Cycling from Cape Town to Vic Falls – a Big Trip to Save a Tiny Bird

cycling Cape Town to Victoria Falls

Eelco Meyjes will be setting off on a big journey, 3000km big, to help a little bird.  As part of a fund raising initiative to launch the new Orange-breasted Waxbill conservation project, Meyjes who is a member of both BirdLife South Africa and a founder member and director of the Rare Finch Conservation Group, will attempt to do a solo cycle from Cape Town to Victoria Falls. The ride in aid of Africa’s smallest finch will kick off from Cape Town on 15 March 2015.

In 2013 Eelco cycled from Joburg to Cape Town ‘for fun’. He hopes to complete the ride from Cape Town to Victoria Falls within 40 days. We caught up with him and asked a few questions, before he heads off on this next adventure in a few weeks time.

Orange-breasted Waxbill

Orange-breasted Waxbill

Of all the endangered and threatened species on Earth, why did you choose to raise funds for this little bird that you refer to as an avian jewel?
The Rare Finch Conservation Group is made up of a group of finch enthusiasts, from South Africa and Australia, wishing to make some kind of meaningful contribution to finch conservation work in the wild. For nine years we worked up in Uganda at the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, home to half of the world’s remaining threatened Mountain Gorillas, trying to find one of Africa’s rarest finches: the threatened and elusive Shelley’s crimsonwing. To date there are still only two known photographs of the bird in the world. Sadly in 2014 , due to lack of funds and various logistical reasons we were forced to defer our work in Uganda. We then made the strategic decision to offer our services and enthusiasm to BirdLife South Africa.
BirdLife South Africa informed us that the beautiful little Orange-breasted Waxbill, which is not yet listed as threatened, has unfortunately experienced unexpected significant declines in various parts of its natural habitat. This development has resulted in the urgent need for the species to be researched. So what we are doing now is launching the public awareness and fund raising campaign for Africa’s smallest finch that now needs conservation help.

You clearly enjoy riding your bike, as you cycled from Joburg to Cape Town for fun, in 2013.  Where did your love of cycling begin?
As 12-year-old kids we loved cycling and we often cycled to wherever we went. Some of us even learnt how to ride a bicycle backwards while sitting on the handlebars. Not a thing I can recommend.

This trip will be more than double the distance of the Joburg to Cape Town trip and cross into two other countries. Do you have any concerns about this trip?
Sure. This is a massive ride and it requires a huge amount of planning and preparation. The number one priority with endurance cycling is safety and health, and not speed.


Other than accomplishing your goal of getting to Vic Falls and raising as much money as possible to help save the Orange-breasted Waxbill, what are you looking forward to most on the trip?
Each day will have its own specific targets, challenges and highlights. I have had to add an extra 200km to the distance between Cape Town and Johannesburg in order to make the total distance to Vic Falls 3000km. Arriving in Johannesburg will be a big achievement for me. Not only will I then be well over the half way mark , but I will also be one of the very few people to have cycled both down as well as up, between these two major cities. The second next big target will be to cross the border into Botswana and reach Palapye which will be the first major town in that country. From there I cycle to Francistown and then up to Nata, where there is a beautiful bird sanctuary. From Nata up to Kusene is another major challenge. The distances in the northern part of Botswana are massive so managing my water supplies, potential heatstroke and keeping a good look out for the wild game will all be part of the adventure. Reaching Kasane on the Chobe river will certainly be another highlight for me. From there I prepare to do the final 90km by crossing the border into Zimbabwe and heading to Vic Falls.

What does your bicycle weigh once it’s all packed for a trip and ready to roll?
The bike weighs 16kg, my kit excluding water weighs 30kg. At the start in Cape Town my weight will be approximately 90kg, but I expect to have lost approximately 12 kg by the time I reach Vic Falls.


What would your three top tips be for other cyclists that would want to do a solo cross country or cross border cycling trip?
1 ) Upfront planning is key. Research the entire route thoroughly and if possible try and drive the route at least once before riding it. Knowing where each water and safety point is, what the road conditions are, exact distance splits, B&B’s, emergency assistance, bicycle shops etc. all helps to reduce the guess work and improve safety.
2 ) Don’t think you will ride yourself fit. You need to train for it and close to the start date you need to do full kit training so that you are comfortable with the additional weight.
3 ) Always try and have a plan A ,B, C and even possibly D for every situation. Strange as it may seem sometimes plan C actually works out better than plan A

Get involved by
Making a donation, no matter how big or small to:
Rare Finch Conservation Group
Account number: 1933 198885 SWIFTJJ,
Sandown branch code: 193305
South Africa

Participate in the All or Bust pledge.

A minimum pledge amount of R500 will be required to be part of the fun. If Eelco Meyjes makes it all the way to Vic Falls you’ll need to pay the pledged amount and you receive a souvenir coffee mug to thank you for your support. If he doesn’t make it to Vic Falls you won’t owe him a cent.
To pledge
Sms the amount (R500 or more), plus your full name and contact details to 082 457 4936
or email

Nevarest has sponsored Eelco’s satellite tracking device, you can follow his journey here.


  • Dawne Topham

    What a massive challenge. Wishing you cool days and tail winds

  • Follow Eelco LIVE on, Login with Username: “Rare” and Password: “Finch” … he’ll be cycling with a Safe Sport Tracking device that will update his position every 2 minutes.