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Old 12-12-06, 06:51 PM
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Bacciagalupe
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A couple of comments, many of which have been said already....

You should absolutely do some short tours before you go. You need to make sure you're comfortable on your bike and that you've worked out all the kinks. The last thing you want to do is ride 2 days out of Cairo and realize you've forgotten several critical items. Or worse yet, that you go 2 days out of Cairo and realize that, well, you don't really like bike touring that much after all.


You must be in good shape, physically and mentally, before doing a tour like this. This is not the kind of thing where you can whip yourself into shape in the first week or two of the tour. Also, you will be dealing with extremes of humidity, temperature, poor water supplies and unfamiliar foods, combined with strenuous physical exertion. At this point, you probably don't even realize how much water you need to consume and carry just to avoid basic dehydration while riding.


You absolutely need to know a LOT about bicycle maintenance, and carry a lot of supplies. Extra spokes, extra tires, extra cables, extra brake pads. Bike shops will be few and far between, if not downright non-existent, for most of your trip. Many Rwandands resort to wooden bikes, for example. Break yours while you're there without being a repair guru, and you are walking the rest of the way.


Doing this project on an $80 bike is, well, absurd.

Good panniers will cost you more than $80. Good quality cycling clothes -- and yeah, you're going to need them if you plan to tour -- will cost you far more than $80. A good saddle -- and you will definitely need a good one -- will cost you at least $80. The flights are likely to run into the thousands. And odds are good they'll even charge you to take the bike on the plane.


The sketch of your itinerary sounds far, far more dangerous than you realize.

Do NOT be overconfident about your safety and skills in traveling in Africa. If you do "start at Egypt and head south," you'll be in Sudan. In case you missed it, there's an ongoing genocide there, the security and travel infrastructure is shot, anti-government militias control several borders, and the 20-year old civil war that stopped less than a year ago could flare up at any time. The south is littered with land mines from that conflict. Medical facilities are all but non-existent outside of Khartoum.

To the west is Chad. Terrible choice, as it's hundreds of miles out of the way and home to the Janjaweed, who are committing the genocidal acts against civilians in Sudan. To the east is Eretria, whose own government requires foreigners to get permits to travel outside of Asmara for safety reasons -- so even if you wanted to pass through, they may very well tell you to get lost. If you did somehow make it through, both Eretria and Ethiopia are awash in bandits and left-over land mines from their border dispute.

Chad. Sudan. Congo. Eritrea. Central African Republic. All issued Travel Warnings by the US State Department. Unless you're a war reporter, Central Africa really is not the place to go right now.

And let's face it, you will have to carry medicine. And food. And cash. Lots of it, by local standards.

I'm sorry to be blunt and abrasive, but even if you had touring experience, you'd have to be a total idiot to travel, by bike, alone, with cash, through active war zones littered with land mines, bandits and shattered infrastructure.


Extensive travel in Africa is a good project to aspire to, and a bad project to plunge into with a cheap bike, no touring experience, no traveling companions, little apparent awareness of the political situations, and a route that goes through large war zones.

Africa isn't going anywhere. Take the time to gather the experience, know-how and the gear to do it right.
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