Cape to Cape Challenge – 18.000km in 75 days
On 8th September 2019, I set off at Cape North in Norway to cycle 18.000 km to Cape Town at the Southern end of Africa. I started together with photographer and ultracyclist Philipp Hympendahl, riding completely unsupported and pushing to arrive in less than 75 days.
After facing Russian highways, terrible weather, police harrasment but also amazing hospitality together, Philipp decided not to continue after severe foodpoisoning in Egypt. I continued alone through Sahara and East Africa overcoming foodpoisoning, violent conflicts and the extreme conditions of Africa. Despite the hardship I also lived through an amzing adventure with friendly people, the vastness of the desert and beautiful wildlife encounters. I reached Cape Town after 72 days – 30 days faster than the prior record.
You can read my diary, follow my route and relive the adventure below.
Diary of Cape to Cape
ORTH CAPE TO CAPE TOWN – RECORD COMPLETE !!!!
At 18.53 local time November 19th, I finally arrived at the waterfront here in Cape Town, South Africa . In 72 days, 7 hours and 27 minutes I have travelled 18.000 kilometers on my bike, all the way from North Cape, Norway to here. I completed the journey 30 days faster than the world record. I am tired, sore and very very happy. I want to thank everyone who has supported me on this adventure. Now I am going to have a little party here in Cape Town to celebrate, but promise to be back here soon with more on how I feel 🙂 Pic by @plaukli
E.T.A: between 5 and 7pm at the Big Wheel on V/A waterfront.
Supertough day, battling a 30kmh headwind all day. Cycled for over 12 hours and managed 238 km.
With 620 km left and 32 days ahead of the current world record, I am very confident that this will be a successful Expedition.
Super tough day with 328km against the wind. Incredibly tired now after 17.000 km on the bike but I can almost smell the Ocean now .
Yeah!!! I was looking forward to that part.
1.300km to go, time for the final sprint to Capetown.
The gate of the police station is closed at 5am and I lift my bike across the fence. No easy task getting across with cycling shoes. All morning I fight a strong headwind and reach Gaborone at noon. Its a surprisingly modern city that looks very similar to most midsized US cities. In the evening the wind gets stronger and I ride with 18kmh in the flat until I find a guesthouse at sunset. 50 km from South Africa.
I set off at sunrise hoping for the forecasted tailwind which never comes. The road goes very boring through endless bushes. Today I am feeling very tired and quickly nap for 10 minutes at noon. In the evening another thunderstorm arrives and makes camping less pleasant. I ask at a police checkpoint and they let me sleep inside the station and bring me tea. Do nice.
With only a few cookies for breakfast I cycle the 60 km to Nata. A few more elephants and gazelles cross the road. In Nata I am starving and eat sth. proper. Now I am out of the wildlife zone and the road becomes very boring. Completely flat with endless bushes on both side, no changes at all. I push through and focus on the kilometers to make it to Francistown. I arrive in the mining town at sunset and find a little hotel with a tasty Indian restaurant.
A bit later start than usual as the border opens at 6am. There is a big line of Zambians waiting but the officer waves me ahead. I feel a bit bad about that privilege but take it. Immigration goes very smooth and I cross the mighty Sambezi river into Botswana. I immediately notice that it is not a developing country. Roads are good, there are shopping centers and modern gas stations. All packages food is imported from South Africa and there is big choice, such an improvement after struggling in most of Africa with food. Shortly after the border town Kasane I enter an area of 300 km that is famos for its wild animals. Monkeys run around and I see a few elephants between the trees. Its not a place for wildcamping and I planned to reach Nata before dark. In the afternoon a heavy thunderstorm and strong headwind comes and makes this target impossible. Just before it gets dark there are several groups of elephants crossing the road and I get worried where I will sleep tonight. With the last bit of light I reach a police checkpoint and they let me sleep inside. At night an elephant comes into the camp and a lion eats one of the dogs…I am happy to be inside.
An epic day on the bike. I set off in the dark to make a push to the border. I make good progress in the morning but at noon a big thunderstorm hits me and forces me to a quick break in an otherwise nonstop ride all day. In the evening I follow the mighty Sambezi river with Giraffes, Zebras and Pumba next to the road.
Managed 335 km but arrived at the border when it was already closed. Staying in Zambia and will cross into Botswana at 6am tomorrow. Will be riding right through lions country all day…luckily I am very skinny after foodpoisoning, the cats wont be interested.
Super tough day with crosswinds, heat and bad roads. I set off at 5am and cross Zambia’s capital Lusaka which went surprisingly smooth after struggling in most African capitals so far. Shortly afterwards the road became very bad and plenty of road constructions. I have to push my bike in two occassions due to deep sand. All day I only take two 10 minute breaks and skip lunch. So still manage 300km. Approaching Botswana now and some exciting wildlife.
