!  This is a poisonous long haired caterpillar that I liked and rescued from crossing the road!


Livingstone, Zambia, 17 April 2007


Yes, this and more all happened since my last newsletter to you. Section 6, being from Lilongwe to Livingstone, ended on 14th April with a last four days fast downwind run from the Zambian capital Lusaka.


It all sounds exciting, but having many consecutive 170+ km days it certainly wasn’t achieved without a lot of hours in the saddle. After leaving Lilongwe, and then one day in Malawi, most of section 6 was spent in the friendly and laid back country of Zambia. In thinking through the content for this newsletter I almost came to the conclusion that the scenery was boring, lacking any real highlights or uniqueness. However, on reflection, it became clear that I was being a bit demanding and forgetting the beauty of just being out in the African bush, cycling on great tar roads with very little traffic around. Hopefully, as the sunrise scenery picture shows, the environment was wonderful for long distance cycling of the kind we were doing during this section. It's also easy to take for granted this type of scenery day after day, with beautiful sunrises, then the occasional afternoon showers followed by wonderful rainbows. Outside of the large city limits, the roads were so quiet that I probably cycled on the wrong side of the road without stress for 90% of the time. (The reason I do this is to avoid being hit unexpectedly from behind by one of the few passing vehicles.)  



Typical Zambian sunrise scenery……nothing hugely special but very pleasant environment for long distance cycling.


The Zambian countryside is full of long wild grass, making it potentially the world’s largest source of thatch roof raw material! This grass has almost a luminous green tinge that is difficult to catch on camera, but provides a wonderful backdrop to the road as one cycles past.


Zambia has been a late starter (vs Kenya, Tanzania, and Malawi) in the tourism drive and, as such, much of the areas I saw and the people I spoke to still had that raw undeveloped feeling, and smelt of opportunity. One of the disappointments of the Zambian route I have taken is that it has been lacking in any real wildlife because it missed the prime Zambian national parks….those being the upper Luangwa River area, and the lower Zambesi. These parks are supposed to be world class yet relatively undiscovered (another ‘come back’ reason!) On the days before Lusaka, I did get to see and cross the impressive Luangwa River, which forms a border between Moçambique and Zambia, before it joins the Zambesi some 100km downstream. The river is full of tiger fish, as well as crocs and hippo, and the one overnight campsite was virtually on the river bank, enabling one to cross into Moçambique.


Arriving with preconceived ideas and low expectations, Lusaka was a pleasant surprise, having a very modern and 1st world half, and then the traditional African capital trading market areas. I was also impressed with the town planning and road infrastructure, which made it easy travelling through and around the city. In many ways it reminded me of a small Johannesburg, with its mixtures of economic areas, houses, buzz and feel.


So more about the headline highlights!


Firstly, the two capital cities…..well Lilongwe and Lusaka!  (That was easy!)


Then, the four countries……more difficult! Well, the obvious ones, Malawi, and Zambia. Then Moçambique just putting a toe on shore from the Luangwa River crossing. Then Zimbabwe. Today I walked into Zimbabwe using the famous Zambesi River bridge just downstream of Victoria Falls, linking Zambia (Livingstone) with Zimbabwe (Vic Falls town). I am sure many of you have done this, but wonder whether any of you have been sprayed with water from the falls as you did it! This leads to one of the other headline subjects…..Vic Falls in flood.  



I guess I had to have a classic Vic Falls photo…sorry!  
It was a challenge with all the spray around!  


Yes, the river is the highest it’s been in forty years, all the rafting has been stopped, and last week apparently four hippos and two elephants were washed over the falls! Flood water is flowing over the full 1.7km width of the falls, and it's flowing with huge volume and velocity. The walk along the western gorge (Zambian side) involved us hiring ponchos, and still getting sopping wet from driving ‘rain’ from the spray. For much of the walk it turned out to be a non visual experience, but rather one of natural Jacuzzi as the spray obscured the Falls but gave the body a much needed hydroblast!


Having been to Niagra and Iguacu Falls I was thinking this would just be another 'tick off’, but it turned out to be a deeper and more impressive experience than I could have ever imagined.


Then the 50 year birthday headline…well that was 15 April, and the day included the Vic Falls experience above, and a wonderful riverside dinner with Ruth and my good friends Tank and Sue from Cape Town. The dinner was at the wonderful river lodge we stayed at, about 17 km upstream of the Falls. Lots of bird and wild life, with hippos stopping around the gardens at night, and elephants during the day. All good for the soul! Not to mention the special Thelema wines that Tank kindly brought from Cape Town. And this is supposed to be a tough Cairo to Cape Town adventure!


And lastly, the big tour decision headline….:


It may not come as a surprise to many of you, but I have decided to leave the Tour d'Afrique group structure, and complete the rest of the journey from Livingstone to Cape Town on my own. I have decided on this path to provide me with increased challenge, more freedom to explore Botswana, and also to free me from some of the negative group dynamics. Given the long open roads ahead, huge distances between villages, and the real threat of free roaming game in Botswana, I have not taken this decision lightly, but after much thought know it feels right.


Going it alone requires me to carry all my water, camping equipment, clothing, and emergency supplies with me on the bike. This has necessitated me using pannier bags on the rear of the bike, which when laden will add some 40 kilograms to the cycling load I have to pedal every day. (I’d like to thank Tank and Michelle for their team effort in getting my panniers from South Africa to Livingstone so I could implement this decision.)


