• Into The Casamance June 9th, 2010

    One more night

    An enormous mosquito with blonde hair helped delay my departure from The Gambia. It circled the air, flying past a red dragon on wheels, a carriage carrying Cinderella and Elvis being pushed in a pram. These were just some of the contenders in the soap-box race at the International School. Students were pedalling laps of the school in a creative array of home-made vehicles.  Funds had been raised for the Against Malaria Foundation, so it was fitting that one of the students had come dressed for the part in wings, head and a nasty looking  antenna and proboscis. The event also provided a good excuse to stay a little longer.

  • Return to The Gambia May 31st, 2010

    Cycling out of Dakar is best done quickly. This is something that could be said about cycling out of most cities in poor countries, where pollution, rather than prettiness is what one notices. The only reward is in saying that you’ve done it, if that really matters to anyone else. Fortunately there is only one major road, which makes it difficult to get lost, and no hills or confusing intersections to negotiate. Incidentally there are also no other cyclists on the road, which is interesting seeming that for most of Africa the bicycle represents transport for those who don’t have much money.

  • Meeting with a machete March 15th, 2010

    I’m typing this using my right hand. The other is swollen and my arm is bandaged. There is a large gash just above my wrist and another on the side of my left foot. I don’t think this is so deep, but at the moment I can’t put any weight on it.

    I probably would have walked away unscathed had I not put up some resistance. It was a natural reaction to hold onto my camera bag and ruck-sack as they were being pulled out of my hands. I let go when the machete slashed through my wrist.

  • When the tide turns: St Louis-Dakar March 10th, 2010

    More than 60kg was the consensus. The hostel proprietor and his brother were taking it in turns to lift my bike, now loaded up and ready to roll. They might have been right. A 5-litre jerry-can of water was resting on the front rack – the latest addition to the black behemoth. I’d found it in a nearby market, alongside a pile of other re-cycled containers. It had once held  vegetable oil, but seemed to be well cleaned out now. In Morocco and Mauritania it is common to see empty plastic bottles  and containers at the roadside. Here in Senegal people collect and re-sell them.  It’s a pity they can’t do that with the plastic bags. They’re everywhere.

  • The night thief March 1st, 2010

    It sounded like a rat at first. A cooking pot beside my bed scraped across the floor then a bottle of coke toppled over. It was 4am. I didn’t know this until the thief had gone. He shot out of the room and jumped off the 5 metre-high balcony before I’d barely thrown the mosquito net out of the way to  pursue him. For a brief moment I watched this dark figure run through the  sandy street below, my cries of “THIEF, THIEF” lost in the night.

  • St Louis in pictures February 26th, 2010

    I like places with history and St Louis has plenty of it. The French have been fond of the town for over three hundred years and still are.  I rolled  onto  this  time-warped island shortly after crossing the border with Mauritania and soon realised it was somewhere worth stopping for a few days.

    If you’ve been following the twitter updates you’ll know my compact camera was stolen yesterday. It was visible in the mesh-pocket of my day-sack  whilst I was out walking. A lesson quickly learnt. I still have my main SLR, the camera used to take the photos in the slide-show below,  but the theft has certainly put a dampener on my impressions of the place. Time to move on south.

  • 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”.