I start in the dark to make up for yesterday. I am feeling slightly better but still sick. The first 120 km I cycle without stopping a single time. I also skip lunch and instead get some chapthi at a gas station. The pavement now is perfect though truck traffic is inreasing. I push all afternoon hard and manage 312 km, a new record. I am now in the outskirts of Luanda, last big city before Capetown
I barely slept and feel miserable when I set off at sunrise. The road is becoming better now and there are just a few hills so I pick up speed despite my condition. People are very friendly and everyone greets me. I struggle to find food and mostly eat dry biscuits all day which I get down with water. I reach Serenje 50 minutes before sunset but decide to stay. Its 100 km to the next bigger village and I am still suffering from foodpoisoning.
I set off on the gravel road which stay very bad all morning. After 100 km it changes into just bad tarmac and I pick up speed again. The landscape is very boring with just bush around and no changes att all. There are always very simple huts around but proper villages are far apart. At noon I reach the first one and stop for lunch which takes too long to be ready. I push hard all afternoon to reach Mpika, the first place that has a guesthouse. Unfortunedly, it also has a nightclub and party goes all night. I wake up at night feeling ill again from foodpoisoning. The challenge of Africa.
I set off before sunrise and the road to the border gets immediately very bad. Big pothoes and cuts in the pavement . I climb a few long hills until I reach the border. Tanzanian side goes smooth but I wait over an hour on the Zambian side. After the border the road becomes horrible, a constant change between pavement with meter big potholes, gravel sections and road construction. I go very slow and just reach the first bigger village after sunset. There is only one guesthouse on the main road and a cockroach is sitting on my bed. There is also no water and an electricity problem. Two houses further there is a restaurant and I join the guests who are eating with torches or phonelights. Well, an adventurous day, will be good memories afterwards.
First proper tailwind since Sahara. I set off before sunrise into a crosswind and constant up and down. Still making good progress and after 100 km the road turns southwest. The wind now blows at full force from behind and I average 35km/h despite constant hills. This is fun, hard to remember when I had such conditions the last time. I ride all day with only 20 minute lunch stop for a quick omelette. I start dreaming about 350km but in the evening there is a long climb of almost 40km. I just make it into Mbeya when it gets dark after 290 km with 2600 meters of climbing. I am now 100 km from Zambia – 11 countries done, 3 to go.
Amazing day on the bike. I set off before sunrise and ride through huge baobab forrests. The trees are twice as big as my bike. I am having a strong crosswind and constant hills but push hard. At noon there comes a long climb. The road goes up in endles curves while monkeys cross the road. Its hot and dry now much more pleasant the rainy season in Kenya. I ride all day, stopping only 20 min for lunch and manage 270 km.
I reach the crossing shortly after sunrise. There are more people around who confirm 400 km of gravel and the alternative route is 230km detour. In Europe I would have taken the gravel but with the next bikeshop 3.000 km away I opt for the safer choice. Now I have it under control and will push hard to regain the time. As I now turn west, I face a force headwind and push all day with 17/18 kmh. At noon the wind becomes so strong that the dust is blown everywhere and riding becomes super tough. I reach the capital Dodoma in the late afternoon and am surprised how pleasant it is. Few cars, good roads and simply not the chaos I expected. I ride for another 30 km and find a hotel at sunset. Bad day for the record but brighter days are coming as I am approaching high-speed Zambia with flat roads and prevailing tailwind.
The wind has picked up and comes strongly from the side. I climb out of town and overtake a UN convoy that is struggling with the incline. I meet the trucks a few times more as they are faster in the flat but I am faster on the many ascents. Slow progress under the conditions but I focus in getting the hours in. After climbing all day it flattened out in the evening and the landscape changes. There are huge rocks lying around everywhere and the villages build between. I sleep 30 km from a crossing where I turn to Mbeya.
In the village people warn me about 400 km of gravel but I cant get any reliable Information.
I say goodbye to my cameraman Pasi and his driver Solomon and head alone across the border at sunrise. Fast and well organized crossing for African standards. The road is smooth and I progress fast through amazing scenery. Africas highest mountains are around and mighty Kilimanjaro in the distance. I push all day with only two 5 minute stops as there is a long strech through a National Park in the evening and I dont want to risk getting into the dark (lions and other nightlife around). Villages are far apart here and the people are super friendly. The children all wave and shout Muzungu (white man). Make it through the park with the last daylight and find a hotel in the small town Babati. 263 km despite hills and headwind, less than 5.000 km to the Cape left.
I set off at sunrise on the big eight lane highway. After 15 km cars are barely moving and I zickzack through the traffic jam. At least Nairobi isn’t a dangerous city to cross since cars a moving at walking speed. On the other side of town I reach a bikeshop for a complete checkup of Esposa. It is the only decent bikeshop between Cairo and Capetown and I had planned the visit with the owner David for a few weeks. It takes two hours but they are good invested. When I continue two local cyclists join me and its interesting to see that there is a small but growing cycling community in Nairobi. They ride for 60 km with me and then I continue alone through beautiful hills until I reach the border town Namanga at sunset. Kenia has been awesome and superfast after my prior Africa challenges.
