Pretoria to Lusaka, Zambia

March 24,  2017

The route went from Pretoria to Gabarone, Botswana and north to Palapye.
Then to Francistown and WNW to Nata near the top of the map.
From Nata, remote Highway 33 travels north…..
… Kazungula and Livingstone.
Then north again to Lusaka.

My stay at Pretoria was at a hostel / hotel dedicated to providing economic quarters for out of town people attending to family being treated in a nearby hospital, the same where I got the Malaria prescription.  The pharmacy folks actually clued me in on the place.  After I sunk $500+ for the meds I guess they figured I deserved a break.  Mostly older folks stay there, a few permanent residents, and the facility, Four Flowers Foundation, was a great place to rest for a couple of days- quiet and clean.  I was there for three nights and the manager and his wife, Vivian and Nora Morris, made my stay pleasant.  Vivian spent part of his career collecting gemstones and crystals that he took around to rock shows in southern Africa.  He was what we’d call a rockhound and had a few samples of tiger eye and other gems kicking around the grounds.  People there were friendly and talkative and it was entertaining to hear what the Afrikaaner retirees had done for a living.

Vivian Morris from Four Flowers Foundation.
Nora Morris cooking us breakfast.
A gemstone having to do with garnets- he had more info than I could absorb.

Visits to embassies were mostly unencouraging as in general an embassy will only issue a visa to a person from the country where the embsssy is located, in this case, South Africa.  Makes sense, but it’s all new to me.  One piece of good news, Kenya said, contrary to the country’s website, that I could get a visa at point of entry.  Who knows.  Ethiopia said to apply at Nairobi, Kenya.  Russia said my plans for Siberia were possible but there was nothing they could do then and there.  Didn’t make it to China’s embassy.  I went to the U.S. Embassy for possible advice but, without an appointment, didn’t get far; two security guys came out in the parking lot and like robots that were neither friendly nor unfriendly told me to contact an American Civil Services office either in Johannesburg or Gaborone, Botswana.  Their advice then culminated in suggesting I always lock my bike when not attending it and not to ride through downtown Pretoria.

On the way to the border with Botswana, I took a short detour to an archeological site called the Maropeng Crucible of Humankind.  A UNESCO World Heritage Site, there are Hominid fossils dating back 3 million years in a network of limestone caves covering about 500 square kilometers.  See  Work there is ongoing with significant discoveries in just the last few years.

Somewhere near there I discovered in my pants pocket keys to my room and entrance gates at the Four Flowers Foundation- I had forgotten to turn them over to Vivian.  I sent him an email requesting an address to which I could send them and then found a PostNet (the South African equivelant to FedEx) in Rustenburg, the next sizable town.  After I gave the PostNet folks the sad story, they gave me a very good deal on overnight delivery and were in general fun to be around.

Leigh Ann, Chris (manager), Chere and Charissa from PostNet.
Camp at a church yard near the border with Botswana.
Fires Van Vuuren, the caretaker at the church…
……and his 25 year old dog accompanied by tormenting chihuahuas.

I took a less traveled route to the border with Botswana where things were pretty well deserted.  There were no lines at immigration and the lady who stamps the passports was behind the counter sitting and waiting.  It should have been simple from there but somehow she didn’t like the idea of me riding a bike through Botswana alone and had to keep going to her boss with questions.  Unlike any border I’ve ever been through, she invited me to come through a door to her side of the counter and sit while negotiations were made.  They even took a look at my website.  I finally convinced them it would be OK and the boss gave a nod.  Back around to  the other side I watched as she held the stamp over passport but then asked me just one more question.  I wanted to reach through and slam the hovering hand to the page.  I’m not even sure what she asked but I nodded and, finally, STAMP.

I rode tailwind into Gabarone, found a hotel, then went to the American Civil Services office which, in Gabarone, is at the Embassy.   The ACS was only open Monday and Thursday mornings and it was then noon, Monday- they were closed.  So, I gave up on talking with the consulate, slept the night at the hotel (& casino!) and started north the next morning.

Cape cobra that had been killed by villagers at Debete, Botswana.  Poisonous snakes are pretty much killed onsite in Africa.
Jimson Chengeta stopped to talk in Palapye, Botswana.  Retired now, he was educated in wildlife management in the UK.
Nthophi Ramotsoko, right, studied ground water engineering in Edmonton, Alberta and now works for the gov’t in Palapye.  He’s also involved with Amway and, as you might guess, was trying to interest me.
Blue highway short cut that actually worked.
Chameleon crossing the highway.

