By Marisa Notier
The Notier Notes
Our Sunday Scoop
Dreaming about traveling again? This week I'll go over some of our favorite roads that we've come across in Africa. Obviously there's a lot of Africa we haven't seen, and these are just our humble opinions. But during our travels here, we've come across some real incredible gems that we would like to share with the world.
There's nothing better than being on a motorcycle, drifting down a perfectly twisty mountain road, and being surrounded by stunning views. So if you ever find yourself on the African continent and with a vehicle, these are definitely some places to check out.
The following are our top 5 roads -
#5 - Livingstonia to Lake Malawi - Malawi
This road starts high up in the mountains of Malawi, and steeply winds down the hillside with turquoise vistas of Lake Malawi in the distance. It's gravel and bumpy, so a good knowledge of off-road handling is important. But if you can do it, it's well worth the potholes.
We recommend first coming the back way into the town of Livingstonia from the southwest, from Haniniya (also a pretty drive). Then making a stop at the impressive Manchewe Waterfalls (keep your eyes out for monkeys). You might want to stay the night in a Overlander hotspot called Mushroom Farm before making your way down the mountainside the next day. Once you get to the bottom, reward yourself by taking a dip in the lake (just watch out for crocodiles, we were warned about that there).
When we did this road, we had an electrical problem with the bike, and it kept shorting out and shutting off. Thank goodness the entirety of the road was downhill, and once we got to the bottom by the lake, we were able to keep it running long enough to get to a hotel and fix it. It was an adventure, and surely one to remember!
#4 - Road by Elephant Sands - Botswana
This may be one of the most unique roads in the world, not because there's anything particularly special about the road itself. The A33 running north/south from Nata to Kasana is flat, and goes through hot shrub lands, but what makes it so great is the amount of wild elephants that cross the road. You're pretty much guaranteed to see one, but be careful not to get charged by one as you take your selfies of you, the motorcycle, and your new giant friend. And riding at night is extremely dangerous due to the fact that elephants blend into the dark very easily (I know, it didn't seem right for something so big to be so invisible).
Along the way, there's a great stop called Elephant Sands (be warned, just like the name suggests, it can get sandy there). It's a hotel/campground that feels like you're in the middle of an elephant zoo enclosure, but actually, these guys are wild. They've been coming to the waterhole there for generations, and now there's a visitor's center with a pool overlooking the view, along with cabins and bungalows. Or, if you want to be ultra crazy like us, pitch your tent right in the field where the elephants roam. The people there assured us we wouldn't get trampled on, but when I heard those dinosaur-like footsteps vibrating the earth at night, and the low grumbling sounds the make, I'll admit, I was scared. These elephants will walk right past you, and it's an experience of a lifetime.
#3 - The Wild Coast - South Africa
South Africa is a vast country will all sorts of incredible landscapes. Also, the infrastructure there is very good, so the roads can be just a joy to ride on. So it was hard choosing our favorite road, but for me, the Wild Coast holds a special place in my heart.
It's not really just one road, but the region as a whole is a network of dirt twisties and coastal views. The Wild Coast is the stretch of land between East London and Durban in the Eastern Cape. First and foremost, you must stop in Coffee Bay to see and hear the power of the sea smashing through the "Hole in the Wall". And keep a lookout for whales, the area is known for them.
Then I recommend getting lost in all the roads, stopping by little villages of Xhosa people, and finally, take a hike to Waterfall Bluff which has one of the world's only waterfalls that spills into the ocean. These roads are not for the faint of heart (they don't call it the Wild Coast for nothing), but they're sure to put a smile on your face.
#2 - Nyungwe Forest - Rwanda
Even though Rwanda is tiny, it packs a punch. The whole place is just a wrinkle of mountains, and the roads are all a smooth curvy dream to ride on. Also, the patchwork of farms of coffee and tea fields make it as picturesque as can be. And you will never have seen more green in your life, as the Central African rains make the country lush and verdant.
But my favorite part of Rwanda was the road through Nyungwe Forest. You don't have to pay anything to experience the magic of this forest. And not only is the road perfectly pristine and well-engineered with overlook stops and even street lights, but it's also incredibly wild as it goes through a jungle the likes of which is out of Tarzan. If you don't see a monkey on this ride, then there's something wrong, but this park has 13 primate species, including wild chimpanzees! You can also go on a canopy walkway, or take a hike to one of the park's many waterfalls.
You'll notice that this road is also heavily guarded, as in, every hundred feet or so there's a guard. This is to protect the wildlife from poaching and because the park borders the DRC, but it is a bit disconcerting as you ride along. Still, there's so much else to grab your attention, you don't even notice after a while. While we rode through, I was listening to the Avatar soundtrack, and it couldn't have been more perfect!
#1 - Sani Pass - Lesotho
And finally, my favorite place in Africa for its roads is Lesotho. The mountains and grasslands of Lesotho are vast and sprawling, giving you a real sense of the majesty of the place. Pretty much pick any road in this country, and you've won the road jackpot (be careful, it's high altitude there and can get really cold and icy).
Sani Pass is probably the region's most famous road. Technically, it's on the border of South Africa and Lesotho, and this road is known for being difficult. It has steep, steep switchbacks, and then some more switchbacks. And to make it all worse, it is filled with loose rocks. Motorcycle and 4-wheeled vehicles struggle alike, and there's a real debate as to whether going up or down the road is better. We went down it, and dropped the bike a couple times, but we made it. I consider that to be an accomplishment!
I hope you've enjoyed our list. If there are any roads we've missed that are your favorite, please let us know!
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