I set off with Dimitry but after two km speed away. The road climbs for 30km up the beautiful slopes of Mount Kenya. At noon I reach Nanyuki and share a quick lunch with Adele who works as a pilot there. We met last year when I was riding in Canada and she then hosted me when I passed her place during Panamerica Solo. Such a small world and I hole that next time I have more time than during a record ride.
After lunch I pass a big sign annoincing the equator. Its motivating as from now on days will become longer which makes my riding easier. I push further towards the outskirts of Nairobi. Just 10 km before the hotel a tropical thunderstorm comes with hailing and strong winds that make me struggle to keep the bike straight. Freezing I arrive at the hotel.
I set off into heavy rain. Its rainy season in Kenya and usually rain in the morning and evening. The landscape changes with big mountains in the distance and savanah landscape between. I face strong crosswinds all day but push hard to make it to an encounter in Isiolo. I have been in touch with Dimitry Kieffer for over a year and we had planned to meet when our paths cross. He is completing a human powered circumnavigation of the globe and currently cycling to south Africa from where he will row to Brazil. He plans to reach Alaska in five years, the place where he started his journey in 2005.
I arrive late at 8 pm in the hotel where he already waits and we have a great dinner together. We travel at so different speed but share the same passion for adventure and a proper challenge.
After a nice breakfast I head to the border and quickly get through Ethiopian Immigration on the Kenyan side the officers are having a longer breakfast and open with 40 minutes delay. When I am finally across I immediately see that Kenya is much more developed. Roads are good and there is a bit of choice at the shops. After 40 km my cameraman Pasi and his driver Solomon meet me. They had set off from Nairobi the day before and will film my ride through Kenya. Off course without supporting me in any way. This is the wild and sparsely populated north of Kenya. Big distances between villages but there are always a few cattle herders around. This part of kenya had been very dangerous a few years ago but now there are police checkpoints everywhere. In the evening there is a 30 km climb onto a plateau and not knowing it I get far into the dark. There are eyes in the dark and noises of wild animals around, a great experience climbing under the African sky. In the outskirts of Marsabit I get stopped at a police checkpoint. They ask me if I carry a gun for protection, apparently there are hyenas and elephants around. Well, the sounds seemed a bit different afterwards.
When I set off I cant find food anywhere. After an hour I get to a crossing where I get bread and some tea for a late breakfast. I am now in the sparsely populated south of Ethiopia with big distances to the next town. There is heavy military and private people with machine guns everywhere. The border region and city Moyale has had violent tribal conflicts for years. However, everyone is super friendly and it feels safe. I make good progress in the morning until the road turns east into a strong headwind. I reach Moyale at sunset and want to head across to the Kenyan part of the City. I charge my plan since several locals warn me that there was a gunfight on the Kenyan side and decide to cross in the morning.
I get off before sunrise and immediately hit a very bad gravel road. I climb for almost 50 km, mostly in road construction going very slow. Landscape is changing again and I enter rainforest and big banana plantations. In the afternoon the road turns into smooth tarmac and goes constantly up and down in rolling hills. There are much less people now and they are all super friendly. I push into the dark until I find a small and crappy hotel. Now I am in reach to cross into Kenya tomorrow.
When I wake up it looks like things have calmed down and also the hotel owner says I can go. After 50 km I reach Shashamane and the entire city is blocked. Burning truck tyres, barriers made of rocks and trees, heavy military presence and mobs running around with sticks. All shops and restaurants are closed and I struggle to find a safe place. In the center a mob gets aggressive and their attention quickly shifts towards me. Luckily there are some locals that form a circle around me and bring me to a gated restaurant which quickly lets me in. After an hour there is an opportunity to leave and I quickly ride out. 30 easy km later I hit a 70 km gravel section due to road construction. Children constantly throw stones at me and insult me. They all shout “China” or “Ali Baba”, its obvious who is the economic powerhouse in the region. After 200 km I find a hotel just when it gets dark. Very happy with that but again missing my daily target. Looking forward to Kenya and easier conditions.
I set off at sunrise and reach after one hour Zigay. There are demonstrations everywhere and no one can explain why. I make my way through but in the outskirts of the city the road is blocked by car tyres and stones. There is smoke and a bit mob of a few hundred people comes running towards me. I turn around a retreat to the next hotel. The whole day I cant leave the hotel. Everything in the city has shut down. There are road baricades and mobs with sticks and stones are running through the street. Apparently a political activist from the region has been detained by the police which caused demonstrations in entire region. Others say that he was not detained but simply said so to cause violence. At night the action is still ongoing and I am happy to be in the hotel behind closed gates. The mob has turned violent and eager to destroy things while the army from Addis Abbaba has arrived trying to resolve the situation. There is no alternative route for me and I have 400 km more in this region. No idea what tomorrow brings and if I can cycle.
