• Top 5 reasons to cycle DRC December 3rd, 2011

    This was written for and is posted on the World Biking website, which has a great section listing the 5 best reasons for cycling each country on the globe. I was happy to write something for The Gambia, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the last two of which see very few foreign cyclists.

    Rivers run through it

  • Rwanda for a week May 22nd, 2011

    “The eyes of the stranger are wide open, but he sees only what he knows” (African proverb)

    Leaving the Congo was a whole lot easier than entering it. No delays, questions, form-filling or money requests. Surely there should have been one more bout with a bored immigration official? The procedure that had taken over an hour when entering the country was taking a few minutes as I left. Having prepared myself for such an interrogation it almost came as a disappointment to be on my way so quickly. As I wheeled the bike over a wooden bridge towards the Rwandan border I double-checked my passport had been stamped and looked over my shoulder. All clear.

  • Into Bukavu May 12th, 2011

    Ascending a lofty hill my eye roved over one of the strangest yet finest portions of Africa – hundreds of square miles of beautiful lake scenes – a great length of gray plateau wall, upright and steep, but indented with exquisite inlets, half surrounded by embowering plantains – hundreds of square miles of pastoral upland dotted thickly with villages and groves of bananas.” (H M Stanley)

    On the way to Bukavu

  • East to Lake Tanganyika May 10th, 2011

    The wise traveller travels only in imagination” (Somerset Maugham)

    It’s unlikely you will have heard of Kasongo, unless you have a particular interest in Africa’s slave history. It was here, about 130 years ago, that a Swahili/Arab businessman named Tippu Tip established a headquarters for the shipment of slaves to east Africa. From this small provincial outpost, in what is now Maniema Province in the DRC, thousands of Africans were marched eastwards towards the Indian Ocean and the island of Zanzibar. Those that survived were held in chains and waited to be sold to Arab traders.

  • 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.

  • 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 3 March 23rd, 2011

    15/03/11 Distance cycled 26km Mapasa 02°14.548N      021°40.906E

    It is the maelstrom in the centre, the vortex around which all other countries in Africa revolve. It is a looming presence in all senses of the word, a land to be revered and respected, a place which can easily devour the unsuspecting. It is the true heart of Africa, it always has been and will undoubtedly continue to be”. (Bradt Guide Congo)

  • 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)

  • Congo Journal: Part 1 March 19th, 2011

    To behold the full perfection of African beauty, one must visit the regions of Equatorial Africa, where one can view the people under the cool shade of plantains, and amid the luxuriant plenty which those lands produce.” (Henry Morton Stanley)