• Red dust road February 2nd, 2011

    Judging by the colour of their clothes I had a good idea what the road ahead was like. And they were in a vehicle. The tohelandback duo, two young English guys I’d briefly met in Yaounde, who are driving around Africa in a sponsor-emblazoned Land Rover, met us for lunch and kindly donated their dust masks before wishing us well for the road out of Bertoua.

    They were welcome gifts. Once we passed a rare sign post showing Bangui, Central African Republic’s capital to be 841km away, the town’s tarmac soon ended. It wasn’t long before we disappeared into a cloud of red dust, then another, and another, and so on.

  • The Grand trunk road January 21st, 2011

    Should you want evidence that central Africa’s jungles are being destroyed I highly recommend driving between Douala and Yaounde in Cameroon. Actually I don’t recommend driving, even less so cycling. Just stand on the roadside, but not too close, and observe. This is a highway dominated by trucks. Trucks transporting enormous tree trunks – their 20-metre long trailers loaded as they hurtle towards you and the coast and empty as they journey back towards what remains of the continent’s equatorial rain forests. It’s a sad and scary sight, these speeding monsters helping to bleed Africa of its lungs, but it’s been going on for years and seems unlikely to stop or be reduced any time soon.

  • 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.

  • And the winner goes to… A year in reflection December 31st, 2010

    I started the year learning to surf in Morocco and I’m finishing it drinking a lot of beer in Cameroon. Between then I’ve crossed 14 countries in Africa and cycled about 12,000km, collecting more than a few stories along the way. Here is a review of some of the highlights, lowlights and other interesting observations from my year on the road. If there is a category you’d like to add please post a comment to let me know. Happy New year.

    Most atmospheric place: Harper, Liberia. A town full of war-ravaged buildings, surrounded by beautiful palm-fringed beaches.

    North from Harper

  • Your round mate: Christmas in Cameroon December 28th, 2010

    Another lung bursting climb took me out of Bamenda, but at least it was on a tarred road. I’m done with dirt tracks for the moment; there will be plenty more where I’m headed in the next few months.

    From above the town looked as attractive as it did from street level; a sprawling mass of single-storey tin roofs with no discernible landmark other than an ugly church on a hill. It is the landscape surrounding Bamenda that half-saves it, although at this time of year the visibility is impeded by an African fog, better known as the ‘harmattan’. I thought Cameroon was too far south from the Sahara to suffer from the dust-filled skies that cover much of west Africa during the dry season. Obviously not. Straight after the rainy season would be the best time to be travelling through Cameroon. I’m two months too late.

  • Lung-bursters and drunkards: Walking into Cameroon December 23rd, 2010

    Crossing into Cameroon proved challenging. Aside from the fact that no-one could provide an accurate approximation of travelling time or distance to the border, the road was terrible – really terrible. When unpaved roads in tropical countries aren’t graded to level out the bumps and ensure surface water runs into ditches at the side, heavy rain soon destroys them. Crevasse-deep gullies form between football-sized rocks and the way ahead ends up looking more like a dry mountain river-bed than a road. Such has been the story for much of the past week.

    Walking into Cameroon

    River-bed road

    Climbing again

    1st gear all the way

  • Nigeria just gets better December 15th, 2010

    The Emir of ‘Old Muri’ took care of us in Jalingo. By this I mean we received a reduced rate at his brother’s Guest House and had breakfast and dinner delivered free of charge to our room by one of his ‘personal assistants’. We had first met the Emir, whose long name I quickly forgot, sitting on a palatial throne and swathed in a white robe several days earlier in ‘Old Muri’ itself. Why this man, (who had obviously received word of two foreigners riding bicycles through his chiefdom) decided to send his messengers out to summon us to his home I’m not sure.