If I look at all the pictures from the first days, I only see my camp spots. This is an awful sign for how boring and uneventful this road (the N7) was. I took half a rest day in Springbok to sort out the usual stuff: sim-card and money. The Namibian dollar is connected to the South African Rand therefore it’s exchanged 1:1.
The Southeaster wind was blowing slowing down my progress on the hilly N7. So again, I only reached the next town after sunset. I met a group of mountainbikers at the camping in Kamieskroon and before I had set up camp, they had already bought me three beers. The bottom line was that cycling just felt like work. Like another day at the office. But the South-African generosity and hospitality made up for it.
After almost one year on the road, I started feeling unmotivated to get up in the morning, to pack all my stuff once again, often saying “same shit, different day”. It’s then just a matter of seeing the bigger picture. To see that cycling from Belgium to South Africa is quite a trip and that it was now time to finish it in beauty. “So get a move on son!”
So back on the road, for more headwind and hills. Oh, the Ipod was working overtime. Btw that thing was given to me by my cousin when I left for my Asia trip 4 years ago. He told me it would possibly fail working in the beginning of the trip, but now after crossing 45 countries with it, it’s still going strong.
I met two British guys on the road. One of them had just flown out to Cape Town, got the idea to do a bike trip and had assembled gear and bike there. They were now cycling to Uganda. Oh, guess how jealous I was that they were with two. To have someone to talk to, to kill time and to fight headwind with. Cycling Asia on your own is fine, but Africa is a different story.
After Nuwerus I finally left the mainroad and a couple of hills later, I saw the Atlantic again since Congo Brazza. In the middle of nowhere I met Niko, an Argentinian cyclist. We rode back to a village to camp together. He had been on the road for 2.5 years and was now cycling up the west-coast to Europe. With his long journey ahead, I swapped my best tire and heavy-duty inner tubes with him.
He also told me to follow the railway along the service road. This was a golden tip as the tar road took many detours. A couple of days further along the nice coastline, I got to Langebaan where I could stay in the house of Wesley and Carolin, whom I had met a couple of times on the road in Namibia.
I was just a single day away from Cape Town now. I couldn’t believe it. That last day, I didn’t stop smiling a single second. Apart from when I saw Table Mountain for the first time, because it was much more impressive then I had imagined.
Arriving at Green Elephant backpackers, it was time for a beer I reckon!
Cape Town, at the foot of Table Mountain, has an amazing setting. But in the end it’s just as any other capital. Busy and loud. But 20mins and you are out of the city and into the mountains.
Lara, a Belgian friend, came over and we traveled together for two weeks around the Cape Peninsula. She wasn’t used to cycling, but did a great job and even managed to enjoy it. Imagine! ;)
First to Hout Bay where we stayed with Daryll and Naomi, whom I had met with the group of mountainbikers in Kamieskroon, in the beginning of South Africa. We strolled around Hout Bay and visited Seal Island. It being Mother’s day, there was a lovely atmosphere hanging around.
Of course I was thinking of home, of my mother. I had actually left on the day after mother’s day last year, so it was now exactly one year. I now know I will be in Belgium for more than a year upon return to follow a carpentry course, so I’ll have lots of time to make it up to her.
Then to Kommetjie where we stayed with Darryl’s father for a day and then onwards to Cape Point.
Arriving at the Cape of Good Hope was quite emotional. I had suffered so much to get here. Every country had brought its challenges and I had never believed I would actually make it. Thinking of the heat and killing mosquitoes in West-Africa, to Ebola and the closing borders as a result, to ridiculously hilly Gabon only to get stuck in Congo Brazza with a visa about to expire, and no way to go. Then DRC with rainy season and an impassible road so another flight. All hard decisions, made only after a lot of contemplating. Off-road in Zambia with big rocks and worst food, extremely boring Botswana, soft gravel roads in Namibia and headwind all the way to Cape Town. When stuck in Congo Brazza I was actually looking for a flight back home. Now, I am so glad I didn’t.
Just the desire to explore new corners of the globe makes me willing to suffer a great deal. In the end it all comes down to mind over matter. Not to see limits and boundaries where most would. To try. To just go all the way for it. To just do it. And then to succeed in the end, well it felt very sweet. Motionless, I watched the ocean thinking of the hardship I went through to get here. Was it worth it? Oh yes. While looking at the power of the ocean, I felt strong, just like the thundering waves. Now this may all sound very cheesy, but don’t get me wrong. Cycling Africa is not an enjoyable holiday. Nothing is straightforward. It takes a lot of effort to get through and the bad food doesn’t rejuvenates you. Cycling Africa is a challenge. I'm not saying it's an expedition. It's not like pulling a 200kg sledge across Antarctica to the South Pole. It’s just an adventurous travel.
