Thursday 9 October 2014

Part One: UK to Democratic Republic of the Congo on a Honda C90 - 10/09/2013 - 24/03/2014

Monday, 9 September 2013

The journey begins.

So its the eve of probably one of the biggest days of my life. Tomorrow I set off to travel the world on my little motorcycle. I've felt physically sick with fear all day and I'm feeling the full force of a reality shock. Ripping my life away from loved ones is not easy.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013


Had a great time staying with Matthew Blake in Banbury last night. The ride from Leeds was clod, grey, wet and windy. But the warm welcome made up for it. Matthew cycled around the world from 2008 to 2011, covering 46000 miles. He's written a book which you can find on his website here -

So today I ride to Plymouth, where I catch the overnight ferry to France. Chasing the warm weather and leaving this cold, dreary island.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013


My luck prevails me. I was just getting ready to set off on the ride to Plymouth from Matt's house. Everyone has gone to work and I'm left in the house alone (it's nice that people can be so trusting) Then there's a knock at the door. I know Matt's expecting a parcel so I open the door and see the postman standing at the bottom of the driveway. Without thinking I walk towards him... and then calmly sign for it whilst safely in the knowledge that when the door just closed behind me I am now locked out of the house with no shoes on and no phone. Thankfully his neighbour came to the rescue. I'm very grateful that neighbour's have keys to each others houses around here!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

I've made it safely to France.

I made a lot of friends on the ferry, and drank more than I should have. Went to sleep on a bench at 2:30 and woke up at 5:30 (English time) tasting of booze. Disembarked at 8 (local time) and had my first experience of driving on the right... probably over the limit, in what appeared to be in the centre of a cloud. Very wet day. Sat in a bar now with Stephane, a friend I met when we lived in Romania. Good times!

Sunday, 15 September 2013


Just in Brest, visiting Stephane's aunt. I know it's North of Cameret but I'm in no rush. Spent the last few days driving speedboats out to see, fishing, eating and drinking. It's been great seeing old friends again, and making new ones. I think I will set off for Barcelona on Wednesday. I'm giving it a week to get there. Got places to stay along the way too now which is nice.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013


I've just discovered a man who is very famous in France. Titouan Lamazou. In his life he won a single handed yatch race around the world, and then decided to travel the planet on foot, painting the people of the Earth. His works and life became such a success that the United Nations awarded him a Blue Passport - meaning he has all access to countries without having to go through bureaucratic nuisances. Its now one of my life goals to acquire a Blue Passport.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013


Giving the bike a final service before I left home.

Thursday, 19 September 2013


I should have left for the road to Spain today... but instead of packing yesterday we went to the coast and swam in a secluded lagoon of beautiful crystal clear and cyan blue water, that you had to reach by climbing down a cliff with a rope. And then instead of packing in the evening we went to a dinner party that we got invited to on the way home, where the food was good and the beer and wine flowed freely. And then instead of going home and packing we went to a little local bar where a local French man kept buying us beer. I love Cameret. TOMORROW I will set off on the road to Spain... even though Cameret seems to be doing her best to make me stay. The tip of land that we are on is known locally as 'The end of the Earth.' For me it is the beginning, and the end will be my home in England. And until then I have the World in between. I will leave tomorrow. I have some squid catching do to in the meantime though. Rock the boat.

Monday, 23 September 2013


Staying with a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend in Bordeaux tonight, who, subsequently are now all friends! A more thorough update will be published when I get to Barcelona and settle down for a few days. A lot has happened since then! I ride out from Bordeaux and over the Pyrenees as of tomorrow. Good stuff.

Friday, 27 September 2013


I've made it to Barcelona. Got here last night and was truly tired. I'm staying with my friend Maria, who I lived with in Romania. Feel far better today after a comfortable sleep in a hallway. One of my two carbon fibre tent poles decided to shatter at the pivot point on Sunday morning, so I've been sleeping in woods and fields without a tent since then. Bar one night in an apartment in Bordeaux. It was nice to have a nights sleep that was not accompanied with the backdrop of farmers dogs barking in the distance and to wake up not covered in dew. Little 90 made it over the Pyrenees fine. 2nd gear and 20 mph for most of it. But only used 1.75 litres of fuel to get from the foothills on the French side and over Andorra. Its amazing how the landscape changes when you cross the mountains. The weather is beautiful here. Off to the beach for a swim now, a diner party later, and a beer tasting party tomorrow! Could I have received better news over breakfast this morning!?

Saturday, 28 September 2013


I've just uploaded my photo's from the journey so far. Click on the photo gallery to have a gander.

Monday, 30 September 2013

From home to Spain, through France and Andorra.

The morning as I rode away from home through Leeds was dull, grey, depressing and hard. Very hard. Tearing my self away from everyone I loved was the hardest thing I have done in my life. The outskirts of the city suburbs the streets were ugly, the buildings drab. The people looked ill and the air was cold. I was glad I was leaving in some ways. My first stop on route was Banbury. A few years previous, whilst in the midst of my travelling research, I had come across a website of a guy called Matthew Blake who was cycling around the World. When I first discovered his site he had just landed in Cape town after cycling from England, over the Eurasain landmass and the Americas. He was on the final stretch to home. In some ways he had inspired me to go further. I was toying with the idea of maybe just doing Asia at the time, but my mind became firmly made up after seeing just how accessible the World can be.
 I had sent him an email asking a logistic question about being on the road and he invited me to come stay with him on the day that I was leaving. It was nice to meet him, good to talk to, and he gave me some tips on handling Africa. He was a very generous host too. The food and beer was very welcome after riding my little 90 from Leeds to Banbury on that cold, hard day.

 Here's Matthew, a really nice guy. He's written a book about his journey; a four year bicycle ride around the World, covering over 46.000 miles in over more than 60 countries. You can find his book on his website

When the morning came, after very little sleep over the past two days, I knew I had a very long day of riding ahead of me. I wanted to get off that island as quick as possible, so I was aiming to get to Plymouth to catch the ferry that day. About 230 miles. Everyone in the Blake household had to go to work early in the morning, and so I was left in the house to eat breakfast, lock up and leave when I wanted. I felt honoured that people could be so trusting with me. It was nice to know that they felt comfortable in leaving me in their house on my own. This is a side of humanity I like to see.
Matthew mentioned before he went to work that he had a parcel that was due to be delivered, and that if I was around when it came, that I could sign for it. So as I was packing up things there was a knock on the door, so I just though 'Ah, the postman's here.' So I opened the door and found him at the bottom of the long drive, and without thinking walked towards him. Then, as I heard the door slam shut I was safe in the knowledge that I had just locked myself out of the house, with no shoes on, no phone and no wallet. I calmly signed for the parcel. Luckily his neighbour came to the rescue. I find it brilliant that some neighbours still have keys for each others houses!

The ride to Plymouth was arduous. Another cold, windy and sometimes wet day. I just focused on getting to the ferry, thinking that the further away from home I get, the more comfortable I'm going to feel. Which is actually quite true! The ferry was due to set sail at 22:00, and I arrived at the port just as it was starting to get dark, so I was one of the first there.

Little 90 waiting to be let on the ferry.

As we were waiting for the ferry I got talking to a couple in a car. Two quite eccentric retired teachers, Andy and Barb. They were lovely people and were really excited about my trip and invited me for a few drinks with them in the bar later that night. I took up there offer, and after tying my bike up in the loading bay of the ferry with all the other disbelieving motorcyclists with their big bikes who looked with wonder at me and little 90 who were bound for Africa, I joined them for a drink. It was brilliant talking to them, and encouraging that there were some quite well to do and educated people who saw my impending adventure to be a wonderful thing. They bought me pints of Guinness and we talked of travelling around Europe. They then brought it to my attention that its a legal requirement to travel in France with a high vis jacket. I didn't have one, but they said if they saw me in the morning they would give me one. They were lovely people.
 I stayed up until 2:30 in the morning drinking and talking with other passengers, and when the excitement wore off and tiredness hit I laid down on a little bench and went to sleep. My budget doesn't cover a cabin when I could sleep on a bench - which they made me pay £5 for anyway.

The lights came on two and a half hours later. I was still quite drunk and tasted of booze. I went out into the cold blue morning on the deck and drank a coffee with some of the other motorcyclist.

"We have been talking about you, and we've decided to call your bike 'Triggers broom,' as in Trigger from Only fools and horses. 'I've had this broom for twenty years and I've only ever had to replace the brush and the handle!' We think your bike will be like that."

I decided not to call my bike 'Trigger.'

The blue wet dawn still clung in the air as we disembarked from the ferry. I was waved off by the other motorcyclists at customs and was on my way, experiencing riding on the right hand side for the first time, probably over the limit. A roundabout came. Instinct told me to look on the right. 'Fuck!' Glance left, slam on brakes. Angry looking people glare from the car. 'Take notice!'

It was like riding through a cloud that morning. Moisture was set thick in the deep air. I was trying to follow signs to the towns on the way to Cameret that I had written down on a bit of paper. I couldn't see any signs for the towns and really wasn't sure I was going the right way so I pulled over and stopped for a second. Miraculously Andy and Barb pulled up along side me, handed me a high vis vest and got me to follow them until they pointed me on the right direction. Fantastic people.

I arrived in Cameret a few hours later, and with a bit of luck stopped just outside of Stephanes house without realising. Stephane was a good friend I met when we both studied in Romania and I had planned to stay with him whilst I made my journey South through Europe. By the time I arrived I was emotionally and physically exhausted. I'd slept for ten hours over three days and wasn't holding together particularly well. I slept for twelve hours that night.

I had only planned to stay in Cameret of a couple of days, but I ended up staying for eight. It was fantastic seeing Stephane again. He lived in a big house by the coast in the beautiful fishing village of Cameret. We would often visit local bars, drink wheat beer, and go fishing in the day time. Brendan, his house mate, teaches sailing and has access to all kinds of boats in the harbour. The three of us decided to go out fishing at sea, so we got into a tiny boat with a 135 horsepower 4 stroke engine and took it out to sea. Once we were out of the harbour Brendan said 'you drive, Liam!' I took the wheel and we put the boat on full throttle, skimming over the waves at 20 knots per hours. It only equates to around 25 mph, but it felt extremely fast when moving over water. We would bounce over waves and the boat would get air and then crash down onto the surface... and then up another wave. We continued like that for around three miles.
 I've never been fishing before, but to fish for our evening meal felt good. We had a line with around 7 hooks which we cast off the back of the boat. It had a Japanese invention attached to the line, a little bit of white plastic that would float down under the water, but when a fish got attached to a hook the plastic would turn upside down and float to the surface, indicating that you had a catch. I don't know if it was beginners look, but within literally less than ten seconds the plastic floated to the top. We reeled the line in and had three mackerel. We each held one in our hands and then what seemed to be in slow motion, Stephane and Brendan pulled back the heads of the fish, killing them in an instant. 'We don't want them to suffer.' I held mine, put my fingers into its gills and pulled the head back. A cracking noise which was accompanied with drops of blood reverberated through my palm, the innards of the neck protruded as its tail stopped flapping. I've never killed anything that could look me in the eye before. But I would be a hypocrite if I couldn't kill my own food.
 By the end of the day we had 8 mackerel and one squid. I nearly caught the first squid, by dangling a line just above the sea bed, but as I pulled it up it squirted a jet of water into my neck and chest and disappeared into a cloud of ink. I'm glad I didn't have to kill the squid though. It was a beautiful creature and would change colour in the bucket of water. Once we got in on shore Brendan cut into it with a knife and it let out a squeal like a baby, laying on its back and spluttering ink all over the harbour. The calamari and barbecued mackerel tasted good though.    

I was sad to leave Cameret. The days were good and I met some amazing friends. But the Autumn was fast approaching Northern France and I knew I had to leave quickly before it became too uncomfortable.

Stephane and Brendan.

The day I left Cameret I was heading to Nantes, trying to get there in one day. I wasn't sure if it was the bad directions, French road signs or me being an idiot (probably a bit off all three!) but for most of the day I was lost. It really isn't a good feeling when for the best part of three hours you only have a vague idea of where you are, or no idea at all. I was going through a particularly bad patch of despair when I came across a man walking up the road wearing a kilt and brandishing a staff. I thought I'd better stop and say hi, just in case he was Scottish. I pulled over and he started walking over the road towards me and I gave a 'bonjour monsieur' to which he replied 'all right!' in a very broad Scottish accent.

    This is Frank. He walked from Scotland, through Ireland, I met him around 100 miles away from Nantes and he's heading to Spain. It took him two months for him to get where we met. He's doing the walk for Alzheimer's disease. And he's 57! What a guy. He's been sleeping outside for most of it. We shared some food and some stories. And he gave me a consoling fact that when I'm lost, for instance, its not so bad if I have to backtrack 6 miles, yet when it happens to him, which it has, it can take 2 hours. At the time we were both on a bit of a down. He said I'd made his day, and in truth, he made mine. He's definitely one of the most extreme travellers that I've met. Really nice guy too. You can read all about his journey here -

It was a tough ride to Nantes. I really didn't think it would take me as long to get there as it did, and when I arrived the sun was setting and I was nothing short of exhausted. Stephane had put me in touch with a friend who was staying in Nantes. I was so glad to have a place to stay and that was one of the reasons that I rushed and raped my energy levels to get there... But due to a misunderstanding his mobile phone was switched off. Now I've been in tighter situations in my life before, this one really isn't that bad in comparison to some, but as I stood there, in the centre of a big city that I didn't know, in the dark with my fully loaded bike, not knowing anyone and with nowhere to stay and absolutely knackered - the thought did cross my mind what I was doing here, doing this, when I could be in a warm comfortable bed with my girlfriend. I was overtired. I knew that more often than not things turn out OK and I was trying to tell myself that through my tired voile, but I really thought that the only option for me would be to ride out of the city for an hour in the dark and try to find a hedge to hide behind and get some sleep. But within an hour I had a place to stay in a top floor apartment in an old Gothic building in the centre of Nantes and was sat drinking a beer with some new friends. Stephan's girlfriend, Pauline, had phoned round her friends to see if anybody could offer me a place to stay. Aminata came to the rescue!

My night time Nantes rescuer. 

