December 14, 2018

Budget Traveler Bikes to Africa

Loretta Henderson, founder of the Skalatitude travel blog, has been biking to Africa to raise money and awareness of the need for bicycle ambulances – bikes attached to towable stretcher carts – to help combat infant mortality in rural Africa. After traveling through 16 countries, she’s learned the perks and quirks of bicycle touring, along with a few travel tips.

Accommodations: By traveling with her tent, Henderson is able to sleep for free in numerous camping-friendly areas around the world. She has pitched her tent under prayer flags in Nepal, with other tent-dwelling nomads in Mongolia and various farm fields in Indonesia and Ireland. Her highest camp site was at an altitude of more than 17,000 feet at the top of a Himalayan mountain pass in India.

Logistics: Flexibility is key to making long-term bicycle travel work. When her digital camera fell into a pit toilet in Tibet, near the Chinese border, Henderson had to fish it out in order to save her photos and You Tube videos. Weather is also a constant variable. Henderson’s been pelted by sandstorms in the Taklamakan Desert, and nearly blown off a bridge in New Zealand. While things can become difficult at times, she still points to the amazing experiences she’s had on the road. Like chewing bubble gum with a nomadic man on a horse in the Gobi Desert.

Gear: While many world bike tourists spend large amounts of cash on specialty gear, Henderson prefers to keep things low tech. “People all over the world pedal one-speed bikes up mountain roads wearing nothing but flip flops,” says Henderson, “so I’m a firm believer in going with what you’ve got.” One piece of equipment she does favor spending good money on is tires, and advises purchasing the best ones you can afford when getting ready to hit the road.

Security: To keep her bike affordably secure while traveling solo, she parks it outside her tent at night and attaches it with a long string to her arm. It’s an impromptu security alarm that served her well around the world. Other strategies include eating within sight of her bicycle and the horn attached to her handlebars. Since street children can’t resist using it to make noise, she’s always aware of her transportation’s general location even when it isn’t in sight.