Tuesday, 30 April 2013

End of the 2 Wheeled African Affair: Abidjan - Accra - Capetown (by plane)

Flight assisted arrival at Cape Point
As they say 'All good things come to an end' and sadly that end has come :(

It has been a fascinating journey traversing questions like 'What is poverty?', 'What is aid?', 'What is development?', 'Is equality realistic?', 'How bad can a road get?', 'Should I really eat that?', 'Is it too hot for cycling yet?', 'What the fuck is that animal making noise outside my tent?'.

So I return home to Ireland on Thursday not really knowing what I'm doing next. As I cycled down to the Cape of Good Hope I did ask myself 'Why didn't I continue all the way?' but with the similarity of cultures making it less and less interesting, the rain season approaching and the possibility of being ransomed in Nigeria, I thought best to retreat and re-plan.

After spending 2 weeks in Abidjan as nursing assistant to cycling buddy Tim who got malaria (not something you want to get unless you need to loose weight in a hurry) I headed for the Ghana border. The Ivorian people were so cool and relaxed it was sad to leave, not to mention the super kind Marianist brothers. Took the picturesque route along the coast via Coconut Village and cycled along the beach front at low tide to cross the border as the local road was too sandy to cycle on. Funny experience crossing a border on the beach. Ollie and Cindy had been shot at by the border police a few days earlier (I found out later!) but I must have cycled past on tea break!

In Ghana spent some memorable times on the beautiful beaches of Axim, Busua, Kokobite and finally onto Accra where we hit the town in Osu to meet a ship load of drunken British sailors. Headed north to Lake Volta, the largest reservoir in the world and then onto the amazing Wli falls. Found some chilled Ghanian people up north as opposed to the tourist mungers along the coast and also bumped into some Kente weavers.

Flight to Johannesburg involved a night stop over in Addis Abba, Ethopia and how surprisingly different it was ... Ethiopian food, music, culture very distinct so have to go back there!

First thing I noticed in Johannesburg was the barricaded houses with window bars, gates, electric fences etc. The city was nicer than reported but for the first time in Africa there were areas I should not enter. A very segregated society with inequality fueled problems, traditionally along racial lines but more recently along social classes (I think!) A very strange mix of 1st/2nd /3rd worlds with shanty towns around the corner from marble mansions.

Took the 28 hour train from Joburg to Capetown, a long time in a seat!, but was cool to see the savanah like scenery in the centre and then the vineyard adorned Drakenstein mountains as you approached Capetown ... maybe the nicest city in the world to live in ... stunning scenery all around but quite a Non-African white culture which was a little disappointing for me as I had fallen in love with random street stall culture.

Robben Island, wine tour, safari tour and then hanging out in Zebra Hostel as well as getting robbed in a township pub!

Greetings to Yves who is currently cycling through Nigeria, Cycling Cindy who is at the border (http://cyclingcindy.wordpress.com/), Ping and Noel who are also in South Africa (http://pingandnoelsblog.blogspot.com/) and to Tim who is on his way to Turkey.

Trip Total 10,979km, 541 hours cycling time, 53,025m climbing

Thanks for all the blog comments.

Ode to Bike Touring :)

Fecker who pickpocket my phone with all my precious photos in Mzoli's Bar, Gugulethu

Saturday, 23 March 2013

At one with the Toffee Crisp: Monrovia to Abidjan

Fete Des Masque,  Man, Ivory Coast
Hanging out at cascading waterfalls, hiking up tropical peaks, lying naked in cold mountain streams, sleepful star gazing to nocturnal forest sounds - nourishment of the soul doesn't get much better than this.

Washing the bikes in Monrovia revealed the surprise of severely cracked wheel rims. So, avoiding the treasure hunt for new wheels we naively ventured on to a plethora of punctures along the way. The border between Liberia and Ivory Coast was closed, due to bandit activity, so we had to detour back into Guinea to lots of UN and military checkpoints along the way.

The Kpatkwee waterfall in northern Liberia was amazing. So also was the declining response we received from an old man when we requested to camp outside his house; 'the devil is in the bushes'.  People on occasion, especially in the countryside, get freaked out at the sight of a white man and sometimes run in the other direction.

