• Old roads and new: Mbeya-Mwanza. Part 2 March 11th, 2015

    The boat left Mbamba Bay just before sunset. It was a scenic time to be out on the lake. The sky was clear, the water calm, and my bicycle safely wedged between a few large sacks of cassava and second-hand clothes. It felt good to be breaking the tour up with a boat journey – a peaceful continuation of slow travel without the physical exertion of the lung-bursting climbs I’d been experiencing on the road.

  • Show me the money January 30th, 2012

    I just missed him apparently. Back in 2006,  somewhere within Kathmandu’s narrow maze of streets, I met a Romanian cyclist called Cornell. Nepal’s capital is, or at least was then, something of a hub for touring cyclists in the Indian subcontinent. Some like me had crossed the border from Tibet, whilst others had entered from India or Bangladesh. Well there had been a group of us exchanging tales and I remember him telling me he would be cycling Cairo-Cape Town in the future. He left me with his e-mail address, but never replied when I later contacted him.

  • Malawi in the rainy season January 17th, 2012

    Rain accompanied the climb out of Nkata bay. About an 800m vertical ascent in 40km, said the American with a backpack. “Good luck buddy”, were the final words I heard him mutter before disappearing with half a dozen other Peace Corp volunteers.

    I think Nkata bay’s foreigner head-count probably doubled over Xmas and New Year with all the young Americans here. It’s a good enough guess that if you meet an American in Africa who isn’t working for an NGO or spreading the word of God then he or she will be a Peace Corp. I’ve met them in many other countries deemed ‘stable’ enough for young college graduates with fresh ideas about solving Africa’s woes to live in for 2 years. Most seem to live as frugal an existence as possible during their time in the ‘bush’, and then blow their stipend in a few weeks of travel and partying.

  • 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.

  • Into Africa’s warm heart December 22nd, 2011

    Poor countries with well-paved roads and high fuel prices make good news for foreign cyclists. Welcome to little land-locked Malawi, which surely has the highest fuel costs on the continent? It’s something you probaby didn’t know, unless you were unfortunate to be living and driving a car here.

    A litre of petrol when available here costs 380 Kwatcha (£1.50) from a fuel pump, and more like £2-3 on the black market from roadside jerry cans. Only the very rich can afford to have a car and run it  – true throughout much of Africa, but more so in Malawi.

  • Border games: Another survival tip December 14th, 2011

    “And when it’s time for leaving Mozambique

    Just say goodbye to sand and sea

    You turn around to take a final peek

    And you see why it’s so unique to be

    Among the lovely people living free

    Upon the beach of sunny Mozambique”

    (Bob Dylan)

    Three on a bike

    Remember that post I wrote not so long go about tips for surviving Africa? Well here is another one. When changing money at a border crossing make sure it is YOU who is the last one to count it. Sounds obvious I know. Commonsense surely? Maybe an explanation will salvage some of my stupidity. It was a swift and slick operation; one done many times before I’m sure.

  • Old faces in forgotton places November 29th, 2011

    “For people who must live from day to day, past and future have small relevance, and their grasp of it is fleeting; they live in the moment, a very precious gift that we have lost.”(Peter Matthiessen)

    Some people said the island had changed since I first came here 10 years ago. Not the place it once was and all that. Back then I spent several weeks here: charmed, captivated and entranced by the atmosphere of this colonial treasure-chest.