Hi guys

It’s been a while since my last blog. Things are happening pretty fast at the moment with less than two weeks before we set off on our long awaited journey! Later today we’ll be setting up our stand at the Cape Argus Cycle Tour Expo – those of you attending in the upcoming days be sure to pop by.

Now this blog is just a bit of info for those of you interested in some of logistical challenges faced by us in putting together this trip.

International purchases: cycle touring isn’t something that’s popular in South Africa, hopefully over time this will change and we’ll see more tourists choosing a “greener” alternative to getting around. As such there were some items that we just had to order from overseas. One of these being panniers. Panniers are the bags specifically made for attaching to bicycle racks. As some of you might remember, a friend of mine from Sweden donated a set of front panniers to me. He sent them in mid December 2010. After two months of religiously checking the mail for sign of their arrival, I eventually assumed them “lost in transit” and joined Imraan and Jiten on their order for panniers from the UK. Five days after ordering from the UK I received a phone call from Cape Mail telling me the order from the UK had arrived and was ready for delivery… that very same morning I received a package at my local post office, the package was from Sweden… Two months later and they finally arrived! So now I find myself with two sets of front panniers!!! Argh!!!! The great thing about ordering stuff from overseas is that they usually have great shipping deals, the unfortunate part is when it come to returns. After trying to sell them online I decided it would be better to just send the UK order back, it did cost more than I’d liked it to have, but at least I will get a full refund for the goods returned. The other little irritant is that I needed to apply to SARS for a refund on VAT and Customs paid, this could take a while… Oh well, at least I have all my gear now and am quite happy with the MEC panniers given as a gift from a friend on the other side of the planet – so I’m still smiling!!! By the way, most people would assume that the SA Post Office stuffed up this one, well in their defence their website does state that their dealing with a worldwide backlog due to some of the unforeseen global weather hiccups experienced towards the end of last year.

Custom built frame: bicycles made for touring is also something that is not readily available in SA. Now you may ask is there any difference? The answer is yes. After much researching we decided that we’d like to get bikes that would be suitable for eight months in the saddle as well carrying the extra load. Now this is not to say a normal mountain bike would not do the job, after all Riaan Manser did cycle around the whole of Africa on one, but then when you take into account the bicycle problems he did have on his trip…. Well we decided we’d rather spend a bit more in SA then have problems and potentially spend more on repairs along the way. To that end we got the details of a bike builder in Cape Town, Francois du Toit Cycles.  He would build us a frame made of steel and ready for touring. Great! Or so we thought, I’ll go into a full review of this unfortunate lesson, but for the sake of not making this blog any longer, I’ll get to the point quickly. There were a lot of hassles in dealing with Francois, the final straw was after delivery of bicycle did I notice that there weren’t any attachment points for my mudguards. Francois of course knew full well that these were required but after calling him and telling him these attachment points were missing, he became his usual agitated self and told me it was not part of the build and would cost a further R200 to drill 3 holes and fit the mudguards. Tired of dealing with this unscrupulous old man, I visited several bike shops in town to ask about drilling the holes., and that’s when John o’ Connor Cycles in Mouille Point came to the rescue. I’d visited them a year before when initially searching for a bike and John actually remembered me and the trip. I told the workshop guys what I needed and they were more than happy to do the job. At the end of the day they drilled the required holes in my frame and fitted the mud guards at NO COST. A very big thank you to John, JP and Jacques for top notch service to a customer who didn’t even spend money at your store. For this kind of service I will not hesitate to go there should be something I need, I’m also more than happy to have your company logo on my bicycle for this trip up Africa. As for Francois du Toit Cycles and the full experience of dealing with them, I will blog about this at a later stage – it’s just too much of frustration to write in this blog.

That’s it for today! I’m off to Argus Expo to setup the stan with Jiten and Imraan. Hopefully we will see you guys there.

Have a happy day!