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Cape to Cairo

Leaving on 13 November 2009, I will be traveling from Cape Town to Cairo, essentially the length of East Africa, using public transport to get from city to city along the route. Traveling light and fast, you will be able to follow me as I bus, train and taxi (or taxi-type thing) 10,000km across the continent. The final destination, Cairo, lies at the end of a long chain of countries to be crossed – Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan – and a world of experiences and sights that can only be guessed at.

Wherever there is Internet, I will be posting updates to this site over the course of the journey. If you are considering undertaking something like this yourself, there are posts on my preparation and plans here. The trip has been done before, but not often in this fashion. I have no clue how it will turn out, but all faith that it will carry every spec of magic that the grandest undertakings always do.

Below are links and summaries for various aspects of the planning and, shortly, accounts of the journey itself. Most of this is filed in various blog posts, but is also collected together here, so that those wishing to plan a similar adventure need not sift through bundles of reading they may not be interested in.


The route basically travels up the East African coast. The specific route can be found here. It covers South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt.


My packing list is something that I could spend forever organising and reorganising. There is always a cooler, smaller, more functional thingymabobbit that would do the same job, but items being packed so far include:

Note: this is still a work in progress. As soon as my bag is finally packed, I will put together an authoritative list.

  • 75l backpack
  • Lowepro daybag/camera & laptop bag
  • Pentax K200D DSLR camera
  • 18 – 55mm Pentax lens
  • 70 – 300mm Sigma lens
  • 50mm F1.7 Pentax prime lens
  • Pentax AF-540fgz flash unit
  • Manfrotto monopod
  • AA batteries and charger
  • Packard Bell Dot Netbook
  • 320Gb portable HDD (Iomega eGo)
  • 2 x cotton scarves (dust, sun protection)
  • 5 x cargo pants (one pair of  First Ascent, quickdry cargos, others just lightweight store cargo pants)
  • 4-5 pairs long sleeve light cotton shirts
  • Lots of underpants and socks :)
  • Hat
  • Glasses
  • Beanie
  • Emergency chocolate
  • Petzl headlamp
  • Waterless hand cleaner
  • One pair of shoes suitable for wet places (sandal-type things from Salomon for running around in the surf)
  • One pair sturdier walking/hiking shoes
  • 3 x moleskin journals and pens
  • First aid kit – full contents listed here
  • Fold out map of Africa
  • Basic mess kit (bowl, fork, spoon, knife)
  • 2-man dome tent (for me and mah bag)
  • Sleeping bag. 950g, good down to -5 degrees
  • PacSafe metal bag mesh thingy (for locking up stuff on overnight train rides and things)
  • Mosquito repellent stick
  • Antimalarial pills (Mefliam)


Lots of icky bugs that you can catch means having solid defenses. Posts on health information are here and here.  In the end, I was vaccinated against:

  • Hepatitis
  • Meningitis
  • Yellow Fever
  • Tetanus
  • Typhoid
  • Cholera


As I get them, I will keep track of the various visa requirements here. The stuff I have to do applies if you are a South African (we get a lot of preferential crossings into local countries), but where I can come across more generally useful details (like the embassy contact information in South Africa and requirements for the European and American traveler crowd), this will go here too.

  • Zimbabwean Visa: embassy telephone in South Africa is 012 342 5125, but the phone was unavailable when I tried (a few times). The Consulate General in Johannesburg is more responsive and can be phoned on 011 38 2156. For South African travelers, no advance visa is required as they will issue you one at the border at no charge.
  • Zambian Visa: The embassy phone number from South Africa is 012 326 154. For South Africans, being a member of the SADC community has its perks – you can get your visa on arrival at the border.
  • Tanzanian Visa: The embassy phone number from South Africa is 012 342 4371/93. Visas should be obtained in advance (though they may be available at crossing as well) and are US$50. Visas are valid for 3 months, so applying close to setting off is important in order to avoid the visa expiring before use. The embassy also has a website at
  • Kenyan Visa: The embassy phone number from South Africa is 012 362 2249. Have not yet worked out the requirements.
  • Ethiopian Visa: The embassy phone number from South Africa is 012 346 3542. Have not yet worked out the requirements.
  • Sudanese Visa: The website for the Sudanese embassy in South Africa is (tel. 012 342 4538 from South Africa) and the visa is valid for three months from the date of issue. Application requires the application form, passport, Yellow Fever vaccination proof and (in my case) a letter explaining the intention to do a Cape to Cairo trip, likely itinerary and likely date of entry into the country. There is a fee involved as well – around R500.00 at the time of writing. This is payable after they have confirmed that you are eligible for a visa, not beforehand – as is the case in some other embassies.
  • Egyptian Visa: The embassy phone number from South Africa is 012 343 1590/1. Visa application requires a colour passport photo, an itinerary of your journey and the visa is valid for 3 months. There is no visa fee for South African applicants.