I leave at sunrise and ride along a high plateau in the morning mist. Suddenly a big stone comes thrown from behind a fence. I avoid it in the last second but almost crash. After that people are friendly all day. At noon I descent into Ethiopias capital Addis Abbaba and cross the city in an endless traffic jam. On the other side the road is completely broken for almost 100 km and has 30 km of road works. Very slow going and I am happy my bike survives. In the evening the landscape changes. I have been riding constantly in the mountains and now a big Savanah landscape opens. Faster days ahead.
King stage. I am finally over the foodpoisoning and feel strong again. After 20 flat kilometers the road descents for 22 km into the Blue Nile gorge. At the bottom there are monkeys playing around and a spectacular view into the canyon. Of course the road equally climbs up on the other side at one of Africas toughest climbs. The pavement is horrible and the ascent steep but the views of the canyon spectacular. After 2 hours I reach the top at 2.700 meters and stop for Spaghetti. In the afternoon the road goes constantly up and down through a beautiful high plateau. People are super friendly and wave at me with only two occasions of thrown stones. Exactly with the last daylight I enter a village and find a cheap hotel for the night. 3 Euro but no running water.
I wake up feeling very ill again but get on the bike at sunrise. I immediately start a long climb up to 2.600 meters. People are now very nice and simply greet me including the children. I feel completely out of energy and climb very slow. Its so hard to find any food to eat on the bike that I am in a calorie deficit since Egypt. The climbing continues in the afternoon but now also with constant attacks and thrown rocks by the children. When I reach a small town Felege Birhan there are children coming from all sides screaming for money. I need to stop to buy water but the shopowner asks for five times its value while the first kids are already trying to open my bags. I leave quickly and stop 100 meters further with the same result. I had enough and leave the village thirsty. I ride into the dark and almost collide with a donkey thats crossing the road. Luckily, I find hotel soon and they even have Spaghetti on the menu.
Feeling a bit better, I head off at sunrise. The road goes constantly up and down through beautiful mountain landscape. Now there are children everywhere and they all run after me shooting aggressively for money. Some throw rocks at me and others try to hit me with sticks or block my way. They are fast runners too, making an escape on the climbs difficult. I had been warnend about this but didnt imagine it to be so bad. In the afternoon a group of children throws big rocks from above the road at me. They miss but those rocks definitively bring you to hospital. It is strange that the adults are very nice and only children and a few youngsters are aggressive. I manage to get through the day without any major injuries and find a hotel at sunset. Other travelers told me that this only stops when I reach Kenya, so not looking forward to the next few days.
I wake up with food poisoning, feeling miserable. When I get on the bike I notice that my crank is loosening. One of the bearings got destroyed and I need to change the bottom bracket. Luckily, I carry a spare and find a car mechanic to help. The kids there dont really know how to do it but they have basic tools and I instruct them. Got a bit worried when they hammer on it but it works. At 9am I am finally on the bike heading up the first climb. There is military, police and private military everywhere, so I am happy I didnt ride at night. I climb almost the entire day until 2.200 meters. In the evening I feel a bit better but still sick and am happy when I finally find a hotel.
I set off at sunrise. The road becomes even worse and I ride with 18 kmh. I reach the border at noon and have a long bureaucratic process ahead off me. After almost three hours I am across and immediately in a different world. There are people everywhere and the kids are shooting after me. Everyone is friendly but after 20 km a group of children throw their Flip Flops at me and is definately hostile. I have been warnend that every cyclist I know hated Ethiopia due to rock throwing children and youngsters who try to pull you off the bike. We will see the next days. After only 120 km I stop at a hotel. I still have an hour of sunlight but I am know entering an area that currently has violent conflicts. Better not to risk getting into the dark and instead start early.
The way out of the village turns out to be challenging. The road is deep mud and I have to push. Takes me one hour for 4 km until I take up speed. Landscape is now changing with small hills and villages of goat herders that live in small round huts. In the afternoon I turn onto a smaller road towards the Ethiopian border. The road is in terrible conditions and I zickzack between the potholes. It slows me down and I reach Dhoka only at night. Unfortunately my information that there is a hotel was wrong and I sleep inside a Restaurant. Its hot and the locals are talking that I barely sleep.
I cycle out of Khartoum at sunrise. Its nice too see the busy streets after so much time in the desert. I feel very strong again after the food in Khartoum. The road goes along the Blue Nile through farmland with fruits, drinks and restaurants next to the road. Its also much cooler than the days before. I just stop for a quick lunch and otherwise ride all day. After 275 km I find a village and look for a hotel. Its 4 km oft the main road but on a terrible dirty road. When I get into the hotel there is only one room with around 50 occupied beds. Luckily there is a second hotel but the guy with the key is gone. Half an hour later I get into my room. Better than many of my last nights but no water.
I wake up before my alarm since a sandstorm hits the restaurant which is just a shed. Sand gets absolutely everywhere. After the sandstorm it starts to rain. Just a few minutes but the locals are all happily running around, its a big gift for them. At sunrise I set off into the headwind. Quickly I realize that the landscape is changing. There are a few trees and bushes around and then the first farms. I am getting near to the end of the Sahara. I feel better today but still weak due to the lack of food the past days. Lost a few kg and my jersey is already moving in the wind. In the evening I get into the capital Khartoum. There have been barely any cars so far in Sudan and now arrive in chaos. Takes me 90 minutes into town until I find a decent hotel with an Indian restaurant where I eat three plates. I am out of the desert now and will speed up again.
