Africa Practical Bicycle Touring Information

Country specific information on bicycle touring in Africa.  Information on routes and roads, where to sleep, what to eat, costs, and safety.

Important

The information below about bicycle touring in Africa is outdated.   We cycled here from 2006- 2009.  It is essential to get up-to-date info about safety and security.  Sadly, the safety situation in Africa has deteriorated since we cycled there between 2006-2009.  As of early 2017, some countries of concern are Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Burundi, Ethiopia (drought), Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan,  Somalia, Central African Republic (chaos and war), Libya, DRC, Nigeria.  

Check with the US State department for travel warnings.  These are highly conservative in nature, but are an excellent starting point for assessing risks.

On a more positive note, South Africa and Mauritania have become notably more peaceful in recent years.

 

 

Africa Bike Touring Information

Morocco

biking in morocco.

routes & roadsRoads in Morocco are almost all surfaced.  Enjoy them while you can, because this won't be the case in sub-Saharan Africa.  The rides through the Atlas mountains really shouldn't be missed.  Just remember that even though you're at a high altitude, it can still be extremely hot in the summer months and you won't find much shade---especially in the barren Anti-Atlas.
Our detailed log available here (Word file)
food & lodgingMorocco has a good network of camp sites and there is a guidebook (in French) which rates them.  Most campgrounds have got a copy of the guide, so you can jot down details and plan your next stopover.  Campgrounds are usually good value for money, and many meet European standards.  Others are derelict, but usually in a fantastic location-the camping site near the Bin-el-Ouidane dam comes to mind.  The country is overrun with French tourists in August, so it's better to travel outside of this peak period if possible.
If you're continuing on to sub-Saharan Africa, enjoy your fill of fresh fruit and veggies while you can.  Pickings get rather slim further south.
the localsAmongst many Westerners, Morocco is perceived as a dangerous country, where you should be on the lookout for pickpockets, bag-snatchers and scam artists.  Nothing could be further from the truth..well, at least in rural areas.  Moroccans are highly hospitable and will bend over backwards to ensure you're having a good time in their country.  They are genuinely concerned about your welfare and won't hesitate to stop and see if you need assistance in any way.
visasVisas are not needed for EU nationals.
money11 Dirhams = 1 Euro (August 2006)
Western Sahara

biking in western sahara.

routes & roadsWestern Sahara offers surprisingly beautiful landscapes on some stretches of the highway--it's not just dull desert as your guidebook claims.  Sheer cliffs dropping down into the ocean, fisherman's hut perched precariously high above the sea and even some amazing dunes.  Smooth tarmac and flat terrain mean you can easily rack up 150 KM a day unless you're hampered by a headwind (which shouldn't be the case).  There are police checkpoints along the route, but its just a mater of filling in a form with routine information.  No hassles whatsoever--apart from the time it takes to fill in all the blanks and respond to the curious police officer's questions about why  you would be so crazy as to want to cycle through Africa.
Settlements and petrol stations are pretty well-spaced as to make convenient stopovers.  Our itinerary and daily kilometers cycled were as follows:  
Bouizarkane    127
Tan Tan    182
Akhfenir    125
Tarfaya    110
Laayoune    105
Boujdour    198
Echtoukan    180
Dakhla    180
Chicas    136
Barbas    164
Nouadhibou    154
roadside tent settlement    137
roadside settlement   114
roadside tent settlement    132
Nouakchott    122
Our detailed log available here (Word file)
food & lodgingFood and water didn't pose any major problems for us--even the service stations have reasonably well-stocked shops and decent restaurants.  
the localsThe Saharawis will be eager to discuss the political situation, but this may get them into trouble as the police frown on such exchanges with foreign tourists.  Got a rather cold reception in----where children tossed an egg in our direction.  Perhaps the strong UN presence has something to do with their dislike of foreigners.
visasWestern Sahara is under Moroccan control, so a normal Moroccan visa is all you need.  There are numerous road blocks, which is tiresome and time-consuming, but you will never be asked to pay a bribe or be hassled if your papers are in order.  Policeman and military personnel are generally courteous and professional.
money11 Dirhams = 1 Euro (August 2006)
Mauritania

biking in mauritania.

routes & roadsThe days of slogging it out on the arduous piste are long gone, and now it's smooth tarmac from the Moroccan border in the north all the way to the Senegalese border in the south. You should have a gentle  tailwind pushing you along, so who could ask for more...except for a little shade once in awhile.
Our detailed log available here (Word file)
food & lodgingIn the Sahara south from the border with Morocco to Nouakchott, you'll find 'rest areas' every 40 or 50 kilometers.  These are canvas tents with comfortable cushions where you can relax and escape from the unrelenting sun.  Food is also served , but there's little for non-meat eaters--only tinned vegetables, no bread or even omelettes.  Best to stock up with provisions in Western Sahara.  These rest areas also offer some type of very basic lodging, or you can pitch your tent nearby.  Water is always available, although sometimes its a bit murky and comes in jerry cans.  If you find your water supplies dwindling along the road, you can also signal your thirst by holding up an empty water bottle.  Passing motorists are happy to pull over and fill up the bottles and may even send you on your way with a few snacks!
the localsMauritanians are conservative and reserved but polite and helpful towards travelers.  They all seem to want to do business, and you'll see many Mauritanian traders in other West African countries.  Women play a larger role in public life than in Morocco.  Watch out for over-charging on the overland route.
visas
You can obtain a visa at the border.  Cost is 20 euros---don't pay more, even if the officials ask.
money340 Oughias = 1 Euro (September 2006)
Senegal

biking in senegal.

routes & roadsWe pretty much followed a straight line south, and were on good paved roads almost exclusively.  Just a few rough spots and patches of potholes in the area around the Saloum Delta and Foundiougne.  But the scenery is spectacular there, and well worth a minor detour. Dakar and the surrounding area is a real headache to cycle in, and you're better off staying in Yoff or avoiding the city entirely if possible.
Our detailed log available here (Word file)
food & lodgingYou'll find Senegalese restaurants all over West Africa, serving up riz gras and other specialties, which says something (good) about the cuisine.  You'll find lots of small eateries, but street food doesn't seem to be as developed as in neighboring countries.  Hotels are of a reasonable standard, but will seem pricey if you've spent time in Morocco.  There aren't many backpackers around, so there's little pressure on prices.
the localsSenegal will likely be you first encounter with sub-Saharan Africa, and it's a pity, because the welcome you'll receive from the locals isn't a fair introduction to African hospitality.  You may be accused of racism if you don't stop for a lengthy discussion with each and every young man that stops you on the street.  If you do stop, you'll be pressured into looking at their art, handicrafts, postcards or whatever else they're hawking.  Young and able-bodied men (particularly in St. Louis) will ask for money and try to make you feel guilty for not providing them with work or handouts.  This constant hassling is wearing, and can easily color your impression of the entire population.
borders
Don't let yourself get ripped off at the Rosso crossing.  Officials will try everything to get you to pay an extra 'processing fee'.  Stand firm and you'll get your passport back without lightening your wallet.
visasNo visa necessary for EU nationals, Canadians and Americans.
money656 CFAs = 1Euro
The Gambia

biking in the gambia.

routes & roadsThere are only two major roads in The Gambia:  the north bank highway and the south bank highway.  We chose to first follow the south bank road as it was the only one marked as paved on the Michelin map:  what a mistake.  It's undergoing rehabilitation and was a real mess when we were there in October 2006.  The north bank road, on the other hand, is smooth tarmac all the way to Janjanbureh (Georgetown).  There's nothing particularly stunning about the scenery, but the route is a good introduction to rural Africa and the villagers are friendly and hospitable.  Not much formal accommodation available, but the village headman should be able to arrange something with a local family.  No worries about water, as there are many villages with pumps along the way.  
Our detailed log available here (Word file)
food & lodgingOutside of the coastal tourist area, there's not much in the way of restaurants.  Omelettes and bean sandwiches are vegetarian staples.  As mentioned above, staying with people is a viable option, and it is unlikely that you'll be asked for payment.  We  received invitations from locals we met cycling alongside us, and they provided us with bucket showers, a comfortable bed and dinner to boot.  At the end of the stay, we discreetly offered an envelope of cash with the equivalent of what we would have paid in a basic hotel, mentioning that we wanted to help with the kids' education.
In Bakau we had a very pleasant stay at the Danish-run African Heritage,  114 Atlantic Road. Clean, quiet, comfortable and and you can't beat the view of the fisherman's beach below.  A double room off season cost us 400 dalasis (12 euros).
the localsThere are the usual hassles along the touristy areas of the coast and to some extent in Janjanbureh.  Otherwise, Gambians are very polite, open and curious.  They love a good discussion and are eager to learn more about life in the West.  In rural areas, kids will chase after the bikes and demand pens and sweeties.  This phenomena is only aggravated by tourists on their way to Georgetown, whizzing by in mini-buses and showering the kids with candy.
visasYou can transit this country without a visa.  If you want to stay a bit longer, visas are required for French, Swiss, US and Japanese passport holders.  We picked ours up at the High Commission in Dakar.  If you fill out the application in the morning, you can get the visa in the afternoon on the same day.  
money35.8 Dalasis = 1 euro (October 2006)
Guinea-Bissau

biking in guinea-bissau.

routes & roadsThe road coming from Senegal leading to Guinea is paved and in good condition up until about 30 km before the border crossing.  Then conditions deteriorate progressively, until you're faced with a rough (and muddy depending on the season) track on the Guinea side.  The countryside is lush and pleasant enough, and there are some old colonial towns worth visiting along the way.
Our detailed log available here (Word file)
food & lodgingWe found comfortable and good-value lodging.  You may have to ask around, but in some towns there are private guest houses catering to the NGO crowd where you can spend the night.  Be sure to take a flashlight with when you venture out after dark, because power is not functioning in Guinea Bissau.  If you're lucky, the guest house will have its own generator and you'll be treated to a few hours of light in the evening.  For vegetarians, this will likely be your first encounter with potato salad in Africa--found all over Guinea as well.  Can be a bit strange with ketchup.  There's also spaghetti (make sure to specify without meat) and omelettes, of course.
the localsHard to have many meaningful exchanges, unless you're fluent in Portuguese.  You will find that many people speak a bit of French, so you'll be able to make yourself understood for most basic needs--if you speak French that is.  The country sees few tourists and accordingly, there are few hassles.
visasEverybody needs a visa for Guinea-Bissau.  We got ours in The Gambia at the consulate conveniently located in Bakau on Atlantic Road not far from the post office.  You can get the visa on the spot.
money656 CFAs = 1euro
Guineau

biking in guinea.