Aminata's a lovely person and it was really kind of her to take me in. We went round the city in the day, went to some art galleries and played ping pong with her friends. It was Saturday, and that night was her anniversary meal but some of her friends had invited me to a party. When Aminata went out that night I was at her apartment alone when she went out to the restaurant, well, not completely alone, that dog you can see is Marley, a dog that Aminata was looking after for a friend for a few days. Marley is a rescue dog, and as such was very scared of men, generally. Even though we seemed to make friends quite quickly. I thought we had! So when Pierre rang the buzzer for me to go to the party I opened the door and Marley bolted out. I didn't know where the light switch was for the staircase to I fumbled my way down and opened the front door to let Pierre know that I had to get Marley back upstairs. Marley bolted out of the door and sprinted into the Saturday night life of Nantes. Me and Pierre gave chase but we lost him at the Cathedral. We tried asking people if they had seen a dog, but after the Cathedral he was lost. We spent hours walking round hoping to bump into him before Aminata had finished her meal, it was her anniversary after all and I felt awful. But it was no use, we couldn't find him. Aminata came home and I had to explain that I lost her friends dog. This was such an awful situation to put someone in. Aminata was such a lovely person and I'd just lost her dog that she was looking after for her friend, after only been in her life for 26 hours. On her anniversary! We searched all night, called the police, but nothing worked. We thought the most likely way of finding him was if he turned up to the flat on his own. By the morning he hadn't showed up and Aminata had to go through the painful task of explaining to her friend that she lost her dog. Her friend wasn't pleased. I was due to go that day, and our parting goodbye was in a sombre mood. I wished I'd never came, but Aminata explained that it wasn't my fault. I still felt awful though. An hour later as I was riding into the French countryside, Aminata sent me a text saying that Marley had come back.

Marley! Don't let that face fool you, he's a bad dog. Bad Marley!

That night I spent my first night of the trip outside, camping in a forest. This isn't the first time I'd wild camped in a foreign country, and not the first time I'd wild camped alone. But it was the first time I'd wild camped alone in a foreign country. I felt a bit of trepidation, but once it gets dark, no one is going to see you. Unless they have a torch. Which is what I saw at one in the morning. I was drifting in semi sleep where I saw a brightness in the corner of my eye, I turned my head and saw a light through the trees moving from side to side. It was quite far away, but accompanied with the sounds of dogs it was quite a scary prospect. I could here my heart pounding in my ears. Then the light went away, my heart rate went back to normal but my perception of fear was still on overdrive. Things and situations can become magnified when your alone in the dark in a strange place. I thought I could hear a dog or a fox trying to get into my tent, maybe chewing through my bags. I hissed, clicked and flapped the tent door to try and scare it but the noise still continued. I thought it was time to face my foe. I got my torch, quickly unzipped my tent door and shone it at the invading beast.
 It was a beetle on my groundsheet.

For the rest of the night there were helicopters with searchlights going over the forest. It was a disturbed night. I don't know if the people with the torch had anything to do with the helicopters, but still, I'd got through my first night alone.

Off-roading it in the forest with the wee one.

I made it to Bordeaux that night and stayed with some friends of friends from Nantes. Once again arriving in a city late at night was a stressful ordeal, with not knowing where to go or where I was. The beautiful nature of humanity prevailed though and a man from Columbia took me to the door of my hosts using his phone's GPS. He stopped to chat with me as I was pushing my bike through the streets. He said that it was strange he's met me, as, only three days previous he was thinking about doing a World wide journey on a motorcycle. I hope he does it. Outside the front door of my hosts a man invited me to stay with some of his friends in South Africa also. It seemed like a beautiful city, but I was only staying for one night.

My hosts in Bordeaux.

Little 90 in the city suburbs.

Within three days I had made Barcelona, and during these days I had lived outside. On the morning that I woke up in the forest before I reached Bordeaux, one of my two tent poles shattered at the pivot point and ripped through the tent. I patched the tent up and glued the fibre glass back together and assumed it would be okay. Then after a long day on the bike I pulled off the road into some woods to try and find a place to sleep. All the area's around me were hilly so it was hard to find a decent patch to pitch the tent, but eventually I found one. I tried to pitch the tent, but no, there came the cracking noise and the pole ripped through the tent again. I can count how many times I've pitched that tent. TWELVE. Twelve bastard times. Don't buy a Blacks Octane 2 tent. They're rubbish and the customer service is dire.
So there was nothing else to do that night other than to find a patch of mossy grass and lie down on it with my sleeping back as the darkness gathered. I didn't feel comfortable reading my kindle with the light with me being so exposed. It was a private would with quite a lot of warning signs hung in trees. So I just lay there, looking at the sky through the silhouette of the trees as the stars came out. It was quite beautiful once darkness had fully set in, I felt safe hidden within my patch. Aside from the nearby barking dogs.

My woodland morning.

In the morning, as I packed up my bike and made my way up the steep woodland incline with 90. I managed to crash her in a tree. 1st gear is really low and I underestimated it, put on too much power and the bike threw itself sideways and smashed screen first into the trunk. I liked that screen, so I just pulled out my super glue and stuck it back together.

Its fine.

I was aiming for Andorra that day, a tiny country hidden away in the mountains of the Pyrenees. The ride to the foothills was beautiful. My parents often mentioned just how nice the South of France was, and it didn't disappoint. I think the scenery would have been more beautiful a few months ago though, as now, at the end of September I rode past fields of dying sunflowers. All what was left from the those covered golden hills were expanses of decay. Which is also quite beautiful.  

The foothills of the Pyrenees. I was looking forward to seeing how little 90 would cope with some big climbs.

From quite a bit before this photo was taken I filled up the tank to the brim, which only holds 3.5 litres. Then by the time I'd reached to summit, gone over Andorra and was again in a semi flat landscape I still had half a tank of fuel left. And another ten litres that I was carrying that I filled up in that remarkably cheap country, Andorra. For quite a lot of the climb though, I had to hover around 18mph in 2nd gear, much to the disdain of the traffic behind me. She had some trouble ticking over once we reached the summit too, due to the lack of oxygen. I went slightly dizzy. But we both got there without a hiccup!

The decent back down was easier, although it was getting dark. I spotted a lot of good places to camp on the French side of the mountains and didn't expect the Andorra side to be so populated. I ended up riding for miles in the dark trying to find a place. I was knackered and it wasn't looking hopeful that I could find anywhere. All I was riding past was tourist towns and villages with hotels and restaurants. It may sound strange that I'm saying that I couldn't find a place to sleep when all I was riding past was hotels, but if I'm going to make it around the World on my budget I'm not prepared to pay nearly the equivalent of what I've spent on petrol so far from England on one night in a hotel.
 It was looking pretty hopeless, but then I spotted a little dirt track heading up off the main road. I turned around when the road was clear and headed up it. The track continued up onto the side of the mountain, but there was a little opening onto a crop field. I rode my bike in and managed to get behind some bails of hay that were wrapped up in plastic. I threw the camouflage tarpaulin over 90 and settled in a tyre track between the small green plants. If I even had a tent then it would have been useless. I was hidden and felt fairly comfortable that no one would find me, if a little unnerved by the Jack Russell that obliviously bounded past me after killing a ferret. Once again the quietness of the night was interrupted with the sound of farmers dogs which would echo off the mountains. The sky was beautiful though as the stars shone clear in the mountain air. Sleep came quite easy and I awoke naturally at dawn with the moon above me in the pale blue sky. I was covered in morning due though, and if anyone looked my way in the morning light it would be obvious I was there, so I packed up my wet gear, left as quickly as I could and rode into Spain.

Its amazing how the landscape changed. The mountains that form a barrier between France and Spain aren't particularly big, but the differences between the climate and foliage on either side of the mountains is vast. The weather was hot, and the lush land of fields and trees that lived in the wet air was replaced by arid scrub land in the sand and dust. I rode past my first dust tornado that day.
Getting to Barcelona was painful. It would really serve me well if I bought a map, then I wouldn't get lost with only the position of the Sun to guide me if I'm going the right way or not. But I've made it thus far without one and probably won't invest in one if I'm honest.

Barcelona has been a wonderful place to stay in. I've been staying with my friend Maria, who I lived with in Romania. Its good to rekindle old friendships that I made on my previous travels, and to make new friends through them also. It seems that the further away from home I get, the more comfortable I feel.
 Looking back on that cold wet day when I turned away from the one I love and rode off alone was literally one of the hardest moments of my life. I'm surprised I managed to do it, and sometimes look back on that day and shudder.
 On the eve of the day that I said to say goodbye to everyone I love, I went to a local bar to have one last drink with my friends. A man was at the bar who I knew from the pub I used to do some shifts in, which we were always on quite friendly terms with each other. There was an edge in his voice that was different than usual went I went to go say hi, and in a short amount of time he tried to pick apart my journey. First hinting that I failed it with a bicycle (certainly a no go area) then that I was doing it on a tiny bike and that that wouldn't make it. I explained to him why it would to the point where he couldn't argue, so then he started spouting accusations of...

 'Well its you, you won't be able to do it.Your not man enough to do it. You haven't got it in you.'

Ever the diplomat, and not wanting to get into an argument with a social retard on the last night I had with my friends, I just said

'Well we'll see.'

'No we won't cos' you won't do it!'

Its a stupid thing to say, because either way if I finish the ride or not, we would see.This derelict, buffoon of a man, slumped over a bar on his own in his 50's fortunately only makes up a small percentage of people who hold such negative opinions of what I'm doing. Some people don't understand it, some people shake there heads in disbelief, mouths open, as if I'm completely insane. But most are encouraging and some really go out of their way to help me. I've only met one other person who's actively gone out of their way to pick holes on my plans - an over weight red faced man with a loud voice and thick ears who I used to work with who took great pleasure in the fact that I had to come home early from cycling around the world. No doubt that with both these men that there was jealousy behind their words, looking at some young guy who's got the gall to go out there and follow his dream. Its quite pathetic.
 It is quite encouraging though, that out of the hundreds of people that I have spoken to about my journey, that only two have reacted like this, whereas everyone else has offered encouragement or help where they can. I expect it to be like this the World over. I have met some truly wonderful people so far, both before I left home, and on the road.
 I feel comfortable in saying that the hardest part is over, and that is saying goodbye and leaving. Out of everyone I've spoken to, or read about, of people who have done similar things to this, this is the general consensus; that leaving is the hardest part of any journey. I feel assured in saying that losing loved ones is the worst kind of pain for a human being. The night before I left, I'd never felt anything like it. I felt ill from it, and the mental battle that was going through my head that night and the morning after is something I never want to have to experience again. I may get ill on this journey, malaria, dysentery (I've had one of those before) I will no doubt have to face fears, harbour loneliness and conquer despair. But things things are all relative, and they don't cut deep. As my French friend Brendan said, when I left home I ripped a wound inside me, after time it heals, but I will always carry the scar.
 The wheels are in motion now though. With each day the journey becomes better and better. I've met some truly wonderful people so far and I'm humbled by these experiences already. I feel inside it now and feel extremely privileged to be doing this. And I'm only at the very tip.

Monday, 30 September 2013


During my time in Barcelona I have been staying with an old friend Maria and her boyfriend Andrea. Andrea works for a company called 'EatWith' Its basically a hospitality organisation where people eat dinner with other guests, mostly locals, who they have never met, at a home with someone who they have also never met; yet, by the end of the night everyone is friends. Each night in Barcelona I have experienced this and its nothing short of a fantastic experience. The food has been amazing and I've met some truly wonderful people. 
During these days I have experienced some of the best food I have ever eaten also. Most notably, the food that was served on this table above. A five course meal that I feel I wouldn't be able to afford in a restaurant. The company was great too and I feel I've made some real friends. You can check out this guys cooking here If your ever in Barcelona and want to eat some serious food and meet some genuine people I would certainly recommend him.                                                                                   

                                                                                                                                                           But there is loads to choose from. Each night I have eaten with different hosts, and with the company and the food being different each night, this is one of the best things about the organisation. I feel I have being slightly spoiled with the fare that I've eaten during my stay here. Its a young company and they have just started out in England also. So if you like cooking for people and making new friends or fancy a night out eating with new people I would certainly recommend to give it a go  

 Wednesday, 2 October 2013


I left Barcelona yesterday after an amazing last night with my friends. Drank way too much though and had a cracking headache on the 180 km ride to Amposta. I'm staying here with my first couch surfing hosts, Oriol an his family. Very nice people. Tomorrow I hit the road for Portugal. I'm giving it the best part of a week. Got a few places to stay along the way but looks like I'll be spending the most part of it outside. Nice hot days here though.

Thursday, 3 October 2013


Had my first motorcycle accident of the journey so far today, literally one minute after leaving my hosts home in Amposta. I set off for La Vall D' Uxió in the rain, the first rain for a long time, and came to a junction in the road. I thought a van was going to pull out in front of me, which, combined with the wet road, the paint markings, and the oil on the tarmac that I noticed later, threw the bike sideways as I braked. The front wheel slipped to the right, the bike fell to the left and I was thrown of it, skidding along the road on my left side and back for around three metres. Its a good job I was only doing 25 mph at the time. I eventually stopped skidding with my face just in front of the vans wheels. I laid there for those brief few moments when you know you could be hurt, waiting for the pain to come. But it never came. A crowd gathered and helped me get little 90 of the road. All that was damaged was a slightly ripped pannier bag and a bent left foot pedal, which also left a gouge in the road. It took a lot of reassuring and smiling to convince the crowd that I was okay. I haven't got one scratch on me. I'm very lucky. Looks like I'm still young and bouncy. I rode with a lot more care today, seldom going over 30 mph. Aside from when I had to go on a highway at 50 mph and my screen finally snapped off and hit me in the face. Joy of joys. If anyone wants to donate any money to the charities I'm supporting whilst I almost kill myself around the world then feel free...

Sunday, 6 October 2013


Just getting ready for the two day ride to Ciudad Real. Been staying with Fabio and Veronica in La Vall d'Uixó, recovering from the accident over the past three days. We spent most of the day yesterday drinking beer and gin and tonics by their friends pool, and ate paella made with chicken, rabbit and snails. Quite unusual. Got genuinely chased by a raging bull down the towns streets last night also! Some Spanish traditions are quite bizarre.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013


Currently in Ciudad Real with my third couchsurfing host, Miguel. More days of drinking beer and swimming pools. Took me two days to get here from La Vall D'Uxio. Slept by the side of a dilapidated farm house on the way here. I should set off to Portugal tomorrow... although we are all going out for 'a lot of beers' tonight so we'll see. I should definitely be there for Friday/Saturday though.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013


I'm experiencing the first bureaucratic headache of the trip so far. Only recently the visa regulations for entering Senegal have changed. Before I didn't need a visa but now I do. It looks like I can apply on-line for the first part but I need to pick up the visa in person as, when its issued its biometric, which means they have to take my finger prints. But, only very few embassies are able to issue a biometric visa and most of these are in Northern Europe. The Senegalese embassy in the UK doesn't issue them yet. I thought I might be able to apply and collect mine in Rabat or Nouakchott, but those embassies only deal with people from Morocco or Mauritania.I may be able to confirm I have bought/been accepted for the visa and possibly pick up the visa on one of the land borders with Mauritania, but only one may be able to do this; Rosso. I've been advised against attempting to cross the land border of Rosso due the high level of corruption and hassle. A way round this would be to go through Mali instead, but I don't want to really have to do that at this time. Do they not want any tourist trade in this country!?
 Maybe I shouldn't be thinking about all this now due to the foreboding sense of doom that accompanies any great hangover. We got pulled up by five police cars at 3:30 this morning after pushing me round the streets of Ciudad Real in a babies pram. Free booze, just too much free booze. Sigh. 

