Rory Mackay’s Solo African Voyage

In the latest in our ‘Your Adventures’ series, Sam spoke with Rory Mackay, a young adventurer who has just completed a solo voyage across the African Continent.  
Beginning in Cape Town, Rory traveled through South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt. From Cairo he flew to Edinburgh and cycled across Scotland to round things off. Although completed primarily by bicycle, he also hitchhiked a fair bit to spice things up. 
Rory, what inspired you to take this journey?

Africa had always been right up there on my to do list. It is such a raw part of the world to travel through and I felt at my ‘young’ age, this was the time to tackle a challenge of this nature.

The initial spark came from a good friend who asked if I was interested in doing a four wheel drive trip across the continent with him. Having committed to ‘our’ plan, this mate effectively pulled the plug on it with only a month remaining before I flew to South Africa. He had all the cash to by a car, I didn’t. Despite my modest budget, I chose to stick to my guns and attempt the overland trip by other means.

My true inspiration came from a solo cycle across Vietnam that I had completed two years before Africa. The enjoyment and confidence gained from this experience is what gave me the balls to try crossing Africa with my bicycle.

What preparation did you undertake? 

One should really be preparing quite thoroughly for such an undertaking…. I didn’t at the outset due to my change of plan. A lot of my preparation was mental, getting my mind in the right place to be on the road for so long.

Leaving the UK I already had most of my equipment; clothes, tools, the bicycle. Once on the ground in South Africa, I sorted out other issues such as vaccinations and panniers knowing it was cheaper.

Preparation is an ongoing process throughout an adventure, the more prepared you are the less resourceful you need to be generally. I enjoyed testing my resourcefulness.

What are the key bits of kit that you chose to take on the trip? 

When meeting folk on my travels, the first kit related question always pertained to spare bicycle parts. I actually carried very little in the way of spare parts; a few spokes and inner-tubes was about it.

Without a doubt, my bags were the most important items I chose to bring for the trip. Of their contents (aside from my valuables), my map and tools were pretty darn key bits of kit to have.

What were the big highs (and lows –  if any)? 

Suffering from severe food poisoning in Sudan was a definite low moment. It wasn’t so much that my health was very poor for some time, but more that I lost the ability to exercise control over the situation.

There are many constraints traveling northwards there; money is a fixed resource as foreign cards don’t work at ATMs in Sudan and the only way out of the country to Egypt was a weekly ferry. Time is money.

So many highs. Attaining any milestone within the journey was immensely satisfying. Realizing the smaller visualizations within the dream I live.


What advice would you give someone taking on a similar trip? 
Take that leap out your comfort zone and go for it! The experience can be whatever you want it to be.
What’s next, and how can we follow and support your adventures? 

I’ve never travelled through North or South America and have only heard good things, so something unique in that neck of the woods could be next on the agenda.

Around the globe is also on the bucket list, personally that is the trip of a lifetime if done right and is worth building up to over a sizable portion of one’s life.

I am currently working on resolving the documentation of my African exploits, which will hopefully culminate in a book. To follow past, present and future developments checkout my blog and Facebook page for the trip.

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