routes & roadsGuinea is paradise for cyclists.  A pleasant climate in the highlands, spectacular scenery and mountains just steep enough to be a challenge, but gentle enough not to overwhelm less experienced cyclists.  You'll probably want to spend most of your time in the Fouta Djalon region or in Guinée Forestière, but be sure to check the security situation in the later as refugees from Liberia and Côte d'ivoire had been causing problems there.
Roads are not always well-maintained, and if you're coming from Guinea Bissau you'll have 200 kilometers of rough roads before reaching the tarmac just outside of Labé.  Bu don't let this put you off, the views are worth it and the hospitality is unbeatable.
Our detailed log available here (Word file)
food & lodgingThe Guinean Franc has been steadily losing value for several years and the country is now a real bargain for foreign tourists.  Outside of Conakry, you won't have to pay more than 5 USD for a decent room with en suite shower and toilet, although more often than not the municipal water supplies won't be working properly and water will be supplied in a bucket instead.  Ditto for electricity, which you'll find is a real rarity even though hotels have all the wiring in place.
Guinea is a fertile country and all kinds of fruits and vegetables can be grown there. Unfortunately, infrastructure and logistical problems mean that most produce is only sold locally.  You'll find juicy pineapples at rock-bottom prices in Kindia, but just 350 km away in Labé you'll have to scour the market to find one.  Potato salad, avocado salad and greasy omelettes sandwiches with a thick coating of mayonnaise will be mainstays for vegetarians. You can also try rice with sauce feuilles (ground cassava leaves), which is generally meatless and a hearty lunchtime filler-up.
the localsYou'll be hard-pressed to find more hospitable people than the Guineans--in particular the Fula of the Fouta Djalon region.  You can expect to be greeted with a polite bonjour madam or monsieur, rather than a request for a gift and your stay is almost guaranteed to be hassle-free.  That said, border crossings may pose some difficulties with thinly-veiled requests for bribes.  We were easily able to shrug these off and no one really insisted on receiving those extra 'processing fees'.  Be sure to carry your international vaccination certificates, as these may be requested at police roadblocks.
visasYou'll need a visa for Guinea.  Ours were obtained in The Gambia at the consulate in Tabokoto. They have moved out of central Banjul.  The office is located near the Shell Service Station in Churchill town and the official in charge is often out, so it may pay to call ahead: 990 99 64.  The whole set-up is a little unprofessional, but you should be able to get the visa on the same day if you ask politely.
money8000 Guinean Francs =  1 Euro (November 2006)
Sierra Leone

biking in sierra leone.

routes & roadsAfter so many years of civil war, it's really not surprising that some of Sierra Leone's roads are in such deplorable condition.  Particularly bad , was the road from Kabala across the border in Guinea to Faranah:  severely rutted with many washed out sections-- and this was at the end of the rainy season.  Nothing really spectacular in the way of scenery, but no particular challenges either.
Our detailed log available here (Word file)
food & lodgingOur outdated guidebook rates Sierra Leone as a very expensive destination in terms of lodging, but we didn't find this to be the case.  Even in Freetown we didn't pay more than 9 euros for a pleasant and clean room (Kington Guest house).  Outside the capital the rooms are relatively good value, but lack character and are often part of a bar/restaurant combination. This means noisy nights for tired cyclists.  When no formal accommodation was available, the village chief opened up a vacant home for us on one occasion and on another we stayed with an Italian priest.
There's lots of street food and snacks available and you'll find fried banana chips, peanut butter balls, extremely sweet sugar cookies, fish turnovers (pasties) and soft and sweet British-style bread.  
the localsSierra Leoneans are more sophisticated than other West Africans and their culture has a somewhat American influence.  They're open to talking about the war and their country's future.  Tourists are still a rarity and you'll attract crowds of on-lookers--not just curious children.  We never felt threatened, but you will see some groups of rather tough-looking, tattooed teenagers.  It is unlikely that anyone will try to take advantage of you or cheat you as a tourist.  Sierra Leoneans are warm people and will go out of their way to ensure you have a pleasant stay in their still struggling country.
visas
You'll need a visa for Sierra Leone. Ours were obtained in Conakry. Deposit passport in the morning, pick up in the afternoon. Cost 100 USD (bills less than 50 USD not accepted). Valid for a month. Money changers available at the gate to the consulate.
money3700 Leones = 1 Euro (November 2006)
Mali

biking in mali.

routes & roadsThe scenery around Hombori is truly fantastic and not to be missed. Mali can be a challenging country for cyclists due to the heat, dust, long distances between settlements and often monotonous landscapes.  You may want to do as the locals, and wear a protective mask to keep out some of the particles.  The Gao-Niamey route posed some real difficulties for us, but its in the process of being paved and work should be finished in 2008.  The inland delta region around Massina offers good views of the Niger River and you pass by some spectacular mosques in the Sudanese style.  Depending on the season and the direction you're cycling, headwinds can be a real nuisance.  The harmattan blows down for the Sahara from December to February in a north-easterly direction and kicks up a lot of dust and can make cycling extremely unpleasant as well as unhealthy with all that dust being swallowed.
There's heavy traffic on the main road between Ségou and Bamako with buses roaring by and tooting their horns as a signal for you to pull over on the shoulder.  Otherwise roads are relatively quiet.
Our detailed log available here (Word file)
food & lodgingHotels are pricey compared with neighboring Guinea and quite basic for the most part.  in rural areas such as in the Dogon Country or Hombori, you can expect pit toilets and bucket showers and perhaps a few hours of electricity in the evening.  In towns without hotels, the mayor or village chief can usually arrange a stay with a family or in a public building such as a school or training center.  A small payment is usually required.  If you stay with a family, be sure to clear up money issues up front.  We failed to do this in one village, and were asked to pay a whopping 20,000 CFA (30 euros) for pitching our tent next to the stables in a family compound!  Of course we didn't pay this ridiculous sum, but the incident left a bad taste in the mouth. On several occasions when no formal accommodation was available, we inquired as to the presence of a local church and were able to camp inside the minister's compound or even sleep in the church itself.  We received a warm welcome and had a peaceful night's sleep.
Street food is plentiful and often quite tasty.  For non-meat eaters, salads, beans, macaroni, yams and omelettes will be the staples.  Fruit is hard to come by in such an arid country, but you should be able to find bananas, guavas, watermelon, oranges and mangoes in season.  Water pumps and taps are often locked as soon as the sun starts to set, and may open late in the morning, so be sure to fill up your bottles when you get the opportunity. Restaurants geared towards tourists aren't particularly good value, and outside of major cities, you won't find many restaurants catering to locals.
the localsMalians are open and like to engage tourists in conversation.  You'll receive enthusiastic greetings from villagers and from the children, the usual requests for gifts.  Don't expect  to be invited to a family home as a guest--payment will be expected.  If you eat at food stalls, there'll be a gang of young beggars hovering behind you waiting for scraps.  This is a heart-breaking situation, and unfortunately all too common in West Africa.
visas
Got our visas in Conakri on the spot. Cost only 16200 Guinean Francs (ca 2 Euros ). Valid for one month.
money656 CFAs = 1Euro
Niger

biking in niger.

routes & roadsSome nice scenery along the Niger stretch of the Gao-Niamey route with the highway (in good condition) more closely following the river.  Settlements are widely spaced, and there's not much available in the way of food along some stretches, so stock up on provisions.
Our detailed log available here (Word file)
food & lodging We spent just a few days in Niger, but in the towns we stopped along the Gao-Niamey route there was no choice of accommodation.  Just one soulless and overpriced hotel in each place we stayed.  The Catholic Mission in Niamey is well-located and peaceful, but watch out for the manager who can be difficult to deal with.
the localsIt seems everyone in Niger expects a cadeau from passing tourists.  Fortunately, no one seems to insist, so all the requests are merely a slight irritation rather than a real hassle as in Senegal.  The country is desperately poor, and you'll encounter the usual child-beggars around food stalls.  They can be exceedingly polite and truly appreciate a little food and a few kind words.  Merchants may try to overcharge you in markets in Niamey.
visas
We got our visas in Bamako. They said that the Visa Entente valid for 5 countries was not available anymore (a lie, as we later found out). Anyway 20000 CFAs for a one month visa available on the spot.
money656 CFAs = 1Euro
Burkina Faso

biking in burkina faso.

routes & roadsWe came into Burkina from Niamey and crossed the border at the Kantchari post.  For a change there was a good, smooth tarmac road linking two countries.  We next turned south towards Diapaga and the Parc National d'Arly.  We were told by another cyclist that this was 'good piste', but would have to disagree with him, having done quite a lot of pushing through the sandy parts.  We got back on to a sealed road at Pama and then headed for Ouaga.  For a West African capital, traffic flows fairly smoothly in the city and its nothing like navigating your way through Dakar or Conakry.
From Ouaga we headed towards Ghana, taking in the sights at Tiébéle along the way.  This back road, from Po to Bolgatanga, is in fact 'good piste' and you can race along without getting off to push.  
Our detailed log available here (Word file)
food & lodgingHotels in Burkina are decent value and you'll get more comforts (running water and electricity) than in Mali.  We found lots of Catholic Missions that had a Centre d'acceuil, where we could spend the night.  The normal rate is around CFA  7,000 for a twin room and they are usually very clean, quiet and set in nice grounds.
There are lots of good and cheap Senegalese restaurants scattered around the capital, serving up green beans (fresh!), salads, boiled potatoes in a stew, yams and the old staple--rice and beans.  You'll also find tasty yogurt--even in the smaller towns--and some crusty baguettes. In the evening these are served with sweetened-condensed milk as a filling--takes a little getting used to, but in the absence of other deserts, not bad.
656 CFA = 1euro
the localsWe didn't spend much time in Burkina so it's hard to say a lot about the locals.  Friendly, polite and helpful was the overall impression.
visas
We got our visas in Bamako. They said that the Visa Entente valid for 5 countries was not available anymore (a lie, as we later found out). Anyway 28000 CFAs for a one month visa . Deposit passport in the morning. Pick-up in the afternoon.
money656 CFAs = 1Euro
Ghana

biking in ghana.

routes & roadsThe north is very much like neighboring Burkina Faso and there's nothing too spectacular in the way of scenery.  The road to Mole National park was very rough when we visited--deep corrugations and lots of sand.  The road south from Mole to Kumasi is being upgraded and they should be finished paving the Bole-Banda section in the near future.  The Wenchi-Kumasi section is paved, but there are road works underway and the highway is a real mess in some sections.  Roads in the south, even those marked as minor on the Michelin map, are almost all paved and in good condition.  Traffic is heavy  on the coastal road, but there's a reasonably wide shoulder which is good for riding.  The winding roads and dense vegetation around Kumasi probably make for the best riding.  The ride to Lake Bosumtwi involves some steep hills, but there's light traffic and fantastic scenery.
From Accra it's worth heading north towards Akosombo Dam and Hohoé for some fine scenery on your way to Togo.  Be prepared for a tough climb on a rough road if you decide to go to Ghana's highest point (Mount Gemi), and the base village of Amedzofe.  If you can't make the last 4 kilometers up to Amedzofe, there's a nice government resthouse in the village below. 
Our detailed log available here (Word file)
food & lodgingHotels are fairly good value for money.  In the North rooms are cheaper--we paid 50,000 cedis for a basic guest house and for 70,000 we had a TV and fridge plus en suite bathroom. Camping is also an option at the touristy places on the beach--around 20,000 per person.  We found the food ´disappointing.  Staple vegetarian fare is fried rice topped with mayonnaise, ketchup and a little shredded cabbage.  There are also yam balls and boiled eggs in the south.  Pineapples are plentiful and very cheap.  For dessert there's locally made FanIce and FanYogo.  The bread is unbelievably bad, so eat your fill of baguettes in Burkina.
Ice-cold water is sold in small sachets along the main roads--very refreshing and cheap at 300 cedis.
the localsGhana is a loud country.  The locals like to blast music at all hours of the day and crank the stereo up to the max, so that the music is distorted beyond recognition.  You won't find much solitude in the heavily populated south because the villagers will all be calling after you--the Obroni. Everyone seems to want to have a good time, so if partying is your thing, you'll enjoy Ghana.  Despite Ghana being an English-speaking country, you may find communication difficult as the locals often can not respond to even simple questions.  This is  frustrating and hard to comprehend, as Ghana is touted as having a high literacy rate.
visas
On the contrary to what some guidebooks say, the visa is normally not available at the border. If you insist they may give it to you but at a cost no less than 100 USD.
We got our one month visas in Ouagadougou at a cost of 15000 CFAs (12000 CFAs in Bamako). Deposit in the afternoon, pick-up 2 working days later in the afternoon.
money12,000 Cedis = 1 Euro (January 2007)
Togo

biking in togo.