Other Cape to Cairo Stories

The more I looked, the more fascinating stories there were of travelers who had navigated these two points in the most fascinating fashions. Here is a selection of some of the tales I came across:

  • Silver Spirit – Cape to Cairo in a 1981 Rolls Royce
  • Cairo to Cape Town – The reverse route, on motorbikes
  • African Dream – All over Africa generally, in a unimog (The offspring of a tank and a landrover)
  • Dark Continent: my black arse – Cape to Cairo on public transport. The inspiration for my route and evidence that you can do it without support crews and huge sponsorship.


While traveling, I tried to keep a running cost of how much each link in the chain of transport cost. Because I really wished someone had done that before me. So if you are curious how much it cost to get from one place to another on the way from Cape Town to Cairo, it breaks down like this (in 2009 prices):

  • Train from Cape Town to Johannesburg. First class on Shosholoza-Meyl. R350
  • Greyhound bus from Johannesburg station to Bulawayo. R350
  • Train from Bulawayo to Victoria Falls. First class (for what it’s worth) on National Zimbabwe Rail, leaves every second evening. Need to arrive at 7am to book into first class. US$8
  • Taxi from Victoria Falls to Livingstone (technically the Zambian border gate to Livingstone). US$10
  • Livingstone to Chisikesi mission station on the Mazhandu Family Bus service. (You will likely want to head directly to Lusaka) ZMK 60,000
  • Chisikesi mission station to Lusaka on Mazhandu Family Bus. ZMK 60,000
  • Lusaka to Kapiri Mposhi on a bus from the Lusaka bus depot. Buy tickets from an actual office, not from the roving touts. ZMk 55,000
  • Kapiri Mposhi to Dar es Salaam on the TAZARA train. First class. ZMK 238,000
  • Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar on the Azam ferry. Mind the rip-off artists at the drop off point. US$35
  • Zanzibar to Dar es Salaam on the Azam ferry. US$35
  • Dar es Salaam to Arusha. Tsh 24,000
  • Arusha to Nairobi on a Jamii Shuttle (minibus type thing). US$25
  • Matatu (minibus) from Nairobi to Nanyuki. KSh 300
  • Nanyuki to Isiolo, hitchiking on a passing landcruiser. KSh 200
  • Lorry from Isiolo to Moyale. KSh 1,500
  • Bus from Moyale to Addis Ababa. Birr 139
  • Addis Ababa to Bahir Dar on a ‘Luxury Sky Bus’. Birr 227
  • Bahir Dar to Gonder in a minibus. Birr 60
  • Gonder to Shahedi in a minbus. Birr 70
  • Shahedi to Metema in a truck, hitchiking. Birr 20
  • Metema/Gallabat border to Gedaref in a minibus. 10 Sudanese Pounds
  • Gedaref to Khartoum in a luxury bus. 25 Sudanese Pounds
  • Khartoum to Atbara in a luxury bus. 20 Sudanese Pounds
  • Atbara to Abu Hamed in a luxury bus. 20 Sudanese Pounds
  • Abu Hamed to Wadi Halfa in a bedford lorry. 35 Sudanese Pounds
  • Wadi Halfa to Aswanon the ferry. First class cabin. (in truth, the cabin is unnecessary. Just sleep on deck) 141 Sudanese Pounds
  • Aswan to Luxor on a Felucca. 110 Egyptian Pounds
  • Luxor to Cairo on the train. First class. 110 Egyptian Pounds