• And the winner goes to… A year in reflection December 31st, 2010

    I started the year learning to surf in Morocco and I’m finishing it drinking a lot of beer in Cameroon. Between then I’ve crossed 14 countries in Africa and cycled about 12,000km, collecting more than a few stories along the way. Here is a review of some of the highlights, lowlights and other interesting observations from my year on the road. If there is a category you’d like to add please post a comment to let me know. Happy New year.

    Most atmospheric place: Harper, Liberia. A town full of war-ravaged buildings, surrounded by beautiful palm-fringed beaches.

    North from Harper

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Cheer for Nigeria November 26th, 2010

    Thanks to Hiromu  I was able to get some photos and video clips of a talk I gave at Hillcrest International School here in Jos yesterday. I began the talk receiving a ‘boo’ for saying I felt like I’d been transported out of Africa with my microphone headset plugged in. Fortunately my positive comments about Nigeria won a few cheers back later on.

    Speaking at Hillcrest School, Jos

    Question session

    Speaking in Nigeria from Peter Gostelow on Vimeo.

    Tomorrow the two of us leave Jos and the cool temperate plateau destined for Yankari National Park. Photos of elephants in the next post perhaps?

  • 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.

  • North of the Niger November 21st, 2010

    Crossing big rivers in boats with holes in never feels very reassuring. As the water seeps through the wooden hull and runs to the stern of the overloaded vessel you look for signs of alarm from your fellow passengers. There is none. They sit motionless whilst one boy frantically bails out bucketfuls of brown water from Africa’s third largest river.

    The first time I saw the Niger River was in Guinea, a short distance from its origin in the Fouta Djjalon mountains. Here the channel was less than 20 metres wide. Fast forward several thousand kilometres and now it was over 1km in breadth, a silent expanse of dormant energy making its way to troubled regions further south.

  • Suffering and Smiling: Entering Nigeria November 3rd, 2010

    Nigeria greeted me with a lot of check-posts. They were simple palm-thatched shacks, of a type more commonly seen with plantain or yams being sold beneath them than places for showing my passport and vaccination certificates. Were it not for the wooden posts spiked with large nails lying across the road I might have thought twice about stopping. There were no signs, no power, and no-one at any of these dozens of check-posts (containing immigration, customs, police, army, or health officers) was wearing a uniform.

  • Faking it: Visas in Accra October 14th, 2010

    The best thing about the journey from Cape Coast to Accra is the fruit being sold at the roadside. Lines of stalls overflowing with pineapples and watermelons, and carts filled with fresh coconuts. Forget the glutinous starchy fufu and oily soups, I reckon I could survive on fresh fruit alone in Ghana, and many other African countries for that matter.

    Coconut sellers