Inspired by recently watching the film Amelie, I decided it would make for an interesting blog post to list all the things I like and dislike about being on the road in Africa. There is no order of preference, and it’s by no means a definitive list.

I’m writing this from Ouidah, Benin, which is famous for voodoo and slave trading. It’s also possibly my last stopping point on Africa’s Atlantic coast for a long time. I’m heading east and then north again, crossing the border to Nigeria in the not too distant future. I’ll write more about Togo and Benin in the next post.

African service station

Likes

  1. Arriving in a new country and trying a different beer, which reassuringly often comes in a 650ml size bottle.
  2. Receiving new visas in my passport (one day when I’m old I’ll flick through it and the others like favourite books).
  3. Not paying on roads where there are tolls and smiling at the attendant as I cycle past.
  4. Drinking ice-cold bisap (hibiscus flower drink) from children who always smile when they sell it.
  5. Seeing coconuts being sold at the roadside and the sound of them being cut open before tipping the contents down by throat.
  6. Putting new flag stickers on the bike when I cross borders.
  7. Smell of hot fresh bread in Francophone Africa.
  8. Hotels without stairs.
  9. Polishing my Brooks saddle and admiring the way it is aging and conforming to the shape of my bottom.
  10. Being smiled at and greeted by beautiful women.
  11. Blowing kisses at beautiful women who ask for a cadeau.
  12. Running over giant African millipedes every once in a while, which make a satisfying crunching sound on the moment of impact.
  13. Signing my profession in hotel registers as POST COLONIAL BICYCLE EXPLORER or ADVENTURE CYCLIST and imagining guests in the future reading it and laughing.
  14. Never being cold.
  15. The fact that I can gorge on fruit like mangoes, pineapples and avocados (when in season) and pay next to nothing for them.
  16. The fact that I can stay another day almost anytime I want to.
  17. Watching Africans getting heated up in an argument that I usually don’t understand.
  18. The fact that sub-saharan African dogs are much more docile and non-violent than their north African cousins.
  19. When I find the hotel marked in my outdated guidebook to be cheaper than the listed price.
  20. The sensation of smooth asphalt under the tyres after several hundred kilometres of bumpy dirt tracks.
  21. Seeing second hand imported t-shirts with funny prints being worn by people who don’t understand the words written on them. Recent examples include “I’d do me”, worn by an old woman carrying wood on her head and “Will pay for sex”, worn by a street hawker.
  22. Racing boys on bicycles who are more determined and able to beat me despite being on half-broken single speed bikes.
  23. Seeing mountains on the map with roads that go over the top.
  24. Incredulous looks on peoples’ faces when they watch me pitch the tent and inflate the thermarest.
  25. Cycling in the rain, assuming it doesn’t fall all day (it’s usually warm).
  26. Studying my map for long periods of time and trying to find interconnecting and interesting roads that avoid major highways.
  27. Meeting other Brits I can share a joke with (very few so far).
  28. When people leave comments on this website.
  29. When people donate money to the Against Malaria Foundation. It’s a worthwhile cause and motivating to see people supporting it.
  30. The fact that 1 year after telling people I will be in South Africa in about 1 year, I’m still saying 1 year.

National Pornographic 

Dislikes

  1. Being called ‘mon amis’ or ‘my friend’ by people I don’t know.
  2. Hearing people hissing at the roadside as a way to get my attention.
  3. Seeing wildlife being sold as bush meat on the roadside.
  4. Hearing the sound of chainsaws destroying forests.
  5. Hearing “donnez moi” in Francophone Africa, which is usually followed up by “cadeau” or “l’argent”.
  6. Having to pay more as a foreigner at tourist sites.
  7. Asking how much something is and blatantly being told an inflated price.
  8. Being mis-directed by people who sound so sure they know what they’re talking about.
  9. Being pointed to the opposite side of the road by oncoming traffic on the wrong side of the road.
  10. The way darkness comes so quickly after sunset.
  11. Trying to find food in small towns at night when it’s completely dark and I’m starving.
  12. Eating food in the dark and not knowing what meat it is I’m chewing on.
  13. Arriving back in Francophone Africa and getting frustrated at not being able to communicate fully.
  14. Being told there is no change (almost always) when I don’t have the correct amount to pay for something.
  15. Cycling over glass or metal and worrying I’ll get a puncture.
  16. Being instructed to throw my empty plastic water sachet or any other plastic rubbish on the roadside (do any Africans care for their environment?)
  17. Seeing flies land on my ankles where I’ve removed the skin from scratching mosquito bites.
  18. Seeing children who’ve misbehaved being beaten senseless by their mothers.
  19. Hearing bad music being played very loudly out of terrible sounding speakers.
  20. Finding that the only ATM machine accepting foreign visa cards in town is not working.
  21. Wondering if my visa card will be ejected by the same ATM machine which is holding on to it for an unusually long period of time.
  22. Forgetting to take my Tilley hat with me if I go walking out in the midday sun.
  23. When people shout at me for taking photos of things entirely disconnected to them.
  24. Taking rides in large white SUVs belonging to NGOs.
  25. Putting on wet sweaty cycling shorts and getting a rash down there as a result.
  26. When the hotel receptionist/manager takes issue with me bringing the bicycle into my room.
  27. Leaving something behind in the hotel (rarely happens, but both my remaining Buff headwear in Ghana)
  28. Not finding the mosquito that is dive-bombing my ears inside the tent.
  29. Opening a tin of sardines and finding the quality and/or quantity below standard.
  30. Taking detours or paying a lot to see tourist sites that really aren’t worth it (Ouidah in the former here).

Spotting breakfast