• Ukrainians on Zanzibar February 25th, 2013

    A few days ago I met with two Ukrainians here on Zanzibar. Ruslan and Anna both began their bicycle journey in Addis Ababa and finished in Dar Es Salaam, although travelled independently for much of the way. I’ve met cyclists from many countries before, but never the Ukraine, so I decided to ask them some questions.

    1)   Is cycle touring popular in the Ukraine?

    Ruslan: ‘Not at all. I don’t know anyone from my country who is travelling by bicycle in places like Asia and Africa. I’m not a typical Ukrainian as I lived in China for some years. It is there that I became interested in cycle touring when I discovered the Crazy Guy on a Bike website.

  • Return to Zanzibar January 19th, 2013

    ‘Zanzibar: the old Arab town, like a brooch skilfully sculpted out of white stone, and further on forests of coconut palms, enormous, branching clove trees, and fields of corn and cassava, all of it framed by the brilliant sandy beach punctuated by aquamarine inlets in which bob flotillas of fisherman’s boats’ (Ryszard Kapuscinski)

    When I opened my eyes the sight was familiar, although for a spilt second I thought I was still dreaming. I must have been tired to fall asleep with those stomach-churning waves.

  • And the winner goes to: Reflections from 2011 January 3rd, 2012

    Another year passes by on the roads of Africa; this one spent between the mountains of northern Cameroon and the tranquil shores of Lake Malawi. I managed a modest 12,000km of cycling –  about the same as last year, and crossed through 8 countries.

    There were jungles and big rivers, endless palm-fringed beaches, bribe-demanding immigration officers and chaotic urban traffic. Last year I wrote a post summing up some of the memorable places and experiences of 2010, so here is a similar list of random highlights and lowlights from 2011. Feel free to comment and add a category. And a belated Happy New Year to all those who’ve followed the journey, whether it be from the beginning  or more recently.

  • Never die: The Bagamoyo boat October 11th, 2011

    It would have been simpler, needless to say a whole lot safer to leave Zanzibar on one of the regular high-speed ferries that shuttle back and forth to Dar es Salaam. The moment one approaches the port there is no shortage of commission-hungry touts waiting to escort you to one of many ticket offices. Here the ticket price will be quoted in US dollars (double or several times the local resident price) and you will be whisked away in air-conditioned comfort on a boat that maintains a schedule. Travel in places where there are lots of tourists is sometimes just too easy.

  • 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.