routes & roadsThe cocoa triangle of Badou, Atakpamé and Kpalimé is highly recommended.  Beautiful scenery, cool air and some nice side trips to waterfalls and lookout points.  Roads are usually paved and in good condition.
Our detailed log available here (Word file)
food & lodgingAccommodation is good value for money and normally comfortable and pleasant even in the budget category--enjoy it while you can because Nigeria won't be nearly as nice.  Lots of fresh salads available and you'll find yogurt and ice cream too.  Reasonably well-stocked supermarkets can be found in the larger towns.
the localsThe Togolese are friendly enough and they won't hassle you for money or gifts.  
visas
A six-day transit visa can be obtained at major border crossings for 10,000 CFA.  Visas obtained at consulates are much more expensive, for example 25,000 for a one-month visa obtained in Bamako.  
money656 CFAs = 1Euro
Benin

biking in benin.

routes & roadsThe coastal road near Cotonou is very busy and unpleasant for cycling.  Otherwise the traffic wasn't too heavy and the roads were paved and in good condition.
Our detailed log available here (Word file)
food & lodgingBenin boasts decent value hotels and a steady supply of water and electricity.  Street food was harder to come by than in Togo, and we often had to resort to eating in noisy bar/restaurants where the food was double the price and no better than what is normally sold at the street stalls.
the localsYou'll be pestered for gifts by almost everyone you meet--this gets tiresome.  The people in Benin have something in common with those we met in Senegal, and this is not a compliment.
visas
48-hour transit visas are easily obtainable at the border, but for the same price (10,000 CFA) you can get a two-week visa at the consulate in Accra or Lomé.
money656 CFAs = 1Euro
Nigeria

biking in nigeria

routes & roadsMajor roads are dangerous places, with drivers passing on steep uphill climbs, blind curves and basically driving all over the road at death-defying speeds.  Secondary roads are all together more pleasant and often paved.  Road conditions can change drastically,and without warning the tarmac may abruptly end and you're left with a sandy piste.  Always try to get advance info from locals regarding the state of the road as the Michelin map is not always accurate.  The country is far from flat and has some spectacular scenery.
Our detailed log available here (Word file)
food & lodgingNigeria is a culinary wasteland.  If you want decent food, you'll have to hunt hard and pay exorbitant prices.  The country's  only saving grace is the pineapples which are juicy and sweet.  If you're really desperate and on a tight budget, try the instant noodles Indo Mie--they're cheap and filling and one  acquires a taste for them over time.  Good Morning Instant Oats are also a good buy and make a delicious breakfast mixed with a little chocolate powder and instant milk.  The bread sucks.
Budget accommodation is often grubby and bucket showers and candles are the norm. We usually paid around 1,000 Naira for a basic room.  In Calabar we paid 2,000 for a decent room at the Elinah Guest house (running water, clean, generator, attached bath) but we had to bargain hard for this price.   Electricity is seldom supplied by the utility company (NEPA) and generators can be extremely noisy, so check to see where they're located and at what time they'll be turned off if you need quiet for a good night's rest.  
Water is widely sold in 500ml plastic sachets and it's cheap, which is a good thing, because pumps are hard to find.  Lots of communities, even those in not so remote places, still rely on water taken directly from a stream for bathing, washing and drinking--not very hygienic.
the localsYou'll love the locals.  They'll be curious and full of questions and very impressed by your athletic prowess.  You may receive small gifts such as fruit or biscuits and everyone will go out of their way to ensure your comfort.  If you're looking for a hotel, someone will surely guide you, and there will be no expectation of a tip for the service rendered.  In the remote countryside you'll see a fair number of frightened children who will flee at the sight of a white man on a bicycle.  
visasCan be a bit tricky to obtain a visa.  In theory you should have a letter of invitation, but in practice this isn't always the case.  Some sort of official looking document, or even  a self-written letter explaining your 'mission' will probably do.  We went to the French Consulate in Accra and were able to get a 'letter of recommendation' from them.  The Nigerian officials will also want to see copies of health insurance coverage and proof of sufficient funds.  Here a photocopy of a credit card or travelers checks should suffice.  Most travelers seem to get the visa in the end, although it's a bit of a hassle.
money165 Nairas = 1 Euro (February 2007)
Cameroon

biking in cameroon

routes & roads Entering Cameroon via Ekang during the rainy season is inadvisable due to the extremely poor condition of the road.  Sometimes giant potholes have to be negotiated, caused by heavy lorries that get stuck and have to be dug out, creating walls of sand, mud and rock a few meters high.  There's a tarred section after Mamfé but then you'll run into piste again and this is hilly country, so again this would be difficult if the track turns to mud.  Once you hit Bamenda the road south to Yaoundé is paved and in good condition.  The ring road is still difficult due to the two bridges that are down.  We did the small ring road outlined in the Rough Guide, but the direct route between Wum and Fundong is in extremely bad condition and you'll be pushing over rock beds most of the way.  Nice scenery on the road between Bamenda and Yaoundé--paved all the way and traffic isn't too heavy--watch out for some steep climbs, though.  Also beware of un marked speed bumps that pop up in strange places on highways.  Eric hit one of these at full speed, flipped off his bike, broke his collar bone and had to spend five weeks recovering in Bamenda. Our detailed log available here (Word file)
food & lodging  Cameroon will seem very modern if you're coming from Nigeria.  Accommodation is usually clean and relatively comfortable.  Bargaining usually goes down well and you might be able to reduce the room price by up to 50%.   We normally paid between 4,000 and 6,000 CFA for a double  room.   Avocados are everywhere and they make a nice salad to go along with a spaghetti omelette. Bakeries and patisseries are fantastic in the francophone zone, but in the anglophone areas you'll mainly get Nigerian-style bread and maybe some spongy baguettes.  There's yogurt too, but a bit pricey at 300 CFA for a single-serving container.
the locals Cameroonians are a mixed bag.  We met lots of friendly folks in the anglophone areas but met with some hostilities in the francophone region, in Yaoundé in particular.  Unprovoked comments from passers-by such as 'tourists go home' didn't make us feel welcome.
visas We got our visas in Calabar on the same day.   You'll need a handwritten request for the visa, 2 passport photos and the cost is 50,000 CFA for 30 days.  Extensions cost another 50,000 for 30 days, and if you have a lot of patience, luck and strong persuasion skills, you might obtain one in Yaoundé.
money 500 CFAs = 1USD 660 CFAs = 1 Euro You can use your VISA card to withdraw cash from ATMs in Bamenda and Yaoundé (and lots of other places too, no doubt).  Mastercard is not linked to the networks in Cameroon. Apparently there are still some travelers who don't realize that you can't use West African CFA in the Central African zone (ie: Cameroon).  You'll get good rates and honest service if you change with Muslim Hausa traders in Calabar, Nigeria.
Equatorial Guinea

biking in equatorial guinea 

routes & roadsThe government is on a paving spree which makes for nice cycling.  From Ebebiyin the road is paved all the way to Bata.  A direct road between Bata and Cogo is in the process of being paved so there's no need to take the long way through Mbini if you're heading towards Gabon. When we passed in April 2007, all but the last 70 or so kilometers before Cogo were already tarred.  
Our detailed log available here (Word file)
food & lodgingOutside of Bata accommodation was between 4,000 and 6,000 CFA.  Bata is pricey and most places we checked wanted at least 20,000--ouch!  Finally got lucky and stumbled upon a hotel that had neither water nor electricity and let us have a room for 7,000 CFA.  Water seems to be tricky to find in towns and cities--most people get theirs from open wells.  Better to fill up in the countryside when you find a nice closed source of water.
the localsSince the country doesn't see many tourists you'll be a bit of a mystery.  On the whole people are friendly and nobody will hassle you for handouts. 
visasWe got or visas in Yaoundé for 37,000 CFA.  If you show up in the morning, you should be able to have same day service.  
officialsEntering the country at Ebebiyin, we were surprised to receive such a friendly  welcome and impressed by the efficiency of the officials.  Everything went well at the following roadblocks until just 25 KM before Cogo, where we fell prey to a drunken military man.  This was the only time we had to pay a bribe.  At the marina in Coga the official also demanded we pay a fee of  2,000.  We were fed up and refused to pay, but the official was very persistent and followed us to the pirogue and insisted we disembark.  Standing our ground worked and we got away without lining the pockets of any more corrupt individuals.  
Another cyclist who was traveling in the opposite direction was forced to leave his bike in Coga, travel to Bata by vehicle, obtain a tourism and photography permit (25,000  CFA, I think) and then return to Cogo before he was allowed to continue cycling.  Very bad luck.
money500 CFAs = 1USD
656 CFAs = 1Euro
Gabon

biking in gabon

routes & roadsThe road from Cocobeach to Ntum is unpaved but pretty well graded.  Heavy rains change everything of course. The road from Libreville to the Congo border is paved until 50 KM south of Lambaréné.  The piste is fairly well-maintained, but if there's a lot of rain you'll be sloshing about in puddles and wallowing in muck.  A potential problem area is between Mouila and Ndendé where the road frequently floods and water can be waist-deep for several days.  From Mouila to the border the road is in better condition.
Our detailed log available here (Word file)
food & lodgingRestaurants are almost all run by West Africans, usually Senegalese or Maliens.  You'll find authentic riz gras if you're lucky, otherwise just plain old rice with little flavor.  Most items in cafeterias are between 1,000 and 1,500 CFA -- everyone seems to have the same menu: Riz-Poisson, Riz-Viande, Omelette...not very inventive.  Street food is limited to bean sandwiches and brochettes for the meat-eaters.  Supermarkets can be found everywhere and they're usually well-stocked but expensive.  If you've become addicted to Chococam Tartina spread, no worries..it's available all over Gabon at a similar price to Cameroon.
We found lodging to be fairly reasonable outside of Libreville.  For a double room we normally paid between 3,000 and 5,000 CFA.  Electricity and water cuts are rare.  
Case de Passage (3,000 CFA) run by Florence in peaceful Ndendé is a nice place to stay before heading on to Congo.  In Fougamou try Auberge La Fifa(6,000 CFA), run by a friendly guy from Togo.  Les Soeurs Bleues in Libreville allow camping for 3,000 CFA per person.  Rooms at the mission are 7,000 CFA per person, although apparently the Africans pay just 7,000 per room.  We protested and got to stay the third night for free. It's a peaceful place to stay and not inconveniently located as it says in the LP.  Another plus is the use of a fridge.
The mission in Lambaréné only offers camping--2,500 per person.  Don't go to Hotel Rotin Palace in Mouila if you want a good night's rest free of rats.  Hotel Elibana (4,500 CFA)-run by a guy from Mali --is a better bet.  Clean and 'urinating in the shower' is forbidden.  In many hotels the shower doubles as a urinal--disgusting and smelly.
the localsThe Gabonese are very polite people and in the villages everyone you pass will greet you with a bonjour madame (or monsieur).  Police and immigration are friendly, professional and even helpful at times.  You won't be asked to pay any extra formality fees.
visasShould be a straightforward, one-day process in Yaoundé. Only requirement is two passport photos. Cost is 35,000 CFA for 3 months. Flip-flops and shorts won't go down well at the embassy.  
money500 CFAs = 1USD
656 CFAs = 1Euro
You can use your ATM card at several different banks in Libreville--visa only.
Congo Brazzaville

