Alan Whelan is the author of the book African Brew Ha Ha, which tells of his ride from Lancashire to Cape Town in search of the perfect cuppa, as you do. Alan was given lots of advice before he set out: some of it useful, some of it not – and some he ignored at his cost. Now safely back in the UK, he gives us his top 10 tips for prospective African overlanders…
A group of travellers – even a pair of bikers – can seem like a closed unit to people you meet along the way. People assume a lone traveller needs assistance of some kind or a friendly conversation – they’re usually right.
Remember, plans are just that: plans.
Your expectations, your route and a thousand other well meaning plans will fall by the wayside once you have to deal with the realities of travel in remote parts of Africa.
If you hurry you will be late.
Don’t hurry past apparently nondescript towns and villages. Africa moves at its own pace, and cannot be rushed. There is joy to be found everywhere.
Take a smile with you.
This is not hard in Africa. You will find people, places, events and situations that will make you laugh every day. These memories will far outlive the difficulties of travel.
Be polite and helpful with everybody you meet – you might need their help further down the track.
Take the lightest bike you can bear to ride.
You will drop the bike so often that anything over a 600cc will have you cursing at your own vanity for months.
Don’t worry about not finding food, water and petrol.
If there are people about you will find all three – although none will always be 100% pure.
Don’t take more stuff than you can pick up.
I guarantee you will ignore this advice and regret it. I did – and I did!
Don’t camp (especially if you travel alone).
Stay in cheap hotels – it will save bringing a tent and will plug you into the neighbourhood life giving you plenty of chances to meet people.
At some stage you have to say, “Tomorrow, I’m doing it”. So do it!