• 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.

  • Hold ups: Entering DRC March 8th, 2011

    “A major disadvantage of taking this route is that you must pass through awful customs officials who demand stiff matabribes (bribes) and often delay travellers for hours on end.” (Geoff Crowther: Lonely Planet, Central Africa 1991)

    The information might have been twenty years old, but it was still accurate. In hindsight I’m not sure which was more of a hassle: leaving the Central African Republic, entering the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), or leaving the first town in the DRC? We were, as I feared, delayed for hours.

  • 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.

  • The long and sandy road December 7th, 2010

    There are a lot of roads in Nigeria, and much of Africa for that matter, that don’t show up on maps. To call them roads is going a bit far. They are unpaved tracks, often no more than a few feet in width, which depending on the geology may be composed of sand, mud or stones, and sometimes a combination of the three. The occasional passing motorbike will be the only real vehicle using one of these by-ways, which connect small villages surrounded by farmland. Only the largest of such villages might show up on a map, and it is by referring to their name that incredulous locals will point the traveller in the right direction – hopefully. In the rainy season many of these tracks will be impassable, or at least take twice as long to travel.

  • Journey to Jos November 25th, 2010

    On a quiet road the journey from Abuja to Jos would be pleasant. Once the urban concrete thins out a boulder-strewn landscape takes over as the altitude steadily rises to above 1000m. The problem is the condition of the road; it’s too well-paved. This means traffic, of which there is too much for a 2-lane road, goes as fast as humanely possible. Little wonder the roadside is littered with the remains of car wrecks.

    Leaving Abuja

    Speed victim

    Hiromu called me to stop a short distance out of  the city. His speedometer was reading 25,000km. “I want to make a photo. It is special moment”. I fully agreed. My computer was just approaching 16,000km, which is roughly 10,000 miles.

  • Out of Africa: Two weeks in Abuja November 24th, 2010

    Abuja is not a typical African city. To start with I’m not sure there are any poor people living here. The makeshift market stalls, tin-roofed shacks, bare-footed children and street hawkers so characteristic of urban Africa are noticeably absent here. As are the piles of rubbish and other man-made detritus. It is certainly the cleanest city I’ve visited on the continent and the only one that doesn’t feel overpopulated. The fact that living here is so expensive partly takes care of that.

  • Malaria bites October 11th, 2010

    He was lying on the hospital bed with his hands on his forehead and a drip protruding from his wrist. Thirty minutes previously I’d received a phone call from a man to say “your friend collapsed in the Internet Cafe and is now in hospital. Please come!”.

    Hiromu had seemed fine the night before. After saying goodbye 9 months ago in Morocco, we met again the previous evening and had plenty to talk about. He too is cycling to South Africa, having started his journey in Istanbul last year, so I’m hoping we can make a plan together. Now he looked pale and in pain as I tried to decipher his Japanese in the accident and emergency ward.