biking in congo-brazzaville

routes & roadsRoads are tough going from the Gabon border to Brazzaville and during heavy rains progress will be slow.  We heard mixed reports about the security situation around the Pool region where the Ninja rebels have their stronghold.  This stretch of road is also notoriously rough, so taking the train, as we did from Loutete, might be the best option.
Our detailed log available here (Word file)
food & lodgingNot much to say about the food which seems to get increasingly bad as we head further south.  Outside of Brazzaville prices for lodging are reasonable for the region.  Best budget option in Brazzaville is the Sacré Coeur Mission which offers spacious and comfortable rooms in a quiet part of town.  Renovations were underway in June 2007, so prices may go up.  We paid 8,000 CFA ($16)for a double which was a bargain compared with other budget options.
the localsThe country doesn't see too many travelers, so locals are generally eager to speak with any foreigners they come across.  We had some hassles at the border coming in from Gabon where are bags were thoroughly searched and the immigration officials tried hard to get us to pay an extra fee.  There are lots of police posts where you will be required to register.  This is normally just a minor hassle and officers will probably just ask you to give them a bit of money for a soda or fuel for the generator.  We never donated to these needy officials.
visasWe got our visas at the border for 30,000 CFA--valid for 15 days.   This should be standard procedure, but the police wanted us to prove we were tourists.  Everything worked out in the end, but you may want to get the visa beforehand to avoid any possible problems.
money500 CFAs = 1USD
656 CFAs = 1Euro
DRC

biking in democratic republic of congo

airportsWe can't say much about roads because we flew between Kinshasa and Goma.  The airport in Kinshasa is pretty chaotic and services are very limited.  Transportation to the town center is expensive--taxi drivers were asking 30 USD.  Bravo Air Congo operates a bus service from its office to the airport which is very convenient.
food & lodgingPricey.  The mission places is Kinshasa were charging 60 USD.  A cheap room will be around 20 USD and you won't be getting much for your money.  Goma is much more reasonable. Don't miss the Salt and Pepper Indian Restaurant across from the barracks of the UN Indian contingent in Goma if you get stuck in this dusty town.
the localsWe didn't spend much time in the country it's hard to form an opinion about the Congolese. Friendly enough but a lot of them were looking for a way to hustle  us.  The officials at the Goma crossing into Rwanda were helpful and professional.  
visasWe got our visas in Brazzaville.  Cost was 35,000 CFA.  The usual two photos are required and if you drop off the application in the morning, you can pick up the visa in the afternoon.
money500 Congolese Francs = 1USD (June 2007)
Dollars are very useful in DRC.  ATMs at the ProCredit bank in Kinshasa distribute dollars--max is $500 at the machine and $2,000 if you can inside to see a teller.
Rwanda

biking in rwanda

routes & roadsFantastic scenery, smooth tarmac and sane drivers--a cyclist's dream.  You'll probably can't go wrong no matter what route you choose.  Well, you have to enjoy long climbs and there are some killers in Rwanda.  It is probably the cleanest country we've seen so far in Africa. Villagers take care to plant flowers and hedges in front of their simple homes and take pride in their country.
Our detailed log available here (Word file)
food & lodgingWe loved the all-you-can-eat lunchtime buffets in Rwanda.  They're a bargain at around 600 francs.  You can fill up on salad, chips, rice, spaghetti, beans, matoke, and various vegetables.  Best places to eat are the small restaurants attached to budget hotels.  Lodging is also a bargain, although there's not as much choice as in neighboring Uganda.  Here are some recommendations for those on a budget:
KigaliNew Modern Lodge5000
GitaramaCentre St Andre6000
ButareEden Garden Hotel3500
GisenyiCentre St. Francis Xavier4000
the localsThe locals are extremely friendly and welcoming.    Kids go mad when they see foreigners, but can be helpful pushers during the hard slogs uphill.
visasAmericans receive 30 days at the border for free.  Many nationalities, including French citizens, need to apply in advance at an embassy or online (www.migration.gov.rwa).  In theory within two days you should receive an 'Entry Facility' form which should then be printed and presented at the border.  In practice this system doesn't work very well.  Eric applied numerous times online without response.  Fortunately, when we turned up at the border the missing 'Entry Facility' was no problem and he was granted a 15 day visa for a fee of $60. This fee must be paid in dollars.
money550 Rwandan Francs = 1USD
630 Rwandan Francs = 1 Euro (July 2007)
Uganda

biking in uganda

routes & roadsPredatory driving is the main problem in Uganda.  The road between Mbarara and Kampala is particularly dangerous due to the lack of shoulder and crazed mini-bus drivers.  North of Kampala up to Masindi is far quieter.  Pistes can be in pretty deplorable condition.  Lots of dust and rocks between Masindi and Kyanjojo.  Another very bad 35 Kilometer stretch just after Ishaka/Bushenyi heading towards the Rwanda border at Kagitumba.  Some great cycling nevertheless.  The minor road along near Lake Bunyoni should not be missed.  Ask locals as this is not indicated on the Michelin map.  You'll see wildlife cycling through Queen Elizabeth National Park and the road is flat, in excellent condition and there is limited traffic.
Our detailed log available here (Word file)
food & lodgingIndian food is pretty widely available in the bigger towns.  Chapatis are a great filler-up for hungry cyclists and can be found even in very small villages. Don't miss Masala Chaat House in Kampala, they whip up a mean thali for lunch (6,000 USH).  Chips and omelettes are standard vegetarian fare and of course the old favorite, rice and beans.  Salads and yogurt aren't too difficult to come across.
Hotels are good value compared with West and Central Africa.  We normally paid around 8,000 Ush in mid-sized towns and in villages around 4,000 Ush.  It definitely pays to take a look around as standards vary considerably from hotel to hotel in the same price range.
Below are some recommendations.  We go for basic budget places that are quiet and clean.
MbararaPelican hotel10,000
MasakaBackpackers campsite8,000
KampalaBackpackers campsite14,000
MigeraGlory Inn10000
MasindiNuha Hotel8000
Fort PortalNew Linda GH6000
KaseseZebra Hotel8000
Border Post KagitumbaMountain View Inn (Uganda)5000
Our detailed log available here (Word file)
the localsIf you don't mind passing your days being chased after by wild groups of children shouting Mzungu, you'll have a great time in Uganda.  Locals are friendly but have no concept of time or distance.  Forget about asking them how far it is to the next village and how long it will take to cycle there.  One guy might say 5 kilometers and the next 50.  Watch out for over-charging.  Where tourists have passed they'll say a chapati costs 500 shillings when it's really 200 and even trivial things like sweets will triple in price.  When you let it be known you didn't just hop off the overland truck, they'll laugh and sell you things at the normal price.
visasWe got our visas at the border for 30 USD.   This must be paid in US dollars--there are people at the border ready to change but you'll get a better rate in Kampala or Kisoro.  It's a speedy, hassle-free process.  There is no $20 student visa as the Lonely Planet mentions.
moneyThere are ATMs in all major towns.  Stanbic Bank has new ATMs in all branches where you can withdraw 800,000 shillings in one transaction.
1,650 Ugandan Shillings = 1USD
2,250 Ugandan Shillings = 1 Euro (July 2007)
Burundi

biking in burundi

routes & roadsWe had good paved roads from the Rwanda border up to Mabanda, 30 kilometers shy of the Tanzania border.  Very scenic route coming in from Rwanda , but be prepared for some hard climbs.  The descent into Bujumbura is spectacular with 30 kilometers of blissful cruising downhill.  There are villages every few kilometers the entire length of the country apart from this descent and the area near the Tanzania border.  When we passed (July 2007) the road into Bujumbara was being patrolled at regular intervals by the military .  There's lots of traffic, so probably little security risk.  The road south of Bujumbura to Nyanza Lac is almost all flat.  After Nyanza Lac the road climbs steeply up to Mabanda, so it's probably better to spend the night in town and tackle the climb in the morning.  The immigration post, if you're heading on to Tanzania, is just outside of Mabanda so be sure to stop there and get your exit stamp.  We really enjoyed this small country and highly recommend it.
Our detailed log available here (Word file)
food & lodgingWe found lodging to be fairly good value.  Don't miss the Ganga Guest house 88 kilometers from Butare--great views of the surrounding mountains and a real deal at 7,000 Francs.  In Bujumbura The Rossignol Inn (10,000 francs)near the Finance Ministry has quiet,  good value rooms with attached bath and a very friendly family running the place.  There's a basic and not so clean Catholic Resthouse in Nyanza Lac.  Try the wholewheat bread and cakes at Kappa Bakery in the capital and say hello to the warm-hearted Cypriot owner.
the localsWe had a great time trying to communicate with the local people.  They liked to chat and accompany us as we rode.  The kids are a big help if your legs are collapsing on some of the climbs.  
visasWe got our visas at the Kayanza border post.  20 USD for three days.  Extensions are straightforward at the immigration office in Bujumbura.  Cost is $1 per day with a 5 day minimum.  The usual two photos are required and if you drop off your passport in the morning, you can pick up the visa extension in the afternoon.
money550 Burundian Francs = 1USD
750 Burundian Francs = 1 Euro (July 2007)
You can change money at the border, but rates are better in Bujumbura.  To the best of our knowledge, there are no ATMs that accept international cards.  You'll get a better rate at the Forex offices than if you change on the street.  If you need to change money on a Sunday try the guys who hand out in front to the Hotel Novotel.  They can also give you directions to the Rossignol Inn, but they might tell you its a dirty place without security (untrue!).
Tanzania (western part)

biking in tanzania (western)

routes & roadsWe entered Tanzania from Burundi at the border post of Manyovu.  It's a 66 kilometer ride on a fairly rough road from there to the center of Kigoma.  We debated taking the inland route through Kasula, Katavi National Park and on to Sumbawanga, but in the end decided against it.  We were told by expats and locals alike that the road is in extremely poor condition, the region is very desolate  with few villages, there is little traffic (perhaps two vehicles a day) and long stretches with no possibility of finding water.  Tsetse flies are also a problem in the National Park.  One French guy who had done the trip in a 4WD said it took him an entire day to drive 100 KMs.  That said, we were in contact with a Swedish cyclist who did the route so it is possible if you're really hard-core.  He said it's definitely not easy cycling and he had to resort to getting water from streams.  In the dry season this might not be feasible.

