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Afrique du Sud

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When I discovered Africa


I arrived in Johannesburg at 6:00 am after two successive delays in New York and Dubai. No time to think, I unfold the bike and come out of the airport without knowing where I am, and full of Colombian pesos in my pockets that nobody want to change. I just know I want to go East. Lucky strike, the airport is on the right side so I go directly on the highway, which prevents me from crossing a city more famous for its carjackings with 357 magnum and tours / safaris for Soweto than for the charm of its streets.

The road is first uninteresting and banal. Some barbewired properties and the beginnings of shanty towns remind me where I am and wake me out of my torpor. My first real contact with the people is the supermarket because I had to get back some foods that Customs had confiscated. I soon discovered that people are always smiling and joking around here, far from the image we may have abroad.

After a short two-hour vital nap in a field (i didn’t sleep in the plane), a policeman stops me first to let me know that the highway is not made for bicycles.
You see people here on the highway?
Uh … yes. A lot. Look at there!
Yes… mmmhhh, but it is forbidden, so take the 4th exit and that’s it

The fourth outlet opens directly onto a crowded township. No way I’m going in there for my first day in South Africa, my emergency shoulder suits me perfectly. He escorted me if it wants but I do not move from here.
Even away from the city, the density of walkers / hitchhikers along the road remains constant, no way to find a lonely place. I came quickly in a cornfield, beheads three planes and spent a peaceful night away from prying eyes.


In the early morning, while I was loading my stuff on my bike at the entrance of the field, a black shows up in blue overalls. I think he is a worker of the field and we will talk quietly. He began :

Who are you? What do you do? Give me money!
-Money, why?
-Because You’re too rich!

Ah, it’s starting well…

– “? Me too rich? No, look, I sleep in the fields. That’s your field.?”
– “! Securit ‘Give me money”
– “No, somehow I have to go”
– “! Do not move” , he told me by releasing the belt he holds in his hand and calling I do not know who the other with his mobile.

One guy, I can handle it. He may possibly hurt me but it will not happen to me with his poor control belt. And I also have some material arguments. The guy stand up facing me until I catch my folding chair for storage. At this moment, my creditor gets scared (my chair?) And ran off, the phone at his ear. I don’t wait a second more and I run on the Highway, too happy with this opportunity. First morning in Africa, it promises. In my opinion this was a field worker who took a chance because I see many other blue overalls later. But I do not really want to know.

The following days will reassure me gradually. The people became more and more sympathetic as I was going towards Nelspruit and “Panorama Road”. White people asked me if I was not afraid of the high crime rate while blacks rather spoke about snakes that I might encounter in my camping evenings. But in the countryside, I saw neither snakes nor evil, then I regularly reassured everyone with a smile.


On the road after Graskop, landscapes of great beauty succeeded for several days, and, with the always funny discussions I had with the locals, I completely forgot the country’s reputation. I always hid to sleep but it was almost more out of habit than real fear.
The road that I chose overlooked a vast plain that could be seen intermittently. In few kilometers, The Pinnacle, God’s window or Three Roundavelts offered me some of the best sceneries of my trip. I was told that the Cape Town area was even more beautiful, it will be necessary that I return check another time. I was in a dream, Africa was heaven and looked nothing at all what I imagined before putting my wheels. My days became even more hilarious because long discussions I had with the locals.









Then I reach Burgersfort, a small town that I pointed at my map as the next place of refueling. A mixed feeling came over me at the entrance of the city. I had seen the Spar supermarket, but I didn’t like the atmosphere that prevailed at the front so I will not stop. No smiles, they answered my greetings with disdainful gestures of the head (you know, that top down movement as if to say “ yeah, who are you, you?! “). I’m filling my water bottles to the gas station and the car wash employees called me, they worry for me. “ Do not sleep in the bush, here people kill other people. You shoulds stay at the next Garage tonight. Etc. ” It is 14:30, if I sleep in the garage 200m further I’m not much advanced. I see the police, so I will ask them an objective opinion. They hardly consider me. “ Yeah, that’s OK you can go ” I know I can go big guy, I want to know if I can cross safely. I still have not seen a white guy around here. Well, I’m going, I do not like this place and I want to leave quickly, thinking to be able to leave the city within 10 minutes. I try to greet people as much as possible and very little answer me until some begin to bawl me stuff in local dialect. I do not know if it’s hostile or not even if the tone leaves little room for doubt. I smiled stupidly. “Fuck off!” “Leave! Leave!” Oh, that’s hostile.The city never stops and slightly climbs on 20km and I expect to see emerging a guy with a machete to cut me to pieces during more than an hour .

Then the houses are scattered a little, the guys seem more quiet and some cars now stop to see what I’m doing there, but nicely. At sunset, I finally finds refuge in Harry’s house, an electrical engineer from the platinum mine. He offers me a corner of his garden for the night and laughed every time I explained how I live.


In the morning, at the exit of a wonderful bath, his wife took pity on me and my single wet shirt and offering me one of her husband’s one. It was also confirmed to me once that Burgerfort is definitely not a recommended place for a lonely white bicycle. So the wrong place. Besides the big cities, there are few places to avoid in South Africa. After this episode, I asked the guards of a mine that host me for the night if there was still racial tensions in South Africa. They almost laughed. For them “ it’s the past, but we can not prevent some fools to exist.


