Almost there now. About 120km separate me from Cape Town and the end of the Big Africa Cycle. Or is that the end? Surely I should pedal to Cape Agulhas? That after all is Africa’s southern most point, and doesn’t everyone else who overlands the length of Africa finish here? Except I won’t really be finishing there as I will have to cycle back towards Cape Town, which is kind of less appealing. Apparently Cape Agulhus does have a good Fish and Chip shop though – surely worth cycling another 350km for?
Almost there now June 20th, 2012
Grinding along gravel May 11th, 2012
I first saw them standing in the queue at a supermarket check-out; two teenage girls buying a loaf of bread and some milk. In such modern surroundings it came as quite a shock. They looked like they’d walked off a ‘Lord of the Rings’ film set. There was the orange and oily skin, the long, thick, snake-like braids of hair, an over-powering and unpleasant body odour, and perhaps most noticeably of all, the absence of any clothing other than an animal-skinned loincloth.
A twist in the road March 14th, 2012
Before the operation I wasn’t planning to write this blog post. Better to keep what had happened secret I thought – save myself the embarrassment and ridicule. As I lay on my back watching clouds passing by outside the hospital window I tried to digest what the Doctor had told me that morning. I’d never heard of this condition before. How had it had happened to me? ‘Very rare for a man your age,’ he’d said. Well that day of cycling was no different from hundreds of others on the road. No twists, turns, falls or knocks. Were all those thousands of hours I’ve spent on a saddle building up to this? I’m still puzzled as to how it happened.
Malawi in the rainy season January 17th, 2012
Rain accompanied the climb out of Nkata bay. About an 800m vertical ascent in 40km, said the American with a backpack. “Good luck buddy”, were the final words I heard him mutter before disappearing with half a dozen other Peace Corp volunteers.
I think Nkata bay’s foreigner head-count probably doubled over Xmas and New Year with all the young Americans here. It’s a good enough guess that if you meet an American in Africa who isn’t working for an NGO or spreading the word of God then he or she will be a Peace Corp. I’ve met them in many other countries deemed ‘stable’ enough for young college graduates with fresh ideas about solving Africa’s woes to live in for 2 years. Most seem to live as frugal an existence as possible during their time in the ‘bush’, and then blow their stipend in a few weeks of travel and partying.
Zanzibar revisited September 22nd, 2011
“”there are certain places, surrounded by a halo of romance, to which the inevitable disillusionment which you must experience on seeing them gives a singular spice”. (Somerset Maugham)
The village of Kipumwe wasn’t marked on my map, but I was assured there were dhows sailing to Zanzibar from there. The plan had been to reach neighbouring Pemba first, but unless I was going pay a lot and charter a boat alone, this option wasn’t available.
Following the recent sinking of the overloaded MV Spice Islander, in which some 240 people died in the Zanzibar channel, I really ought to have been more careful in choosing what vessel I took to transport me over the sea.
Waiting for a boat September 10th, 2011
“There are three things which if one does not know, one cannot live long in the world: what is too much for one, what is too little for one, and what is just right for one.” (Swahili proverb)
The sky is definitely bluer on the east African coast. Here the wind blows in off an ocean and not out of a desert, which is often the case throughout much of west Africa. Even as far south as Cameroon that Saharan wind – the harmattan, caused the mountains to become lost in a dust-filled haze and the sun to disappear long before it reached the horizon. Well not anymore. That cleansed azure sky should be over me all the way south, assuming I follow the coast into Mozambique and don’t encounter a rainy season. The wind direction might be more of a concern though.
Congo Journal: Part 5 May 5th, 2011
“On the march rain is very disagreeable: it makes the clayey path slippery and the loads heavier by being saturated, while it half ruins the clothes. It makes us dispirited, cold and wet.”(H M Stanley)
20/04/11 Distance Cycled 27km 03°08.292S 026°00.657E No name village
One of those annoying days when you want to hit yourself for being an idiot. I leave my wallet behind on the road – top of a rear pannier more precisely whilst taking off trousers. Only 15-20km further on do I realise what I’ve done. Fortunately not a huge sum of money– 6000CF or so ($7), but it annoys me and I only have my stupid self to blame. Other than money and wallet there were just contact cards with website written on, a key to padlock (have 2 spares). Could have been much worse.
Journal entries from the Central African Republic February 12th, 2011
Getting away with it: Check posts and magic letters February 10th, 2011
“As I got deeper into Africa – the scrub, the desert, the rocky climb up to the mountains, the lakes, the rain in the afternoon, the mud, and then, on the other, wetter side of the mountains, the fern forests and the gorilla forests – as I got deeper I thought: But this is madness. I am going in the wrong direction. There can’t be a new life at the end of this”. (V.S. Naipaul)
Baboons at breakfast December 5th, 2010
Three men in black pin-striped suits delayed my departure from Jos, claiming to be from the ‘State Security Service’ . ID was shown at my request and in hindsight I think they were genuine. At first you can never be sure in Nigeria, particularly when those concerned have just stepped out of a bakery. They laughed and agreed I was right to be suspicious.
‘Are you aware of the situation in Jos?’ was the question put to me. I’d just spent five nights cocooned in the secure and peaceful compound of a missionary-run Guest House. Jos and its ethnic/religious tensions seemed a World away, but it’s an issue that simmers close to the surface here, and one unlikely to be resolved any time soon.