I feel a bit better and head out into the dark. At sunrise the wind picks up and quickly builds into a strong headwind. The sand is blown across the road and gets into my eyes, ears, nose, simply everywhere. After 95 km with an 18km/h average I stop for a Cola and a few cookies. I continue riding with equally slow progress in the afternoon and stop at sunset in a little village. The policemen invite me for dinner and the restaurant owner offers me a bed which I thankfully accept. Only 180 km and now behind schedule. Time to get out of the Sahara and speed up again.
I set off before sunrise and feel miserable again. I havent eaten properly for three days and am still relying too much on Nile water. I find a little shop that sells cookies for breakfast but at least I can stock up on bottled water. I push against the wind but feel the lack of energy and make little progress. Luckily the road goes a bit closer to the Nile now and there are a few shops although they dont sell any appropriate food for cyclists. At noon I am completely finished by heat and wind and sleep in a restaurant. I continue when it get a bit colder and again struggle heavily. At sunset I reach a little village that surprisingly has a hotel. When I climb the stairs I am surprised to be greeted by a Russian who is looking for gold in the desert and runs agricultural projects. We had out for dinner together and he shows me a restaurant that has delicious chicken, such a welcoming change.
Still in the dark the miners make breakfast. Tea and a few dry cookies but their hospitality is incredible. I make good progress until noon when the wind suddenly changes directions and comes at full speed from the front. It feels like I am riding with 12 kmh in an oven against a hairdryer. It sucks out my energy within minutes and I realize that I may get into a serious situation. I got the information that there is a little cafe ahead and make it with my last energy. I am completely knocked out and rest on the floor for two hours before continuing when the wind gets less. I feel absolutely miserable with stomach issues and not having eaten nothing but push through the night to get out of this remote strech of the Sahara quickly. Despite my suffering the night ride is incredible. Its full moon and the desert finally seems peaceful. After a few hours I get to a police checkpoint and they invite me to sleep there on a bed under the stars. The invitation isnt Egyptian police style but simply a kind gesture and I gladly accept. 260 km in the end after yesterdays 190. I am surprised by it after how I felt at noon.
When I want to set off at 4am my escort is not there and they dont let me ride alone. One hour of negotiations and I finally set off. 250 meters later I am stopped at a military checkpoint. Different jurisdiction and they dont let me continue. 30 minutes of further negotiations and I can continue. A strong tailwind blows me to the border and I see a long line of Sudanese waiting in the sun. The border is closed and no one knows anything. At 11am the border opens and the Sudanese storm in. Its the most corrupt border I have ever seen. The Egyptian officers make people wait until you pay to get your passport stamped. There is no water and after waiting another 90 minutes I am completely dehydrated when I finally cross to the Sudanese side. Its such a different world. Everyone welcomes me into their country and assures that this is not like Egypt. Passport procedures take 5 minutes and instead of corruption I am invited for lunch and tea.
I had off into the desert on a small road that goes through a remote part of the Sahara with almost 1.000 km to the next city. There are no shops or anything for hundreds of kilometers and the desert heat my water supply diminishes too fast. At night I see a camp next to the road and ask for water. They are goldminers and invite me to stay. We sleep in beds that are put outside into the desert and eat a tina portion of food. I am still hungry but know that this is everything they can afford. There is no botzled water and I am back to drinking Nile water.
One of the worst days ever on my bike. Philipp decided to scratch in the morning. He is phisically feeling better but the prospect of crossing the Sahara made his decision after he had been suffering from day 2 on. I had out into the Sahara alone. After running low on water and suffering from dehydration, I accept Nile water from a tribesman. I get quickly stomach problems and suffer heavily all afternoon in the merciless desert. After 230 km I get stopped by police at a Checkpoint. I want to continue riding to Argen at the Sudanese border but they make me stay and pitch my tent at the Checkpoint. There is no food and I havent eaten all day and its loud as they are shouting around and have their radio transmitter on. Sleeping impossible. While I can go to toilet etc. there is always someone following me. When I walk 2 meters in a different direction immediately someone shouts “stop”. Effectively I feel like a prisoner.
100 km to Sudan and I am so looking forward to crossing that border.
Philipp wakes up with food poisoning. We ride out of the village and immediately into the Sahara. He feels weak but we continue riding as we want to get to Aswan before noon. After two hours we stop at the hut of a local tribesman. He gives us water and Philipp rests in the shaddow. He feels to weak to continue riding and goes per Taxi to Aswan into a hospital. I ride to Aswan in the heat at noon and struggle heavily. I drink 4 Liter on 60 km and go to the hospital to catch Philipp. Unfortunedly, the police has come to the hospital and worries too much about tourists. No one has taken care of Philipp and the only thing the police wants is that I sign a paper stating that they have behaved ok. I bring Philipp to a hotel where we get some rest. We marked the position where he took the cap on GPS so he can take a taxi back and continue riding from there. Food poisoning takes 2-3 days to recover and we are going to a remote part of the sahara. Rest days are not possible as body and mind will shut down. Tough days ahead.
