• 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

  • Congo journal: Part 4 April 17th, 2011

    Drinking a bottle of Primus in the sweaty heat of Kisangani made me feel more in touch with the country’s recent history than almost anything else I did in the Congo. And another thing – it tasted great.” (Tim Butcher)

    05/04/11     00°30.554N     025° 12.247E     Kisangani

  • 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)

  • 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.

  • Getting away with it: Check posts and magic letters February 10th, 2011

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    “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)

  • East to Bertoua January 26th, 2011

    A hangover and two hours sleep is not the best preparation for cycling out of an African city. I kindly let Hiromu lead the way while I tried not to collide with the bumper-to-bumper traffic. There is a certain technique for coping in this urban madness – the weaving between narrow gaps and the holding of one’s position on the road when large vehicles want to squeeze past. After a while it becomes easy, but the risks are always there.

  • 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.

  • Lost Jungle: Into the interior August 28th, 2010

    ‘If you cross this line you may be engaged by fire’, read the sign behind the barbed wire fence. It was almost dark and I had no idea where to sleep the night. “Salaam Aleikum”, I called out to a soldier looking down at me from a watchtower. “Aleikum Salaam” came the reply.

    I was outside a Pakistani UN compound some 120km from Monrovia and looking for a safe spot to pitch my tent. A short distance back down the road the overweight proprietress of a roadside restaurant had refused me permission to camp, preferring instead that I take a room. The place had no electricity or running water. She wanted $50 and wasn’t very interested in bargaining.