• 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.

  • Six Weeks in Southern Africa: Part 2 August 12th, 2014

    Stunning waterfalls beside the Sani pass

    The steep descent down the Sani Pass provides some of the most stunning natural scenery on the continent. Fortunately the skies were clear when I began the descent on Christmas Day morning, with plenty of waterfalls, wild flowers and mountain streams along the way.

    Waterfall on the Sani Pass Looking back up the Sani pass

    Happy cyclist

    Very happy to be going downhill! Some sections of the descent have gradients of 20%.

    Welcoming sign

    Back into South Africa. No wild camping here! A lot of South Africa’s land is fenced off to prevent unwanted intruders.

  • Six weeks in Southern Africa: Part 1 July 8th, 2014

    In December 2013 I flew with my bike to Johannesburg. I had 6 weeks of leave and decided it was a good time to explore Lesotho, Swaziland, and see some more of South Africa.

    Ethiopia had been the original plan. I hadn’t cycled there before and it was high on my list of countries to visit on the continent, but flights to Addis Ababa, despite being closer to me in northern Tanzania, were significantly more expensive than the return fare offered by Fastjet, (East Africa’s new budget airline) from Dar-es-Salaam to Johannesburg.

  • A short tour of Central Africa: Part 2 August 4th, 2013

    Here is the second photo instalment of my recent short cycle tour through Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. I’m back at work in Mwanza now, but planning an adventurous cycle tour in central Africa at the end of this year.

    Crossing from Rwanda into Burundi at the border post of Kayanza. The road was well paved, as were all the roads I cycled on in Burundi. 

     The first sign I passed in Burundi was an enormous billboard promoting a mobile phone company. Most people here live in homes without electricity, but mobile phone towers provide telephone coverage. The same is true throughout much of sub-saharan Africa. 

  • Almost there now June 20th, 2012

    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?

  • 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.