Here are some reflections on the things to pack and leave behind for Enduro Africa. Aside from the essentials recommended by the organizers, my top 5 things to bring include:
- Power adapter. Those of you who have traveled internationally know to bring a power adapter. But some will be surprised to find that there's a 3-pronged plug for South Africa, one that is shared with a few other former UK-colonies (incl. India, Hong Kong, etc.). The two-pronged outlets common in the UK are few and far between outside of the larger cities. Not to worry: Every grocery and hardware store I visited had the adapters for ~ZAR9 - 10.
- Layers. Those who have been to South Africa in the Spring will know that the temperatures vary considerably during the day. Bring a breathable, waterproof shell and avoid any riding gear made of cotton - unless you enjoy wearing sweaty clothes. Quick drying synthetic shorts and tees as base layers are highly recommended.
- Digital camera. It should go without saying but bring the gadgets you need to keep your camera up and running (power, memory, etc). South Africa is phenomenally beautiful and you'll want to be ready to show them to people back at home. In a single day, we saw whales breaching, amazing birds, monkeys, impressive trees and plants, and a remarkable cityscape. And that's not counting the game park you'll visit.
- Ibuprophen. Even if you don't hit the deck, you'll end each day feeling every muscle in your arms, shoulders, neck, and legs. A little dab of ibuprophen, for me, was just the ticket.
- Large volume hydration backpack. Take your choice. There are many good brands out there. But just make sure that you have the capacity to carry 3.0 litres of fluids and have room for waterproofs, energy bars, chocolate, and camera gear. I brought a back-up 2.0 litre bladder - and I used it regularly in addition to my main one!
Runners-up: Gatorade, moleskin, instant coffee (Starbucks!), lens wipes, antibiotic cream, hand sanitizer, a bottle of red South African wine, and your bank's number or email (so you can notify them YET AGAIN that you're really in ZA and to unlock your account).
Things to leave
Were I to do Enduro Africa again, here are the things I'd leave behind:
- Half of everything. Sure, go ahead. Pack everything you think you'll need. And then divide by 2. Maybe 3. Seriously, all of those tee shirts and pants? Leave them. You'll have plenty of chances to hand wash and dry any essentials. Socks are the only exception: Bring an extra pair. My gear bag's check-in weight was 16 kg (Limit = 20 kg) and I still brought more clothes than needed.
- Delicate electronics. I only brought a blackberry and small camera and was grateful to have even one of those functional when I left. I wouldn't take a computer, large lens SLR camera, etc., although others did. In addition to falls and river crossings, theft is still an issue in some places.
- Second+ level aid kits. I wondered about the need for first aid gear on the trip. In truth, most could get by with basic/level 1 first aid kits because riders are followed like Joe Biden by ambulances and mechanics. Ride leaders have aid kits and tools too.
- Tons of cash. I was surprised by how little money I actually needed, most of which I pulled out of an ATM in the Joburg airport and in Port Elizabeth. Aside from the ZAR1500 we gave to ride leaders for lunches, gas, and game park fees (a sizeable amount of which we got back at the end), I made it through the week on another ZAR1000 or so. Mind you, I wasn't up all hours buying and downing rounds with friends. So, plan accordingly. At the time, the USD:ZAR exchange rate was 1:7.5 or so.
- Your ego. Seriously. Go and have fun. Enduro Africa is not a race, and there will inevitably be far better riders around than you. Just chill, have a look around, get to know your fellow riders, take in the country (its views, history, cultures), and meet as many locals as you can. You'll enjoy the experience that much more.
So there you have it. My list of packing essentials, some of which overlap with EA's own recommendations. Anything I missed?