Thursday, 10 October 2013


I'm one month into the journey today. Just over 2000 miles, and the people from the beginning have now started to form into a distant memory, and the journey itself is now becoming a linear path of experiences. I'm delayed for the time being though, I planned to be in Portugal tomorrow but I have to stay here in Ciudad Real. Miguel and his lovely family have kindly let me stay as I sort out my Senegal visa. I can actually pick up the biometric part of the visa in Madrid, which is quite lucky as I'm only a few hundred miles away. All the initial forms have been sent off and I'm now just waiting for the last conformation. I hope it works as I had to con the proof of arrival and departure flights and also my accommodation; I'm arriving by motorcycle and staying in peoples homes! I hope these print screen 'reservations' work.

Sunday, 13 October 2013


Today I got video interviewed by a friend about being a 'nomad', made Thai green curry for the family that have taken me in for the past week and also, kissed the 83 year old Grandmother smack on the lips on the kitchen whilst I was cooking. I don't know what happened, she just leant in. Apparently its the Spanish way... Copious amounts of wine have followed.

I've also changed the sites settings, so if anyone had any problems putting comments on here it should be fine now.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013


It looks like I'm destined to stay in Ciudad Real for a long time. I was only meant to be here for a day but it seems it will be twelve at the least. I applied for my Senegalese visa last Wednesday and received the initial email certificate stating that I paid etc. The embassy states that it will take 48 hours to receive the 2nd email, to which I can then go to Madrid and pick up the biometric part of the visa and then be on my way. Its now been five days and I haven't received the 2nd email yet. I got in touch with the Senegalese in Dakar yesterday and this was the reply,
 'Did Madame, don't wait for confirmation please go to consulate and get visa. Thank you.'

So with me being slightly unsure whether I could actually turn up at the embassy in Madrid without all the correct documents I've been trying to call them all day just to clarify. Yet, because of 'Eid' the Senegalese embassy in Madrid won't be open again until Friday. Miguel's Family here are happy for me to stay, to which I'm very thankful. Staying nearly two weeks in a small town out of my world wide trip feels like a long time. I'm itching to get going. 

 May as well carry on with the booze train then.

Friday, 18 October 2013


I finally have my Senegalese visa! Caught the bus to Madrid to pick it up today. Very informal at the Senegalese consulate after all the palava. The Senegalese lady at the desk, dressed in a huge bright orange gown with an expressive and very loud laugh just glanced over my incorrect paper work as African music billowed out of the speakers. Its made me very excited about Africa. I'm staying in Ciudad Real for one more night but I will be on the road again on Sunday. Wheels are moving forward!

Sunday, 20 October 2013


So they say a Honda C90 is bullet proof, even bomb proof! In my case no. I had my first breakdown today, just 30 km from Miguel's house. All was going fine, running smoothly and everything sounded normal but then it died. It just cut out and stopped dead. I wheeled it off the road (thankfully I was on a small one) and checked the spark plug. Everything was fine there. After a few minutes I managed to get it going again but the tick over was pretty shoddy. I thought that maybe just the float in the carburettor might be stuck, maybe and air bubble, but the sound the engine was making made me think otherwise. This high might abrasive squealing screech accompanied the rumble of the engine. I thought I might just correct itself so I hopped back on the bike and got about 1 km before it died again, accompanied with a more high pitched screeching.
There was nothing else to do but wheel the bike off the road and sit down and make some phone calls, and
luckily Miguel and his Mum came to the rescue. We managed to get 90 into a 'large car'. Actually just a large car. The faring, indicators, mirrors and the front wheel had to come off but we managed to get it in. The thing that worries me about the bike now though is that the kick-start is now lodged tight. It won't move and the electric start isn't budging anything. I think there's something wrong with the engine and this is beyond my skill to fix so I'll have to wheel it to a mechanic tomorrow.

I genuinely thought this machine would be okay. All this after 2000 miles. Fuck's sake.

Monday, 21 October 2013


Well this is embarrassing... I've managed to destroy my Honda engine. I think multiple factors meant that I rode with not enough oil in. To be honest I thought there was too much! But whatever those factors were the fact remains that I now have a bike with no engine and a Liam with a lot of shame and disbelievement. I think the worst things that could happen on this trip are...

1. I die.

2. I fall off and break my arms, legs and face and become a vegetable.

3. I get kidnapped and have all my money stolen.

4. My bike gets stolen.

5. I break the engine 2000 miles in due to an incorrect oil level.

So the only back up plan I can feasibly do is to buy a new engine. I can't afford/find a new bike and I can't afford the engine to be rebuilt at the garage ( 1000 euros )

On the plus side this new engine is a 125cc which will thankfully fit 90 perfectly - a  Lifan 125cc Big Valve 4 Speed Semi Auto Pit Bike Engine. I'm not totally happy (well I'm not that happy at the moment anyway!) with having to put a foreign engine in the bike, but its the only engine I can find. I've found accounts of them racking up 35000 miles which is okay, and maybe having to put a 125cc engine into my bike will be a blessing in disguise for Africa.

I'm trying to stay positive but its hard to believe this has actually happened.


Tuesday, 22 October 2013


So my little Honda c90 is in the bike hospital getting repaired. I've decided against putting a foreign engine in the bike, I really want to do it on a Honda. And financially, with having to buy a spare engine that would fit from England and then having to ship it over here, the costs wouldn't equate in my favour with compared to having it repaired.
 I've managed to find a good garage and they say that the maximum it will cost will be 500 euro/£450, or less, depending on the amount of work involved. They said that really, it should cost more but with what I'm trying to do they are going to charge me less than what it should cost and try to keep the expenses minimal. They're really good people.

So to dispel any myth about what happened to my bike, this is the story of how I managed to break it...

About 50 miles South of Barcelona the odometer was ticking down to the time when I needed to change the oil. This would be the 5th time I've changed the oil in total, its something that I've done before and it's always been fine. The thing that was different about this oil change however, was the oil itself. The Haynes manual, the book that's printed with the bike, recommends 20w50 oil - the oil that I've always changed it with and the oil that I took enough of with me from home for one change. I put in the last of the 20w50 oil in Northern France and since then I hadn't been able to find any. After scrupulous searches on the internet, sites such as The Honda C90 Club -
and maintenance sites such as this I discovered that 10w40 oil should be okay, an oil that's readily available. So this is the oil I put in, right up to the correct level on the dipstick - well, when it was screwed in anyway, not placed in. The first mistake.
 So with a Honda c90 your meant to change the oil every 1000 miles. When the engine died I was in the 600 mile range, well within the comfort zone of when I needed to change the oil. The second mistake. I became complacent. I hadn't taken into account that 20w50 oil is a lot thicker than 10w40 oil, and that combined with the 30c temperatures of coastal Spain and the amount of miles I put in within a few long days at high rev's, I churned up the oil and ground it down way before the time I was used to.
 On my way to Ciudad Real I thought it best to pull over, fill up and give the bike a good looking over. I tightened and lubricated the chain and 'checked' the oil. By this point I was 500 miles into the oil since the last change and really didn't give it cause for concern. I pulled out the dipstick and it was covered in oil. 'Pa, its fine.' The third mistake. With knowing that the oil shouldn't need changing I just glanced at the stick, saw it was covered, didn't bother wiping it and just put the stick back in. I made this same mistake again when I set off on the day that it broke down, assuming I was in the safety zone of an oil change and thinking that the stick was covered in oil.
If I was more vigilant, spent a few seconds checking properly, I would have saved myself £100's, a lot of shame and spared myself a lot of depression. But it happened, the oil became churned up in a shorter time than I was used to, I didn't check properly and the engine has seized. Its a massive disappointment that its happened but I can't change it now. There's no point in pissing and winging about it. I made a mistake, well several, and its cost me some money. £450 is a lot to have to fork out so soon on the trip, but if it has to be done to continue then its just a little blip in the grand scheme of things. This journey is priceless, and as my friend, Kelly Parish once said when regarding financial decisions, 'There's always more money to earn.'

The bike should be ready within a week and then I'll be on the road again. The old hands at the garage are adamant that when they've finished with it, it will get to South Africa. I hope so.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013


At least riding on a small bike has its benefits when things go tits up.

Thursday, 24 October 2013


The garage can't fix my bike. They say they will have to buy parts from Japan and have the shipped over which will cost £££££££££££!? and the parts won't be here until the middle of November at the earliest. I've looked into buying a new bike but because of the registration difficulties and the papers that I need to travel to different countries with it its starting to look like this isn't an option I can do. I've looked into getting a new engine for the bike but I can't find one that will exactly fit. This whole thing has turned into a living nightmare. I tried to do it on a bicycle and my knee gave in 2 weeks before I set off. Now I try to do it on a motorcycle and its broken beyond repair before I leave Europe. Maybe I'm not mean to do this. I'm 6 weeks in and I've been in the same place for 2 of them trying to get things sorted and now I can't seem to find a way out. I'm at a loss with what I can do. Any suggestions would be welcome as I'm starting to think I should just throw in the towel and and fuck this idea off completely.

Friday, 25 October 2013


Some options are on the table. I'm not going to get my hopes up again just yet though.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013


I have spares on the way. I'm not going to breath a sigh of relief though until I'm riding down a highway nearly getting sucked under trucks wheels with an uncountable amount of flies in my eyes... then I will be relived and happy.

Thursday, 31 October 2013


The spares have arrived in the form of a new, and older engine. The mechanic is going to take the best parts from both and put them together the best he can. I might have a ride-able bike by Tuesday. Here's hoping!

Thursday, 7 November 2013


I now have in my possession a fully working Honda C90. Tomorrow I will be on the road again for Morocco! I want to say thanks to the garage, Motos Jose Luis at 25 C/ Ronda de la Mata, for getting my bike back up to scratch. And I also have to give a sincere heart felt thank you to Miguel and his family in Ciudad Real. Miguel invited me to stay through couch surfing and I said I would stay for one or two nights... It turned out to be a month! Thank you very much guys xx

Saturday, 9 November 2013


I've made it to Algeciras. Its taken two days to get here from Ciudad Real. Slept in a farmers field in some mountain last night and woke up to the sound of gunshots... Would have been more exciting if I hadn't of woken up with a cold. This is the first time I've been ill in about two years!
 I'm going to stay here with Raffa and Beatriz and their two small children (who like writing my name on things and putting round the apartment. Adorable) until Monday and try to shift this cold a bit. I look a bit dense at the moment with not being able to breath through my nose.

 I can see the shining lights of Africa from the apartment balcony tonight. This is the first time I've ever seen the continent with my own eyes. A whole different World awaits.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013


I arrived in Morocco yesterday. I took the one and a half ferry from Algeciras to Tanger Med. All the horror stories about Moroccan customs aside, it was remarkably easy to get through... even though I don't have motor insurance. Nobody bothered to check. One man asked for a bribe after my paper work was filled out.

'Now, do you have something for me?'


'5 Euro.'


'2 Euro.'



'That's right.'

I'm staying in a mountain town called Chefchaouen for a few days. Its beautiful here. It took a lot longer to ride the 100 miles here than usual... very slow even for the 90. I didn't realise just how mountainous Morocco is. I ended up having to ride for an hour in the dark over mountain passes, dodging goats, donkeys and hoards of screaming children that would run after me. This place reminds me quite a lot of India, especially the Himalayas. Its also similar to being on another planet from Star Wars, certainly when you see the Berber people. George Lucas must have based Jedi's on the Berber people. Magical place.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Statistics; Europe.

Date started: 10/09/13

Date ended: 11/11/13

Countries travelled through: England, France, Andorra and Spain.

Total number of miles covered: 2582.

Total cost in fuel: £109.20

Vehicles travelled in: 5 Boats, 11 Cars, 1 Van, 3 bicycles, 5 Tube trains, 1 Bus... A babies pram. And my little 90!

Nights spent in tent: 3

Nights spent outside without a tent: 2

Nights spent on a boat: 1

Nights spent in peoples homes: 56

Nights spent in paid accommodation: 0

Highest temperature: 25c

Lowest temperature: 6c

Strangest food eaten: Fried pigs ear. Roasted Lamb tongue. Snail Paella. Lambs brain, eaten with a fork, directly from the skull cavity from a head that was severed in half between the eyes.

Favourite foods: Fresh mackerel and squid that me Stephane and Brendan caught from the sea in France. The BBQ we went to in Cameret... shame about the Neo Nazi's though. Seafood Paella at Miguel's families country house. Miguel's Mum's cooking... this was by far the best despite the oddities. Thank you very much! The free Tapa that comes with beer in Spain.

The best times: Sea fishing with Stephane and Brendan and drinking wheat beer in Northern France. Being chased by a Bull in La Vall D'Uxio. Meeting and making friends with all the brilliant people through Couch Surfing, especially Miguel and his family, one month! Thanks guys. Swimming in lakes and waterfalls in Spain. Riding over Andorra. The feeling of traversing countries on my own two wheels. Realising that this is very doable.

The worst times: The night before and the few hours before I left home. (that was the hardest thing I have ever done.) Losing Aminata's friends dog in Nantes. Breaking my bike!! Realising that I've left my girlfriend at home, every hour of every day.

Scariest times: Seeing torches come towards me at 02:00 when I was camping alone in a forest in France. Falling off the bike in the rain on the road. A man nearly ploughing into my leg on a roundabout (I could hear his passenger lady screaming from inside the car.) Waking up to the sound of gunshots on a mountain in Spain.

Best beer: The wheat beer of Northern France.

Worst beer: The very cheap, supermarket own brand beer in Spain. But at 1 Euro a litre you can't complain.

What I wished I brought from home the most: Girlfriend.

Things I miss the most from home: Girlfriend, family and friends. English pale Ale... not much else!

Illness's: Nothing apart from a cold and minor bowl issues.

What I'm looking forward to the most at present: Crossing the Sahara.

What I fear the most: Quite a lot of things about Sub Saharan Africa.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013


You need strong nerves and good breaks to ride a motorcycle into Morocco`s capital, Rabat. Staying here in a dank dive whilst I sort out my Mauritanian visa. Chaos in the streets!

Thursday, 14 November 2013


I have my Mauritanian visa. Was very easy to get here. It`s nice to know that I don`t need to get anymore visas until I reach Senegal.This is also day four of drinking the local water and eating street food without a murmur. Looks like those years of being deliberately unhygienic when it comes to food has paid off!  In other happy news, my girlfriend is coming to meet me in Marrakech for one week in a weeks time! No doubt we will be living in (cheap) hotels, so in the meantime I'm going to go live in the Atlas mountains in my tent for a week. I doubt I will have access to internet there. Pa pa!

