• Rift Valley roads: Mwanza-Arusha August 29th, 2014

    South from Mwanza the tarred road heads into central Tanzania. It’s not a popular destination for visitors as there are no immediate tourist attractions such as national parks, natural wonders, or places given much attention in a guidebook. A lot of Tanzania is like this, as is Africa for that matter, particularly when you see things from a saddle.

    There is however one feature of central Tanzania that this two week tour was focused on. It’s the earth’s most significant visible feature from outer space. It’s also very visible, although perhaps less so, when flying over it between Mwanza and Dar-es-Salaam. This of course is Africa’s Great Rift Valley – the eastern branch of which cuts right through the country.

  • Back on board: Up the Lualaba April 20th, 2011

    The sun sinks fast to the western horizon and gloomy is the twilight that now deepens and darkens.” (H.M Stanley)

    It was worth the effort again. The waiting, the inevitable haggling for the fare, the discomfort, the heat, the mosquitoes, and even the hunger that would accompany my journey by boat further up the Congo River.

    Beyond Ubundu, where the last set of rapids make it once more navigable again, the Congo River is referred to as the Lualaba, which is the greatest headstream of  the mighty river. Over 2000km upstream from where it empties into the Atlantic it is still daunting in scale, a silent powerhouse of a river, which for those who think beyond and below its placid brown surface remains wonderfully mysterious and enchanting.

  • Upriver: A boat journey April 6th, 2011

    Going up that river was like travelling back to the earliest beginnings of the World, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest.” (Joseph Conrad)

    Finding a boat to travel up the Congo River wasn’t easy. Firstly there weren’t many boats on what could and should be a major highway of traffic, and secondly those that did exist had no schedule for when they would depart. But waiting was worth it, for this was a journey like no other.

  • Congo Journal: Part 2 March 20th, 2011

    10/03/11 Distance cycled 71km Mbata 02°19.031N 020°12.263E

    “There is something primordial about Congolese villages. The villagers themselves wear modern clothes, often in tatters, but modern nonetheless in that they are factory-made and delivered by the occasional trader who ventures along the river. But the houses are at the base level of simplicity. There is not a single pane of glass, metal hinge, cement plinth or fitting that connects the place with the modern era. There is no litter, no plastic bags, empty cans or cigarette butts. Without any painted signs, it is a place of browns, greens and duns, a settlement built in the jungle and out of the jungle, utterly separate from the modern world.” (Tim Butcher: Blood River)

  • Hard roads ahead: Crossing Central Africa January 6th, 2011

    Up until quite recently I’ve not given much thought to how I will cross Central Africa. By bicycle obviously, but on what roads and through which borders and countries.? There aren’t many roads, which kind of simplifies things, and those shown on maps are probably no more than muddy tracks through the jungle. Not so simple.

  • Out of money October 17th, 2010

    After paying for a second boat across Lake Volta I was short of money. It wasn’t that the boat was expensive, merely I miscalculated how much money would be needed for the remainder of my time in Ghana. This is something I deal with in every country; calculating how much money is needed until I reach another ATM machine? The trouble is not every ATM machine I find accepts my card or works, and I sometimes naively assume that in more developed countries, like Ghana, ATMs will be available in small towns in the provinces. A currency like the Ghana Cedi is pretty valueless once you cross a border, so having a lot left over is a bit of a schoolboy error in the traveller’s manual.

  • Faking it: Visas in Accra October 14th, 2010

    The best thing about the journey from Cape Coast to Accra is the fruit being sold at the roadside. Lines of stalls overflowing with pineapples and watermelons, and carts filled with fresh coconuts. Forget the glutinous starchy fufu and oily soups, I reckon I could survive on fresh fruit alone in Ghana, and many other African countries for that matter.

    Coconut sellers

  • Great Cyclist Arrives In Ghana October 7th, 2010

    Such a modest headline don’t you think? In an exclusive interview I took time out of my ever so busy schedule to speak to Ghana’s National Newspaper – the Daily Guide. Not sure I will reach South Africa by the middle of 2011.

    Ghana press 

  • A well-worn weapon September 4th, 2010

    The end of the road in Liberia is close. Another 20km from here and a river divides the country from it’s Francophone neighbour – Cote d’ Ivoire.

    Stretching to either side of me are two long palm-fringed beaches and I’m surrounded by the ghostly remains of large war-ravaged buildings. The town of Harper here in the far south of Liberia is now a sad shadow of what before the war must have been a prosperous place, for a minority anyhow.

    Harper: Liberia

  • An extended rest stop August 31st, 2009

    Eight continuous days on the bike and eight continuous days off. It wasn’t the plan to take such a long rest stop so early into the trip. French hospitality is partly to blame and my time here in the small village of Massac might be one of the most relaxing I’ll have on the road. Eating and socialising seems to  consume half of the day and the only difficulty, or rather frustration, has been my inability to converse in a language I regret not paying more attention to at school. It woud have made more sense during the months leading up to departure to have invested more of my time into studying French rather than researching what equipment to take with me, particularly as I plan to cycle through a lot of Francophone Africa. It’s never too late to learn of course, but Spain and Portugal come between here and another French speaking country.