• 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

  • Out of the desert:Nouakchott-St Louis February 24th, 2010

    I followed a Toyata land cruiser out of Nouakchott. Sidi Ali, who’d been my excellent guide to the city, offered to escort me onto the right road towards Senegal. As we said goodbye he gave me some advice. “Make sure you tie your bicycle chain around your ankle when you get there”. How reassuring I remarked.

    Bad-mouthing the people who live in your neighbouring country seems to be commonplace all over the World. Moroccans will warn you about  being kidnapped in Mauritania , just as Indians will happily tell you Pakistanis are all terrorists and the Chinese might attack the Japanese on the subject of war crimes. I’m  struggling to think of a country I’ve travelled through where someone has remarked about their neighbours “You will love it there. The people are so  kind and friendly”.

  • Around town with Sidi Ali February 18th, 2010

    In the desert, the first thing man sees when he opens his eyes in the morning is the face of his enemy – the flaming visage of the sun. The sight elicits in him a reflexive gesture of self-preservation: he reaches for water. Drink! Drink! Only by doing so can he ever so slightly improve his odds in the desert’s eternal struggle – the desperate duel with the sun.” (Rysard Kapuscinski)

  • The heat is on February 14th, 2010

    “Dawn and dusk – these are the most pleasant hours in Africa. The sun is either not yet scorching, or it is no longer so – it lets you be, lets you live.” (Rysard Kapuscinski)

  • Into Mauritania February 8th, 2010

    The tarmac abruptly stopped beyond the Moroccan border post. Ahead lay a wasteland of abandoned vehicles and chassis – rusting victims from the land mines that litter the several kilometres of no-mans-land separating Morocco and Mauritania. I felt like I’d been thrown into an army training obstacle course as a series of corrugated piste tracks traversed this war-zone. There was little indication of which one to follow, nor anyone to ask. Cycle off in the wrong direction for 50 metres and I might have joined the unlucky souls who’ve perished here before me. It seems a ridiculous situation that neither country can agree to lay down a few kilometres of tarmac in this disputed and troubled region of the Sahara.

  • The wacky contenders January 7th, 2010

    There was a sizeable crowd waiting outside the embassy at 8.30am on Monday morning. Considering recent news I  expected to be the only western face who would be applying for a Mauritanian visa. Instead a colourful bunch of characters, mostly with their own vehicles,  (equally colourful) had lined the road of this Rabat address. Camper-vans, land rovers, trucks, motorbikes – is driving through Mauritania really that popular? It was a comical scene and had me thinking of a cartoon I remember watching as a child.