Thursday, 21 November 2013


I arrived in Marrakech last night after spending five nights in the high Atlas mountains in my tent. I'm glad I endured two winters living on a boat before I left home. Mighty cold up there!

Thursday, 21 November 2013


I've just managed to upload all the photo's from Spain. Fourth time lucky with this internet connection.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

From Barcelona, through Spain and onto the shores of Africa.

The ride into Barcelona was hideous. I'd promised myself to try and avoid the big cities where possible due to the complete hell it is to drive into them. It's no secret that my bike is tiny, and thus, isn't really allowed on the motorways or big highways. Yet, however hard I try to avoid these roads, I always end up being taken onto them. Entering the big cities in France, Nantes and Bordeaux for instance, was enough to make me swear to avoid them. Having a huge truck driving up behind you about a metre away from your rear wheel trying to force you off the road is quite a frightening experience - thoughts come into my head about what would happen if my engine cut out. A mangled death. Or if they overtake me I have to steady the steering as the force of the wind round the massive tyres suck me into them and then the velocity of the truck blows me back out again, nearly sending me into the road barrier. And then again and again. And again.
 Usually there is little choice but continue on these roads in fear until you enter the city. There probably are smaller roads leading into them, but again, no map. I just follow the directions that Google maps tells me to 
go which avoid the highways, though they seldom do. I feel comfortable in blaming it on bad road signs. Barcelona was different though. I literally couldn't find a way that wasn't leading me onto a highway. For an hour I was screaming the bollocks off the engine just hoping for the end of the road. I didn't take into account just how massive the outskirts of the city were. And I was entering in rush hour too. I had absolutely no idea which way to go once I was in Barcelona, so I just headed for the centre. By the time I got into the city it was dark, my brain and body was shattered and I was shaking with adrenaline. When I could, I just rode my bike onto the pavement, turned the engine off and sat down. I wouldn't have done this to myself again if I wasn't visiting an old friend.

I used to live with Mariá in Romania, in a beautiful, massive and very cheap top floor apartment in an old communist block building. Which also came with a schizophrenic landlord that liked to point a loaded gun at my face. I hadn't seen her for years and was looking forward to spending some time with her.
 I eventually managed to find the place she was working at that night, by pushing my bike along the pavement in the busy night time streets to peoples iphone directions. Once I found her place I put my bike on its stand and tried to collect myself. I'd done 13 hours that day and was quite ruined. People were quick to perk up my spirits though. The sight of my loaded up bike was quite an attraction, and all sorts of people came over to ask questions, take photos and give encouragement and advice. One guy in particular was really interested in what I was doing. He said he'd done something similar around Europe with a Vespa. I shook his hand and gave him my card with my website on. Five minutes later he came back and put 5 Euros in my hand and walked off. 

After a few good days of swimming in the sea, eating very well and drinking, my tiredness had subsided. I didn't expect to meet so many new friends and eat so well in my time in Barcelona, but due to Mariá's boyfriend, Andreas, I happened to indulge in a big way. Andreas worked for a new company called EatWith, that organised hospitality cooking events. Through the website people organise dinner parties, either hosting a dinner or you go round to other peoples homes and eat there. Most people are strangers but you end the evening with new friends. It really is a great way to meet new people and eat some very good food. Every night, apart from the one when we hosted, we ate out at other people homes, mostly on roof terraces overlooking the city.
The friends you make with EatWith.

 One of the best nights I had was on the Saturday, eating on a beautiful top floor terrace with ten other guests, eating a five course meal of quality food that I really couldn't afford in a restaurant. Andreas made me do a little speech about my ride and the reception was beyond my expectations. Some of the positive words people said were beyond my imagination and, when finding out that my tent had broken and that I'd spent the last days camping just sleeping outside, two lovely people, Jesper and Orieta, decided to give me theirs.

Jesper and Orieta on the left and Andreas and Mariá to my right.

Jesper and Orieta really are fantastic people. I went round to their apartment the next day to pick up the tent, being rode through the city by sitting on Andreas's crossbar on his bicycle, and ended up staying for dinner. Literally the best taco's I've ever eaten. And vegan too! We spent the night drinking wine, talking about music and art and their future plans of moving to Peru and setting up an art/music café. See you guys in Peru! 

The beautiful view from Jesper and Oreta's place. 

I left Barcelona a few days later and after a manic few hours trying to find my way out of the city I succeeded and took the coastal road South. I had been told just how beautiful the coastal road was, and it really is, riding with the Mediterranean sea on my left and mountains and forests on my right whilst going round hairpin bends on small deserted roads. It was on this road that I did the faithful oil change.

The last oil change before the breakdown.

I was only due to ride around 90 miles that day as I had a place to stay with my first couchsurfing host, Oriol in Amposta. I was surprised that I even managed to find his front door on my own accord... this was a first! Amposta is a small place. 

Oriol and his Mum.

Oriol lived in an apartment and his Mum lived next door so they both shared a floor together. His sister lived upstairs too. It was a nice place, very cosy and family orientated. I stayed in the guest room in his Mum's place for two days. With it being my first couch surfing experience I was very humbled and appreciative of the welcome and hospitality I received, but apparently its very normal for them, they have people to stay all the time. I love couchsurfing.
 Even though Amposta is a small place it boasts a national park which is situated in a little outcrop of land spreading out into the Mediterranean sea. I took 90 there free of baggage and rode on some dirt roads which will be very good preparation for some in Africa, including riding on sand for the first time.

 Two days later I left Amposta to make my way further down the Eastern coast. The morning was full of rain, the first on the journey since I'd left Northern France. I was in high hopes that I'd leave the rain behind once I got on the road and headed South towards La Vall D' Uxió . Yet about one minute after I said goodbye to Oriol's Mum, I had my first accident on the road. Just around the corner I came to a junction and thought a van was going to pull out in front of me, which, combined with the wet road, the paint markings, and the oil on the tarmac that I noticed later, threw the bike sideways as I braked. The front wheel slipped to the right, the bike fell to the left and I was thrown of it, skidding along the road on my left side and back for around three metres. Its a good job I was only doing 25 mph at the time. I eventually stopped skidding with my face just in front of the vans wheels. I laid there for those brief few moments when you know you could be hurt, waiting for the pain to come. But it never came. A crowd gathered and helped me get little 90 of the road. All that was damaged was a slightly ripped pannier bag and a bent left foot pedal, which also left a gouge in the road. It took a lot of reassuring and smiling to convince the crowd that I was okay. I didn't get one scratch on me. I was very lucky. All I remember from the moment the bike fell was the sound, the sudden crashing sound of the bike hitting the road. This came before all realisations of what had happened. Its quite daunting how quick a serious accident could be. As the Columbian guy in Bordeaux pointed out, it is the bike that is the most dangerous thing on this trip. People are quick to point out quite fantastical predictions about how I'm going to meet my doom, kidnapping, murder and bum rape... but really the most dangerous thing is riding the motorcycle itself. This minor scuffle was a major warning injection.

Later that day, whilst still being shaken up from the crash, my super glue repaired screen finally gave in when I was going 40 mph down a highway, snapping off and hitting me in the face...

I reached La Vall later in the evening and sat by a fountain in the main square, reading as I waiting for my second couch surfing hosts, Veronica and Fabio to finish work. The benches around the fountain were full of old people, all congregating for there evening chat. Some would slap each other whilst halfway through sentences, some would abruptly break out into opera in the middle of a conversation and the resume talking as if nothing had happened. These were happy people.

I was only meant to stay with Fabio and Veronica for one night but I ended up staying for three. I really connected with these people and it was a joy to discover just how much of a good thing couchsurfing can be. We spent evenings drinking in local bars and eating tapas, and socialising with there friends. I got persuaded to stay one more day by everyone as one of their friends who lived in a house in the surrounding hills was having a paella, pool and beer party. It became evident that day that I really was drinking a lot on my way through Europe. After a lot of beer and gin and tonic, and only the Englishman braving the October water in the pool, it was time for the Paella. Its was interesting, not like the Paella I'm used to back home. This one was made from chicken, rabbit and snails. This wasn't the first time I'd eaten snails before, but it was the first time they had tasted like a garden. I might think more kindly towards them if I didn't shit myself for a week afterwards. My innards are telling me it was the snails. They know.

 Later that evening I got my first taste of the eccentric Spanish tradition; the running of the bull. I find bull fighting a disgusting sport, and I feel uneasy about sending an enraged bull out into the streets for peoples enjoyment. Though, whether I was there or not, it wouldn't have made a difference. La Vall D' Uxio is a small town, and it still keeps this tradition on a Saturday night. As we walked to the area where the bull is released you could feel the excitement in the air. The residents in the area put up metal shields against there doors and windows and you could see the age in them, etched with marks from bull horns from years past. On the outskirts of the area were metal bars blocking the small streets. They were made so people could enter if they wished and escape if they had to. Successions of cannon fire had been echoing around the streets for most of the evening. These indicated that the bull was soon to be released. As nine approached, people were on edge, waiting for the final signal. I was inside the area, through the bars with Fabio whilst Veronica peered through on the safe side. The people were manic, you could feel the energy and anticipation bouncing off the walls. BOOM BOOM, the cannon went off and people ran around in a frenzy... The bull was running through the streets.  

 It was hard to tell where the bull was. People were anticipating its movements... then you hear the bells. Bells are attached to the bulls neck to warn people its there prior to seeing it. The same reason for this also justifies putting kerosene blocks onto the bulls horns. I find that uncomfortable. If I was a bull in captivity, I don't think I would mind the opportunity to be able to chase people around streets. Having fire attached to my horns though... no living thing would want that. I had been assured that the horns would not actually feel the heat though. 
 So as the rumbling of peoples feet on the pavement accompanied the growing jingle of the bells, the streets began to light up, casting shadows of people running around like a flock of dispersed sheep. The bells got louder, the fire became visible and then the bull charged. People parted and the bull ran forward. Fabio grabbed me and pushed me through the bars as the bull ran passed and charged through the little alleyways.
 I'm not going to deny, it was exciting, and I wanted to see more. People ran down the streets, following the direction where the bull ran. I wanted to follow but Fabio persuaded me that we were in a good place and it really isn't safe to go chasing the bull. We lingered in the area for a while, listening out for the bells. The jingle came again, and the streets lit up with the colours of flame. People started running towards us but I wanted to stay, I wanted to be in the middle of it. Fabio's mind was fully set on the side of caution though, which was probably a good thing. The people ran closer and I didn't move, so Fabio started shouting, 'Liam. Liam! come!' We both managed to get behind the bars just in time before the bull charged through a group of people. 

I'm glad I experienced this bizarre Spanish tradition. I still find it quite challenging to accept on the bulls behalf however. At least with this one the bull isn't deliberately hurt though.

  Veronica and Fabio.

It took me two days to reach Ciudad Real after leaving La Vall. I spent the night in transit camping next to a dilapidated old mud and red brick farmhouse perched on a hill in the countryside. This was the first night in the new tent... its better than my old one. The main plus is that its free standing, meaning that I don't need to peg it into the ground for it to be standing erect. I would have found it hard to drive the pegs into the ground that night, and I imagine some of the ground in Africa will be harder still. Is the size of a palace too and doesn't let light out too easy through the dark blue material.

The roads the next day were some of the most pleasurable that I've ridden on in the journey so far. I successfully managed to not get lost all day, cutting my way through central Spain on tiny roads which I had mostly to myself. I cruised at 40 mph for hours in the heat, took long breaks under trees and covered 230 miles in seven hours. Once I reached Ciudad Real I managed to find Miguel's front door with the help of a lovely lady in a cafe; she drew me a map on a napkin! I pushed my bike along the pavement, following the napkin and found Miguel's house. As I was sat on his front door step waiting for him to come home from university I was planning my route to Portugal and contemplating whether I would reach Morocco within a fortnight. I decided I should only stay in Ciudad Real for one or maybe two nights. I never imagined that I would stay there for a month.

The first delay was a giant hangover after drinking in bars all night with Miguel and his friends, accompanied by shots that no one seemed to pay for. This was only a minor delay of a day, but during hungover rambling on the internet I had discovered that Senegal had recently changed its visa regulations. British citizens never needed one before, but now most nationalities do. I thought it would be fine to pick one up in Rabat, but annoyingly they only issue visas for Moroccan citizens. Same with Mauritania. You also need to show proof of flights and hotel reservations. Not great for the overland traveller. Another annoying thing about the visa was that it was biometric, which means they have to take copies of your finger prints. Most Senegalese embassies in the capitals of Europe hadn't got round to installing the technology for taking your finger prints by this time either. Organised much? Luckily the embassy in Madrid was up to date, but due to Ramadan I had to wait until the following week. Miguel and his family were very kind to let me stay whilst I was trying to get this all sorted. When the time came I got the bus to Madrid, (fear of impending doom on the motorways) took the tube to the embassy whilst Peruvian men played lived pipe music on it, handed my incorrect documents to the bubbly lady behind the desk and got my visa within 20 minutes.

That was on the second Friday that I was staying at Miguel's. By the Sunday I was ready to leave. I was sad to say goodbye to the family. It was similar to leaving home again, but I new that I needed to leave. I said my goodbyes and was on my way... 5 hours later I was back again with a broken bike.


 If you want to know the details, please trawl through the updates to see what went on with that, but the fact of the matter was... I broke my bike, spent a lot of time and money getting fixed and learnt quite a bit about engines and regret in the process. Breaking my bike was a devastating blow. I’d spent months trying to find a bike with little mileage and in good condition, and now I’d managed to break it, just 2000 miles into the journey. Moods went up and down with the news of how much my bike had been damaged. Eventually, after much consideration and debate with what I was going to do, I bought an old C90 engine from Scotland had had it shipped over. Much of my original engine was okay and was in better condition than the new one so we just replaced the damaged parts.

The guys at the garage and their magic hands.

 I wheeled my bike to and fro the garage four times throughout the stages of it being fixed. Each time I would walk past a disused building (something you see quite regular in Spain) and there was an old man that would work inside. He was 84, and would spend his days inside that building making psychedelic, kitsch houses and small streets out of found objects, lollipops etc. These houses that he makes would give the artist, Jeff Koons something to think about. Even though I was downhearted each time as I wheeled my bike to the garage, it was a pleasure to see someone who was so late in the years to fully comprehend the touch of death to live a life so colourful and visually prolific.

After one month at the Rodreguez household I was ready to leave again. It was a pleasure staying with them for a month. I arrived as a stranger and I left with what felt like a new family. A lot happened in that month, too much to write down for the blog. I made a circle of friends there which made Ciudad Real feel like a home from home again. It was hard to leave, and I found being by myself on the road again hard. Thank you, Miguel for giving me your bedroom for one month! And a massive thank you to the whole family for the warm welcome, generous hospitality, amazing and interesting food... and all that red wine also! 

These guys are great. I kissed the old lady too... cultural confusion.