The negative of this decision for ‘Beyond the Saddle’ and the Blog is that because I can't take my laptop with me, I will be severely restricted to only using internet cafés along the way. The reality of this is that there will probably be only one more newsletter before Cape Town, and no more daily blogs. The upside is that being on my own, I know I will get closer to my soul and also have some special experiences that will be well diarised and photographed, to be presented in a Special Final 'Beyond the Saddle’ newsletter to be sent out to you soon after I arrive in Cape Town. At this stage I am not sure when I will arrive in Cape Town, but it will probably be between the 15th and 28th of May.


Finally, I remind you that behind all of this is my desire and commitment to raise significant funds for the two organisations you have been introduced to along the way. Over the next three weeks I would like to ask you to consider your commitment as a subscriber to ‘Beyond the Saddle’, and what level of contribution you are prepared to make to one of these causes. If you would like to contribute to some cause but still don’t feel either of the two organisations I have chosen meet your criteria, please tell us this by sending an email to africa {DOT} cycle {DOT} trip {CHANGE TO AT} mweb {DOT} co {DOT} za.


I will be asking for your firm contribution amounts with the 'end of trip' newsletter from Cape Town, so this is just a reminder to please start thinking about it, and start sacrificing your bottles of ‘best wine’ over the next few weeks, if you haven’t done it already!   


Important Note:

Given that there maybe subscribers who have been receiving the newsletters but for whatever reason don’t read them, and thus don’t feel a sway to contribute, I would like to ask you over the next week or so to please unsubscribe, via sending a request to africa {DOT} cycle {DOT} trip {CHANGE TO AT} mweb {DOT} co {DOT} za


I am really excited about leaving on my own tomorrow, and will be heading off through the Caprivi Strip, and then down the west side of the Okavango Delta joining the main road to Windhoek just south of Maun.



After the failure of my rear wheel:  The new one being built by George at his pavement workshop in downtown Lilongwe. (And it lasted the whole of  section 6, but now replaced with a new one, thanks to my friend Tank!)

The Progress So Far
  • Current Section:
    Lilongwe to Victoria Falls  

  • Hours cycled since last newsletter:

  • Distance cycled since last newsletter:

  • Distance cycled so far:
    8618 km

  • Km to go to Cape Town:
    3266 km

Busy with....Section Six: 
Lilongwe to Victoria Falls

This section starts in the capital city of Malawi but quickly moves into Zambia, a country named after the fabled Zambezi River. Right now, Zambia is a country that has huge wilderness parks and very little tourism. (How long will that be so?) ‘The Zone’ as it’s named, can't be beaten, for few tourists, fantastic scenery, lots of quality cycling and friendly people. The first days of cycling in ‘The Zone’ will pass along the Great East Road through some fabulous scenery. Eventually the route leads through the Lower Zambezi National Park, a park that is increasingly becoming renowned for its natural splendour and wildlife. After the park, the route heads straight to the bustling and vibrant capital city of Zambia, Lusaka. But this isn't the end yet.


Several more days of cycling through incredible scenery, the end of ‘The Zone’ approaches the town of Livingstone and the natural wonder of Victoria Falls, where one can also enjoy bungee jumping, white water rafting, and many other activities arranged by the campsite.


Section Dates
6 April to 14 April

Many amusing signs like this at the roadside with a path leading away to a hut in the bushes.

This is a typical Zambian road scene a few kilometres from a village - the locals’ bicycles loaded to the hilt with firewood for the local market. My 35kg panniers are light compared to these loads!

This sign was on the approach to Mazabuka, the gateway to the Zambian sugar cane growing area, but is also typical of the simple, direct and almost corny signage one sees all around.

The Complete Route


  • Total Distance Cairo to Cape Town: 
    11 884 Km

  • Countries through which the route passes:
    Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa

  • Sections:  
    1. Cairo to Khartoum  
    2. Khartoum to Addis
        Ababa (Sudan/Ethiopia)
    3. Addis Ababa to Nairobi
    4. Nairobi to Iringa
    5. Iringa to Lilongwe
    6. Lilongwe to Victoria
        Falls. (Malawi/Zambia)
    7. Victoria Falls to
        Windhoek (Zambia/
    8. Windhoek to Cape Town  
        (Namibia/South Africa)

  • Expected arrival in Cape Town:  
    15 - 28 May 2007

Helping Conserve Africa …
The Deal

As a subscriber to this newsletter, Thank You for agreeing to do your bit by helping to conserve Africa through our two partners:


The African Conservation Foundation:



Over the course of the trip, through this newsletter, you will get a chance to learn more about these organisations and their projects on the ground.

Follow the ride on Google Earth:

Read Past Newsletters:


If you think others would benefit from receiving this newsletter, they can request to be included on the distribution list by emailing:
africa {DOT} cycle {DOT} trip {CHANGE TO AT} mweb {DOT} co {DOT} za  

Depending on satellite phone communication and availability of power, the quality of the images may vary according to file size.


To unsubscribe to this newsletter please send an email with "Unsubscribe" in the Subject Box to: africa {DOT} cycle {DOT} trip {CHANGE TO AT} mweb {DOT} co {DOT} za

Any problems or queries may also be addressed to the above.