At 5am the police escort pics us up and follows us along the Nile. After 30 km we reach the first checkpoint where they are supposed to switch. Unfortunedly, Mahmoud the checkpoint commander is sleeping and no one dares to wake him or take responsibility. 50 minutes later we can continue cycling with a new escort. We just cycle a few km until a new checkpoint with a similar leadership issue. I had enough and call our friend Helmy who intervenes. It worked and we cycle smooth all day. Outside Luxor the police suddenly turns and we can continue alone. Its a tourist hotspot and apparently considered safe. We continue along the Nile to the village of Al Aydah where get invited to sleep in the mosque. The major and city council all come to invite us for tea. Wonderful hospitality.
We slept terrible as the police talking loud on the radio transmitter all night. At least we can leave at 04:30 am after water and chips which they brought us for breakfast. We have escorts all day and they change at each checkpoint. Luckily pur Egyptian friend Helmy had a few words with them and they are super friendly and organized. The police car and crew are always ready when we arrive and leave immediately. Zero problems until the evening. In the morning we ride in the desert with a strong tailwind, averaging 45 km/h until we are back in the Nil valley where wind is weaker. After 308 km we reach a small town where we want to sleep. The police brings us to the station instead of a guesthouse. Unfortunatly no one is in charge and want to take responsibility. This goes for one half an hour until I reach Helmy and he pushes for a decision. Now they escort us to the local mosque where we sleep. The mosque housekeeper is incredible friendly and brings us dinner. Good to have a decent night of sleep after yesterdays prison cell.
An Egyptian friend Helmy joins us for the first km until we reach the Nile Route. Road conditions are terrible and traffic too. The road first follows the Nile. It climbs out of the valley and into the dessert. We get stopped at a police checkpoint and have to wait for an hour. They want to force us on trucks wich we can’t of course. I call Helmy and he negotiates that can ride but with an escort now. 50km later we are stopped again. This time they want to bring us to a hotel off our route. Again Helmy helps out and negotiates a prison cell for us. Free to leave at 04.20am.
Transfer to Cairo. We sleep until 8am and than stay an hour at breakfast. We pack our bikes and our Iranian friend Hossein brings us to the airport. After a stopover in Sharjah we land at midnight in Cairo and directly cycle out of the city to avoid traffic. Africa finally.
Last day in Iran. We set out in the dark and get one of the most impressive sunrise so far when the sun comes across the mountains on an empty dessert road.
We directly climb for 40km to a pass at 2000 meters before descending most of the afternoon. Temperature has risen again and makes cycling tough. After 250km we reach Shiraz, the end of leg 1.
Time to prepare the bike for tomorrow flight to Cairo and do some admin for Africa. 6.000km done now and very excited about Africa.
Before riding out of Isfahan we stop at a hospital as Philipp wanted a treatment of his saddle sore. Its painful but possible to ride. So we set off a bit late into the beautiful desert. There are big mountains on both sides while the road goes flat between. In the afternoon a sandstorm hits us and it is hard to balanace the bike. We are happy when the road turns and the wind comes from behind.
Right from the start we slowly climb for 1.000 meters. The climbs here are very gentle but long. When the heat comes we stop for food and the owner gives us a watermellon as present. People here are very nice. At noon the sun picks up and makes the climbing unpleasant. Philipp is struggling again, hopefully he can find new energy on the transfer day to Egypt. Once over the pass we descent urgently for almost 100 km with a strong tailwind. We barely pedal and average 50 km/h. In the evening we get into Irans second biggest city Isfahan. 250 km today but feels like a rest day. Forecast looks equally good and I am a bit sad that our flights from Shiraz only leave on Friday. Would be possible to be there before but now we will have to enjoy 2 easy days instead.
We set off at 4am to make up for the time loss. When the sun rises we are surprised that we are in the desert. Yesterday evening everything was green and now ist rocks, sand and high mountains. The road climbs for 80 km through a valley until we reach the pass. After a short descent we reach the high plateau we will be on for the next day. Its a gorgeous desert landscape, heat and a strong tailwind. We push until late at night and stop after 320 km at a restaurant. Luckily the owner lets us sleep in a sidebuilding.
Terrible day on a record quest. Heavy rain in the morning and we reach the city of Rasht only at noon. Here we need to get money, sim card and a bike repair. Credit cards dont work in Iran so we look to exchange dollars on the black market but as no one speaks english it takes some time similar to the sim card. Finally at the bike shop, the mecha goes for lunch halfway ready with the repair. Its not the best place to be in a hurry. Back on our bikes we take the main road towards Teheran until we find a place at night after only 175 km. Flights from Shiras to Cairo are booked for next Friday, need to speed up across the desert.