Within two days I reached my last stop on the European continent, Algecrias.  I had being invited to stay with a family, Raffa and Beatriz and their two small children. I arrived in the night and when I entered their apartment I could see Africa for the first time from the balcony. This was the first time I had seen the continent with my own eyes. A whole new world lay before me with those shining night lights of Morocco reflecting over the small strip of water that separates the two worlds. I was excited and nervous.

Those mountains in the distance belong to Morocco.

 Europe had been very kind to me and I was sad to leave it in a way. I couldn't have lived so comfortably and so well in my time travelling through Europe if it wasn't for the kindness of all the people I met, new friends and old. A sincere heartfelt ‘thank you’ goes out to all the people who have helped me over the past two months travelling through my home continent. For the most part it was better than I imagined.

Africa awaits. This is the end of the beginning. I think the real adventure is about to start….

Thursday, 21 November 2013


A photo film from the last two months on the road.

Thursday, 28 November 2013


After one week in Marrakech my beautiful and very understanding girlfriend is leaving for England tonight, so I will be on the road again in the morning. Its been a happy week in this crazy place, aside from my body deciding to give me eight mouth ulcers and granting me to be struck down with tonsillitis. I've had a cold for two weeks also. I'm on the edge of the bastard desert?!  But enough woe, I'll be happy to leave the chaos of the city behind and get moving again. South, South, South into the Sahara...

Thursday, 28 November 2013


If anyone of my old friends from St James' Hospital in Leeds wants to bump up the link to this site on their talkback forum then your more than welcome. Lets not forget that I'm doing this ride for Cancer Research and Water aid. The more visitors the better!

Sunday, 1 December 2013


I'm making my way to Dakhla. I'm around 150 km short of Tan tan and it should take me around a week to reach Dakhla. I'm hoping to find a travel buddy there. Its where a lot of overlanders congregate before they cross into Mauritania. I found levels of loneliness that I didn't know existed after Caroline left Marrakech. I hope there's some slow wheeled travellers trying to get across the desert too!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013


I officially crossed in the Western Sahara yesterday. Fuel is a lot cheaper here. Lots of military around and checkpoints. Usually manage a good amount of banter when I point out the amount of desert that's got behind my sunglasses. This desert feels endless and I've barely touched it.
Since my last post I've been invited into a nomads home for tea and stew, had breakfast with a lovely German couple in their camper van and spent last night laughing in some tent/wigwam/thing with three English. Still found no other two wheeled travellers yet though. I'll reach Dakhla by Friday.

Saturday, 7 December 2013


I've made it to Dakhla. Its taken eight days to get here from Marrakech, wild camping each night bar one, when a £2.80 campsite with a shower and good company was much in need. I'm going to take a few rest days here for a while. The weather has been pretty brutal on the ride down. Strong winds carrying sand into every crevasse of my belongings. I got washed out by a rainstorm too... in the Sahara!? As soon as the English guy turns up it rains. I'm drying my tent on the hotel roof.

Sunday, 8 December 2013


Its true what they say; Marrakech is for tourists but Dakhla is for travellers. I like this place, its practical and productive with no hassles and friendly people. I've given the bike a good service, stocked up on supplies and knowledge on the road ahead, and also have had a much needed rest. Back on the road again tomorrow. I'm thinking I might cross into Mauritania on my birthday. The first birthday on the road! 12th December. Maybe I won't get bribed on  mon anniversaire.

Thursday, 12 December 2013


I crossed over into Mauritania yesterday. I'm glad I did it yesterday and not today. It took three and a half hours to get over the border and then my bike refused to start. I literally got pushed into Mauritania by eight people. That's one spark plug down! First impressions of Mauritania; very poor, very dirty, very bad driving, very high ratio of goats to people on the streets, and very friendly people.
 Today is my birthday, the first one I've had away from my family. I've been thinking about all my loved ones whilst I've been fixing a flat tyre that went down today. This is my first dry birthday I've had since I was 17 too. When in the Islamic republic....

Friday, 13 December 2013


I should leave Nouadhibou tomorrow and make my way to Mauritanias capital, Nouakchott for Monday all been well. I'm trying not to worry myself about all the horror stories about bandits and terrorists on the road ahead that a lot of people have warned me about. I don't feel that anything bad is going to happen!
 Last night turned into a good birthday... when I left the cafe I thought I was just going to go back to the campsite, have a shower and go to bed. Two Dutch guys turned up however, and when they found out it was my birthday they produced a barrel of wine. Red wine too! Met two French travellers also and were planning to team up to cross the border into Senegal together. Its been a good few days. Nice people.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

I have a confession...

I have a confession... two days ago whilst I was having dinner with Henk and Peter, the two Dutch guys who saved my birthday with a barrel of wine (they also bought me the dinner), Peter offered me a lift to Nouakchott. He's been towing a caravan and said that he wouldn't mind if we put little 90 in it. I felt it was a good idea instantly and said yes. It wasn't the supposed 'danger' of the road that made up my mind, rather the escape from solitude, as riding alone in the desert has made up most of my days for the past two weeks. Why ride alone for three days when I could experience the pleasure of been driven, looking out of the window and spending time with good people and friends?
 The decision to take the lift has been proved to be the right one further more as when we got to the Augerge last night I saw two Vespas parked up next to a huge KTM 650. The Vespas belong to two Greek guys who are aiming to get around the world on them. Whilst I was explaining that I have a Honda C90 in the caravan that we'd just rolled up in the owner of the KTM, Estanban, says 'are you Liam?' We'd been in
touch on some internet forums in the past. Apparently I look younger in real life. The internet can make the World a small place. The World is far from small though.
 I'm very happy to say also that Stergios and Thanos have invited me to travel with them through Africa for the foreseeable future. There were some terms and conditions... 'you do know that we travel very slow though?' and 'we also leave very cheaply.' Perfect!

I'm staying at Auberge du Sahara in a tent on the roof with a mosquito net. This place has a kitchen to be used by everyone, many showers, has wifi, is full of overlanders and works out at about £4.50 a night! Were going to stay here for a few days whilst we sort out the visas and paperwork for the next coming countries. The route through West Africa has changed slightly due to security concerns but I'll go over that in my next journal which should be finished soon. Happy days!

Sunday, 15 December 2013


I've just uploaded photo's from Morocco and the Western Sahara. Check out the photo gallery.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013


The travellers work is never done. Here we have visa's, vehicle documents, driving licence, passavant, multi country insurance, international driving licences, international vaccination certificate, travel permits, fiche slips. Photocopies of all! The open borders of Europe are a wonderful thing.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Northwest Africa. Morocco, through the Western Sahara and into Nouakchott, Mauritania.

I boarded the ferry with trepidation. I was nervous, but each time I saw the mountains of Morocco coming steadily closer the excitement started to grow. This was actually it, a dream of twenty years to visit the continent and I was nearly there.

I crossed through the border with no real issues. This was the first real border crossing with my own vehicle, a vehicle which isn't insured either. You are meant to buy insurance, at around £70 for a month. I decided to give it a miss and no one checked. This proved to be the best decision as no police man ever asked for it in my entire time in Morocco. The wonders of travelling on a moped!

I was heading for Chefchaouen, a town in the Riff mountains that’s renowned for its beauty; small mazes of little streets with all the walls painted blue. It took longer to reach than I expected due to the roads through the mountains. I had to ride for hours in second gear and darkness hit. The twilight looked amazing, dodging goats, donkeys and hoards of children that would run after me screaming.

Chefchaouen was interesting to see. It was very touristy however. The thing that I dislike about touristy places is that the genuine character of the people is taken away from them, and you are mostly seen primarily 
as a way for money to be made. Its understandable why Chefchaouen has got this way; the place is beautiful, but I didn't want to stay there long.

The typical streets of Chefchaouen.

 One morning, whilst I was treating myself to an omelette and coffee in a little cafe, a man came up to me and started to ask for money. Now before I started this whole thing, I agreed to myself not to give money to anyone; unless its an exceptional circumstance. This wasn't. I said no, and he asked again. I kept on saying no...

'But, but you're a tourist!'

'I know, but I'm away from home for a long time and I can't give money to everyone that asks...'

Then he got angry.

'Bah! you people, you're all the same. You're like Nazis! The French, the Americans, the English... you have too much money! All you do is bomb, bomb, bomb! Then you come here and drink and fuck and lie down...'

I didn't say anything.

'Come on just 5 Dirhams.'

After that tirade, really!?

I left the next day, and after learning that my girlfriend was coming to visit me in Marrakech in nine days time I decided it best to go and sort out my Mauritanian visa in the capital, Rabat, and then go and find a more genuine side of Morocco in the Atlas mountains.

The mountains are sparsely populated, with little villages with houses made from stone, collected wood and usually with a corrugated iron roof. I rode past a fat man in a Berber robe with a pointy hood sat in a wooden cart being pulled by an old donkey, giving a vacant six toothed yawn. The roads were mainly paved but it wasn't uncommon to come across parts of the road that had been washed away by a river, or areas where the tarmac had completely gone and all that remained was dirt or corrugated sand.

The first night I camped in the mountains was the most beautiful camp site to date. It was by a small mountain stream that was trickling slowly through the hills. My tent was pitched on a flat outcrop just above the stream and all around me were thick bushes hiding my clearing from the quiet road where the animal tracks that I'd followed led to. There was no sound of cars, and as the night began to set a full moon rose in the sky which covered the air in rich layers of silver hues in the night. I spent a good hour just sat outside, watching the stars in the mountain sky.

 When I went to bed and was just drifting off to sleep I heard an animal giving a long howl from somewhere in the pine tree covered hills around me. That sound pierced my heart and chilled me to the core. I'm not sure if it was a dog, a mountain coyote, or the newly discovered African wolf, but I felt privileged if not somewhat disturbed to hear it.

I found the genuine side of Morocco in the mountains. I would have to fill up my water bottles everyday, and more often than not, when I entered a small cafe to ask for water the would offer me coffee also and wouldn't accept any money for it. Its better meeting people who are happy to meet you as a person and not happy to meet you as a walking wallet.

Since I had some days to spare before I would meet Caroline in Marrakech, I decided to stock up on some previsions and find a camping spot to stay still in for a few days. I found one perched on the top of a hill in the mountains, with a beautiful view of the high Atlas mountains in front of me.

The photo doesn't do those mountains in the distance justice.

The weather was quite extreme with the altitude. When the sun was out it was hard to stay under it, yet when it went behind a cloud you could see your breath in the air. No wind though which was good! I stayed here for a few days just enjoying the quiet. The only people I saw were people carrying huge bundles of wood, sometimes aided by donkeys. They would giddily wave back at me when they saw me.

One morning at around six o'clock I was woken up by a dog barking outside my tent. Barking dogs have been my bane for most nights in my tent, there's always something barking in the distance. After laying there for half an hour just listening to its moronic, monotonous barking  I became enraged, stormed out of my iced over tent and chased the fucker down the mountain in my pajamas, hurling rocks and abuse.

It was like a dream seeing Caroline again. A week was not long enough. It was time enough to feel like it would never end at the beginning, but the end came too quickly. We would spend the days exploring the Souks, dodging mopeds, drinking mint tea and eating good food, whilst also been amused by the many offers of cannabis, usually with wispars of 'you want hash?' as we walked past. Or in some cases are more drawn out 'you want some drugs?' If I still smoked weed and took up every offer, you'll all be sat reading a blog of a man who isn't really going anywhere for a long time. It wasn't always offers of drugs though. One man offered me an elephant for Caroline!  It was comforting to know though, that after a few minutes it was like we had never been apart. Maybe in nine months we will be together again; she's planning on joining me in South America and then we will ride up to Canada together. Here's hoping!

I love this girl.

It was hard when she left, very hard. Going back to that hotel room alone were we had nested for a week was depressing. I drank the remaining bottle of wine, took some painkillers and a sleeping tablet, chain smoked then went to bed. I woke up in the morning, cried, packed and left.

When I rode that day and camped on the edge of the Sahara, in the seemingly endless plains of what is called the 'Hammada' I decided that I needed to find a travel partner. Despite the numerous handshakes and pats on the back from the passing goat herders, I'd never felt more lonely in my entire life.

The beginning of the Hammada.

The next day after riding in a straight line at 35 mph through the Hammada for three and a half hours I pulled over to the side of the road for one of my frequent stretches and a man started waving from a distance. He was maybe a kilometre away but I waited for him to come over. He was a goat herder, wearing simple clothes and a black turban. He asked if I had run out of petrol and I said I was just having a stretch. (we couldn't speak each others language but its amazing how far you can get with body gesture.) He then invited me back to his home for some food and tea. Why not? He lived in a makeshift house that was about two miles out into the sand and he pointed to a track that I could ride on to it, whilst he ran from the road over the sand to his house. It was very basic living, a wooden bed with a few sheets, bare walls, empty space and a rug. Around his house were animal lodgings and he showed off his two new born baby goats, these made him very happy. He then made a mint and very sugary tea from a little kettle on a fire he made from wood outside which he started from scratch in about twenty seconds. He then gave me a huge plate full of stew and I had to show that I was too full so he didn't offer me more. I didn't want to eat all his food. We sat and talked for a bit and then he said he had to get back to his goats, gave me a hug, a kiss on each cheek (the custom between friends) and then ran off to his goats. I've never experienced such hospitality from a complete stranger before. I was very humbled. 

The Sahara desert is vast. This may sound like an obvious statement, yet I've worked out that I've seen less than 0.1 % of it and I've been travelling through it for over two weeks now. The days are straight lined and monotonous. The one thing that's been keeping me in focus however is the weather, its really not been on my side! Sand is quite a difficult thing on its own when you are living outside; it gets everywhere. But coupled with the wind it becomes a bit of a nightmare. The locals call the wind 'Sirocco' and it was usually blowing either from the South or the East, meaning in my face or blowing me me to the side of the road. The sunglasses that Caroline gave me didn't stop the sand from blowing into my eyes either, which became a point of amusement at the many checkpoints.
Some of the views are awe inspiring, seeing huge sand dunes in the distance, camels roaming by, but in all I found travelling the 1700 km from Marrakech to Nouadhibou pretty difficult. It was the solitude mainly, coupled with the weather. I did have a lot of fun, saw some amazing things and met some very nice people, but its certainly been the most difficult stretch of the ride so far.

The lovely German couple who invited me round for breakfast.

The English I met with the wigwam in Western Sahara.

One of the many beautiful desert sunsets.

Riding the bike off road in the sand was never an issue if I got my legs out.

Looks like there's reason for all the triangle camel warning signs. This guy wouldn't move for anything!

It was quite exciting when I officially crossed into the Western Sahara. I'm not sure if 'officially' is the right term to use as this part of the World is a disputed territory. Its plainly obvious that Morocco is winning in occupying the region. Moroccan Dirham is the currency, and a vast number of Moroccan military and police, as well as a substantial NATO presence can be seen . Unfortunately, one of the pitfalls of this territorial argument is that this area is now one of the most heavily mined places on Earth. A fact that I didn't take lightly lightly when I had to look for a camping place. One of the many wonders about the desert, along with the mirages and whistling wind, is that the dunes shift. Of course, this means that the mines go with them... 

