Photos: Cairo to Keurbooms on a bike

In January this year four young South Africans on a mission climbed aboard their heavily-laden bikes in Egypt’s capital to cycle home pole pole (‘slowly, slowly’ in Swahili) to South Africa. The trip was the idea of siblings Michelle Rorich, a development economist and her brother Robbie, a mechanical engineer and one of the country’s top trail runners.

Image: Our African Polé-Polé

Our Africa Pole-Pole is a passion project, which aims to answer one big question. ‘What do we want our African future to look like?’ the pair pondered in their first Instagram post. During the course of the journey they planned to engage with their ‘sisters and brothers to explore this question together’.

The two Rorich’s were joined initially in Cairo by Jess McCormack (who later had to withdraw from the trip when she got typhoid) and Angus Teeton, but several others joined and departed along the 12-month journey.

Starting out in Egypt a the Great Pyramid, it wasn’t long before this camel was swapped for their bicycles:

 

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First night’s campsite in the desert in Sudan:

 

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Ethiopia was epic with challenging climbs, beautiful landscapes and delish food. ‘The people here have some much love to give.’

 

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In Turkana, the north-western and very independent state of Kenya. It was hot, humid, desperately poor and astoundingly beautiful:

 

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Stone Town in Zanzibar had a bit of magic in store for them and, some down-time for tropical rest and recuperation from the endless pedalling – they often covered 100km a day for several days in a row.

 

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The main road through western Tanzania cuts through Mikumi National Park. ‘We cycled through the park and stopped to have a roadside picnic lunch but kept getting interrupted by passing motorists shouting ‘dangerous’ or ‘dangerous area’. They nodded a ‘We know’ in reply.

 

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Then they saw Lake Malawi for the first time, waking up on the veranda of the old mission station in Lumbila. ‘We’d been told Lake Malawi is beautiful. It’s exquisite.’

 

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On the Eastern Highlands route, cycling from Harare to Chimanimani in Zimbabwe:

 

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Late in September, they reached the SA border at Beitbridge. ‘We were a little apprehensive about arriving back in South Africa. We’ve felt so safe and welcome from Egypt to Zimbabwe.’ Along the way we learnt to live the cycling life – ‘simply, but well, with our peanut butter, avocados and beans from roadside stalls, and rural schools, families, church yards for accommodation’.

Eventually, however, with social medial platforms kicking into gear they found they’d gained minor celebrity status and swapped their tents under trees of the wilder Africa for a bit of luxury – hosted by John Varty and Gillian van Houten at Londolozi.

 

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The route then took them through Swaziland and for a 169km day ride to Ponta do Ouro in Mozambique before re-entering SA through the Kosi Bay border post and down through northern KZN. In Zinkwazi, they had dinner with explorer extraordinaire Kingsley Holgate. Imagine the stories shared around that table! And in Ballito they were interviewed by Radio-Life & Style 88/FM.

 

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Back in SA with a bigger and better crew🇿🇦

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Leaving East London, a large group of family and friends (one even flying in from Australia) joined in on the last leg of the trip via Fish River, Addo, Patensie, through the Baviaanskloof, to end with a huge party at the Rorich’s holiday home in Keurbooms River on 17 December.

They’ve cycled well over 12,000km, down lakeshores, across deserts and through great African game parks. They’ve eaten with people who happily shared the tiny morsels of food they had. And, often with only 500ml of water for the next 24 hours, teeth brushing became a luxury and washing a dusty face, unimagined pampering. Yes, they’re dirty, tired and thirsty. So, if you spot them on the final stretch, give them a hoot of encouragement or a cold drink.

You can follow their final stretch on Facebook at Our Africa Pole-Pole, or on Instagram @ourafricapolepole.

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