Desert Snow Cover

One Girl's Take On Africa By Bike

Desert Snow is my first published book about my Take On Africa cycle ride from the UK to Cape Town from 2009 to 2011

It’s the story of one girl, one bike and 1,000 beers in Africa.

By daring to follow a dream and not letting fear prevail, Helen cycled across the Sahara, Sahel and tropics of West Africa, paddled down the Niger River in a pirogue, hitch-hiked to Timbuktu and spent three months traversing the Congo, which she thought she may never leave…

A lot can change in 2 years, cycling 25,000km from England to Cape Town. So can nothing.

Helen takes you with her on the journey through every high and low of her memories and misadventures. She describes a continent brimming with diversity that is both a world away from what she knows and yet not so different at all.

Finalist in the Readers’ Favorite Book Awards for cultural non-fiction.


  • With wit and warmth, she recounts the pains and pleasures of her expedition down West Africa, across the Sahara, through both Congos, and finally to Southern Africa. Lloyd’s entry into travel writing is a humorous and sensitive portrait of a continent and its people, and brims with absorbing anecdotes of adventures both fruitful and futile. Recommended for intrepid travel readers.Getaway Magazine

  • As with the greatest adventurers it is Helen’s spirit that shines. Her willingness to elbow through the crowds at La Plage, to squat next to the lathered ladies of the shower block, to keep churning on through desert sand, jungle track or urban mess. And Mary Kingsley herself would have recognised your litotes, your English understatement. Two wheels through the Congo is worthy of celebration, a section I read with awed interest, as I did her adventures in Freetown. Negotiating Congo Cross on a bike is not for the faint-hearted.Tim Butcher, Journalist and Author

  • Helen is no ordinary human being. She is brave, funny, thoughtful and writes in clear detail about how the life is being a long distance cyclist. I have never read a cycling book which so accurate describe this life on the road. I think Helen is one of the most interesting explorers on earth today, on the young scene. Keep an eye on her.Mikael Strandberg, Swedish Explorer

  • Desert Snow is spiced with everything a long overlanding journey should be about. She weaves the challenges, personal insight, fear, moments of sheer joy and the road conditions in with facts about the countries, and the connections she makes with people. Helen Lloyd has a thoroughly refreshing style and the ability to draw the reader into the situations with graphic descriptions. This is real talent. This book should be added to the reading list of everyone who has an interest in travel.Sam Manicom, Travel Writer


Kilometres cycled: 24,625
Kilometres paddled: 350

Days since first leaving the UK to reach Cape Town: 604
Nights spent in Africa: 516
Nights spent in Africa without paying for accommodation: 291
Most consecutive nights in a tent: 39
Days spent cycling: 273
Most consecutive days without using the bike: 26

Average daily distance cycled (cycling days only) in kilometres: 90.2
Average daily distance cycled (rest days included) in kilometres: 42.4

Number of African countries travelled through: 21
Number of times I have crossed the Guinean border (legally or otherwise): 8
Number of trains taken: 3

Most kilometres cycled in one day: 178
Maximum recorded temperature cycled in (Fahrenheit): 111
Top speed in kilometres per hour: 69

Most consecutive days without a shower: 15
Most consecutive days wearing the same bike shorts without washing them: 12

Number of hot showers in rest of Africa: 11 (in 428 days – i.e 1 in 40 days)

Number of hot showers in southern Africa: 20 (in 88 days – i.e. 1 in 4 days)

Number of snakes and scorpions seen (alive): 24
Number of snakes seen in Cameroon and Gabon (dead): 20
Number of termites embedded in my leg: 1
Number of termites eaten (with chilli): 344*
Mosquito bites: 1986*
Most sandfly bites at any one time: 369*

Marriage proposals: 35*
River Crossings (by boat): 18
Most books I had in my panniers at any given time: 15
Most currencies I have carried at one time: 9
Cycle tourers met in Africa: 12
Number of puncture repair patches used: 4

Accidents caused: 2
Number of times I fell off: 2
Number of times I was hit by passing traffic: 1
Dead people seen: 3

Times I have been given incorrect change: 51*
Bribes demanded (excluding DRC): 3
Bribes demanded in DRC: 28*
Bribes paid: 1

Holes in my Icebreaker top before throwing it away: 134
Pairs of sunglasses lost: 4
Flip-flops broken: 7
Different stoves used: 4
Laptops broken: 1
Bottles of suncream used: 5

Mayonnaise sandwiches eaten: 92*
Bananas eaten: lost count
Most mangoes eaten in one day: 7
Most melons eaten in one day: 2

Books read: 64

Beers drunk: 1003
Average kilometres cycled per beer: 24.6

And some DRC specifics…

Kilometres cycled in DRC: 2051
Beers drunk in DRC: 268
Different types of beer drunk in DRC: 9
Average kilometres cycled per beer in DRC: 7.7

(* denotes an estimate)


Reader Reviews

Helen’s descriptions of the magnificent African landscape and her insightful anecdotes made me feel like I was right along side her on this epic Africa bike ride. Her sassy wit kept me engrossed right to the end. A MUST READ for anyone in search of a well-told adventure tale.

This book, its an inspiration, its amusing, its gripping and it keeps you wondering what will happen next. I got into this book right from the start, as a woman who dreams of traveling one day I always worry about how I will travel alone and whether it is safe, this book put me somewhat at ease and although you have to always be on your guard, maybe the world isn’t the scarey place people make out it is, and this book made me realize this. Having always wanted to go to Africa it gives you an insight of what to expect and the people and culture you will be going into.

I couldn’t put this book down always wanting to know the next adventure, where the next place would be and what Helen would encounter there, every time i thought i would stop reading and get something done I would have to read a little bit more. Loved the part about the parrot had me laughing for ages.

A brilliant book from start to finish. What an inspirational lady. Looking forward to the next book.

It is a thoroughly enjoyable read made up anecdotal stories, interspersed with wonderful descriptions of the people and places she passes through on her journey. Whether you are the sort of person that loves to canter through a book in a few days or someone who keeps picking up a book and putting down over a period weeks/months, this book will satisfy all (and hopefully bring a smile or too along the way!). But most importantly, if you have been lucky enough to visit any parts of the African continent, or have a longing to explore or simply learn about some of the countries she passes through, then this book is a must.

A book about courage and rugged determination that will stay with you a long time after it is finished.

I couldn’t put this book down. It was a terrific read and a must for anyone travelling through West Africa. If you need inspiration to get-up-and-go, this this book should kick-start you! Read it NOW!

Helen’s trip is informative and highly entertaining, felt at times that I was enduring it too…taste and smell the real Africa! hard to put down, just had to keep reading to make sure she was still ok!…an amazing journey, Helen’s stamina and determination shine through. Looking forward to the next book!

Helen’s voyage was an incredible and inspiring undertaking. The book really makes you feel like you’re on the bike with her. If anyone is interested in modern adventure then this book is a must.

This book is really well written and the story just blew me away.Helen Lloyd is a woman with guts and determination.She gets to some of the most remotest place in the world on her bike and shares her fantastic experience..For anyone to travel to these places would be extremely difficult but even more so for a woman with blonde hair with the troubles this can bring…