The night before I reached Dakhla I camped on a cliff edge looking out into the Atlantic Ocean. When darkness descended I spent hours looking out at a lightening storm far out into the sea, amid a few dotted light of distant boats. As I got into bed to settle down the storm came over. The lightening got brighter, the thunder louder and the wind picked up almost instantly. Rain batted against the tent and I had to sit up and brace the poles for fear of them breaking under the strain. I didn't sleep well that night, and when I did wake after the brief few hours I found that the wind had pushed the rain through the tent lining, soaking my sleeping bag. The storm hadn't gone away entirely by the morning and I had to pack up in the rain. I had no choice as my water was running low. It is a difficult thing alone to pack a tent away by yourself in the wind, but coupled with the rain made it bitter, and even more so was the fact that the rain had turned the ground into a clay like paste which stuck to everything. By the time I'd finished me and my belongings were covered with mud. I didn't expect this in the Sahara.   

I rested in Dakhla for a few days and gathered provisions before I made the final push into Mauritania. The last 100km of the Western Sahara was beautiful. Huge outcrops of weathered rock stuck out fro the sand as masses of white dunes dominated the background. I completely forgot that I had read that that road was notorious for banditry and a recent Al Qaeda kidnapping until I got to the camp ground Nouadhibou that night.

The crossing into Mauritania was quite straight forward... aside from the 4km of unpaved no man's land, which was in a terrible state and dotted with African refugees that got denied entry to Morocco and can't get back into Mauritania. It took three and a half hours to complete all the entry procedures in the heat. I don't think my breathable waterproof trousers were designed for the desert! 
 When everything was sorted I tried to start my bike and get on my way. My bike wouldn't have it though. I knew that the spark plug was on its last legs, but talk about giving in at the wrong moment. It took around two minutes before a crowd had gathered offering help, for payment of course. 'I am the best mechanic in Mauritania!' I had two other spark plugs, one brand new and the other with around 2000 miles on it. The brand new one was unfortunately right at the bottom of one of my panniers, I didn't know which one and didn't fancy emptying all my things out onto the floor in front of everyone either. Obviously the used one didn't want to work, and after much banter between me and a quite particularly mad man and his 'helping' which provoked much laughter from everyone, I ended up getting pushed into Mauritania by eight people. Talk about making a grand entrance!

I found an Auberge in Nouadhibou and seeing as it was my birthday in a few days time I decided on staying for a while, resting and hoping to find some other overlanders to go South with. My Birthday came, but no body else to travel with arrived. My back tyre though, decided it was the right time to deflate. Understandable as it had only been stood there doing nothing for two days...

My 28th Birthday.

I had my birthday meal in a cafe with wifi, Skyped Caroline for two hours and went back to the camp site thinking that I would shower and go to bed on my first dry birthday since I was seventeen. In the Islamic republic of Mauritania I could go to the one bar in town. But at 10 Euro's a drink, no thanks. When I got back though, Henk and Peter had turned up. Two travelled Dutch guys who when they found out it was my birthday brought out a barrel of wine. Another two French guys then drove into the camp site in a massive truck which they're planning to drive to Mozambique. I ended up drinking wine and talking until the early hours. I think this was the first surprise birthday party I've ever had.

The next day whilst I was having diner with Peter and Henk, Peter offered to give me a lift to Nouakchott, reckoning that we could fit my bike into his caravan. I got a good feeling with the proposal straight away, which is more often than not a sign that its a good idea. I really got on with these people and decided that there wasn't much point in riding the road alone for three days when I could spend the day getting there in the company of good friends. Its still Liam and c90 around the World, its just that I'm sat in a car enjoying the pleasure of being driven whilst 90 is having a rest in a caravan.

We arrived in Mauritania's capital, Nouakchott that day, and Peter knew a place, the Auberge du Sahara. Its a prime stop off for travellers who are going South through the Sahara. Almost instantly I saw the two Vespas parked up in the courtyard next to a huge KTM 640. I got chatting to one of the Vespa guys and was explaining that I have a Honda C90 in the caravan that we just arrived with. The owner of the KTM, Esteban overheard that I was travelling with a C90 and said 'are you Liam?' We'd been in touch on an internet forum before. The internet can make the World seem like a small place. It is far from small, however.

That afternoon, Sergio and Thanos, the two Greeks with the Vespa's asked me if I wanted to join them on their ride South. I said yes.

Stergios and Thanos.

Esteban setting off to venture South. Just look at that prime example of an adventure touring motorcycle that you can see propped up against the wall in the background. 

Here's Henk and Peter. Two really good people.

Peter took us on a drive through the desert to a national park and we got stuck in the sand.

Definitely worth the effort to see this though.

So after almost 5 weeks of being in the African continent I am almost about to enter 'black Africa.' From meeting fellow travellers and talking with people about the road ahead I have decided to change my route through West Africa slightly. Originally I was planning on going through Guinea and Cote d'Voire, But the borders between these countries are quite insecure and there is a risk of robbery from armed militia in both countries. I have been advised to not go to Cote d'Voire also. Its looking like the most secure road through is to enter Southern Mali and then cross into Burkina Faso. We got our visas for Mali yesterday.

I have drawn our route for the benefit of my family and friends. I am very aware of the current situation in Mali, but all of the trouble is in the North. I know of many people who've been there recently and they say its totally fine in the South. It will be! I'll keep an eye on the situation before I enter. Bon chance!

Friday, 20 December 2013


Today we leave Nouakchott to make our way to the Senegalese border. The crossing from Mauritania into Senegal is renowned as been the worst border crossing in the whole of Africa. The main frontier post is in the town of Rosso. I've heard cars start to follow you about 30 km away from the border and then do what they will to not let you get away, always demanding money. Corrupt police, army and officials, all working together to extort false payments/fines from you and turning a blind eye to people robbing your bags as they get commission from it. I've heard reports of a group of travellers ramming the main gate in a 4x4 to get through and people been taken into huts and physically threatened by the army until they pay up.
 The alternative to the Rosso crossing is the post at Diama. Though to get to Diama you have to turn onto an unmarked and unpaved road around 30 km away from Rosso. This piste takes you over rough terrain following a river through a national park for around 50 km. This is the road we are going to try and take. Many people say that Diama is a lot better, less hassle, less corruption, but sometimes equally bad. Were going to camp in the desert tonight and then make for the border tomorrow. What could actually go wrong!?

Tuesday, 24 December 2013


I have broken down again. My bike pulled the same trick on the Senegalese border as it did on the Mauritanian and refused to start after all the formalities were finished. We checked the spark plug and there was a spark but even when we tried to push start it it wouldn't give. Thanos towed me for 20 km until the tie got wrapped round my basket and we nearly crashed. This cosmically happened right outside a mechanics who came over and changed the plug. This time it started. He did say though that it seemed like there was not enough compression. My bike has been playing up since I entered Mauritania. Its been stalling whenever I stop and has gone through three spark plugs in two weeks now. Each time the plug has a black, oily residue on it which is a sign of a badly worn engine. A mechanic who was round at our Auberge in Nouakchott who had a quick look at the bike said that the problem is the compression also. Each time these mechanics have said this my heart sank and my stomach burned as it was the main piston that I had to change in Spain, which cost me £300. I've taken out the carburetor and dismantled it to give it a clean but it was spotless inside. I've tried new plugs and they haven't worked. I'm stuck with what else I can try. I'm hoping beyond hope that it isn't the piston. If anyone is reading this who has any tips with what I can try then please get in touch as I feel stuck with what else I can do at the moment.

Sunday, 29 December 2013


I now have a working bike. The piston I put in in Spain with an undisclosed amount of miles on it (there looked to be a lot) gave in and damaged the cylinder. I had two valves on their last legs too. But within two days I had a new piston, cylinder rebore and two repaired valves for the total of £60. It was very easy to find parts out here.
 I hope everyone had a good Christmas, and thank you for the donations. They all went into having a fully working bike, which considering the circumstances is actually the best present ever. Christmas doesn't really exist here in Senegal though - 99% Muslim. My Christmas day consisted of finding out just how much of a bad way my bike was in in a garage in a busy Senegalese road, surrounded by goats, chickens and a monkey. That was my Christmas.

I've been living on a campsite by a palm tree beach since I arrived, which doesn't have internet, so forgive the infrequent updates and not getting back to people. The scenery by the campsite is pretty amazing though.

Senegal, from what I've seen is a stunning country. It makes Mauritania look like an armpit. Some of the roads here are good even by European standards. Its a pretty special feeling to know that I've ridden a moped here from England where you can ride past monkeys, acacia trees and little villages made from wooden huts. This is a part of Senegal that I'm enjoying. Its almost taking away the first impression of when I got arrested on my first day in the country for foolishly riding around St Louis with none of my papers. I got taken back to the police station and demanded to pay a bribe. No bribe paid and I'm a free man! Looks like you can talk your way out of most things in Africa.

Have a good new year if I don't get back on here before. I think a good few beers are in order!

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Video. Northwest Africa. Crossing the Sahara.

As a parting post from 2013, here is the video from the last half of the journey. See you next year everyone!

Thursday, 2 January 2014


I've just finished (well, nearly finished. I'm aware that some of the titles are missing) re-vamping my Art website. Click on the ART tab and have a look. Its a job that's been on my mind for a long time. The new ones from this trip will be posted shortly.

Friday, 3 January 2014


We get back on the road again tomorrow. I'm ready to leave, I'm getting restless now, we've spent two weeks in the same place being occupied with fixing my bike, Christmas and new year. We're all in the clear now though and are ready to depart to the Mali border. We're giving it around a week to get there. Thanos has decided to leave though, he doesn't want to go further into Africa and is looking into getting himself and his bike back to Greece, so its just me and Stergios now. We're planning on crossing into Mali on a new road which hasn't appeared on any map yet, but we've been assured it exists by other travellers. We're avoiding the main border crossing at Kayes as you now need a military escort from the border to just outside of Bamako and its looking like the army is trying to charge what they like for this, so were banking on the quieter road through what it looks like uncharted terrain. Re-reading this it sounds like the opening plot to a film where two travellers get kidnapped/lost in the jungle/robbed senseless by bandits... I find it exciting.

Typical sunset view from the campsite. A lovely place but I need to move on.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014


It feels good to be back on the road again, sleeping wild amongst swarms of locusts, Baobab trees and chanting villages. We've made steady progress through Senegal so far and should reach the Mali border by the 10th. Were hoping to camp on the banks of the Gambie river tonight. A chance to have a bathe in this near 40c heat! I definitely feel that I'm in the real Africa now. My bike is back to its usual glory too. 50km on 1 litre of petrol and burning no oil. If only I wouldn't nearly burn us to death by setting fire to dry grass whilst trying to cook my dinner in the middle of acres and acres of sunburnt grassland then this update would be disaster free. Alas, no.

Sunday, 12 January 2014


What a ride that was! Nine days from St Louis to Bamako sleeping rough in the wilds of Africa; washing in rivers, being kept awake at night by arguing monkeys, bush fires, swarms of locust, chanting villages, lots of smiles and waving locals. So far, I love Africa! Were going to rest and gather visas and spares in Bamako for a for a while. Settling down tonight with a well earned bottle of wine in the Sleepy Camel. The first impressions of Mali over the past three days is that this is shaping up to be my favourite country so far. What a beautiful place. You couldn't tell from the warmth of the locals that there's a war going on in the North of the country. I really like it here.

Monday, 13 January 2014


And after four hours the photo's from Mauritania and Senegal are now up. I hope you appreciate them!

Wednesday, 15 January 2014


Back to the mechanic again today. My engine cut out six times on the way here from St Louis. The bike is still running so I can actually ride to the mechanic this time which makes a change! There's no pattern with when the engine cuts out; it can do 10 miles into the day or 120, and some days it runs through without stopping at all. It is very dangerous though. If it cut out with a bus or lorry tailing me then I would definitely be a dead man. I've been talking with guys from the C90Club website and they've given me a lot of advice on what the problem may be, and its looking the the engine will have to be taken apart. Its also possible that the engine may have been damaged with each time it stopped. So back to the mechanic it is!

A letter I've written in French explaining all the issues I've had with bike, all the attempted repairs and possible current problems. I've been toying with the idea of writing a book when I get back to England, but it looks like I'm well on the way to writing another one, called 'How to completely ruin a Honda C90.' A work in progress.  

Friday, 17 January 2014


I have my bike back from the mechanics. Another new piston and cylinder rebore. I'm not convinced that the original problem has been rectified. It was hard work with the mechanics with the language barriers. Still, it was quite a good day yesterday, been driven around town on the back of local bikes finding parts, bartering and solving problems amongst cauldrons of boiling intestines in the urban sprawl. It was however, not fun watching the mechanics working on my bike. It was similar to watching an animal being butchered. I'm going to test ride it around the city over the next few days and if it still seizes I'm going to have to seriously consider sacking this engine in and bolting on one of the many Chinese motorcycle copy engines. I really don't trust this bike any more and its really not fun to have that at the back of my mind constantly.

Sunday, 19 January 2014


I went to bed last night with my mind almost decided that I would put a new engine in the bike today. But when it came to it sentimentality got in the way and I took the bike on a 100 mile ride, through the urban sprawl of Bamako and into the desolate Mali countryside, and it never showed any signs of trouble. I've decided I'm going to keep the bike the way it is and take it to Burkina, but if it becomes apparent that there are any issues on the ride there then I'll get a new engine put in when I get to Burkina Faso. I can feel confidence in the bike slowly returning, and I hope the constant worry in the back of my mind will fade so I can enjoy the delights of Africa clearly. On today's ride I was invited for a dinner of rice and fish out of a communal bowl on the ground by the guys at a petrol station which used a genuine hand pump, saw numerous trucks with the top compartment crammed with screeching goats, and the best thing... A man riding his bike down a road which had seven lanes of honking criss-crossing bikes, wearing a smart suit with the most content look on his face, whilst he was laying down on his back seat, arms behind his head and steering with his legs. Your never prepared enough to ride on the roads here.

Monday, 20 January 2014


I'm hoping that the bird defecating on my laptop this morning is a sign that this string of bad luck is about to end! Anyway, my current travel companion is a movie maker and has just finished putting together his most recent film covering the ride from St Louis to Bamako. Which, seeing as I'm around him most of the time also features a great deal of me. A real film with motion capture and everything...