Easier travel is via the MV Liemba which leaves Wednesday afternoon and arrives in Kasanga Friday morning.  A first class cabin costs $62 ($65 if you go all the way to Mpulugu), payable only in US dollars.  Tickets go on sale Monday morning.  When we arrived at the ticket office early Monday morning we were told that all first class cabins had already been reserved.  After a little insisting that we needed our own cabin the ticket agent scribbled our name in the reservation book and sold us the tickets anyway.  Other tourists who arrived the day of departure were also able to get first class cabins.  Decent food is available on board for 2,500 schillings per meal.  The cabins have a sink and a shower is also available, although our fellow tourists complained of the lack of cleanliness--Amaya found it to be better than a lot of other places we'd endured.
There's not much in Kasanga but it's a pleasant enough village and there's a guesthouse and small restaurant.  There's a shortcut between Matai and Mpui, so you don't need to go all the way back up to Sumbawanga, as many locals might suggest.  This shortcut road is in good condition, in fact better condition that the main 'highway' between Mpui and Tunduma.  This is because the shortcut road is narrow so there are no heavy trucks passing that way.
Here's a rundown of villages you'll pass:
Kasanga
Kawala
Kisumba-Kasote: Guesthouse here and small restaurants
Limba
Mkaowe
Mbuza
It's 67 kilometers from Kasanga to Matai.
Matai: try Santa Maria Hotel (it's a restaurant) for tasty food from the friendly Rwandan owner
After Matai you need to get on the shortcut road.  At the intersection, take a right out of town.  Then a couple more kilometers along this road you'll have to take a left towards Munga.  If you keep going straight you'll end up in Zambia.  The road is fairly flat and there were no corrugations and not too much sand.    Here's the list of villages you'll pass:
Munga
Kalalasi
Itegresha
Chilesha
Kambo
Mwazte: Guesthouse and Restaurants, from here there are a couple of roads heading in different directions so make sure you get the road to Mpui--there's a signboard, but you could easily miss it so ask for directions.
Musoma
Ilembo
Mpui
From Matai to Mpui it's also 67 kilometers.
After Mpui there's quite a bit of traffic and the road is badly corrugated in some places and there are some sandy spots as well.  You'll probably have had enough of the piste when you arrive in Tunduma. Laela (35KMs) and Dalambo (120 KMs) are the only towns between Mpui and Tunduma. Getting water can be a problem as there are few villages with wells.  Stock up when you can.
Our detailed log available here (Word file)
food & lodging Western Tanzania is a bargain for lodging.  We never paid more than 7,000 schillings.  Food is nothing to write home about.  The culinary highlight for vegetarians is the Chipsi Omelette.  Here are some hotel recommendations:
KigomaMapinduza Lodge
near train station, take a room in block B, quiet and very clean
5000
TundumaChambo Lodge
on the right before you reach the tarmac, comfortable and quiet
7000
MbeyaKaribuni Centre (camping)
pleasant surroundings, but a bit pricey--ask for a warm bucket of water for washing--beware of the dogs after 10PM--some books available at the reception
6000
TukuyuLangiboss
quiet, great views and friendly owner, food available
5000
the localsCompared with neighboring countries, locals get much less excited about two passing Wzungu on bicycles.  Friendly but reserved was our general impression of Tanzanians.  We were very well received in the villages where we camped and there was no expectation of payment or demands of gifts.
visasWe got our visas in Kampala--$50, payable only in US dollars.  It is apparently possible to get a two-week transit visa for $30 in Kigoma.  At the border you are supposedly able to get 3 days entry (for free) enabling you to get to Kigoma and sort out the visa.  This is what the immigration officers told us, but things change so best to confirm this before setting out without a visa.  
If you take the MV Liemba all the way to Mpulunga, Zambia don't forget to get your exit stamp in Kigoma.  In theory it's possible to get the stamp in Kasanga, but this could be a very short stop (as it was for us) and extremely hectic.  The boat might just pull away will you're still waiting for the officer to find the right stamp.
moneyThere are ATMs in most towns. Maximum withdrawal per transaction is 400,000 shillings.  If you're coming from Burundi, change money on the Burundi side.
1,200 Tanzanian Shillings = 1USD
1,700 Tanzanian Shillings = 1 Euro (August 2007)
Malawi

biking in malawi

routes & roadsMalawi has a fairly good network of paved roads and is pleasant for cycling.  Around the lake you'll find lots of guest houses(usually run by foreigners) which offer comfortable accommodation and camping.    The rough, 19 hair-pin bend ride up to Livingstonia is worth it.  We stayed at the Mushroom Farm (run by a friendly Australian) and had a fantastic camping spot overlooking the lake and the mountains.  If you want to self-cater, stock up on food in advance, because not much is available in Livingstonia itself.  Malawi has probably got the best back-packer vibe on the continent, so if you're in to hanging out with other Westerners, this is the place for you.
Our detailed log available here (Word file)
food & lodging Prices for camping are reasonable at between 400 and 600 kwachas per person.  Camping in villages is possible, although the villagers in the one we stayed at seemed disappointed when we left.  Had they enjoyed our company so much or were they expecting a little monetary compensation for fetching us a bucket of water to bathe with?  Supermarkets stock a limited range of goods in most reasonably-sized towns.  In Lilongwe, there's a big Shoprite and a Spar where everything imaginable is available, albeit at higher prices than in South Africa.  Along the roadside you'll find many shacks selling home-made french fries.  A bit greasy, and not as tasty as in Tanzania, but they'll fill you up in a pinch.
the localsIt seems everybody loves the good-natured Malawians.  The kids, however, can try your patience with their constant request for money and pens.  
visasImmigration is fast and efficient and there's no cost for the 3-month visas.
moneyThere are ATMs in most towns. Maximum withdrawal per transaction is 2000 Kwachas.  
150 Malawian Kwachas = 1USD
225 Malawian Kwachas = 1 Euro (September 2008)
Zambia

zambia

routes & roadsMajor roads in Zambia are in good condition.  The road from Chipatas to South Luangwa National Park is another story.  It's rough going with corrugations, sand and potholes.  Not much fun really.  If you want to visit the park consider catching a lift with other tourists or using local transport.  Zambia is actually quite hilly and only really flattens out about 100 kilometers from Lusaka.  The Lusaka-Livingstone stretch is fairly flat with the exception of one 'pass' not far from Lusaka.  Winds will make a difference in how fast you go.  If you're heading southwest, they should be favorable.  
Our detailed log available here (Word file)
food & lodging We only camped in Zambia because guesthouses are pricey.  Even campsites will set you back $5 per person.  Discounts are possible.  Wild camping shouldn't be a problem because there are lots of open spaces.  Food is nothing special and the pricey Shoprite in Lusaka is really only for the rich. But if you want to splurge, most everything is available.  If you're heading south, don't worry because the food situation will be looking up soon.  Those little roadside shacks serving up rice and beans start to disappear and self-catering starts to become the norm.
the localsZambians struck us as very happy people.  If you're fed up with all the attention you received in Malawi, you'll be relieved to cause much less of a stir in Zambia.  
visasBe sure to arrange for a visa waiver before you reach the border.  If you're coming from Malawi, contact Flat Dogs or Wildlife Camp and they'll put your name on the waiver list as long as you give them a few days advance notice and provide them with your personal details. Of course you should then stay with them at South Luangwa and book a safari.  If you're coming from Namibia, Jollyboys in Livingstone should also be able to arrange a visa waiver for you, although I believe its a bit more complicated process and you must book some sort of package.  Visas are expensive at 60 USD a pop, so a waiver is worth the extra effort.
moneyThere are ATMs in most towns. Maximum withdrawal per transaction is 2,000,000.
3,650 Kwachas = 1USD
4,928 Kwachas = 1 Euro (September 2007)
Zimbabwe

zimbabwe

routes & roadsNot much we can say about routes and roads because we just went from Vic Falls to the Botswana border.
Our detailed log available here (Word file)
food & lodging When we visited Vic Falls in late September 2007 there was food available at the guesthouse, but the supermarket shelves were looking pretty bare.
the localsWe've met lots of Zimbabweans all over Africa and we like them a lot.  Too bad the country is such a mess.  It seems everybody from Zimbabwe (blacks and whites) absolutely loves the country and can't wait to return.  As I said, we've talked with more people from Zimbabwe outside of the country than inside it.  
visasYou can get your visa hassle-free a the border for 30 USD.
moneyEverybody knows about inflation in Zimbabwe so there's not much point in quoting exchange rates.  We paid for our guesthouse in USD and brought in all the food we needed, so we never even changed any money.  There are people on the street who want to change, but its probably best if you work through the guesthouse where you're staying or slip into one of the shops and get advice.
Botswana

biking in botswana

routes & roadsYour main concerns will be finding water and avoiding dangerous wildlife.  Between Kasane and Maun, there's really not much as far as settlements except for what is listed below plus a couple of forestry checkpoints where you can get water.  Ask the locals for exact details as to where they're located because we forgot to note the kilometers. Stock up on water and hope the winds are blowing from behind.  Most cyclists traveling southward have favorable tailwinds, but these can change at any time so don't count on being pushed along to your next water source.  We spotted elephants, giraffes and zebras while cycling this route, but fortunately didn't encounter any lions.  They're out there, so think twice before wild camping.
Kasane 
Pandamatenga + 20kms : camped at the farm owned by the service station manager126
Nata: camped at police station184
Phuduhudu (small village): camped at the government compound179
Maun: many lodges/campsites available143
Sehitwa: camped at police station116
Dkar: village campsite/guesthouse156
Chobokwane: camped at police station129
Our detailed log available here (Word file)
food & lodging Accommodation in Botswana can be pricey.  Camping will be at least $5 per person.  Sympathetic lodge owners may give you a discount if you're raising funds for a charity.  Several times we camped at police compounds.  The officers were very professional and there was never any hassle.  Fortunately, food is less expensive than in neighboring Zambia. The cheapest supermarket is Choppies.  Kasane, Maun and Ghanzi have large grocery stores, but Nata only has a couple of small shops and a filling station(where everything costs more). Gweta has a filling station located on the main road where you can get some basic supplies and tasty fast food (pumpkin purée).  Pandamatenga has overpriced and greasy fast food and a small shop on the main highway.
the localsThere's a noticeable white population in Botswana.  Most lodges are run by them as well as many farms and shops.  These people were incredibly kind to us.  The (black) Botswanans were also very helpful, especially the police officers and staff at veterinary checks who filled our water bottles up.  It's a sparsely populated country, so you just don't run into many people.
visasImmigration is fast, efficient and free!
moneyThere are ATMs in most towns.
6.43 Pulas = 1USD
8.68 Pulas = 1 Euro (September 2007)
Namibia

biking in namibia.

routes & roadsIf you decide to follow the main B1 highway heading south from Windhoek you shouldn't have any problems finding food or water, but we're told it's almost dead straight and a very boring ride.  Apparently there's lots of traffic and not much of a shoulder so riding isn't really pleasant.  If you set off towards the desert, as we did, your main concern will be finding water, although heat, high winds and sandy roads are other fun elements to deal with.  Not far outside of Windhoek, the road turns into gravel.  Conditions vary widely, and if the grader has been through recently you're in luck, if not you may have to push at some points, as we did.  Be sure to carry lots of water.  At least six liters per rider for drinking, just to be on the safe side.  We were there in October and it was hot!  When the real heat sets in around December you might want to think twice about following this route.  Stock up on food in Windhoek as not much is available in the small towns outside of the capital.  The next supermarket you'll find is the Spar in Rosh Pinah.  All in all, it's probably worth it to get off the main road and experience the intense beauty of Namibia.  Below is our route with distances in km from the the Botswana-Namibia border.