Botswana is a country about three times the area of the state of Utah but only 2/3 the people.  Most of the population is located on the east side, between Gabarone and Francistown.  Elsewhere are vast expanses of wild Africa, a sample of which I got when leaving Francistown but especially after turning north from Nata, Botswana.  Getting to Francistown was flat, fast and uneventful.   A left turn and good tail wind then took me to Nata.  Had one 112 mile day on that stretch. From Nata the route went north over a little traveled highway to the Zambian border at Kazungula.  No fences for this stretch and much wildlife.  There are many elephants which made for some exciting travel and you had to keep a constant lookout for them.  The terrain is “bushveld” where trees and shrubs are just high enough to hide the giant beasts, and they had a habit of appearing out of nowhere.  I figured a hundred or so feet seemed ample distance from the highway to pass by one and did so for a couple of bulls.  Then I had one turn towards me when I was adjacent with him.  He lowered his head, stuck his ears straight out and took a couple of bluff charge steps towards me- it put my heart in my throat.  There after, the hundred feet became more like a hundred yards.  When I would see one that was too close I’d wait for a car, sometimes 15 or 20 minutes, and wave him down to escort me through, riding the bike along side the vehicle.  The elephants are habituated to the cars and trucks but the bikes, being a bit more animate, get their attention.  They are sensitive to eye contact and if you are going to pass close, it’s best to just look straight ahead and ride; easier said than done.   I watched one bull from maybe two hundred yards out while waiting for a car.  He was facing me and glancing my way as if to say “what are you lookin’ at?”

Hard to see, but there’s an elephant crossing the road in the distance.
Elephant dung was a common sight for about a hundred miles.

Along with elephants there were much less threatening giraffes, zebras, impalas, tiny deer that I think were reeboks.  One warthog! They say there are lions and cape buffalo as well but I never saw them.   Camping could be nerve wracking, and I always pitched the tent near a climbable tree.  I have a can of bear spray that has survived now multiple airline flights and about 16 border crossings.  Might dissuade a lion, but little else.  I keep stove gasoline and a lighter close by as a last resort.

Enormous termite mound.

I was able to camp a couple of nights at microwave towers. They have fenced enclosures and two security people that man them day and night. The two I stayed at had people more than glad for company and a break in a routine that must be pretty boring. They would offer food and heat water for nightly showers, all done on wood fires. Virtually everyone in Botswana speaks some English, so we could communicate pretty well.

View from the first microwave tower which my hosts were surprisingly game to have me climb.
Wanani and Cuatro at the first tower.

Elephant track.
Garden spider at the tower.  It’s abdomin is a good 3 inches.
Moagi at the second tower.
Joseph and Moagi.

Botswana was a British protectorate until the mid 60s and English influence is still prevalent.  Zambia and Zimbabwe were Crown Colonies then as well, but as North and South Rhodesia.  Together with Swaziland and country-locked Lesotho, they all gained independence in the 60s.   Zambia declared its independence at the closing ceremony for the 1964 Summer Olympics in Japan making them the only country to enter the games as one country and leave as another.

After getting to the border with Zambia, you cross the Zambezi River fifty or so miles upstream from Victoria Falls.  Transportation is by ferry, but it will only carry two semi trucks at a time.  Trucks were lined up for miles on each side, the wait being as much as two weeks.  They’re currently building a bridge and I’m sure there will be great relief to get it finished.  No wait for peds and bikes.

Near the border with Zambia you emerge from wild bush into an ocean of corn fields that went for miles.


Baobab tree.
Marcu Bogdan from Romania at the Botswana-Zambia border.  He’s crossing Africa north-south having started in Egypt.

At the ferry a guy, Levy, came to me, struck up a conversation and invited me to stay at his house. It being late in the day, I took him up on the offer. He made me dinner over a charcoal fire and cooked Nshima (ground corn not very different from polenta) tomatoes, onions and hard boiled eggs that he then fried in oil.  Very good. The next day he rode 50 miles with me to Livingstone, the tourist town near Victoria Falls. We managed to kill most of the day doing that but he had a place for us to stay there. He is involved with the Baptist Church and we stayed at his pastor’s compound. The pastor, a Filipino, invited us for dinner, over the course of which he waisted no time in trying to convert me.  A younger man than me, he insisted it was never too late for salvation, even for a guy my age. I endured the evening but was glad to get going early the next morning.

Bridge over Zambezi River near Victoria Falls.
Mist rising just upstream from the falls.

Victoria Falls.

Billboard in Livingston.  Very touristy, very commercialized.