Thursday, 23 January 2014


Visa days.... actually managed to get my visa for Ghana today. Its renowned as being one of the hardest visas to obtain in West Africa. I had to write a letter explaining what I was doing and why I couldn't apply for it in my home country and give it to the amazingly bad tempered consulate. The capital, Accra is a haven for applying for further problematic visas though, the Congo's etc. My Burkina Faso visa will be ready this afternoon and its a visit to the Nigerian embassy tomorrow. Headache. Still, its fun being driven around town in a taxi. You know your in a different culture than your own when there's a Colonel Gaddafi support sticker on the windscreen.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Entering West Africa. From Nouakchott, Mauritania, through Senegal and into Bamako, Mali.

By the time we were ready to leave the sandy, overcrowded filth filled streets of Nouakchott, I wasn't sorry. Riding around on those roads, potholed, covered with sand and filled with cars that looked like they had just driven out of a demolition derby, it never failed to amaze just how shockingly awful the standard of driving was. I basically had to adopt a method of riding which was 'get out of the way or they will hit me.' Its quite amazing how people can pull out in front of you as they stare at your face and then don't look as their car careers into the road whilst people have to pull out onto the pavement to get out of the way, nearly killing a goat that is eating a plastic bag in the process. Indicators are completely ignored in that city and it seems normal practice to just stop dead in the middle of the road when the fancy takes. The dirt and litter too, is staggering. I can't comprehend the complete apathy to living in your own mess. Piles of rotting filth would sit in the sun, spilling into every crevasse of the streets, as goats which are reared among the mess are left to eat what they can find. Last year the government banned plastic bags. Not for any aesthetic reason however, mainly due to people being fed up of having their goats die as a solid ball of plastic accumulated in the stomach. The importance of waste management has certainly been overlooked there.

Still, I rode those streets for the last time in the company of other riders, which was a first for the trip. Stergios and Thanos, two Greek guys who were trying to do a loop of Africa on two Vespas. We had agreed to team up to cross the notorious Mauritania/Senegal border together and then wherever after if all went well. It was strange riding with company for the first time after so many solo hours
on the bike. Refreshing though. We gave it two days to reach the border and planned to camp in the desert in between.

The roads in Mauritania, and most things made out of any mixed stone material usually have sea shells in them.

Just before we decided to search for a place to camp we bumped into another overlander who we first met in Nouakchott; Katerina, a Slovenian girl who's riding a bicycle solo from Slovenia to Madagascar. We all decided to camp together that night, which would be my last wild camping experience in the Sahara desert on this trip. When the sun went down the fires of desert nomads came out and we went to sleep with the sounds of camels roaring in the distance. I woke up that morning to the sound of familiar voices outside my tent for the first time. A pleasant change.

Catching up with Katerina down the road.

The last Saharan sunset.

Thanos and Katerina.

Some of the locals who always inevitably show up every night.

We set off that day with the hope of reaching the Senegalese border. The border between Senegal and Mauritania is known for been the worst border in West Africa, if not the whole of Africa. There are two options; the main border post at Rosso or the smaller, more quiet one at Diama. The issue is, Rosso is on the main, tarmac road and is plainly signposted, whereas to get to Diama you have to turn onto an unmarked road which leads you onto a dirt track through a nature reserve for 60 km. It's generally accepted that Diama is the better out of the two. Rosso is awash with horror stories of bribery an corruption. Its full of touts and local hawkers who sometimes try and pick you up 30 km before the border, following you in a car and not letting you turn around. The police turn a blind eye to the thieves who go through your bags when you're in the several offices getting bribed to have your documents stamped as they take a share of the pickings. Army officials have been known to take you into a hut and physically intimidate you until they get some money. I've even heard of a couple in a 4x4 ramming the main gate to get away. Peter, the Dutch guy I met in Mauritania who's spent most of his life travelling around West Africa lost his temper after he was bribed three times and called them all corrupt. It's a definite 'no no' to get angry at a border, and to make Peter, a very calm man angry after all his travel experience, it must have been bad. In the end he had to pay 230 Euros to get his car through. We decided to opt for Diama.

   We found the turn off with no real issues and rode the dirt track for three hours to the fabled border, the lesser of two evils. Yet 4 out of the 5 officials asked for money. The first one was the douane who takes the passavant and stamps my passport declaring that my vehicle is out of the country. He asked for 10 Euros. I've heard that to pay 10 euros when entering the country is legitimate... although I wasn't sure when I did. I learned from India that people usually do a light sideways smile when they win money from you. That official did the smile. Yet I hadn't heard that you should pay anything when leaving the country. I asked for a receipt and he said he couldn't give one. I said I wouldn't pay if I don't get a receipt. A debate ensued. It seemed quite strange to argue with a man dressed in an army uniform when there was an old Cinderalla clock displaying the wrong time on the wall... In the end I left the office and told Thanos and Stergios that the man wanted money. We sat in the sun for around an hour, talking with different officials trying to get through but with no luck. In the end they produced a receipt. I'm not convinced it was legit.
 Another official who asked for money was the man who issued the entry stamp. He demanded 10 euros off each of us. Stergios and Thanos then went in the their 'we are Greek routine' which mainly consists of talking/shouting rapidly about how they don't have any money because of the financial crisis 'we are looking for work, look at our bikes!' etc. Despite the official holding my British passport I just played along with being Greek and looked around the room wondering who had thrown food all over the walls and why nobody had bothered to clean it up during all the years it had been there. After a while the official got pretty fed up with Thanos and Stergios and told us to just go, waving his arms... but demanded that we should give him a present. Thanos gave him a can of melon milk and a T-shirt.

The last part of money extortion cut into me the most, and that was getting my bike into the country without a Carnet. A Carnet is basically a very expensive document that acts as a passport for your vehicle, showing the relevant authorities that you will not be selling your vehicle in the country as the Carnet is bound to your bank balance and requires both entry and exit stamps to make it complete, and therefore you get your money back when its returned. However, I paid £450 for my bike and had it valued as such, yet the RAC, the only company in Britain which issues a Carnet said they would only value it at £1000. They also inflate import charges of certain countries and don't let you use your own bank as an insurance indemnity... in the end I would have been around £800 down of non-refundable money and £1600 down until I returned my fully completed Carnet or I had to extend it after a year for more ££££. I told them where to go and decided to take my chances without one. £40 down for a temporary import permit at one of Africa's most corrupt and expensive borders isn't bad. We were picked apart as a group though, as Stergios and Thanos both have Carnets (Totally free from sponsors!) and the officials saw this as a weak spot. They made Stergios and Thanos buy a passavant when they didn't need to (but none the wiser at the time) and probably overcharged me for mine. When it was all finished the official said 'Tourism is good for Senegal.' The place is a mess.

After five hours from when we first entered the border we were ready to leave, then my bike played the same trick it did at the Mauritanian border and refused to start. We changed to spark plug, that didn't work. We checked both spark plugs to see if they both would spark and they did.We tried to push start the bike and that didn't work either. By this point the sun was starting to set and we had 40 km to go until we reached the camp site. It became clear that the only thing we could do was for Thanos to tow me. We strapped a cord round by handle bars and set off at tentative and nerve racking 20 mph to the camp site. I was very happy that I was travelling with other people at this time. I would have been in a very difficult situation if I was stuck at the border on my own with a bike that refused to start.
 When darkness came we were still 20 km away from our destination. It wasn't fun been towed, every time Thanos had to slow down for goats, children or police checkpoints it was hard to make the cord not become slack and then jolt the bike forward. On the last occasion the cord slackened and then wrapped around my front basket, Thanos accelerated and it pulled my bike to the ground as I shouted and kicked at the road to stop me crashing. We stopped and agreed it was too dangerous to carry on like this. Cosmically this happened just outside a mechanics who ran over to see if he could help. He did some checks and said there was no compression and that the main piston had gone. A different mechanic who I saw in Nouakchott said the same things and on both time my heart sank and I felt sick. I had a new (well, old, and I don't know how many miles were on it) put in in Spain and for it to go again was a hard blow. He then put in another Spark plug and managed to get the bike going. I was so relieved I called him a fucking bastard and gave him a hug (I hope he didn't take offence) and tried to give him some money but since I only had Euro's he didn't want anything. Which was quite ironic as his name was Euro, Mr Euro.    

We made it to the camp site later that night after been on the road and dealing with the borders for around 12 hours. We were tired and needed to celebrate getting through Diama. It was a place owned by a German couple, Sven and Christine and they gave us a welcome beer each. We ate and drank until the moon passed out of sight through the thatched straw roof. It got until around 1:30 in the morning when I went to the beach hiccuping and had a swim under the stars feeling amazed that I'd managed to ride a moped to Senegal.

The next morning we rode our bikes into the centre of St Louis in search of food and provisions. Thanos was in the lead and came to a halt when we got to the main roundabout. Instantly a policeman came over and demanded us to get to the side of the road. I'd heard of this guy before from the internet, an infamous policeman on the roundabout of St Louis who will charge you with anything to get you to pay a bribe. It dawned on me that I was foolishly riding without any shred of documentation on me. He asked Thanos for his papers and I realised we were going to get fucked. I was a little thankful that Thanos wasn't carrying his passavant too so all the blame wasn't on me. When he came over to me and shouted 'papers!' I just replied

'I do have everything, but they're back at the camp site, just not on me.'

'Bah, this is impossible!'

'No no, its quite true. We can go back and get them all now to show you.'

'No! you need to come back to the station now! All of you! You have to follow me.'

He then got into a taxi which looked to be a few decades past its last MOT and made us ride behind it to the police station whilst his stupid fat head was stuck out of the window glaring at us.
 It was now round two for the 'We are Greek routine' of shouting that we don't have any money until they were sick of us. I never felt I could really join in with pretending to be Greek and financially doomed by a continuing crises, but I played along with it. I was quite surprised by Thanos's reaction though. He's a quiet man, but as soon as we got into the station he started bellowing 'I have Malaria! I need to go to Hospital! We need to go to Dakar!' continuously until the policeman at the desk raised up his hands for him to stop. He didn't, but seeing as I was the one with zero documents and Thanos was only minus one the police decided to let Thanos and Stergios off, literally push them out of the room and demanded that I sit on the bench until I pay. Regardless of the fact that I had no money in my pocket at all, I wasn't going to pay. I have more time than I have money so I was willing to wait it out. I told them that I wasn't going to pay anything and that I was just going to wait until they let me go or stay there forever and then lay down on the bench. It was bad enough to have been arrested on my first morning in Senegal, but all this happened before breakfast... and as my friends and family can vouch, I'm not the most easy going person in the world when I'm hungry.
 After about 10 minutes Stergios and Thanos burst through the doors and demanded that the police come and look at our bikes to prove that we are not rich. The policeman agreed to this, and we all left the station. He took a long look at my bike, the 85cc moped, stolen shopping basket on the front, covered in mud and dust, windscreen snapped off, front fairing scratched to pieces, indicator held on with duct tape. He demanded that I open up my back box. I oblige and reveal a pile of tatty, oil stained and scrunched up clothes.

'Okay fine you can go!' and he turned away with a look of anger and frustration. My bike is an absolute tool for freedom!

For the next two weeks we stayed at the same camp ground. Christmas and New year were on the way and I had my bike to sort out so it made sense to stay in the same place. Budget accommodation is rare in Senegal too, and this place was beautiful and well within our price range.    
 I met some nice people there, other overlanders with tips and stories or occasionally even gifts to 'help out the crazy guy on the moped.' One guy, Jean, gave me a silver cool-bag which fits perfectly into my front basket. This makes unpacking so much easier. Jean was travelling with a group of Dutch people but was originally from Romania and was taken aback when I started speaking in Romanian to him. Him and his Dutch friends bought me dinner on New Years Eve and even bought two of my paintings. So I now have a stash of Euro's. So much more useful out here than the American Dollars that I took with me.
 It was a nice two weeks, even having to have my bike fixed was kind of refreshing as its good to know how easily it can be fixed. But after being on the road for months where every day is intense its easy to slumber down and become slow when you stop moving. Especially when your living right next to a palm tree beach and the temperature mid day can get up to 38c.

To the mechanics. Not the best sight to see on a Christmas morning.

Christmas dinner! A better sight on a Christmas morning was watching a huge Senegalese man walking out of the ocean carrying two huge fish by the gills. This is what we did with one of them. Christmas doesn't really exist in Senegal, nor in the Arab world much, and I have to admit, it was nice to not have Christmas smashed into my face this year. Very refreshing.

New years eve bonfire.

If you don't have fireworks... Just let off a flare instead!

The biggest overland vehicle that I've seen so far. This thing uses 20 litres of fuel per 100 km. On a good road I can use 2.

A typical sunset view from the camp site.

Sven and Christine. Two great people who run the ground, 7 Palava. If there are any people reading this who are thinking about going to Senegal then I'd strongly recommend  to look these guys up. Good budget accommodation is in short supply in Senegal.

The day came when it was time to get back on the road again, and we had our destination - Bamako in Mali. Thanos however, had decided not to join us. I think he didn't want to go further into Africa, for whatever reason, so as me and Stergios headed East into the African bush, Thanos turned his Vespa around and rode back to Greece.

 It was exciting to set off on the road again, especially with a travel partner. I considered myself to be in the 'real Africa' from the first day that we hit road. We would ride past Baobab trees, little villages dotted around the countryside with little huts made out of sticks with thatched straw roofs. It was always easy to find a camping spot in the bush. Every time we found a place we would inevitably bump into some locals, but all they were interested in doing was shaking our hands with a smile. I'd never felt so welcomed by a country before. Practically every person we saw by the side of the road or every settlement that we passed people would wave. Sometimes children would run along side the bikes waving and screaming. Peoples smiles were infectious. Yet after a long day on the bike in the sun we preferred to find somewhere out of the way to camp and settle in for the night in quiet.
 On one night we found a camp that was around 1 km away from a village. The place was dotted with shrub bushes which were infested by locust. All you had to do was to walk near the bush and a cloud of insects would spring into the air and glide around until they dropped into another bush, or into your tent. We went to sleep that night with the sound of the village chanting rhythmic songs into the night. The sound of the singing was gorgeous, and accompanied with the sound of chirping crickets and the occasional locust banging against my tent it was hard not a have a smile on my face when I went to sleep that night.
 In the morning a man came over from the village with his family, from what I could gather he was collecting wood to make new doors for his house, which explained the huge machete. He was very happy to meet us and managed to shake my hand eight times in around ten minutes. Impressive.