Buitepos: campsite just after border post 
Gobabis:invited to stay with family, campsite available109
Seeis:nothing more than a few farms, stayed with locals147
Windhoek:Hospitality Club60
Windhoek + 72 km: camped at a farm97
Spreethoogte pass: unmanned campsite at pass105
Sesriem: expensive campsite(20USD), try to negotiate for reduction125
Namib Rand Warden's: the kind warden let us stay at his place, a guest cottage is available65
Betta + 24 km: camped at a farm101
Helmenringhausen: nice campsite80
Aus: campsite110
Rosh Pinah: camped at police station169
Rosh Pinah + 65 km: small campsite at farm66
Noordoever: camped at petrol station91
Our detailed log available here (Word file)
food & lodgingNamibia is a relatively expensive country which caters to high-end tourists and budget accommodation will cost at least 25 USD.  Camping is the best option, but it's not cheap either--approximately 5-7USD per person.  Given the vastness of the country, finding a place to pitch your tent shouldn't be a problem.  The only complication is that most of the country seems to be fenced off.  We normally asked at a farm if we could pitch the tent and were never turned down.  In fact, often we were invited to stay in the house.  Like in South Africa, most of the farms are white-owned, and these people seem to feel some solidarity with Europeans.  

the localsThankfully, the tension between blacks and whites that you find in South Africa doesn't seem to have spread across the border into Namibia.  We also camped at farms where only the black caretaker was present, and were treated with great kindness and hospitality.  In general, Namibians are very friendly people and will gladly fill your water bottles if you stop a vehicle or welcome you into their home if you pull up at a lonely farm.
visasThree month visas are available free of charge at the border.
money7.5 Namibian Dollars = 1USD
11.5 Namibian Dollars = 1 Euro (July 2008)
Same value as the Rand which is used interchangeably.
ATMs in all towns and possibility to pay with Maestro card in supermarkets and campsites.
South Africa

biking in south africa.

routes & roadsSouth Africa is a beautiful country blessed with a pleasant climate and good infrastructure which makes it an excellent cycling destination.  Most cyclists, and tourists in general, follow the famous Garden Route along the coast.  We decided to give the crowds a miss and headed inland to discover the Little Karoo and then the Great Karoo.  These areas are also being developed for tourists and you'll find comfortable guesthouses and campsites along the way.
Our detailed log available here (Word file)
food & lodging In three months we only paid for accommodation a handful of times.  Lots of people invited us to stay with them and campsite owners often let us stay for free after we explained our project and fund raising for CAMFED.   Locals will warn you not to do any wild camping and it's probably best to take their advice.  Camping at farms was never a problem for us, and we usually had the benefit of a hot shower inside the house.  You'll probably be doing most of the cooking  yourself or eating take-out from the supermarkets such as Shoprite, Pick and Pay or Spar.  They have a great selection of fruits and vegetables and prices are reasonable compared with Europe or North America.  The in-store bakeries and delis are also good value for self-caterers.
the localsSouth Africans are fantastically friendly.  Tell them you're looking for a campsite or the local backpackers and there's a good chance you'll be invited home.  We arranged accommodation in Cape Town and Durban through Hospitality Club and had very positive experiences both times.  All the talk of crime can be disheartening, but don't let it cast a negative spell over your travel experience.  We never got robbed, but the risk is real so be cautious.  If this had been our first African country and we had taken to heart everything the (white) South Africans told us about blacks, we probably would have never continued further north.
visasThree month visas are available at the border at no cost.
money7.5 Rands = 1USD
11.5 Rands = 1 Euro (July 2008)
ATMs in all towns and possibility to pay with Maestro card in most shops.

Lesotho

biking in lesotho.

routes & roadsThe main highway is paved and in good condition and becomes quieter the further you get from Maseru.  There's one very steep, but manageable, 9 kilometer pass before reaching Oxbow, which is not a town, just a lodge and restaurant.  After Oxbow, the road starts gently climbing again and you go over another series of passes.  After Mokhotlong, heading towards Sani Pass, the road turns to gravel and is pretty steep in a couple of places, although nothing like the descent back into South Africa which is a series of rocky, corkscrew bends which will leave even the toughest of cycle tourists pushing if he's been crazy enough to attempt going up in this direction.

food & lodging The Shoprite in Maseru is well-stocked and prices are about the same as in South Africa.  Apart from the backpackers at Sani Top, there's not much in the way of budget accommodation, so again camping is the way to go.  

Maseru minus 10 km: camped at a farm in South Africa not far from the Lesotho border131
Peka: pitched our tent at the home of locals78
Botha-Bothe + 25 km: Mamahose campsite and guest house--80 malotis94
Oxbow: camped at the Oxbow Lodge--overpriced at 80 malotis41
Popa: stayed at a government compound79
Sani top: backpackers74
Underberg: backpackers49


the localsWe didn't spend much time in Lesotho, but the locals we met were friendly and helpful.  The area near the capital, Maseru, is quite developed, but as you travel towards the interior, you'll see more poverty and be faced with a fair amount of begging.  We were there at Christmas-time and the bars were overflowing with workers on leave from jobs in South Africa's mines.  These drunks can be a menace.  When we asked locals if we could pitch our tent, we received a warm welcome.
visasVisas can be obtained free of charge at the border crossing.
money7,5 Malotis = 1USD
11.5 Malotis = 1 Euro (July 2008)
Same value as the Rand.
ATMs in all towns and possibility to pay with Maestro card in supermarkets.
Better to use Rands as Malotis will not be exchangeable in South Africa.

 

Swaziland

biking in swaziland.

routes & roadsSwaziland's main roads are paved and in excellent condition.  It's a hilly country, so plan a little extra time to make it to your next destination.  The ride from Mbabane through the Ezulwini Valley is lovely.  We crossed the border into Mozambique at Namaacha.  There is a big climb after leaving the valley, so be prepared.  We were told the road was flat all the way.  Ha, Ha, Ha.  When will we ever learn?

food & lodgingThe Grifter's Backpackers in Mbabane is quiet, well-maintained and has pleasant grounds.  The kitchen is clean and very well stocked.  
Self-catering is easy in the capital, as you can stock up at the Shoprite or Spar which both have reasonable prices and excellent selection.  There's a big Shoprite in Manzini as well.  Definitely stock up if you're heading on towards Mozambique because prices are much higher across the border.
Obtaining water shouldn't be a problem.  Settlements are fairly close together and taps and pumps are plentiful.
the localsHaving spent so little time in the country its hard to form an opinion about the Swazis.  They were friendly enough and seemed very accustomed to foreign tourists .
visasVisas can be obtained free of charge at the border crossing.
money7.5 Emalengenis = 1USD
11.5 Emalengenis = 1 Euro (July 2008)
Same value as the Rand. Notes are used interchangeably but Rand coins are not accepted.
ATMs in all towns and possibility to pay with Maestro card in supermarkets and campsites.
Mozambique

biking in mozambique.

routes & roadsYou'll probably be riding on the National 1 for most of your cycling tour of Mozambique.  The surface varies from excellent to badly potholed and in dire need of repair.  Fortunately, work is being done and, all in all, the road is in fine condition as far north as Inchope.  There we headed towards Tete on the N6 which is also paved and mostly in good condition.  North of Maputo the area is tropical looking with coconut palms and lovely, well-kept villages and small settlements every few kilometers.  Later this changes to pure bush, and the region north of rio Save is very sparsely populated, so be sure to make sure you've got plenty of food and water.  If you're heading to the far north, all the way to Tanzania, you're definitely in for some rough roads and a few crossings in dugout canoes.  Check out this site for a few pictures and more information:  Africa and Beyond

food & lodgingIf you're used to cheap street eats, you may be disappointed in Mozambique.  We found very little in the way of roadside stalls serving meals.  In busier market town near the coast you'll be able to find fish and possibly salad and some sort of fried mealie-meal that is made into sandwiches.  The only thing we found that was really tasty, cheap and readily available was the delicious bread.  Larger towns will have a Pasteleria, but these were mostly out of our budget range. Mostly we ate a lot of boiled egg sandwiches, made better with mayonnaise that we bought along the way and never seemed to go bad despite the heat.  Well at least we never got sick.  

The Shoprite in Maputo is very expensive compared with South African prices, although things were a bit cheaper in the Chimoio Shoprite.  Be sure to stock up for weekends because everything closes around 2PM on Saturday and doesn't open again until Monday morning.

Even simple Pensions will charge around 30-40 USD for a basic room.  We normally asked at schools, churches, health centers or in villages if we could pitch our tent and were never turned down.   Local people also allowed us to camp in their compounds. There are backpackers places in Maputo, Chimoio and all the beach resorts.  The Pink Papaya in Chimoio no longer allows camping and we received a rather chilly welcome there.
the localsMozambicans are wonderful, warm people.  Some of the nicest on the continent and they will really go out of their way to help you.  Many people warned us to steer clear of the police who are known to try most anything to get a little cash out of tourists.  We were never hassled by them and always treated with friendliness and respect.

Except perhaps at the Mercado Municipal in Maputo and in some beach resorts, locals will never try to overcharge you at markets.  Mozambicans seem to be very honest people and have not caught on to the idea of squeezing as much money as possible out of tourists.

We didn't find communicating in Mozambique to be a big problem.  Firstly, most everyone speaks Portuguese to some extent and you will be understood if you can speak a bit of Spanish. If you don't know any Spanish or at least a bit of French, communication will be much more challenging.  Fortunately, there are also many Africans from neighboring anglophone countries (lots of Zimbabweans and Malawians) living in Mozambique and they always seem to pop up when you need them.

Mozambicans are good communicators and don't get blocked with language barriers.  In fact, communication is often easier than in Malawi, where people just don't seem to listen to what you're saying, and Tanzania, where many people expect you to speak Swahili.

visasWe got 30 days single entry visas from the High Commission in Mbabane (Swaziland).  We applied in the morning and could pick up the visas in the afternoon.  This 'express service' cost 85 Rand (about 10 USD).  90 days visas are available for 285 rand (about 35 USD).
money24 Meticais = 1USD
37 Meticais = 1 Euro (August 2008)
Standard Chartered Bank in Maputo near Fatima's Backpackers is a good place to withdraw money using your ATM card.
Malawi-heading north

biking in malawi: heading north.

routes & roadsRoads in Malawi are in good condition and heavy traffic isn't a particular problem.
food & lodgingYour best bet for lodging in Malawi are the many foreign-run campsite/lodges dotting the lake.  Local budget hotels, although cheaper than camping, are noisy affairs and you'll get little sleep with the disco down the street belting out music throughout the night.  Camping in villages or finding lodging at a local mission are also good alternatives.
Malawi has lots of supermarkets, the most popular being the People's chain, better known as PTC.  The German supermarket Metro also has many branches in Malawi.  They often sell fresh bread and have good prices.  The only drawback is that you often have to buy in large quantity.
the localsMalawians really are very friendly people, but they have absolutely no idea about distances so don't even bother to ask.  You'll just end up frustrated.  The kids love to be photographed, so take advantage because Tanzanians are much more camera shy.  Sometimes locals will try to charge a Mzungu price in shops or restaurants.  Again, be firm and don't let yourself get ripped off.  This just makes these practices more common a spoils the trip for others who come later.
visasMost nationalities can get a free visa at the border.
money150 qwacha = 1USD
220 qwacha = 1 Euro (September 2008)
At the Mozambique- Malawi border there are a few men hanging around who want to change money.  You'll have to bargain hard, but you should be able to get a marginally better rate.  There's also an official Forex office.
Tanzania-heading north

biking in tanzania: heading north.

