Day 1,424: Where It All Began

Sat 24 Nov 12: Today I headed north from Dar es Salaam to Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, across the plains of the Serengeti, and yes Mount Kilimanjaro did rise like an empress. Crikey it’s big. Maasai tribes people in their traditional garb trotting along the side of the road, spear in one hand, mobile phone in the order. Welcome to 21st century Africa. I had nothing left to read on this trip, so instead I looked out of the window into my distant past. In a way this is not just a return for me to this particular dusty corner of Planet Earth, this is a return to where it all began. The beginning not of my odyssey, but of humanity’s odyssey. Eons ago, a relative of the Australopithecines stood tall on their hind legs, picked up a bone and began a journey. A journey…

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Days 1,422-3: This Is Africa

Thu 22 - Fri 23 Nov 12: I didn’t want to use this as a title, said while pointing to at the red earth, imitating Leonardo DiCaprio ’s Rhodesian mercenary Danny Archer, but bear with me on this one. We were supposed to arrive over the border into Tanzania at dawn, but as we ran out of petrol last night and the engine overheated (hey Africa! Try turning it your engines off when you’re not going anywhere OR REFUELLING!!), I didn’t get stamped in until just after midday. Incidentally, Tanzania is a portmanteau word which combines ‘Tanganyika’ and ‘Zanzibar’ into one. This is novel but not unique in the world. The letters PAKSTAN of ‘Pakistan’ stand for Punjab, Afghan Province, Kashmir, Sind, and Baluchistan and the first six letters of The United Nations stands for Useless, Nefarious, Idiotic, Tyranny-Endorsing Dickwits. (One can only presume.) At the…

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Day 1,421: Wham Bam Thank You Zam

Wed 21.11.12: So then, Zambia, my third country in three days. Zambia has always been Zimbabwe’s poorer neighbour, even back in the day when it was Northern Rhodesia, it was always neglected by its (actually not very) benevolent overlords. The general indifference towards Zambia continued into independence, but in the past few years, things have started to pick up. After being freed from the burden of billions of dollars of debt in 2005 as a result of the successful ‘Drop The Debt’ campaign, Zambia has been finding its feet. Transport infrastructure has improved, as have literacy levels and a lot of work has been done on AIDS awareness. It never suffered the rollercoaster riches and rags story of Zimbabwe, so in the long-run, it seems as though the tortoise might just beat the hare. But there’s still a long way to go. As we approached the…

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Day 354: Business As Usual

20.12.09: You know when somebody says that something was a breath of fresh air, I can't describe how apt that saying is when it comes to Rwanda. It is there that you find all that Africa could be if only its scumbag criminal leaders would allow it. But there's no time to dilly-dally, I've got a mission and a damn good reason to get to Egypt in 11 days time... Mandy. I hopped a motorbike taxi (and for the first time in Africa, crash helmets are mandatory) to the bus station nice and early and before long I was being whisked out of the country towards Uganda, past the green terraced hills and the cute little villages along the way. Since the darkness of 1994, Rwanda has turned itself around like you would not believe. THAT'S what you can achieve with 15 years of half-decent governance…

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Day 353: A Dish Called Rwanda

19.12.09: Wow. Rwanda. Like, really, wow. I know what I like and I like what I see. I dragged my reluctant carcass out of bed at some ungodly hour and headed over to the bus station with a local guy called Charles who was also taking the bus somewhere. It was too early for me to focus on anything, but before I knew it I was sitting on the front seat of a minibus heading towards the Rwandan border. I arrived at 9.30am, glad to discover that the 'six-hour' border process took less than ten minutes. And, what's more NO VISA REQUIRED!! So Rwanda started well and it just got better from there on in. One of the things that was annoying me about Tanzania was that my Vodafone mobile internet thingy wasn't working, and it took about half an hour just to send a text…

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Day 352: In The Shadow of Kilimanjaro

18.12.09: Today's mission was to get as close to the border of Rwanda as possible. I'm a bit miffed that I got stuck in Dodoma last night as I could have stayed in Dar, hung out with Dylan who I was couchsurfing with last time I was there all those weeks ago and got the direct bus this morning to Kahama, arriving there this evening. As it was, that's pretty much what I did, only I had to get a couple of different buses and I arrived a few hours earlier than I would have done from Dar. Met a great guy from Poland called Raphael who worked for Polish television news and had done a few stints in Afghanistan. I got to pick his brains and adjust my route accordingly....! The bus was heading up to Lake Victoria which isn't where I want to go,…

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Day 351: The Race Is ON!

17.12.09: Right. Here's the deal. It's Thursday 17th December. If I play my cards right, I reckon I can get to Egypt via Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti and Saudi Arabia before the end of the month to meet my girlfriend Mandy. We haven't seen each other all year. I have just 10 days from today to get to Djibouti (via Burundi) to catch a cargo boat up to Port Said. This is going to be AWESOME. The race, as they say, is ON!!! Today we got into port nice and early. Before long I was stamped back into Tanzania (had to buy a new visa – grr). I said my goodbyes to Thomas and Sevine and stepped back onto the continent of Africa. I hurried over to the bus station to find that there were no buses to Rwanda until Saturday (I…

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Day 295: Moroni Planet

22.10.09: I was convinced that I'd be on this sticking hole of a boat until tomorrow morning. Imagine my relief when I went onto the bridge this afternoon to charge up my laptop only to see a whopping great island through the window. Thank the maker. I readied myself to disembark. I would like to report that it was all very organised and efficient but ARE YOU ON CRACK?? THIS IS AFRICA FOOL!! No, the entry procedure was the usual elbow-the-women-out-of-the-way mad scramble to get the passports back (luckily Lee The Crazy Chinaman and I were kept apart from the braying mob as our passports were kept in a different plastic bag). Eventually, we were herded through the 'customs' (a line of officials set out across the road like riot police) and into immigration. So much for my visa being included in the price of the…

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Day 294: The Grottiest Boat Afloat

21.10.09: Sometimes words fail me. It doesn't happen very often but blimey this boat is a rotten carcass of grot. All I can think of as I see the 100+ people onboard lying in rows onto of undulating cargo, the smell, the litter, the way the food is handed out (all the men elbow to the front), the LIVESTOCK downstairs (which, funnily enough, have more room to move about than us humans) is Amistad. Christ, I know how bad that sounds and I can't believe that I was conned out of $225 for this nightmare. Actually I'm trying not to think about it, it'll annoy me off too much. Suffice to say, this boat is the grottiest boat afloat. Thank god I'm not crossing the Atlantic. I tried to time travel, writing up my blog amid 'breaks' when I'd go charge my laptop in the little…

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Day 293: Whenever You’re Ready…!

20.10.09: Either I was on the smoothest boat ride that I had ever experienced or when I awoke we hadn't left port. What do you think, kids? I sat up and there was confirmed the awful truth – I had just spent a night cramped in a damp corner on a greasy bit of foam in the floating equivalent of Mary's Mum's house for no reason whatsoever. I could have stayed at the Jambo, got a shower, hung out with some backpackers... but no. This Is Africa. And it is Africa's job to make you as uncomfortable as humanly possible. So would we be gone by 12 noon? Possibly. I gave my phone number to the first mate – if you're going to leave, call me. I went to get those damn tapes. I got them, hurried back to the boat – I ran! - but…

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