Meet the First Woman to Cross Africa by Electric Motorcycle

Sinje Gottwald rode from Tangier, Morocco, to Cape Town, South Africa in 124 days.


Despite riding the entire journey without needing technical or medical support, Gottwald relied on local assistance—and expertise—during her four-month trip.

Courtesy Sinje Gottwald

On October 14, 2022, I left my home in Barcelona and took the 28-hour ferry to Tangier, Morocco. Without any cell phone reception or Wi-Fi, I had time to mentally prepare for the 8,000-mile adventure ahead of me.

From previous journeys, I knew that planning almost never works out exactly how you want it to. For this trip, I wanted to travel from Tangier south to Cape Town. I had a rough route and knew which countries I wanted to cross, but I had no confirmed places to stay, any clue of which roads to take, and wasn’t sure where I could charge my bike batteries. I pictured myself knocking on people’s doors and asking for electricity. The reality ended up being very different.

As I got off the ferry early in the afternoon, I felt the excitement of the adventure finally starting, the relief that preparations worked out just in time, the tension of not knowing how far I’d get. But first, I had to figure out what to do next.

Near the ferry terminal were a few small buildings and a row of ATMs. I got some cash, chatted with a few other travelers who had also just arrived, and bought a SIM card for Morocco from a street vendor. Getting cash and buying a SIM card are two things I always try to do right after crossing any border.


Despite having several small crashes, Gottwald says finding a place to charge the bike was the most difficult part of the trip.

Courtesy Sinje Gottwald

I’ve always been very curious about our planet. In 2017, I quit my job in tech sales and started to pursue my biggest dream: to circumnavigate the world on a motorcycle. By the end of 2019, I had crossed overland from Europe to Asia, explored Australia, and ridden from South to North America. In spring 2020, I was on my way from Morocco to South Africa. By the time I arrived in Bamako, Mali, the pandemic was peaking, and borders had begun to close. Overlanding was not possible anymore, so I decided to ride back to Senegal and leave my bike in Dakar before flying home to Germany.

A year and a half later, my life had changed: I had just started to work at Cake, a Swedish manufacturer of lightweight, electric motorcycles. The idea of long-distance travel on e-bike had been in my head for some time by then, and so I pitched my idea to Stefan Ytterborn, the founder and CEO of Cake, the first time we met. We were having a team dinner in Milan and Stefan was seated next to me. I told him about my previous adventures and about my dream of crossing Africa on a Kalk AP—it has a top speed of 56 mph, weighs 176 pounds, and allows a range of three hours. To my surprise, he didn’t brush it off. Instead, he asked how he could help make my plans possible.

Still, planning the trip was very stressful. From my previous adventures, I already knew what I needed to do—request a new passport with enough blank pages, check what mandatory vaccinations were required for entry into some countries, purchase insurance, get documentation for my motorcycle, gear, and luggage, and pick out some security devices. The most difficult part was preparing the bike and deciding what spare parts to bring. Since the bike wasn’t designed for long-distance travel, I had several meetings with my Cake colleagues to see how we could modify it to suit my needs. But in the end, the bike stayed close to its original condition. We added a rack that would carry my side panniers and a second battery on top; we also raised the handlebar and added a chain guard. I brought a few spare parts and a laptop that would allow my colleagues to run a remote software update if needed. (Thankfully, it never was.) Despite all of the prep work, I never felt fully ready for the trip.

Riding on a rural red-dirt road and in a town

Gottwald found that the electric motorcycle had fewer mechanical issues than traditional motorcycles.

Courtesy Sinje Gottwald

In Tangier, I found a place to stay around 50 miles from port, and since I didn’t have much experience with the range of the batteries, I decided to eat lunch and charge my batteries while I was still in the city. I found a restaurant called Dakhla with a beautiful terrace overlooking the coast. There was a man standing outside, smiling. I stopped and asked in French if the kitchen was open and if I could use their electricity to charge the batteries. He immediately said yes but explained that the electricity was better in the building across the street. He took the battery and the charger and left. I must have looked worried, so he told me to relax. After I ate lunch, he brought back the battery and all was good, but that was the first and last time I left the batteries unattended on the entire trip.

From Tangier, I made my way south through the desert toward Gambia. It wasn’t long before I hit trouble. Close to a small town called Tan-Tan, I left the main road to reach a place to stay for the night. The road there was 4.3 miles with many stretches of deep sand; it ended at a fort. The area was stunning and I decided to ride around the desert. I was a bit too excited and while exploring in deep sand, I burnt a fuse on my bike. I was lucky: I had my phone with me and I could call the owners of the fort to come pick me up, since pushing the motorcycle through the deep sand was not an option. I had brought a few spare fuses with me, so once I reached the accommodation, I replaced the fuse. Soon, I was back on the road, zipping through Mauritania and along the coast of Senegal.

Every evening, it took me one to two hours to plan the next day. Researching places that had electricity took a long time because the information was not readily available. I would often contact locals and then strategize on how to cover the maximum amount of miles during daytime. I would map out where to stop, how long it would take me to stop and charge, and then find a place to spend the night. Since accommodations with electricity were scarce, I always had to plan based on these spots—the second most important thing was figuring out a place to stay.

Wherever I stopped, people were surprised to see an electric motorcycle and many said it was their first time seeing one. They were even more surprised once they understood that I was traveling all across the continent on it, alone. Many really wanted to help me succeed on my mission—locals and people following my journey on social media reached out and provided information about the places I was traveling through. The biker community in Angola heard that I was going to cross into their country; they waited for me at the border, accompanied me to the next town, and suggested which routes to take—and places where I could charge the batteries—when continuing south.

Roadside stop, with palms trees in background

Gottwald is the first woman to cross the African continent (solo and unassisted) on an electric motorbike.

Courtesy Sinje Gottwald

Crossing from Guinea-Bissau to Guinea was a turning point that really affected how I felt about the rest of the trip. I always tried to find the most direct roads and the ones closest to the coast, as those were the ones with the least amount of elevation change. The closest border crossing to Guinea was through the jungle, on a single track where no cars could cross, as there was no real road and there was also a river crossing without a bridge. All other travelers I was in touch with at the time, via a WhatsApp group for overland travelers in West Africa (where people share information on visas, border crossings, road conditions, etc.), told me not to go on this route since it was too muddy and the river was too treacherous. There was an alternative crossing further north, but it wasn’t an option for me, since there was no place to charge and it went through a mountainous area. I decided to try crossing through the jungle with the help of two local men I met in the last village before the crossing; they not only showed me the way but also carried some of my luggage to increase my range.

After only 10 minutes on the track, I was already covered in mud and had slipped and fallen several times. The deep water crossing was ahead of me, and I was ready to turn around. But the two men were very supportive and encouraged me to attempt the crossing. Emboldened, I did, not knowing what would happen to the bike—and nothing did. From that point on, I was more confident in riding through all different kinds of terrain. I continued down the Ivory Coast, into Ghana, then through Cameroon and Angola. Finally, 124 days after I had left Morocco, I crossed into South Africa.

When I arrived in Cape Town after being on the road for four months, I felt relieved, happy, emotional, and tired. I was—and probably still am—too exhausted to realize what I have actually achieved, and it is also too soon for me to fully reflect on this epic trip. However, reading all the messages I received during and after my journey, I am deeply moved that my adventure not only inspired so many people around the world but also led to motivating others to try and achieve things they didn’t feel brave enough to pursue before.

Sinje Gottwald
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