cycling routes & roads in tanzaniaOn our way north, we entered Tanzania at Kyela border post and were face with a long 50Km climb up to Tukuyu.  From the Tukuyu the road continues to climb gently up to the Mbeya junction.  From the junction, heading east, the road drops quickly and we felt a real change in temperature and terrain.  Gone was the tropical scenery and tea plantations surrounding Tukuyu, and the scenery became dry and dusty.  The highway linking Mbeya, Iringa, Morogoro and Dar es Salaam is heavily traveled and we found cycling this stretch on the whole unpleasant.  Some sections are very narrow, potholed and trucks and buses pass frighteningly close.  Iringa definitely makes a nice stop along the way.  The setting is lovely and you can spoil yourself with some decent food.
The ride through Mikumi National Park is interesting and we spotted lots of elephants, giraffes and zebras even though we were cycling there during the mid-day heat when animals are typically hard to see.  In the village of Doma, a few kilometers after you exit the park if you're traveling east, you can find simple accommodation in a quiet guesthouse.
The road between Dar es Salaam is paved and in excellent condition.  Once you get outside of the city and its sprawling suburbs, the ride is pleasant with little traffic.
The unpaved road linking Bagamoyo with the main highway is in reasonable condition, although a bit hilly at times.  
The road heading north to Arusha passing through Korogwe, Same and Moshi has less traffic than the Mbeya Dar es Salaam road.  Although there aren't as many lorries, buses still speed past and we had a few close calls.  The road is really quite hilly until you reach Korogwe, where it flattens out a bit.
The 35 kilometer climb up to Lushoto is long, but the spectacular scenery makes it all worth the pain.  After about 17 kilometers, you'll reach the village of Soni which has some small restaurants and a guest house.  The road actually descends for a few kilometers and then climbs gently to Lushoto.

From Arusha to the Kenya border the road passes through many Masai villages and the land has a stark beauty.  

food & lodgingBy the time we left Tanzania, we were thoroughly fed up with Chipsi Mayai (a french fry omelette) and rice, beans and the green spinach-like vegetable known as 'Chinese'.
In Iringa, check out the "Seafood Restaurant" just off the main road not far from the Dallas Supermarket.  This guy doesn't sell seafood, but he used to be the cook for an American missionary family and makes excellent cinnamon rolls, pizza, brown bread and muffins at very reasonable prices.  Much cheaper (and better0 than the over-priced Hasty, Tasty too

In Arusha, 'Arusha Pizza' at the end of the road near the cheap guesthouses does excellent pizzas at reasonable prices.

The local market in Zanzibar also does some good street food after dark.  'Zanzibar Pizza" is on offer for much less than they charge the tourists at the overrated Foodhoni Gardens.

Lodging in Tanzania is very reasonable apart from Zanzibar.  Here you will pay at least $10 per person for a simple room at a budget hotel.  Even in the low season, when many hotels stand empty, owners are unwilling to make discounts.  But okay, you only live once and most people fall in love with Zanzibar, so you might as well splurge and visit the famed island.

The Shoprite in Dar es Salaam isn't particularly well-stocked and its products are expensive. Some of the smaller Indian-owned shops have surprisingly good selection and decent prices.
the localsTanzanians are very polite and you'll always be greeted with a welcoming Karibu Sana.
It is best to learn at least the basics of Swahili, because there are few English speakers compared with neighboring Malawi or Kenya.  Many locals will often ask for payment if you take photos.  Masai will almost always ask for payment, even if you ask for permission and they agree to have their photo taken.  Even if you're just taking a picture of their village and no people are in the photo.  We were friendly, but firm and insisted that taking photos of landscapes didn't require permission or payment.  The best advice is to be careful where you point the camera when you're on Masai land.
visasWe got 90 day visas on arrival at the border.  Cost is $50 for most Europeans, but $100 for Americans.  Visa fees are payable in US dollars only.
money1,200 Shillings = 1USD
1,600 Shillings = 1 Euro (October 2008)
ATMs can be found throughout the country.  There's a FOREX bureau at the Malawi/Tanzania border and lots of money changers who will give you a marginally better rate.  Beware of fast fingers when they count the currency.

 

Kenya

biking in kenya.

cycling routes & roads in kenyaWe entered Kenya at the fast and efficient Namanga border crossing.  There's a Forex bureau if you need to change money.  If it's closed there will be plenty of men lurking about who will  be glad to do business with you.  We were given a decent rate.  

From Nairobi, we headed towards Lake Navaisha since we had decided not to follow the usual Isiolo-Moyale road into Ethiopia.  We chose, instead to go via the western shore of Lake Turkana.  There is a lot of climbing after you leave the capital, so make sure you get a good start.  We were told to take the 'old road' to Limuru and then switched to the 'new road'.  Lorries still pass on the 'old road' and we were told there were bandits in the forest as well.  There are some security concerns, so its probably best to stick with the 'new road'.  You'll have to climb to over 2,000 meters, but the view over the rift valley is spectacular.

The western shore of Lake Turkana route had been suggested to us by the German guy who runs Jungle Junction in Nairobi.  If you decide to do this route by bicycle, please take care and try to get accurate information on security.

The missions are probably the best source for reliable information because the priests are used to traveling to outlying villages.  We found the police and military to be quite useless at giving advice.  They often have their own interests at heart and may tell you a road is very dangerous and then offer to escort you for an exorbitant fee, just to 'cover petrol costs' they'll say.

If you decide to do the Lake Turkana route, avoid using the more direct route via Marigat, Loruk, Kapedo and Lokori.  We took this route and strongly advise against it.  There are SERIOUS security issues from Kapedo to Lokori.  This 100 kilometers of road is uninhabited. Really uninhabited meaning there are no villages, no people, nobody.  In a couple of spots the road branches and there will be nobody to tell you which road to follow.  I know 100 kilometers doesn't sound like a lot, and somebody might be able to draw you a map, but the road is very sandy in spots and the route we took passed through rocky mountains and we had to push a lot.  Plus you never know if the Pokots are lurking around.  They come down from the hills to do scouting missions in order to steal cattle and goats later.  They are not known to harm Westerners, but an unarmed cyclist might just be too tempting.  The villagers in Kapedo did not alert us to these dangers.  It was upon arriving in Kapedo that we were told of the risks.  

So if you want to go via Lake Turkana (some hard cycling but the tribal people are fascinating) you should follow the main road through Kitale up to Lodwar.  The road to Kalekol is paved so that's not a problem.  Once you leave Kalekol you've got a couple of options.  The local people often travel directly on the lake front.  Apparently the sand can be quite hard and makes for good cycling.  When we passed, in early November, the rains had destroyed the tracks so this wasn't a possibility for us.  

The road is  easy to follow once you're on it.  The only difficulty we had was on leaving Kalekol where we took a wrong turn and ended up at a school.  The locals showed us back to the road. Apparently there is another road heading off to your left which goes into the mountains. Don't take that one.

There is little traffic on the road.  You probably won't see more than a couple of vehicles per day.  Don't count on just getting a lift if you're fed up with cycling.  Oxfam and Merlin are both working in the area, so you will get some traffic.  Plus the priests and people from the Catholic Diocese travel quite a bit.

There are a fair number of villages where you can get some basic supplies, warm sodas, biscuits and such.   Don't count on finding any restaurants or even somebody making tea. The road can be very sandy and you must pass through many (normally dry) riverbeds.  For us, the going was very slow.  Once you reach Omorate, you've got to cross the river.  We hired 3 dugout canoes to take us across, one for us, one for the bags, one for the bikes.  We paid 20 Birr, which was probably a pretty good price.

If you go via Lake Turkana, you must get you exit stamp in Nairobi.   The guys at the border will just take a look at your passport and take down your details in a ledger.  They are very friendly on both the Kenyan and Ethiopian sides.  Ethiopian formalities take place at the immigration office in Omorate (Kelem).  It's apparently open 24 hours a day.
Here's a list of places you'll pass:
Kalokol mission, guesthouse
villageapprox. 15 kmchurch, water
Kataboy30mission, small shops, water
Lomekvui18catholic church, school, water pump but may be locked
Water pump8water not good for drinking
Nariengewoy12catholic church, small shop
Nariokotome junction4 
Nariokotome3 kms from main roadMission
Lowarengak21Mission, many shops, small restaurant
Todonyang30Mission, no shops, small fishing village
Omorate (kelem)approx.50shops, restaurants, hotels

 
food & lodging
Small restaurants abound in Kenya, and food is very good value.  Supermarkets also have reasonable prices and good selection.  If you decide to go via Lake Turkana, the supermarket in Lodwar is well-stocked and its prices are fairly reasonable.  
In Kenya we were hosted by couchsurfers and at missions, so we can't comment on hotels.
the localsWe really enjoyed chatting with Kenyans.  Most speak very good English and are surprisingly well-informed about the world.  They are helpful, polite and knowledgeable.
visasWe got 90 day visas on arrival at the border.  Cost is $20 for most Europeans.
money80 Shillings = 1USD
103 Shillings = 1 Euro (October 2008)
ATMs can be found throughout the country.  There's a FOREX bureau at the Kenya/Tanzania border and money changers and shopkeepers who will also change.
Ehtiopia

biking in ethiopia.

cycling routes & roads in ethiopiaWe entered Ethiopia from Kenya at the Omorate (Kelem)border crossing.  Immigration formalities take place in the large compound in the town center. In theory, immigration is open 24 hours.  
From Omorate the road to Turmi is in decent condition.  From Turmi you could head towards Dimeka and Key Afar but the road is currently in quite bad condition.  Upgrading is in process so the situation will soon improve.
From Konso to Arba Minch the road is mostly paved. The road from Arba MInch to Sodo is being improved and is still pretty rough going most of the way.
From Sodo, the road to Addis passing through Hosaina and Butajira is now entirely paved. This is a good alternative to the busy, main road passing through Shashemene. There is little traffic and the scenery is beautiful.  Be prepared for some long, tough climbs.
From Addis we took the main road to Gonder.  From Gonder the road to Sudan is now in the process of being paved.  Most of the way to Aykel is now tar and there's another section of tar before reaching  Shehedi.
Once you reach the Sudan border, the road is paved.

food & lodgingInjera(the local sourdough pancake-like staple) may not be everybody's favorite, but we loved it.  On Wednesdays and Fridays (traditional fasting days) it's served with lots of tasty vegetarian side dishes like cabbage, spicy potatoes, beans and salad.  On other days non meat-eaters will probably have to stick to Shiro, a spicy dish made of crushed beans and served with injera.
In villages a meal shouldn't be more than 5 birr, better restaurants in towns charge 9 or 10 birr.  Tourist restaurants may ask 20 birr for the same thing.  
The best breakfast food is fuul. Another spicy bean-based dish, it's always served with fresh bread.  Cost is about 5 birr.
Fresh fruit juices are delicious. Try the avocado, papaya, mango mix.  Cost is normally 6 birr in cafes and fruit stands.
Excellent coffee is widely available. Even small towns have restaurants with espresso machines. A macchiato costs about 2 birr.
Cakes look tempting but are usually tasteless and disappointing.
Large supermarkets are uncommon.  Shops in Addis, Bahir Dar, Gonder and Arba Minch are reasonably well-stocked and goods are less expensive than in neighboring Sudan.  Shops on Gonders main plaza are very expensive.  Shops on the side streets and in Bahir Dar offer better deals.
Lodging is cheap but quality is often very low. Village guesthouses cost between 15-20 Birr. Toilets are often smelly, fly infested pits.  Showers are rudimentary or non-existent.
Water is not usually a problem to obtain. We always filled up our bottles in the restaurants where we had meals.
 
the localsYes, the children really do throw stones.  But not all of them.  What is most annoying are the constant cries of "YOU, YOU, YOU" and "GIVE MONEY". It's probably best to just ignore these people as much as you are humanly able.  Outbursts and anger will only egg them on.  Outside  of rural areas your only problem with locals will be overcharging, which seems to be something of an acceptable local pastime.  
visas for ethiopiaWe got 90 day visas in Nairobi.  Apply in the morning, pick-up the same day in the afternoon.  Cost is $20 for most Europeans.   Bring the usual 2 passport photos.  Visa fees are payable in US dollars or Kenyan shillings.
money10 Birr = 1USD
12 Birr = 1 Euro (November 2008)
There is an ATM in Addis at the Sheraton Hotel which accepts international visa cards.  There are also several other Dashen Bank locations throughout Addis where international ATMS have recently been installed.   In Gonder the Dashen Bank now has an ATM which accepts international visa cards.  Money can be changed with shopkeepers in Omorate (Kelem) but the rate may not be favorable.
There are lots of people who want to change money in Metema.  The rate is not good.

