London to Kapstadt
A to Z

Norman's London to Cape Town A to Z.

This is an entirely personal summary of my journey from London to Cape Town. In it I also try to answer the most common FAQs.........


A is for Africa, the continent I travelled through from Cairo to Cape Town; a place of huge contrasts; snow capped mountains, barren deserts, perfect tarmac roads and the nastiest corrugated, potholed former roads you can imagine, unjustified wealth clashing with desperate poverty, wonderful friendliness and people trying to rip you off. When I consider AIDS, natural disasters and corrupt, insane leaders, I have trouble holding out much hope for it in the new millennium, Accommodation (in the Middle East in cheap hotels, in Africa camping).

B is for Bridgestone (my tyre sponsor... thanks again!), The Boxershop (all my spares on sale or return.... Vielen Dank Norbert!), Body shape diversification (I heard an enthralling radio discussion on this topic in Botswana), Buddha (Mike is the new one), Bain's Baobabs (in Nxai Pans, Botswana.. the best sunset in Africa), Boerwors (on a lekker braai... Rob's, Mike's and my staple diet for the 6 weeks from Vic Falls to Cape Town), Bob Mugabe (a well balanced individual, kleptocrat, nominally in charge of his own faculties and Zimbabwe), BMW (=Be My Wife...quote from an Ethiopian policeman), Borders (no real problems all the way, except for Jippoland, but that's old news), Botswana (pretty much a transit country because some bird called Eline was on my tail and it's far too expensive).


C is for Costs (I was on just over US$30 per day including fuel and everything else- If you subtract the cost of flying me and the wife from Cairo to Addis Ababa, the average is a lot less), Corrugations (nice things that make the ride rather bumpy and caused the rear sub frame to break a couple of times), Carburettors (I now know exactly how they work....), Cape Town (the Mother City... I was wondering why there were so few beautiful women in the rest of Africa... the reason: they are all in Cape Town!), Communicating from the road (I used my Psion 5 until it broke in my coming together with Flossy the sheep... I have not missed it at all; they are a pain to use and except in Malawi and Ethiopia, there are Internet Cafes in all the major cities), Customs Clearance for shipping (5 days in Cairo, 5 minutes in Cape Town... no comment!).

D is for Desert (flew over the Sudanese one, the Kalahari was covered in grass and trees and the Namib was as majestic to see and ride through as it ever was), Dirt riding (the best.... if it isn't too muddy!), Damascus (a great city), Distance travelled (28500km in 6 1/2 months).


E is for Egypt (see H for Hell), Eline (the tropical cyclone that was after me), Electrics (the weak point on the wife... I needed a new starter motor in Cairo and a new rotor for the alternator in Namibia), Elephant pooh (a bit of advice... don't drive through it as it makes your boots stink rather badly!), Ethiopia (-along with Namibia - my favourite country to ride in).

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F is for Rear Sub Frame (make sure it is strong enough to handle corrugated/nasty roads), Falafel (my staple diet in the Middle East), Friends and Family (I've made many more (friends that is!)... THANK YOU TO EVERYBODY FOR YOUR HELP!), Freight (I paid US$580 to fly the wife from Cairo to Addis and US$320 to put it on a ship from Cape Town to New York), Fuel (my biggest expense; nearly free in Egypt, US$1 per litre in Turkey, 78 Octane leaded in Ethiopia...).

G is for Give Me....(unfortunately the standard greeting of many of the Africans I met), Guns (lots of people have them), Gadgets (GPS, Psion etc... on the route I took, I could have coped well without them... I never had to use the GPS!..... All you need is a good map (Michelin), a compass and a mouth), Guidebooks (whatever the 'LP Africa on a shoestring' says is likely to be wrong.... the only time it was invaluable was when I needed something to put under the side stand while stuck in the mud).

H is for Hell (see E for Egypt), Horn (I fitted a 112 decibel one... people always seem disappointed when they hear me and don't see a lorry), Hansa Brewery (the highlight of the stay in Swakopmund... the brewery tour)


I is for Istanbul (a top town to visit and to practice your driving skills), Illnesses (apart from one bad case of food poisoning in Turkey and a minor eye infection in Malawi... none at all. I now weigh more than when I left England. I only used bottled or filtered water, including to brush my teeth and drank at least half a litre of Pepsi/Coke per day).

J is for Jerusalem (an 'interesting’ place), Jonathan Livingstone Seagull (a great book), Jordan (except for Petra, not a nice place: I got robbed there)

K is for Kenya (where I met Flossy and encountered the worst drivers in Africa... they wouldn't be as bad if the police there even pretended to do their job).

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L is for Life (Live it), Laisamis (Best and Worst day: Christmas Eve 1999.... 4 hours for 2 km through mud with stopping every 10 metres to remove the cement that was jamming both wheels, more corrugation and snapped rear sub frame -again-, getting frame welded, 100km in 10 hours, attended Catholic Mass with nativity play and simultaneous translation from Latin to English, to Kiswahili to Samburu and satellite phone link up with Italy), Loneliness (lots of it, where were all the other overlanders?), Larium (my anti malaria drug... it gives exceptionally vivid dreams..... and I did not contract malaria either).