A lot of people do not understand why I’m traveling that way.. “But why are you doing this to yourself?” is a recurring issue. “Somebody pay you for that? You get big money when you come back? No?” Or “You’re going to Ethiopia? With this bike? You lie!” . Sometimes I simply indicates that I go to the next town to shorten. Otherwise, it systematically follows a hilarious 20 minutes dialogue, a crowd gathers around me to talk about my journey, where they call unknown motorists to talk about me. Motorists who then stop in the middle of the road to ask questions. It honks behind but nobody moves without at least know my final destination, where I come from, and why I do this. Question that sometimes it is more difficult to answer as you might think.

The road to the Botswana border is infinitely straight and flat. Drier too. Sounds like Africa that we watch in animal stories. I meet many whites who are going on safari and learn that my path in Botswana includes a portion of 300km with lions and elephants in the wild. Lions ?! But it is dangerous! “Ah yes, but the elephants are more. If you stay on the road you should be OK.” I should, the use of the conditional is admirable.

The bike trip seems to be a concept still not widespread in South Africa (compared to Latin America for example) and the reactions of the people left me almost think I was the only rider in the country, which surprised me a little. Until one morning, some of them told me that my friend was here 20 minutes before me. My friend? A bicycle? I have to catch up this guy! After twenty kilometers galloping, I was catching Eelco, a South African 65 who bike trip from Cape Town to the Victoria Falls. He has already made the road 30 or 40 years ago and knows a few places to sleep safely on the lions road. Well, here’s old infos but worth gold 50km before crossing the border.



South Africa was a great discovery. I was a bit scared before coming and I discovered a beautiful country both for its inhabitants and its amazing views. Yes, there are still some dark areas, some places to avoid, the many pubs for security companies attest. Of course, the information always put more emphasis on these areas than on the positives of the country. You hear a lot of good news by listening to the news? Shut the TV and come discover South Africa:




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pepe meme, le Sunday May 31st, 2015

bravo……encore bravo on en apprend plus avec toi – et en plus vrai- qu’a la tele nous avons presque hate d’y voir du ciel le velo pour nous c’est terminé bonne route et a plus gros bisous de tous les deux

Esther et Jeremy, le Wednesday June 3rd, 2015

Salut , on est 2 bretons , on vient de passer 2 mois à vélo au Népal ( génial malgré le tremblement de terre ) et nous sommes arrivés en Mongolie aujourd’hui ( par avion route bloquée au tibet ). Je découvreton blog qui est vraiment bien fait et bien écrit . Nous allons nous engouffrer dans la steppe mongole avec quelques doutes ( eau, état des routes, vent, sables etc ..) mais tu sembles raconter que les routes sont bonnes. Bref si tu as des conseils on est preneur.
Bon vent
Les déraillés

Greg, le Wednesday June 3rd, 2015


alors en Mongolie on a traversé de la frontière russe à Oulan-Bator. Pour l’eau, on buvait celle des rivières, c’était propre. La route était bonne jusqu’à Oulan-Bator. C’était en août, il faisait bon et tout était vert.
Ensuite nous sommes partis un peu à l’ouest en attendant notre visa chinois. Routes toujours bonnes et toujours verts et magnifique autour mais plus de difficultés pour l’eau, moins de rivières. Il faut demander à la population et nous n’avions pas toujours un très bon contact dans cette région mais ce qui était vrai pour nous sera peut être différent pour vous.
Au sud, nous n’avons pas traversé le Gobi en vélo. C’était notre deuxième mois de voyage et nous n’avions pas osé (je le regrette aujourd’hui) mais c’est possible. Nous avons rencontré un cycliste anglais qui l’a fait, il faut parfois pousser le vélo sur plusieurs kilomètres dans le sable. De ce que je me souviens la “route” suit la voie de chemin de fer et on peut se ravitailler en eau dans les gares.

Bon, maintenant, ce sont des informations qui datent d’il y a 4 ans.
Mais franchement, si je devais y repasser, avec l’expérience que j’ai aujourd’hui je m’enfoncerai bien plus partout sans avoir peur de l’eau ou de l’état des routes. Les paysages sont superbes là-bas. Je ferais même le Gobi pour le fun. Et au pire, on ne me laissera jamais mourir de soif ;)

Merci pour les commentaires. J’irai jeter un oeil à votre blog cet aprem ;)

Patrick, le Sunday June 21st, 2015

Je suis vraiment en admiration devant le courage qu’il faut pour tenter une aventure pareille, merci de nous faire partager cette expérience unique. J’ai vu la vidéo et c’est pas mal, j’espère qu’il y en aura d’autre :)

logan, le Thursday October 22nd, 2015

Bravo !! Quel courage , c est un plaisir de dévorer vos textes ! Et photos,
Bon courage…….

Paula CONTINI, le Wednesday January 13th, 2016

comment pourrai-je vous contacter? merci bien.

Greg, le Wednesday January 13th, 2016

Bonjour, vous pouvez m’envoyer un mail à