We start early and get to the border before noon. Unfortunatly the border is completely empty on the Azerbaijan side and the guard is sleeping. When finally someone takes care of us they are in no hurry at all. On the iranian side its completely different. Two big lines as men and women are separated and we have no idea where all these people came from. Everything is checked and we get finally through. We push hard but only make 200 km when it gets dark and heavy rain starts. Hope to make up tomorrow.
After setting off in the dark we stop at a gas station for breakfast. The owner brings out fresh bread, butter cheese and jam. He is very excited to see some foreigners and even comes again with eggs and more jam from his grandma. Such a great hospitality here. We make good progress but at noon booth struggle with the heat. After 200 km there comes a big construction side that goes on for 50 km. We expected to reach Bilasuvar at 5pm but only get there at night as progress is so slow. Hoping for better roads in Iran.
We ride through Georgias wine region on a flat road with high mountains on both side. Its perfect weather and a tailwind and we progress fast. At noon we reach the border to Azerbaijan. Its our First Islamic Country and we immediately get to know the hospitality. People in villages and next to the road smile and wave to us. We get invitations we politely have to decline due to our timepressure. After 270 km we reach a small Restaurant and the owner let us sleep Inside.
Hello Georgia. Heavy climbing today as we crossed the Caucasus. Loved every pedalstroke through this beautiful mountain landscape. We are eager to get to the mountains. Its a three hour ride to the border. There is a huge line of trucks for 30 km. There are several conflict areas around us and every truck is meticolously searched. For us cyclists though the border crossing is smooth and fast. On the other side we meet Pasi who will be filming us for the day.the road immediately climbs and we get spectacular views of 5.000 meter peaks. At noon we reach the first big pass at 2.400 meters and head down into a long valley. People are super friendly and the food is tasty. In the evening there comes another very steep climb and a bad surprise as the road is under construction for 30 km. It slows us Down a lot and we reach the village late in the evening for some tasty Patchabury. Enjoyed wvery Single pedalstroke after the flatlands before.
We slept both horrible and are very tired when setting off. Its already warm at 5am and we feel that we are in a different climate. All day we notice the conflict in this part of the world. Military, police controls and checkpoints at regular intervals but they have no interest in us. After lunch we take a quick powernap. Philipp slept even less last night and is having a tough day. In the afternoon it gets hilly as we are riding towards the snow topped mountains. Cant wait for some proper climbing tomorrow 🙂
A big change today as the landscape transforms into rolling hills and the people too become different. The wind is again a punishing crosswind but we ride nonstop until we reach the bigger city Stawropol after 160 km. Soon after we turn back onto a highway with no shoulder and it gets dark. Luckily we find a restaurant where the owner lets us sleep on the floor. Sleep is bad though as some drunk guests scream all night and even wake us up to invite us for some vodka.
We start at 4am and push hard until we reach the turning point to the East. Shortly after the wind blows with such force from the side that we are very happy to have done the push. We would have been fighting the wind with 10kmh. The crosswinds are no blessing either as we struggle to control the bike in the empty steppe landscape. The road is now much quieter, the First time we can somehow enjoy Russia a little bit.
We set off at 4am and freezing 3 degrees. We know that tomorrow very strong winds from the Black sea are coming and want to get south before. We go fast on the Smooth shoulder and take minimum Stops. At noon we already had 200 km in perfect cycling conditions when heavy rain starts. Traffic has become less and the ride is relatively safe but we decide against night riding. Just in the last daylight we find a Motel after 314 km.
In the morning we ride into Voronezh to get Philipps phone fixed and get some bike maintanance. Its a large industrial town and we loose plenty of time to cross. At 1pm we are finally back on the highway and push nonstop until we reach Pawlows at last light. We still feel strong and would have wasily pushed further but its too dangerous. 1.000 km more and we are out of Russia and up to speed.
We set off at sunrise for another long day on the shoulder of a high speed highway. We face strong crosswind and hills all morning until the road turns a bit east and Wind gets better. There are metal parts and dirt from trucks in the shoulder that get into the drive train and tyres. At lunch I take 3 wires out of my Tubes that my tubeless milk miracoulously sealed. Philipp drops his phone during a little repair. We hope that we can fix that tomorrow. In the afternoon heavy rain Starts again five days now and I barely remember how it feels to cycle with dry shoes. In the evening we approach Voronezh, a big industrial town. We had planned to sleep there but traffic gets very bad and we decide its not wise to ride in at night. Struggling to keep up our speed in these conditions…4 more days and we are finally out of Russia.
We set off on the 10 lane ringroad out of Moscow. After 10km we turn onto the highway towards the Black sea and traffic immediately get less. There is a wide shoulder and smooth tarmac, the best condition we had since Finland. We average 35 km/h until we reach a crossing at noon and turn towards Volgograd. The road is narrow with no shoulder and heavy trucks passing at full speed. We wanted to stay on this road for 900 km but after 20 km we decide that it is too dangerous and turn back to the Black Sea Highway. We will now follow that route to Rostov and then merge our old route again in Chechnya.