M is for Mud (I hate it), Money (I carried US$ cash and Amex Travellers cheques), Moyale to Isiolo (the nastiest road I encountered.... corrugations, deep bolder strewn tracks, sand, mud), Modifications (I wish I had strengthened the rear sub frame), Middle East (in the future I'd like to visit Turkey and Syria again), Malawi (I'm a little confused as to why so many people rave about it), Mozambique (I only transited this country in a day... with Eline having done her worst, it needs a lot of help).

N is for Norman (that's my mascot -a Malawian togolosh- who rides shotgun on my front mud guard), Namibia (a great country, superb for biking and breath taking scenery), Nairobbery (that's where I spent the millennium... on Upper Hill Campsite.... trust me, it could have been a lot worse somewhere else).


O is for Overlanders (there aren't that many real ones - where are you all?.... Only lots of trucks full of stoned Antipodeans yobs in the back -their drivers however, were excellent!), Oryx (my favourite African animal), Occupied Palestine (One half of the world calls it Israel).

P is for Problems (hardly really except 'Illnesses' and 'Electrics' and after I got some decent rubber, the punctures stopped too!), Piste (riding it is the best - having a huge dust cloud behind you gives an exhilarating sense of freedom), Poverty (In Africa there is such a huge disparity between the (few) haves and the (many) have-nots.... unfortunately I did not see it as my duty to right this imbalance), Planning (my advice is: don't plan too much... make sure your bike is up to it, have a medical insurance and enough cash, whatever you do plan probably won't happen anyway... the book to read is Chris Scott's 'Adventure Motorbiking Handbook').

Q is for Quedas do Ruacana (a town on the Namibia/ Angola border... I never went anywhere near there, but it's the only place I could find beginning with Q!).


R is for Route (the route I took... via the Middle East to Cairo... fly over Sudan... drive around Ethiopia, across Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa; the Route ahead: New York to Alaska to Argentina.... I HOPE!), Regrets (only one: I wish I had gone earlier!), Rain (it is not good for riding a bike... it rained once (a hail storm in Syria) all the way from London to Cairo; it stopped raining once or twice from Dar es Salaam to Windhoek), Roads (had it all), Reinheitsgebot von 1516 (the beer purity law under which Windhoek Lager is brewed), Republic of South Africa (the end of the journey... a country I will definitely return to: great scenery, wine, food, riding, sailing, climbing, weather, women.... the opposite end to the spectrum to my first African country!)

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S is for Sheep (you should be very careful when in proximity to these woolly creatures... quite big, very mobile and absolutely no brain whatsoever, Donkey are also dangerous, but cannot do U-turns as easily as sheep), Swakopmund (laaaaaaaavley taaaaaawn Swaaakohhhh - say this out loud in an Essex accent- an in-joke!), Shesha Bar (where most Arab men - and temporary residents (me) spent much time in the Middle East), Shawama (another staple food in the Middle East), Syria (many helpful people... please keep it a secret and hence there won't be any mass tourism which would spoil it... like most other places), Sudan (I flew over it once - just like another place in '41: I believe fate did not want me to go there).


T is for Tyres (whether you pay for them or not, you MUST have tyres up to the job...), Turkey (top riding... try to visit the real -Eastern- part also), Tanzania (I liked it there), Travel companions (see 'Loneliness', I'm not a loner and I was not impressed with the amount of time spent driving on my own; teaming up with Rob and Mike in their 'Landrover recovery vehicle' from Vic Falls to Cape Town made things much easier and more enjoyable -THANKS BOYS), Time (take it).

U is for Uniforms (I developed a healthy disrespect for anybody in a uniform... my advice is, if they don't have a gun, ignore them), Usambara Mountains (in Tanzania... the quaint former German hillstation of Lushoto can be found here).


V is for Visas (no problems at all really, except of course Sudan; trying to get one cost me about six weeks.... Top Tip: recognise earlier when you are flogging a dead horse; I was ignored in London, refused in Germany and they lost my application in Cairo!), Victoria Falls (much more spectacular than last time... in 1992 there was hardly a trickle dripping over.... this time: a rainbow in front of a full moon at midnight!).

W is for Wife (the name of the bike: see 'BMW'), Websites to visit: (Links), Why do a trip like this? (Why not.... seemed like a good idea at the time, also see L for Life).

X is for Xanagas (same reason for choosing this as for choosing 'Q', except I camped there one night - it's in Botswana, just before the Namibian border).

Y is for Yobs (see 'Overlanders'), Youyouyou (the usual greeting in Ethiopia... normally
followed by 'Give me...').


Z is for Zanzibar (the view at sunset from the balcony of the Africa House Hotel, competes with 'Bain's Baobabs'), Zambia (spent a night in Livingstone and saw Vic Falls from that side), Zimbabwe (a beautiful country, but also see B for Bob).

That's it folks. For now. The first Americas episode follows.

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