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From Egoli to Beijing

14 November 2016

You’re probably looking at this page wondering why the guy from Egoli is on it. Well, he’s not just the guy from Egoli. His name is Ivan Zimmerman, and he’s so much more than an actor. This is his adventure story.

For the record, Ivan Zimmerman starred in the M-Net soap Egoli, 7de Laan, Vlug na Egipte and various South African movies. He’s also an avid surfer, stand-up paddle boarder, singer, songwriter and mountain biker. For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on Ivan the mountain biker, because what he has done on a bicycle is simply astounding.

Most South African cyclists like to visit adventure farms where they can mince around in the woods for a few hours to build up a sweat. To get his cycling fix, last year Ivan cycled from Cairo to Cape Town. It took him several months, and he lost 10kg and grew a massive beard. For most cyclists, that trip would have been enough, but earlier this year, Ivan decided to tackle the Silk Road. This famous route is an ancient network established for trading between eastern and western Asia. The name is derived from the massive amounts of silk traded on said route.

Ivan left the starting point in Beijing on 14 May, hoping to finish the 12 280km trip in 145 days. He’s set to arrive at the finish line in Istanbul on 5 October. We caught up with him on day 102, just as he arrived at the northern tip of Iran.

In a (favourite) nutshell
Food Fillet cooked on the braai
Drink Cold beer, coffee, Appletiser, Nesquik
TV show I don’t own a TV
Movie Legends of the Fall and Into the Wild. I love adventure documentaries on surfing.
Band/Singer Francois van Coke, Mumford & Sons, Jack Johnson. Too many to mention.
Place on earth Herolds Bay and Melkbosstrand.
Camping site The whole of Mongolia


When and where did you first get a licence?
It was 1998 in Witbank, the year I turned 22. I am a late bloomer and was still using a bicycle up to that point.

What car did you have back then and how long did it last?
A VW Chico 1.3. They last forever.

What is your favourite 4×4 that you’ve owned?
A Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited, sponsored by Team Jeep Centurion.

How did you get into a life of adventure?
I was born into it. I think we all are. Everything is relative, but I truly think we are all born to experience new things, challenge ourselves and realise that we are part of nature. To me, these are the things that keep my soul alive. It makes me a better person. To do what I am doing now I had to compile a good business plan and put together a good proposal.

Which adventure has stuck with you through the years?
Before my love for mountain biking, I used to ride motorbikes. I rode around South Africa solo and slept next to the road. Any good day of surfing is always one of my favourites. And crossing Africa from Cairo to Cape Town on a mountain bike is at the top of my list.

How do you keep motivated, especially on longer trips?
It is hard. I am already thinking of not getting on a mountain bike again to cross a continent. But once I start an expedition, there’s no turning back. I know my strengths and my weaknesses and work with what I have. I also condition my mind not to quit. I do this by reasoning, I ensure I have a good reason for doing it. Meaning, that I can answer my own ‘why’ question very well.

What has been your scariest moment so far?
I had a bad crash in Uzbekistan and cracked two ribs. I went off the road and as I tried to get back on the tarmac, my front wheel hit the little lip of the tar. I lost control of my bike, wobbled straight to the other side of the road and was whipped off my bike and fell like a sack of potatoes on my right side. Four cars pulled over to help me. With the kind of traffic there was that day, it could have been much worse. I still managed to complete the day, but even after three weeks, I am still struggling with pain.

What has been the happiest moment?
Every day. I am living a dream. There are bad days, but no unhappy days.

Any dream adventures you still want to complete?
Crossing South America from North to South.

What defines an adventurer?
Like I said, everything is relative. To me, it is anyone who likes to see a new horizon and challenge him or herself physically to achieve that. It might be in other countries or it might be 100km from home. We have to awaken the adventurer within ourselves. The rewards are so great.

Any words of advice for armchair travellers?
Dream. Set a goal. Prepare. Do it. Never quit. The healthy confidence you gain by living your dreams, no matter what they are, is life-changing.

If money wasn’t a factor, what car would be in your driveway?
Jeep Rubicon four door.

Text: Gerhard Horn