Victoria Falls were indeed spectacular and worth seeing.  I spent the morning walking mist trails and getting soaked with spray.  Once back in Livingstone I got groceries and rode a 30 mile afternoon to a good camp in secluded bush.  Several days of mild headwind followed taking me to Lusaka, Zambia’s capitol.  Roads for the most part were good, even very good.  In South Africa, chip sealing is part of new construction for highways, and they use very course aggregate.  I’m guessing that the rough surface offers better traction and less tendency for hydroplaning on roads that can see heavy rains.  They were tough to ride a bike on, though, and generated a screaming hiss when a car flew past at 80 mph- it was like spraying a high pressure air nozzle across your ear.  Botswana saw a decline in chip sealing and the practice is non-existent in Zambia.  The “good” highways in Zambia are smoother, shoulders fair, but when roads are deteriorated they can be a nightmare.  The traffic has been much heavier in Zambia, particularly truck traffic, and bad roads could be a free-for-all of traffic weaving in and out of chuckholes, competing for the best lines.  There is considerable bicycle traffic in Zambia as well and a palpable disdain for them by the trucks- I get no better treatment than anybody and they’ll honk to get you out of the way and then pass with as tight a clearance as they can get away with, sometimes pushing me onto a dirt shoulder.

A few of the many camps in the bush.

Alanna Dent was in Chomo and is a volunteer for the Peace Core.  Over about a half-hour conversation she tripled my knowledge of Zambia.
Green Mamba that had been hit on the highway. I’ve now seen the “big 3” of poisonous snakes- mamba, adder & cobra- but have yet to see one live……and hope I don’t.
Ants, biting ones this time, devouring a bag of garbage.
Truckload of copper ingots coming from Zambia’s copperbelt.  Out of curiousity I counted trucks one day and was up to 29 in about 7 hours of riding.  Together with how much a truck can carry and the price of copper scrap in the U.S., simple arithmetic suggests a multi-billion dollar a year export.  The fluctuating price of copper though has made it a boom-bust industry over the years.

The final leg to Lusaka was through headwind and I was fairly beat when I pulled up to a KFC (they appear to have edged out McDonalds in world wide popularity) to try and get Wi-Fi and locate a hotel.  Luis Lopes was watching me park the bike through the window and waved me to come in and share some chicken.  The next thing I knew I was staying at his place and being treated like royalty.  He’s a builder constructing high-end houses for rentals on a property his brother owns.  He fed me many meals over three days while I worked on the blog and did repairs.  He wouldn’t let me ride the bike to town and arranged a taxi to take me around to bike shops one day.  The houses are beautiful.  He builds doors and trim out of African rosewood but then plant trees for replacement. He has one mahogany that’s becoming sizable.  He has several avocado, passion fruit and kiwi fruit trees on the property as well.

Luis Lopes.
Russian military vehicle that Luis and his brother somehow got a hold of.  It was converted into an all-terrain camper and is where he put me up.
Beautiful construction on the houses they’re building.

He does a lot of building with African rosewood….
….but then is planting replacement trees.  The seedling front and second from left is teak.
Entrance to the camper where I slept.  There are two dents barely visible on the facing cabinet where an elephant had poked a tusk inside on an earlier camping trip.

The stay with Luis has been a good rest and I haven’t been able to spend a dime in three days.  I was considering another attempt at contacting the U.S. Embassy in Lusaka but have been so discouraged at previous embassy tries that I was then leaning towards riding on and taking my chances.  Luis suggested getting an appointment and got them on the phone.  Over the telephone it took some convincing with the front desk person, but he finally gave me an email address to set up an appointment.  In the email I gave them some background on what I was doing and got a response right away to come the next afternoon.  This time I was given a security pass, invited in and spent a good hour with a somebody fairly high in the food chain.  He printed out all kinds of info on upcoming countries and had lots of sound advice but knew well bounderies where he just couldn’t say.  Very good, professional treatment this time.  Appointments make the difference- Thanks Luis.

Tomorrow I’ll be on the road again headed to Tanzania- maybe 8 days away.

Cape Town to Pretoria

March 1, 2017

From Cape Town the route followed coastline to Cape Agulhas, the tip of the continent…….
….then to George….
….then mostly on “blue highways” that roughly parallel the shown main road to Johannesburg and Pretoria.

I finally flew out Ushuaia and landed in Buenos Aires in the middle of the night and found a place to hang in the airport till morning.  International airports typically have good “camping” facilities for all the folks waiting on connecting flights.  There’s plenty of electrical outlets and Wi-Fi’s readily available.  I had a couple of days to spend in B.A. and saw a few sights in the city, then it was off to airport camping again to catch a midnight flight to Cape Town, South Africa that was via Qatar in the Middle East.  Twenty-seven hours of flights and airports later I was in C.T.