For a young guy like me, I think facing a challenge is essential to ones development. To leave your comfort zone. To just get all the way out there. To get to know you boundaries and to know you can go even much further. Everything is possible. If you want it, you can get it. Many people tell me they also want to make a big trip, that they are jealous on what I do. Well, then just get off your ass and do it! I find it hard to understand why people in the end never get to do what they were telling, dreaming off.
Regret piles up around us like books we haven’t read yet. This trip made me deal with regret. Traveling is about finding your own way, your own interests. Advertisement flyers about game parks, shark cage diving, bungee jumping,… in a way created some regret that I hadn’t gotten everything out of this trip. There is so much distraction around us creating regret if we don’t buy or do something. Traveling is about getting to know your priorities. To not feel bad about doing stuff in a different way. To follow your feeling. If you feel good in a place, then why would you leave? If you love someone, then why would you take the road?
I noticed during my travels in the last years, that my way of traveling is ever changing. If I had the knowledge I have now in the beginning of my trip, I would have had a very different trip. This is a very normal thing I think and one shouldn’t feel bad about it. Only excited about the next trip!
For a first visit to Africa, it was a long and extensive one. The slight transition from getting used to the cycling in Europe to Morocco where you can’t trust everybody, to black and primitive black Africa.
If you are loud, they are loud, if you are quiet, they are too. I learned not to be shy. Make a remark, and make it with confidence. Anything you say breaks the ice.
The last three weeks of my trip can be defined with thinking that you have a lot of time, then not planning much and before you know it, it’s time to go home.
I cycled along the coast to Cape Agulhas. On the way I passed Hermanus and while cycling out of town, I passed a Belgian waffles, beer and burger place. No wonder I sticked around for 3 days! It was fun working there a bit. They were busy renovating the kitchen and bar, and it was great to help out a bit, to do something real.
From September onwards you can see lots of whales here, real pity I couldn’t see this spectacle yet!
I met Sara, a Canadian cyclist that came riding from Kenya in the last three months. Now say again that girls can’t travel on their own in Africa!
At the end of the tar, we camped in the dunes. We were now only one day away from Cape Agulhas, the Southernmost point of Africa.
Winter was coming which meant lots of rain starting. Therefore we were now mostly staying in backpackers where a dorm bed was just slightly blowing the budget.
We met a guy there that ended up giving us a ride to Montagu, along the route 62. It seemed like a good idea, but with the rainy days, cycling wasn't very enjoyable. Probably because I forgot my rainjacket in Agulhas...
It was rainy, hilly and slow. The promised scenery along the Route 62 didn't show up and shitholes like Barrydale didn't get the mood up. Sara was actually raising money and still had to cycle a lot to fulfill her promise. I should just have stayed in the backpackers in Agulhas to write the blog etc. instead of cycling in the rain, even after already finishing my trip.
We cut back to the coast, now being in the stunning area of the Garden Route. I went into the mountains on my own, cycling the seven passes road. I passed a project where they teach skills to youth and was really intrigued by it. After meeting a friend in Knysna, I decided to go back there and finish my last week in South Africa by volunteering there.
At the Kula Malaika foundation Watson and Monica give workshops to young people in order to teach them skills. I ended up fixing up the cottage where the volunteers stay. Apart from that, Tiger and I finished off the dining room next to the kitchen so everybody could now lunch together.
I didn't saw white sharks or went sky diving, but the work gave me a great confirmation that my plan to become a carpenter when back in Belgium was the right one.
I then cycled to George, got a cardboard box to pack the bike in, waited for 3 hours and took a 17hour bus to Johannesburg. Once there, I took a taxi to the airport where, after waiting for 8 hours, I flew to Frankfurt, Germany. South African Airways is a bit more expensive, but you can take sports equipment for free.
I didn't sleep much on the plane so I got to Frankfurt rather tired. I assembled the bike and found it great to pass customs with a fully loaded touring bike :) I then set out to Petra and Frank, a lovely couple that gave me a lift in Namibia. Always cool to see people again in a different part of the world! I stayed there a day to rest a bit.
I planned to cycle in four days home, covering about 150kms a day. But I didn't count on having a headwind!
Anyway, I quickly got to the Rhein river where I met friendly cyclists that let me get in their slipstream. After Koblenz, I had a long day of 175km to Vaals, just over the border in the Netherlands. I met Jack, a Welsh cyclist, on the road and we camped together.
Then along the boring Albert Canal to Antwerp. It was another long day, but seeing my aunt and family again was great!
Then a final push towards Ghent and Bruges. Arriving home was very emotional, because every time I had a hard time during my trip I was thinking of home, of my mum, my dog,... And seeing them again, made all of this come back.
I've been back for a week now, and I'm slowly adapting again to Belgian life. I know it will take some time to reflect on my journey, to find my way here again, so I'll write more later.