 

Sudan

biking in sudan.

cycling routes & roads in sudanWithin a few months, the trials and tribulations of cycling through the Nubian will be nothing but history.  The last 400 kilometer stretch of unpaved road between Dongola and Wadi Halfa is being paved at break-neck speed and if all goes according to plan should be finished by mid- 2009. For now there's around 70 kilometers of paved road outside of Wadi Halfa, plus another stretch of maybe 30 kilometers north of Dongola that are tarred.  In many areas the foundation of the road is already in place, so you can ride on a good hard-packed surface. Plus there are a few stretches of road here and there that have been paved.  
The downside of all this paving is that the new road no longer passes through all the beautiful villages that line the Nile.  On the new road there are currently no road signs, so it is easy to cycle right past places like Abri without knowing where to turn.  

The road linking Atbara, Karima and Dongola is now entirely paved so this could be an alternative route to the traditional route passing along the Nile.

The road between Wad Medani and Khartoum is very busy and dangerous due to the heavy traffic and lack of proper shoulder.  Between Wad Medani and the Ethiopian border the road is entirely paved and there is far less traffic.
food & lodgingWe ate a lot of fuul (mashed beans mixed with oil and spices)in Sudan.  The taste runs the gamut from bland to quite tasty and even a bit spicy.  Otherwise there's not much else for non-meat eaters besides falafel sandwiches, but they're really only found in Khartoum.
Things get going rather late in Sudan, so food may not be ready until around 10AM, that's hard for cyclists who like to set off early in the day.  
Food is relatively expensive in Sudan--normal price for a bowl of fuul is 2 Sudanese pounds, tea is .50 pounds and soft drinks are between 1 and 1.50 pounds.
There is no abundance of roadside restaurants in Sudan, so finding food can be a problem especially between Dongola and Wadi Halfa.  It is best to stock up on processed cheese ( La Vache qui Rit is available in Khartoum and Wadi Halfa), jam, biscuits and a decent supply of bread.  Water is less of a problem because you'll  come across villages and water is always available in ceramic containers by the side of the road.  This water stays cool, and though it's certainly not very sanitary since everybody's dipping in and drinking from the same germ-infested cup, a few purifying drops should keep illness at bay.

Lodging is really a rip off.  In Dongola the guy was asking 30 pounds for a very basic double room (Lord's Hotel) but we got him down to 20 and in Wadi Halfa at the Nile Hotel they're asking 7 pounds per bed in shared rooms.  This place is really basic with dirt floors in the rooms-- at least it's reasonably clean and the pit toilets not too smelly.
Your best bet is camping, certainly not hard to find a place for that in Sudan.  We camped at some government type establishments in towns ( nice because showers were available) and also put up our tent in some of the shelters you find just off the main roads.  These have the advantage of giving you some protection from the wind.  A local family also invited us to stay with them and on two occasions locals opened up empty rooms in towns.  We  were thankful for the warmth and comfort.
the localsSandwiched in between the stone-throwing brats of Ethiopia and the aggressive touts of Egypt, are some of the kindest, most hospitable people on the planet--the Sudanese.  You could turn up on just about anybody's doorstep and be welcomed in for a meal and a rest.  The Sudanese really go out of their way to be kind to foreign tourists, to a point that is almost embarrassing knowing that many people are of limited means.  Some may offer food out of a sense of obligation, so it may be better to refuse two or three times if the individual looks rather poor.  That way he can save face without emptying his pockets or making his kids go hungry.
visas for sudanObtaining a tourist visa for Sudan can be time-consuming and expensive.  Getting a 14-day transit visa, on the other hand, is a relatively straight forward process.  In Addis we paid $100($61 for the actual visa and $39 for the application form--strange system) and after applying in the morning, received the visas the following afternoon.  We presented a letter of recommendation from the French embassy, although this is not mandatory.  A Dutch family applying at the same time had no letter and still received their visas.  You will need two color passport photos, plus a photocopy of the passport photo page and a photocopy of the visa for the country you will be entering after leaving Sudan.  It is mandatory to have this visa (Egypt if you're heading north, Ethiopia going south) already in your passport before applying for the Sudanese visa.
You must pay for the visas in US dollars.  No local currency is accepted.
The embassy in Addis opens at 10AM.  There was a long line when we were there, but foreign tourists are normally treated separately, meaning just wait to the side and you'll be let in as soon as the gate opens.  According to the posted opening hours in Addis, the embassy receives visa applications only on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  We've heard you can turn up on Tuesdays and Thursdays as well, so why not try your luck.  The staff in Addis can be surly.  This is no indication of how you'll be treated in Sudan.

After entering Sudan, you are supposed to register with the police within 3 days.  Apparently the cost for this varies depending on where you register.  We paid 87.50 Sudanese pounds ($40) in Khartoum.  Of course more than three days had passed, but this didn't seem to be a problem. We needed to fill out an application, and submit two passport photos plus a letter verifying where we were staying.  In our case the Blue Nile Sailing Club provided us with the letter. They seemed quite accustomed to doing this. The wheels of  bureaucracy turn rather slowly in Sudan, and registering took an entire morning.  The office in Khartoum is located near the American Embassy.
If you do decide to enter Sudan on a transit visa and you're cycling, most likely you'll end up overstaying.  This was our case (11 days too many) but we had no problems leaving the country or at any of the police checkpoints.  Mention was never made of the expired visas.

In order to cross the Nile at Dongola we needed a special permit from the police.  This is just a simple question of going to the police and showing your passport.  Then you'll get a piece of paper authorizing you to board the ferry and cross the river.  If you don't have this silly piece of paper you will not be allowed to board the ferry.  The manager at the Lord's Hotel can tell you where to go.  He will also want to see this paper that the police give you.  Don't let him keep it--as he did ours--but insist that he make a photocopy for his records.
Sudanese are big fans of meaningless documents, but you've got to play along.
money2.2 Sudanese pounds = 1USD
3 Sudanese pounds = 1 Euro (December 2008)
There are no ATMs in Sudan that currently accept international cards.  Dollars and Euros can easily be exchanged in Wadi Halfa, Khartoum and Gallabat/Metema.  The best rates we found were in the FOREX bureaus in Khartoum.  

 

Egypt

biking in egypt.

cycling routes & roads in egyptApparently since December 2008, travelers are no longer forced to go by convoy when they follow the Nile River, but you will still be subjected to a fair number of checkpoints and escorts.  Between Aswan and Luxor we were followed (for our own safety) by the Egyptian police on several ocassions and found this highly annoying.  From Luxor we headed inland to the Western Desert.  Although distances between settlements are fairly long (about 200 kilometers on average) finding water was never a problem for us.  There are police checkpoints approximately every 50 kilometers and also ambulance centers known locally as SAFF. The only area where there are no regular police checkpoints is between Bawiti and Cairo.  This stretch was no problem for us because we found some ambulance centers and manned antenna stations.  There is a rest area about halfway between Bawiti and Cairo, but everything is very expensive there and the place is very dirty and depressing.  Of course, it's an opportunity to refill your water bottles.  I really enjoyed the ride through the desert, in particular the White Desert near Farafra.  The stretch between Bawiti and Cairo is rather dull and with heavy traffic the riding's not so fun.  El Kasr is an excellent spot to rest up for a few days and visit the old Islamic city.   Winds can be a real problem, normally coming from the north and sometimes east.  All in all, I think it's worth the extra kilometers to make a detour into the desert.  
From Cairo we headed to the Sinai via the tunnel at Suez.  We were expecting a strong tailwind to push us south, but instead got stuck with crosswinds.  The Red Sea Coast is quite developed with lots of resorts dotting the shore.  The ride through the interior to St. Katherine's monastery was spectacular and traffic very light.  

Egypt's roads are all in good condition and we found the drivers to be reasonably safe.  Except in Cairo which is sheer chaos.  Be sure to allow yourself lots of extra time to traverse the city.
food & lodging in egyptComing from sub-Saharan Africa, we found Egypt to be a culinary delight even though we only ate at simple fast-food style restaurants.  Food is cheap and shops are well-stocked if in small towns.  For us, the variety was mind-boggling.  In tourist areas you will be regularly cheated.  Charged double or triple for simple things like bread and sandwiches.  Very annoying but exhausting to insist on paying regular prices.Lodging is good value.  In luxor we paid 30 pounds (about 4 euros) for a comfortable room, with attached bath including breakfast, use of the kitchen and internet access.  Here are a few recommendations:
LuxorNubian Oasis Hotel
LuxorNubian Oasis Hotel
LuxorNubian Oasis Hotel
Luxor    Nubian Oasis Hotel
St. Katherines:  Bedouin Camp, sheik Mousa
Nuweiba:  Petra Camp
There are plenty of places to camp in the Western Desert.  We also pitched our tent near the ambulance stations a couple of times and once at a police checkpoint, thereby having the advantage of readily obtainable water.  
the localsEgyptians you meet that are in any way related to the tourist industry will probably be trying to get money out of you in some way.  Other Egyptians are nice enough people, but don't particularly go out of their way to help you as they do in countries like Sudan or Syria.  Women will do well to cover up, even their elbows.  Egypt is the country in which I've had the most hassles from men, who don't seem to leave women alone no matter what their age.
visas for egyptWe got our visas in Ethiopia.  You'll need to provide the usual photos and present a bank receipt proving you've changed the appropriate amount of money currently 235 Birr.  A separate receipt is necessary for each applicant unless you are married and have the same name on your passports.  In theory you should be able to pick up the passport the following day, but the Egyptians sometimes drag their feet.  Politely pointing out that you need the visa ASAP will probably cut down on delays.
money5.5 Egyptian pounds = 1USD
7.5 Egyptian pounds = 1 Euro (January  2009)
There are ATMs throughout the country.  It is better to change your Sudanese pounds in Wadi Halfa than in Egypt.



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