Carolina from Ushuaia Extreme lined me up with a bike box for the flights as well as a shop in Buenos Aires that had tires I could never seem to find elsewhere.
Flying out of Ushuaia.
Posh hotel in B.A. I could have lived without; nice to do once in a while.
Making friends in Buenos Aires.
Eva Perón is well remembered in Argentina.
What happens when you don’t lock your car in B.A.
This is a bar. I didn’t go in but I’m sure Hunter S. Thompson wouldn’t have missed the opportunity.
Anita “camped out” next to me at the airport in B.A. waiting on flights. She’s from Moscow, Russia but now surfs for a living, lives in Panama, and hasn’t been home in years.  She speaks Spanish, Russian and English (well!) that I know of.
Hilton picked me up at the airport in Cape Town and helped me find a hotel.
Cape Town and Table Mountain.

Once in cape Town I went to a sporting goods store and was able to finally replace the Whisperlite stove I lost in Mazatlán, Mexico.  I did see them for sale in S. America but at more than double the price that I paid here.  I left the dinosaur I bought in Quito in the crotch of a tree near Ushuaia where in twenty years I’m sure I’ll be able to find it again.  It was tempormental, inefficient, sooty and needed constant fixing.  I couldn’t even see giving it away to someone.

Then I found a bike shop and got bearings for the headset and bottom bracket.  From there I was off.  At the suggestion of Hilton, my taxi driver, I went a little out of the way to get to the southernmost point of the continent, Cape Agulhas, that was maybe a 150 mile detour.  Headwinds made for slow travel, nothing like Patagonia, but it was the morning of the fifth day that I got there.  Beautiful coast line along the way through  geography called Fynbos, a green and biologically diverse scrubland.  In reading about it, it was not the first time I’ve heard “world’s greatest biodiversity” about a given area.

Another zipper replacement. I could never find zippers in S. America; they’re all in Cape Town.
Near Cape Town

Elim, S.A.  The roofs of the buildings are thatch and made from reeds in the genus Restio.  I’ll have photos in the next plant segment.
One of only 3 African penguin rookeries on the continent.

Lighthouse at Cape Agulhas.  “Agulhas”  is derived from Latin and means needle.  The Portuguese named it not for pointy rocks, but for the compass needle showing no declination at that time.  Today, magnetic north here is about 25º west of true north.
Lighthouse’s fresnel lens.
Ostriches are common both as farm animals and in a wild state.
Camp along route climbing into mountains. The foreground ridge is pine covered but planted long enough ago that they look like they’d always been there. Felt like home.
First mountains after leaving the coast and part of a belt of ranges that roughly follow southern Africa’s east and west coasts.    Collectively, they’re called The Great Escarpment.

After Cape Agulhas, the route trends east and north to George and put me about as close as I’ll get to the antipodal diameter with Logan, Utah.  It’s located to the southeast of George about two thousand miles in the Indian Ocean.  Now every mile I ride will be getting me closer to home- psychologically comforting.  After George I turned inland and began climbing into mountains that lead to the interior and a more deserty rain shadow.  Geographically, the coast is referred to as the Fynbos, inland the Karoo and the separating mountains The Great Escarpment.

I finally changed the bearings in the bottom bracket but found the old ones were in perfect shape.
Short section of dirt road near Heidelberg, S.A.
A bit of Utah landscape once again after descending the coastal mountains into the interior’s rain shadow.  Prickly pair is an invasive here.
New MSR stove- great relief.  A lot easier to use and far better fuel efficiency.
Nice camp
Blue highways.
Got needed water here.
Baboons. Those that I’ve seen have been wild and I was lucky to get this close for a photo. Near Cape Town, however, they’ve habituated well to humans and can open unlocked cars and doors to houses. There are warning signs saying things like “what to do if you’re surrounded by a troop” and “act calm and show confidence”.  This is either a female or a juvenile.  The males look formidable.
Good spot to sleep….
……but I was completely drenched by morning.  From the perch on the rock there was no way to anchor the fly out and away from the tent.  The night started clear, so I wasn’t too worried, but I hastily pitched the tent about midnight in rain and intense thunder & lightning.
Drying out.
Sleeping bag lable I had hoped I would never have to test. Took a good 3 days to dry the bag.
Road side repairs with Simon whom I lent some tools.
Another great camp in Karoo scrub.
The goat’s head, above and below, is alive and well in S. Africa. Unfortunately it found the bike tires before I found it.

