Pack & Prep
As the trip Out of Africa approaches, preparations start to be finalised and tweaked
Pack & Prep…Dotting the Is and crossing the Ts
There’s just over a month to go until D-day. I say that, but nothing is cast in stone here. There's been civil unrest since the elections in May and varying degrees of caution required in moving about freely. I've had a couple of bike rides cut short by WhatsApps from friends telling me to go home NOW! avoid such and such a route etc. I was very lucky on one occasion in particular, and ended up having a stiff drink on arrival.
We live in an area that has been focused on by demonstrators and protesters, so access can be a bit tricky at times, and we have spent a lot of time in the house listening to it all. Some friends have been attacked, but we have so far been very careful to avoid risk, and neither us or our property has been damaged as yet. We are not at all certain of the outcome, so plans are fluid until it’s clear whether it will be safe to travel or not. You are vulnerable on a bike, and so a good deal of care is required when moving around. We will be travelling for a couple of weeks at least to the border, so we need a relatively settled outlook. Having said that, we are remaining focused on our D-day, and will be ready to set off on time.
Packing this time around has not been as simple as many previous tours. We plan to be travelling through Africa during the hottest time of the year, and Europe during the coldest. This means heavy luggage! We need to carry all of the summer stuff, including the necessary medications, plus we need full on winter camping kit and clothing. This means extra clothes, lights etc. As we will be travelling in the darkness; this also means more food, fuel and hot drinks, as we will be burning a lot more calories in the cold.
To an extent, this is a new type of venture for us (we have been living in the tropics where minimal clothes and a very light sleeping bag is the norm). Inevitably, we have needed to adjust our packing to accommodate this.
We are travelling as light as possible, but of course we need to be comfortable in a full range of conditions. I've got to say, I'm very nervous about the cold after living in hot climates for so long!
I guess for anybody who may be interested in the nuts and bolts…we normally use our panniers like rooms in the house. My front left pannier is sort of like the garage; I keep tools and cycling gear in there. Front right is the kitchen; stove, fuel mugs etc. go in there. Back left is my wardrobe; I keep clothes, and personal stuff in there, also electrical kit and laptop. Back right is the bedroom with sleeping bag, warm weather liner, pillow, Thermarest etc. On the top I have a small “North Fake” rack-top cargo duffel, that I bought in Kathmandu years ago. It is barely waterproof, obviously fake, but it was cheap as chips, and it works just fine. In this, I carry the camping gear; tent, stool, camp shoes, water filter etc. I carry a small travel scale, and I balance the weight (ball-park) with food, locks, and bike bits.
I use an Ortlieb bar bag for odds and sods, sunscreen, phone etc.
I use locks and miscellaneous bike bits to balance the loads left and right. I don't worry too much about weight distribution front to rear; the different sizes of the panniers seem to take care of that. Unless you pack bricks, the smaller ones are lighter because they have less stuff in them. As long as they are relatively balanced left to right – it all seems to work just fine. The bikes we are riding cope with the luggage really well, so packing can be a little more relaxed than our old bikes which handled appallingly if not very carefully loaded.
In terms of trip planning, we have done all that we ever planned to do. We know roughly where we plan to stay for the first couple of days; after that, we can make it up on the hoof. In Tanzania and Spain, we have drawn some rough lines on a map with a highlighting pen. For France, we can worry about that in France. Once we get to England, it will be just a case of keeping the sun on our right in the morning and on the left in the afternoon. That is of course there is any sun at all at that time of year! We will probably skip through England, as it’s not easy to camp there, and relax once we hit Hadrian’s wall.
Once we’re across the border, we will be visiting friends and family around Scotland, and will get a plan together for where to stop pedalling...before we run out of land.
All of that of course…providing it calms down here in Malawi!