We continue along the highway in heavy rain until we find a roadside Motel at night.
We start into Moscow in heavy rain. The six lane highway has only 30 cm of shoulder and the trucks pass at full speed. At noon the sidemirror of a truck hits my shoulder. I am unharmed but its hard to focus when you escaped by just a few cm.
In the City Dennis, a local cyclist meets us and guides us along the best lanes on the 10 lane speedways towards Red Square. We stop at Kremlin for a few pictures and at a bike shop for maintenance as Philipps deraileur had some issues and then ride out of the City at night . In the outskirts we stop at Burger King and find a hotel.
The terrible conditions from yesterday continue but at least a tailwind. I feel a bit sick after the cold from yesterday and Philipp has been suffering for the past week. We push hard till noon before stopping for lunch and a quick break to get warm. It feels good to be off the road for a few minutes as the constant traffic is tough to take. A lot of people have asked me before the journey if I am afraid of the post war countries we are riding through and I always had answered that Russian Highways are my biggest concern. So far I was right. In the heavy rain we push into the dark and find a quiet hotel – in a good distance to make it across Moscow tomorrow.
Terrible day on the bike. Constant heavy rain, headwind and cold along Russia ‘s busiest highway. We followed the road to Moscow as there simply is no alternative. Trucks and cars pass as constantly at close distance and high speed. The noise and constant tension due to the danger are mentally tough. After 200 km we take an early stop in a hotel as the risk of getting sick is simply very high. Now we are 450 km from Moscow, looking forward to quieter and warmer times.
A late start at 7:30 since we are tried from the late arrival and dont want to miss the hotel breakfast. The first 40 km go along a small road with one road construction after another. Constant stop and go and gravel. However, once we reach the main road we get perfect conditions. Smooth tarmac, sunny 15 degrees and a stro g tailwind that pushes us with 40 kmh towards St. Petersburg. I was concerned about the City crossing but it turns out to be super easy. Careful drivers, smooth roads and good cycling passes. This is definetely different from the cities I know from crossing Siberia two years ago. On the way out of St. Petersburg we quickly stop at the Office of my Tool sponsor the Hoffmann Group. They have prepared a great receptionand 20 people came on a saturday evening. Thanks!
We still continue riding another 60 km and stop at a hotel. Looking for food we get dragged into a birthday party. Russian really now how to celebrate but after an hour we say goodbye to get some much needed sleep.
We start at 6am into a cold and rainy morning. Quickly the road turns into gravel and makes progress slower. We have now reached the Finish lake district and there is one Big lake after another. In the afternoon the eind finally turns and we have the First tailwind since Cape North. We continue pushing into the dark to get into Russia and reach the border at 10pm. Luckily border crossing is fast and directly behind we find a decent hotel in the industrial town of Svetogorsk. 298 km in over 12 hours on the bike.
A very early start and 60 km without breakfast to the next City. After breakfast it starts raining heavily with strong headwind. We push for a few hours until we find a gas Station. Philipp is suffering from the conditions and needs to get warm. We continue into the rain for another 60 km to the small town of Juuka where we find a roof in Front of a shop and sleep under it. Its 290 km from Russia now and we are hoping for better conditions tomorrow to make a push to Svetogorsk.
A late start at 8am as we have been supertired after the late arrival the day before. We say goodbye to our filmmaker Pål who had been with us the First three days. At noon we turn off the Main road to take a shortcut. I had looked at all Finish roads on maps before to ensure they are paved but after 10 km it turns into gravel. Slower progress but a beautiful road through forrest and lakes. Due to the slow going we miss the closing time of the supermarket and arrive at 10pm in a small village. We cant find anything open but at the small hospital the night shift nurse invites us to the canteen a d brings some bread. Such a nice hospitality. Next to the hospital we find a Veranda of a warehouse building and sleep there.
The headwind continues as we are riding through endless hills. We are surprised by the t-shirt weather which make the wind more bearable. We both feel very strong and take turns in the wind. In the evening we cross the Arctic circle and reach Rovaniemi the only proper City in the North of Finnland. 290 km against the Wind, feels good to be on track.
We set off before 6 am and turn away from the coast. Rendeers constantly cross the road and we try for a long time to get a nice picture with them. The road now leads through complete wilderness. Endless forrests, lakes and rivers and very few people.
Before lunch we reach the border with Finland and immediately feel that the Finnish build roads a bit differently. They dont build curves but instead straight across the hills. Slow Progress but beautiful wilderness. At night we find a river and make a campfire on the beach.
A incredible start at Cape North. A perfect sky and not a Single Person as we checked the arrival times of the Tourist buses before. A bit of delay due to last minute issues so we set of at 9.45 am.
The Route went spectacularly along the Arctic Ocean with lots of hills and headwind. Only 186 km but a wonderful day on the bike.