Bikepacking the Democratic republic of congo (DRC) Introduction The following is a collection of stories from 5 weeks bikepacking through the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). I continued riding through
Getting Lost Riding Through
Remote Maasai Villages
Journey to Mbeya
I was really looking forward to travelling though Tanzania.
Partly because I knew the landscape was going to be different and partly because I was looking forward to some better food.
I knew they had beans and Chapati/Roti here…and I love Chapati!
I crossed the border and after getting some money out and a new sim card, I went to a guesthouse.
After having a shower and settling in, I left and went looking for a restaurant.
I randomly ran into Klaus (a German guy I met in Zambia) again who had just crossed the border as well. So I jumped into his car and we decided to go to a restaurant together.
We had some meat from a BBQ and it was some of the nicest meat I’d had in Africa. Really tasty and well seasoned. And it was only $2 each.
Klaus decided to stay a night at the guesthouse with me as he had a difficult day crossing the border with his car.
We decided to go out and get some beers at a local bar.
It was a fun experience to have the first night in a new country. People were quite friendly but not too pushy like they had been in previous countries.
The waitress was being pretty flirty which we both found quite funny.
After quite a few beers, we decided that it would be a good idea for me to strap my bicycle to the top of Klaus’s car and go towards Mbeya together.
So the next day that’s what we did. We got up early and headed towards Mbeya. Driving up into the mountains was absolutely beautiful. If felt almost like we were in Asia. People were harvesting bananas at the time so there were millions of bananas getting transported all around the area, in trucks, on motorbikes and on top of peoples heads.
The roads and infrastructure in Tanzania are quite good and a big contrast to Malawi.
It was a nice drive. We decided to go to Ngosi Crater lake on the way to Mbeya because we read it was the second largest crater lake in Africa.
The drive up there was difficult and we couldn’t make it the whole way up.
After just being able to turn the car around, we decided to stop, cook some lunch on the side of the road and then walk up to the start of the hike to the crater lake.
The round trip only took us a couple of hours.
It was really nice spending some time walking through the mountains towards the Crater and the view of the Crater lake was quite spectacular.
We then head towards Mbeya where we met Bryn who Klaus and I had met in Malawi.
Taking the Train to Dar es salaam
I decided to change my plan of cycling West Tanzania as I’d heard it wasn’t very interesting and instead head towards Eastern Tanzania so I could cycle from East to West along the northern part of Tanzania through the Mountains.
But I was meeting my brother in a month in Rwanda so I wouldn’t be able to cycle the whole way. I decided to join Bryn and take the train to Dar Es Salaam from Mbeya.
The train was 14 hours late and didn’t arrive until 4am which meant we spent a long time at the train station in the cold, trying to stay warm outside while guarding our bags and not falling asleep.
We’d managed to get some first class tickets for only $27AUD each and another $9AUD to take my bicycle.
A pretty good deal. I was told it was going to be booked out and that I’d have to take a third class ticket, which looked too busy for my liking.
Im not 20 years old anymore so I need slightly more space when travelling with other people haha
The train ride was nice, we shared our cabin with a local guy for half the journey who was travelling half way to go see his new born son only 6 days old.
The cabins were basic but nice enough to feel comfortable and have space.
The train ended up taking 36hours until we reached Dar Es Salaam.
The views on the train were really nice at points as we went through a national park I saw a heard of Wildebeest. The train took us through some very remote green forest areas which were really nice.
Made me think of doing a real bushwhacking adventure in the future. The more I travel, the more remote and off the track I want my adventures to be it seems.
Eventually we arrived in Dar es salaam around 1pm and made my way through the busy streets to a guesthouse.
The next day I took the Ferry to Zanzibar.
Riding across zanzibar
After spending the afternoon around the busy streets of Dar Es Salaam, I decided that I didn’t really want to spend a day off here and headed for the ferry.
I knew Zanzibar was going to be expensive but people all over Africa told me I had to visit there.
I was originally going to cycle the whole way around the island and spend 7-10 days there but after hearing that my brother was able to book us to see the gorillas in Rwanda in a months time, I knew that I didn’t have a lot of time to spend there if I wanted to do some cycling in Northern Tanzania.
So I rode from West to East from Stone Town to Paje where I relaxed for a couple of days.
There was the most white people I’d seen in one place since Swakopmund in Namibia, 3 months ago.
I also went out partying for the first time in Africa, which was fun for a night to relax. I was definitely hungover the next day.
After that I headed back to Dar Es Salaam and the following day took a bus to Moshi, the foothill of Kilimanjaro.
Riding around kilimanjaro and northern tanzania
This is where I would truly start my bike adventure in Tanzania.
As you can tell, I haven’t done a lot of cycling until this point. That’s because my rear wheel is cracked and wobbly as the spokes at the bottom are loose. I didn’t want to do anymore riding that I had to do.
I first noticed 4 small cracks in the rim after riding the Old Petauke Road in Zambia. But I kept riding and they were slowly getting worse.
My brother is bringing my new spare wheel sent by Priority Bicycles whose customer support is AWESOME.
They have a WhatsApp group that I message anytime I have an issue or question and they usually answer within a few minutes with a solution or plan.
I can send them photos or videos of the problem instantly which is easier for them to understand what is going on since I’m not very technically smart when it comes to bicycles.
Definitely helps having a professional opinion at your fingertips!
So I left Moshi and made my way North so I could ride around Kilimanjaro. I really enjoyed cycling through this region. I was happy to be back in the mountains with the cool mountain air.
Unfortunately, it was too misty to actually see Mt. Kilimanjaro but I still enjoyed cycling around and seeing my first Maasai Shepards.
I continued around the top and started making my way south towards Arusha. I was lucky enough to have views of Mt. Meru. It was here that I noticed my rear rim had fully cracked at one of the spokes now and a piece was missing.
Surprisingly, the tubeless system was still working (because it is a double layered rim) and the wheel was still rolling.
But it was at this point I knew I couldn’t ride all the way to Rwanda and I would once again have to take a bus.
However, I knew I would still be able to ride for a little while and if I stuck to the highways, at least if I did run into trouble with the wheel, I’d be able to get a lift.
So I made my way from Arusha to Lake Manyara.
I heard that even if I didn’t enter the National Park, I might be able to see some animals. I did see some zebras but thats all.
Luckily, once I reached the lake, I managed to find some trails that weren’t on any of my maps.
So I decided to follow them. Leading further and further away from the highway along rocky trails and further into a section that wasn’t on the map. It probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do given the state of my wheel…but I couldn’t help myself.
I came to Africa for an adventure, not to ride along the highway.
And I had enough food and water to walk out if something did happen.
As I continued along the unmapped trails, I came into these small Maasai villages. They consisted of several thatched roof mud huts where the Maasai Shepards and their families lived.
It was an unbelievably incredible experience. They were all very curious to stop and talk to me and wonder why a white guy was riding a bike through here.
As the day continued, I would ride through more of these small villages and try to communicate with the villages (not with any real luck though).
After riding more than 60km on these unmapped trails, I reached a highway where I would spend the next couple of days riding towards Singida. From here, I would take a series of 3 buses towards Rwanda.
Miraculously, my rear wheel had held up to this point but with 2 big chunks of my rim missing.