So, you’re planning your next motorbike tour but you’ve only got two weeks off work. That rules out doing something epic such as, say, riding across Africa on an adventure bike, right? Well, actually, not quite.
That’s the position Scott Edwards from Texas was in. He wanted to have the trip of a lifetime, but with less than 12 days annual leave to play with, he wasn’t sure if it was possible.
So, he reached out to Andrew Vaughan from Ride Down South, a tour company based in South Africa that specialises in bespoke adventure motorcycle tours. Fortunately for Scott, he found the right person, and together they worked out a plan.
Their resulting journey together would see them ride from Cape Town to Kigali, Rwanda, in the heart of Africa in less than two weeks, covering over 5,280 miles and nine countries along the way.
Below is the story of their trip which goes to show you can still enjoy epic adventures while holding down a nine-to-five job.
The first part of their trip sees them ride along the coastal roads of western South Africa and Namibia. After leaving Cape Town, they’re immediately treated to some of the best roads in the world for motorcycles, which are well-maintained and showcase sublime views.
But where they’re going, they don’t need tarmac. They leave the blacktop and find themselves on dirt roads, heading into the arid Great Karoo plains.
The pre-historic Cederberg mountains rise in front of them from the cracked, dry earth. From here they can continue east across South Africa, or ride north off the beaten path.
Always up for an adventure, they choose to head north. Ahead lie the desolate plains of southern Namibia.
While riding through the mountains on the gravel Kupferberg Pass into Windhoek, a seal on Scott’s front fork begins to leak, spilling fork oil over his front tyre and brakes.
In his past life, Andrew was a mechanical engineer, so he rigs up a quick patch 190 miles away from Windhoek, the nearest town. They manage to make it there just before nightfall without further incident.
After enjoying a cold beer (or two) that night, they find a replacement seal in the morning and plot their next course.
A motorcycle safari
Turning their bikes east, they head inland into the savannah of Botswana and Zambia. Riding through vast game reserves, they’re treated to sightings of Africa’s spectacular wildlife, including a leopard, elephants, hippos, giraffe, and zebra.
An open top Land Rover is one thing for a safari, but a Honda Africa Twin is even better.
Leaving the savannah behind, they ride north-east towards the African Great Rift Valley to explore the shores of Lake Malawi and Lake Victoria.
The smoke that thunders
They take a break from riding to bask in the splendour of Victoria Falls, the largest curtain of falling water in the world. The falls are also known by the name of Mosi-oa-Tunya, ‘The Smoke that Thunders’, in the local Bantu language.
After watching the water tumble over the cliffs and into the gorge, it’s time to get back in the saddle. Deciding to crunch two day’s riding into a single day, they’re on their bikes for over 650 miles along Zambia’s Great East Road to Malawi.
A very well earned bed awaits them in Chipata, near the Zambia and Malawi border, and despite the enticing sounds of the local bar calling to them, they’re sound asleep nearly as soon as they climb off their motorbikes.
The next day they cross into Malawi, where they lose a few hours at the border while processing Scott’s visa, but they’re soon on their way to the majestic Lake Malawi.
They set up camp for the night on the shore and watch the ancient stars float above their heads as they sit around the fire.
Eight days in the saddle
Riding in May, early winter in the Southern Hemisphere, the sun dips early below the horizon and the light is fading quickly. The two Honda Africa Twins hum along the potholed road, tirelessly propelling their weary riders forward. Bats and insects dogfight in the light cast by their high beams.
Scott, a zookeeper, is excited to spot an Egyptian Cobra swaying at him as he rides past. By the time he turns around, the snake has already vanished, hiding somewhere in the thick bush.
They ride on, pressing on north along an unknown gravel road into the centre of Tanzania. Low on fuel, they stop near Ilungu, where a friendly village schoolmaster welcomes them into his home for the night.
The next morning they’re on their way again, searching for the shores of Lake Victoria and hoping that this unknown road will lead them there.
Riding into the lush landscape fed by Lake Victoria, the largest tropical lake in the world, the humidity climbs and the bush gets thicker.
Only behind Lake Superior in North America in terms of total surface area, Lake Victoria is so massive that you can see the sun set in the west as if you’re looking out across the Pacific Ocean.
Once home to hundreds of unique species of fish, unfortunately many have been driven to extinction by alien species, increased human settlement, and environmental disturbances around the lake.
The lake still boasts an incredibly diverse range of animal and plant life, but the ecosystem might look completely different in 50 years time. Andrew and Scott are lucky to have seen it now.
Roads less travelled
They zip through the Serengeti, crossing into Kenya and then Uganda. Coming to a section of road that’s been washed away by recent storms, they find solidarity with some locals, and they help each other cross the muddy river.
Even though their destination lies to the west of Lake Victoria, they decide to ride all the way around the eastern side of the massive lake.
It’s worth it, as taking the longer eastern route uncovers some excellent roads to ride. Despite the fact they can’t waste a single minute, they manage to squeeze an extra 620 miles of riding into their trip.
Home at last, almost
On the last day, they ride south into Rwanda past lush tea and coffee plantations, praying that they don’t have any trouble at the border.
Luckily, they’re waved straight through, and Scott even has time to have a shower and a feed before bidding farewell to Andrew and heading to the airport.
As Scott gets on his flight home, Andrew has another client waiting for him in Kigali. Together they’ll ride back down south to Cape Town at a more leisurely pace, seeing gorillas at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, exploring volcanic lakes, and climbing the Ruwenzori mountains of Uganda.
After a quick shower himself, he’s back on the road with his new riding buddy, journeying head-first into his next adventure.
Andrew is a tour guide and the owner of Ride Down South. He specialises in tailoring tours to suit your needs and can make your dream motorbike trip a reality. You can find out more about the experiences he offers and contact him via his website here.