A severe case of the shits while camping outside someones house left a trail of suprises for the owner the following morning but thankfully the hens had cleaned up a bit!

Re-entering Guinea highlighted how much Liberia had lost of its African identity and also reminded how bad the Guinean roads were - but once again the forest scenery compensated :) It was also a lot cheaper as we had 'chopped a lot of money' in Liberia. (Liberian English very hard to understand but thats one term I got)

We also met up with a long lost friend called 'Rain' and witnessed the mushing of the local roads. Starting to rain a little every second day or so even though the rain season is officially a month away.

Hiking up Mount Nimba in South Guinea was cool and with Yves persuasion we chose the scenic/piste route through northern Ivory Coast. It paid off encountering cocoa, coffee, cashew, pineapple plantations and also getting to sample a local delicacy of 'Agouti' - big rodent! as well as encountering preparations for an annual Fete Des Masque in one of the villages.

My wheel became impossible to true anymore but I just about made it to a big town called Man to find a supercharged Chinese replacement for a whopping 3 Euros! Ollie also was cycling with a spot weld on his axle.

The Ivorian people are the most relaxed nation so far, with little shouting or screaming at us, and its no surprise to learn that they are the most developed country in West Africa. Quite a distinct divide between the Muslim north and Christian south but the tensions here are more political than religious.

We swung by a city called Yamoussoukro, an unnatural political capital with an amazingly impressive Basilica - rivaling that in Rome but completed in just 3 years for an undisclosed price - a gift to God from the Ivorian president, stolen from the Ivorian people.

Then onto the real capital of Abidjan, a huge modern city rivaling any in the west. skyscrapers, spiraling 6 lane highways and the rest and most important of all a cheap Catholic Mission to stay at, notion to mention some booty shakin to observe https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZI34NyNpjXg

9,868km on the clock. Ghana next and then a direct flight to South Africa – my African curiosity has been satisfied enough to detour over Central Africa :)

A long lost Meath faithful

Fresh eggs for a long journey
How to transport a Solar Panel

47 Degrees!

Coffee Stop on Guinean Ivorian Border

Where's the bridge gone
Travel Safe

Yves Irish naturalisation ceremony to avoid any French hostility in Ivory Coast

Ollie in bike shop Monrovia

Bollywood Photo?

Loading the pirogue - I'm taking the swimming option

Kpatkwee waterfalls, Nothern Liberia

Pirogue Transport

Anyone for a worms snack

Mid jouney nap under your vehicle - a regular site - not to mention deforestation

Another mouthful of dust!

Ants everywhere down here

Basicila in Yamousuckro, Ivory Coast

Cashew  Nuts - grows on the end of its fruit

Celebrity status once again

Another big tree

Dried Casava Leaf with fried Plataines and of course fish - fish mad they are down here

Cindy temporarily upgrading her 2 wheels

Fresh Cocoa

Cotton Tree

Sorting Cocoa

Coffee Tree

Drying grains along the road.


Ensuite Bathroom! - Rural West African homes normally have a washing enclosure outside their house

Big Centipede Friendo

Big Locust Friendo

Firestone Rubber - a dodgy history in Liberia

Head Loads - people transport everything by head - even their shoes

Coffee with the locals in Man, North Ivory Coast

A low profile Paddys Day

Near Liberian Ivorian Border

Dead Flies

Yves giving Ollie a headache

Cindy Yves on Forest Trek

Nimba View

Simon Garfunkal Album Cover

Pineapple Plantation South Ivory Coast

Palm Wine and Papaya Snack

Pineapple Plant - I always thought it was a tree!


Guinea Road Surface

Rubber Plantations

Road Mush

Road to Abidjan

Huggy Statue Abidjan

Dam Central Ivory Coast

If u need to land a plane

Mosque in Man surrounded by mountains

Another fine mosque

Burst Rim - thank you Guinea

Water Sachets - we have drunk 1000's of these in West Africa - 5p for  300ml

Brekkie treat - when u manage to find oats

Yves anti fuel stove approach - 15 yr old pot and stand
Route recording for future days of amnesia