Ticks!  None have bitten me yet but I’ve found them crawling on me.
Noupoort, S.A.
The grasslands, or Veld, are extensive and amazing. In the U.S. these habitats are too often converted to agriculture. The thousands of bumps are termite mounds- most building here is masonry.
Border with the Orange Free State and entering a mostly Dutch speaking area.
Crossing the Orange River.
A puff adder that had been hit on the highway.  A viper counterpart to our rattlesnakes, they’re responsible for the vast majority of snake bites in Africa.  They hold their ground when approached but don’t warn like a rattlesnake and often get stepped on.  They say cobras slither off before you see them.  They all make for carefull travel when wheeling the bike through tall grass to a campsite.
Spent two nights here waiting out rain. Kept relatively dry this time.

Below are a just a handful of the many people I’ve talked to since getting to S.A.  There are many English speakers here though accents are often hard to understand.  Blacks typically speak their tribe’s language as their first language and many are then taught English by bilingual Dutch (Afrikaaner) speakers.   You can imagine the accent.  They can understand me (most of the time) but at first I didn’t realize people were speaking English back.

Lionel & Philba Visagie.
Rachael ran a very nice restaurant in Struisbaai, near Cape Agulhas.
Nose Makeleni had lots of questions.
These guys had an art gallery in Hartenbos- lost their info.
Lionel and Philba Visagie gave me water when I needed it.
Robert and Joy Balcon are safari guides and world travelers that had a load of info on Africa for me.
Matthew Luyanda worked on the road crew and came over to eat lunch with me. He’s from the Xhosa (Cosa) Tribe, the same as Nelson Mandela.
Willie Pienaar has been all over Africa on both a motorcycle and a bicycle. It was a short conversation, but he had valuable info as well and has kept in contact answering more questions.   Check out for his travels.
These guys were in the town of Noupoort.

There are far fewer long distance cyclists here (I’ve seen one guy from Spain’s Canary Islands since being in South Africa) and many people are curious.  I’ve described where I’ve gone countless times but most people don’t really comprehend the distances.  One guy nodded patiently while I told of Central and South America and then asked where I was going next.  I said on to Pretoria and Zimbabwe but not sure after that.  He said “Zimbabwe? You’re riding your bicycle to Zimbabwe?”.  I’m getting to where I say a lot less until specifically asked.

Soweto, or South West Town, a district of Johannesburg that was in world news quite a bit in the 1970s and 80s.  Near Johannesburg’s gold mines, there was much unrest here in the years leading to Nelson Mandela’s release from prison.
The hill is gold mine tailings between Soweto and downtown Johannesburg.

I’ve been looking ahead to the route through Asia and would like to cross the Tibetan Plateau from Nepal to Mongolia.  This would be one of the grails of the trip.  Travel is restricted there but the prospect of riding a bike over it that began as impossible has advanced now to just expensive.  Tourists need to be accompanied by a guide.  To do it with just myself would be beyond what I could afford.  I have, however, been in touch with a company in Lhasa and worked out a group rate for 6 people that would be around $3200/person to go from the Nepali-Sino border to the Chinese city of Xining, which is out of the travel restriction zone.  It would take about a month and the price includes hotels and meals.  The accompanying guide amounts to what we would call a sag wagon- no panniers required- good news.  Furthermore, camping is limited, so distances between towns and hotels beyond that which can be covered in a day by bicycle will require riding for part of the time.  The bad news is that it sounds like your riding in the back of a truck.  They gave me a cursory itinerary that was about 2/3 biking / 1/3 riding for a total of about 2000 miles.  That would amount to ~1400 miles biking over a month’s time but with no loads.  This is close to what I’ve been doing over the last year loaded.  So, for all the folks that wanted to ride a leg of the trip, now’s your chance.  For my timeline, it could happen this fall, but it could also be the spring of 2018.  I’ll have to see how Africa and the Middle East go, but I should be able to commit in the next couple of months.  Anybody interested can email me at for more info.

I’m now in Pretoria checking into embassies for visa info, replacing the drive train on the bike (cluster rings completely shot), and stocking up on Malaria prophylaxis.  In S. Africa, Malaria meds are by prescription, so I had to go to a doctor.  It was very cheap and the doctor, Elizna Britten had a lot of good information.  The meds, however, are not cheap: 4 month’s worth of pills were about $500!

Aggy Modise, Dr Elizna Britten and Sinah Monageng. Aggy and Sinah speak Tshwane.

From here I go to west to Botswana and then north to Victoria Falls.  I’ll hopefully be putting out the next blog somewhere in Zambia.