During the week of making our way through Senegal the landscape changed from the dry, arid and dusty land that I'd been used to travelling in for the last two months into a more semi tropical lush green environment. After a week of constant days of riding in the heat, packing and unpacking and living without a shower we decided it would be good to have a break. We found a river on the map that was in our direction and headed to it with the thought of cold water to spare in our minds. It wasn't quite the Gambie river I had in mind. More like a tributary, but our little jungle camp was like a place of boyhood dreams about visiting the jungle. We stayed there for two days, washing, eating, painting and resting.
 On each evening a Senegalese man on a bicycle came to our camp with a net, said hello and then followed the track down to the river to fish. He didn't have any luck on the first night but on the second he scored big. He came back up the hill with a 4 ft catfish with a huge gaping mouth with whiskers and a sack with 5 other fish in. I went over to have a look at the catfish and he indicated if we wanted the other small ones. I tried to give him some money but he didn't want any... just a handshake.
 With all the good things that came with jungle camp, the comfort, free food and flowing water, each night was pretty restless. I thought we were going to get attacked on one occasion as a troop of monkeys on the other side of the river would go absolutely mental during the nights. They sounded big too. On the day we left the camp we rode through a nature reserve and stopped for a break. Each car that drove past beeped their horn and we got the feeling that it probably wasn't a good idea to stop... then we noticed the baboons massing on the other side of the road. I really didn't realise we were in baboon territory.

Mr hand shake man.


Sleeping by a Baobab tree.

Jungle camp tent.

Senegalese hospitality.

I think that may have been my first hot meal where no money at all was spent on making it.

The end of the tarmac.

Not many traffic lights in Senegal but these make for frequent stops.

After eight days on the road we had made our way through Senegal. Aside from the borders and the policeman on the St Louis roundabout I've never felt so welcome in a country before. The place is stunning in a lot of ways. Its a shame about the politics though. The country has very little natural resources and has a huge potential for tourism, yet even though the president went on state television recently promoting tourism for the country they still do nothing to make it easier for tourists. With the corrupt borders and the nonsensical policies for bringing your own vehicle into the country such as only issuing a vehicle permit for 5% the length of your visa (which we managed to swindle) it does make travelling there a challenge. Its expensive too. I can pay more buying general items when I go food shopping in Senegal than what I do in England as everything is imported. What doesn't make sense about this though is that petrol is cheaper in Mali than what it is in Senegal, yet all the fuel that gets imported to Mali goes through Dakar. So someone's getting rich somewhere whilst the food prices sore above the reach of most of the population. Senegal is ranked in the top ten of the most corrupt countries in the world. The former president is now in prison as he was found to have over one billion euros in foreign bank accounts, whilst children of his country wander the streets shoeless and begging for money. It's sad. Its looking like this will be the general theme during my time in Africa though.

So as Senegal came to an end we were preparing to cross into my ninth country of the journey so far, Mali
I must admit, it was exciting to be entering a country which came with a big red warning box this big on the wikitravel website.

The border was the easiest one I've done outside of Europe. No bribery, no chaos, in and out within an hour. The guys at the border post were amazed that I'd managed to ride a moped from England to Mali. I was more amazed that the border post was just a hut made out of sticks which didn't even have a light bulb.

I think Mali is turning out to be one of my favourite countries of the journey so far. It might be because of all the warnings and the media scare stories which gives the place a powerful sense but makes it all the better when you realise its just fine here. My embassy says I shouldn't going out into Bamako without an armed escort. In reality I shouldn't go out into Bamako without been prepared to shake uncountable hands and to be greeted with many welcomes. You really can't tell that there is trouble going on in the North of the country... not by any signs of hostility anyway. However, the place which we are camping in is next door the the German embassy which has recently further fortified its walls and even set up anti-tank blockades. On the other hand there's a French guy here who's cycled from Norway and a local tried to give him money as a thanks for what the French military have done with fighting the extremists in the North.
 This place is very relaxed, the roads are hilarious, very friendly people and there's always some form of good music blasting out from a corner somewhere.

 My welcome meal into Mali which has become my staple on most days. Around 60p!

First camp site in Mali. A barren, burnt landscape dotted with strange insect made structures. In the morning a wild bull came into the camp and nearly charged us down.

Overlander village. Greek, French, Dutch, German, Slovenian and an English all on two wheels. I've discovered that motorcyclists and cyclists have more in common than motorcyclists and 4 wheeled travellers. Mainly due to the fact that we are always outside. I'm proud that out of all these modes of transport, including the bicycles that mine is still the cheapest, even with all my repairs.

I've been staying at a place called the 'Sleeping Camel' for the best part of the last two weeks, sorting visas, onward travel details, making friends and contacts and fixing my bike. I'm getting bored now of writing about my bike problems, but one thing has become clear over the too oft issues is that, although I perhaps left England naively thinking that my bike won't have any major problems, I am now fully confident that the thing can fixed very easily and cheaply out here. Its good that I'm riding on a bike which started a legacy of two wheeled, easy and economic travel around the world, as now the Chinese have flooded the market with bikes that are based on mine. I can find parts anywhere and can even bolt on a new engine if it came to it. For this reason I'm glad that I chose this bike, even with Stergios comment ' of course your going to have problems... you left England on a 24 year old bike to travel over the hardest terrain in the world on a bike that was designed to do your shopping on around town.' If you put it that way its a poor choice. But as Sven said on Christmas morning as we drove the bike to the mechanics in the back of a Toyota pickup 'Any vehicle travelling over land like you will have a problem eventually, no matter how big or expensive it is, everything breaks... but the bigger the vehicle the bigger the problem, the smaller the vehicle the smaller the problem.' 

We ride for Burkina Faso in the beginning of next week, then Ghana, Togo and Benin. Then its into the progressively real and ever more daunting prospect of crossing that looming obstacle, Nigeria.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014


I'm leaving Bamako and the Sleeping Camel today. Not looking forward to the ride out of the capital through the condensed sprawl of manic motorcycles through the narrow, potholed tracks, but it should only take me around an hour. Then its back into the wild and making my way to Burkina Faso. Going to follow the Niger river up North to Mopti, then descend South into Burkina, eventually reaching Ouagadougou. Phonetically that's Wah-gah-doo-goo, yeahhh.

I'm looking forward to leaving this thing behind though. Matt, the guy who runs the Sleeping Camel has four rabbits which are free to run around the site. This little thing has been terrorising me the entire time. Sneaking into my tent porch most mornings, stealing my food and trying to dig a hole in my porch, covering everything in dust. In the daytime he just follows me about, staring at me. Look at his evil little face. Little bastard.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014


I reached Ouagadougou yesterday after an eight day ride to get here from Bamako. On entering Burkina Faso its very evident that this is ranked as the third poorest country on Earth. Immediately after the border it became an unfortunately common sight to see children with swollen stomachs from lack of food. I'm also being mobbed on the streets more often with people trying to sell me things. Some sad sights. I got ill on the way here too. Maybe Burkina food, tap water or attempting to drink direct from a waterfall - my bowels did there best to replicate said cascade. Two days later I'm back on form! The folly of invincible youth.
 Its visa time again and then I want to get out of the city as fast as possible. I'm not a fan of these chaotic, dirty, sprawls any more. I think I preferred  Mali. Its hard to think well of a country when on one of the first days of riding on its roads a man driving a car purposely tries to drive you off the road and clips your saddle bag. This happened yesterday. Another common thing to happen here is for someone to start to overtake a line of lorries when you're coming the other way and then just drive at you flashing their lights until you career off the road to avoid a collision. Animals.

Thursday, 6 February 2014


I've just finished uploading the photo's from Mali. Six hours... that's a new record! Mali's a beautiful country.

Saturday, 8 February 2014


My faith of the people of Ouagadougou was restored today by a Ouagadougean man (I'm not sure if that term exists) who helped me find a new air filter. He was very odd, had innumerable, interchanging facial expressions, would frequently burst into fits of shouting, practically roundhouse kicked me in the face getting off his bike and would speed up when it came to speed bumps. I'm sure he just wanted to here me scream. He was by far one of the most eccentric people I've met so far... and one of my favourites. Three hours of constant amusement. We trudged around all afternoon through the city and maze like markets filled with piles of old bikes, engines, seemingly everything. Just not a paper air filter for a Honda c90. In the very last shop we were going to go into they had one. At the end of it all he didn't want any money, only a litre of petrol. He just said 'God bless' shook my had and sped away. Amazing.  

Monday, 10 February 2014


There's nothing like walking into an air conditioned, sterile, upper class supermarket to make you realise just how much collective odour you're carrying around with you. In the Worlds third poorest country where most of its citizens live on less that £3 a day you can buy a kilo of grapes for £17, a kilo of cheese for £80 and much to my despair a box of three ice creams for £7.50. Cue walking around staring in disbelievement at all the unaffordable Western food and return to the dirt outside where I belong.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014


Today marks a year since I first rode a motorcycle. It seems longer than a year ago since I did my compulsory basic training around the wintry streets of West Yorkshire. This doesn't include the time when I had a scooter at the age of fourteen and crashed it on a field showing off to girls, knocking myself unconscious, breaking my arm and swearing that I would never ride a motorcycle again. My my.

Thursday, 13 February 2014


A happy news day. I got accepted for my Nigerian visa. Its renowned as being one of the most problematic visas to obtain on my course through Africa. I had to have an interview with the consulate, during which, he popped the question 'Why don't you just fly to South Africa like everybody else?' Really? I also got treated to a bare ass dance on the street this afternoon. Middle of the day, pointed at a busy road, a huge Ouga lady ass jiggling up and down. I mean, there was shit coming out of it at the same, but still, she had good moves. Jiggle finish... no need for toilet paper!

Friday, 14 February 2014

I need a new engine.

Its looking like I will have to have mine opened again soon which would mean its been opened up as many times as the amount of Sub-Saharan countries its been in. I think its fatally ill and whatever I have to have done to it isn't making the problems go away. I haven't been able to go 2000 miles yet without it breaking down. It shouldn't be like this. I know of people who have covered great distances over the Earth on this type of bike with no major issues. You can go around the World on a Honda c90, but seemingly, not the one I have.
 I've tried to source a new engine to bolt into the bike in the last two capitals I've been in. The African market is awash with Chinese 110cc semi auto engines, and some will fit my bike. I feel dubious though, to just fit an unknown arbitrary engine that I can't find any reviews for and has no reputation for its reliability. There is one Chinese engine, a Lifan, that has a reputation for its quality, but unfortunately they seemed to have pulled out of Burkina and Mali over the last years. I'm banking on finding one in Ghana's capital Accra, and I'm pretty certain that this will be the last place I can find one for quite some distance.
Some very kind people from have started to get in touch with some companies that deal with Lifan engines to see if they can help me out in anyway. This has inspired me to try and get in touch with Honda to see if they could help. Surly it would make sense for them to want someone to go around the world on one of their bikes with their engine, rather than a Chinese replacement - which brings me to my point... Its proving exceedingly difficult to search the internet for any contacts with Honda, Lifan etc with this connection. It takes me around ten minutes to open up an email. The only site with a speed that spares my sanity is thankfully this one. So giving that this site is ranking thousands of views from all over the world every week and several journalists have got in touch with me over past two days its safe to say that this will reach a wide audience. So if anybody has any contacts and leads with Honda or Lifan or know's anyone in the
industry that may be able to help, could you please forward me their email address's. I've managed to find and send a few but I think the more I can send the better. These problems need to stop. Its no fun trying to do this on a bike that's always falling apart on me and I'm starting to find the whole experience quite testing.

In chronological order, this is the list of my bike problems.

Bought in February 2013, a 1990 Honda c90 with only 3300 miles on it. Had been in storage for most of its life. I hope that was true.
Was very hard to get it going again, would cut out frequently but after tweaking and some good running in it started to ride okay.
However, it would constantly backfire whenever I would coast downhill or even when I released the throttle sometimes. The popping and banging was annoying, and I started to wonder if it was okay. I was assured though, that its quite normal and nothing really to worry about.
After another one thousand miles the bike would start to cut out whenever I came to a stop. It was difficult to adjust the carburettor in order to keep it running, even when taken to a garage. The rpm at idle had to be set too high to keep it from cutting out when running.
The engine seized an hour away from Plymouth on the second day of the journey. I wasn't familiar with the sound so I thought it had overheated due to travelling at 45mph for two hours. Unfortunately I would become well acquainted with that sound later.
The big disaster... in Spain 600 miles after an oil change the engine ran itself dry and seized. This is very embarrassing as I could have prevented it. Unfortunately I left England with incorrect knowledge of which point to top the oil up to (it was still well within the safe limit) and over those 3 days of riding I didn't check the oil properly. It was always fine before and I assumed it would be... big mistake! Both of those reasons aside though, the engine should not have eaten up that much oil in that distance.
After having the engine fixed I rode the the Western Sahara until more issues started.... aside from the fact that it was chewing up nearly 2 litres of oil every 1000 miles. I don't think you could have found another cub rider who would check the oil as much as me after what happened. Sometimes there would be barley any oil left after 100 miles. This is more than a two stroke. I would change the oil every 800-900 miles.
In the Western Sahara I stopped to take a photo of a camel. The bike cut out when I came to a stop and refused to start again. I was 100's of miles from the nearest settlement. After about half an hour I got it going again. It started to become apparent that the compression was going down. I also had some overheating issues during the ride from Marrakech to Mauritania. Before you say 'well that's obvious, you were in the desert!' The Sahara ride was one of the coldest and it definitely was the wettest stretches of riding I've done. It was the winter... I would very seldom take the bike over 40mph too. I prefer to cruise at 35mph and would cover 100-130 miles a day.
The bike then refused to start completely at the Mauritanian border, no matter what me or other people trying to help did. In the end I had to get pushed over the border to get it going...
This happened again leaving the country, yet this time we couldn't even push start it. It didn't matter if we put in new spark plugs or anything. I had to get towed out of there.
By then I had gone through 6 spark plugs in around 1000 miles. We could get it going again but it was becoming so difficult I decided to take it to a mechanic. Two repaired valves, a rebored cylinder and a new piston.
After this I rode about 800 miles to Bamako. During which the engine seized 7 times. Again, open up the engine. New piston, cylinder rebore.
The seizing finished but the bike has now started to lose compression and power massively... and it is still gulping down oil. The other day it refused to start, even push starting. I eventually got it going again and took it for a ride around. Cut out at traffic lights, couldn't get it going and had to push it home. There is now a clanging sound coming from the cylinder.

Enough is enough.

If you type in Google search 'the most reliable motorcycle' you will see the Honda c90 pop up everywhere. I've ridden mine just over 6000 miles on the trip so far and it has failed me massively. I have cleaned and adjusted the carb, air filter and valves as standard. It feels like this engine is cursed. Its decimated my budget trying to keep it alive. It shouldn't be like this. I've met up with a guy who's travelling on a 2 stroke Vespa which has covered over 130000km with no problems whatsoever.

So if anybody reading this can give me any contacts on anyone who could help with getting a new engine it really would be appreciated.


Sunday, 16 February 2014

(This post is actually a reply to some comments that has to be published this way as its all exceeded the character limit that I can write in the comments box.)

Thanks guys. There's some really good pieces of advice here.

 Johnse, I like the term 'A job done once is a job done right.' I think this is the method to adopt. After reading these comments I feel a lot more confident that the engine problems could be fixed and the engine may not be terminal. It was actually the recommendation of some guys at who suggested it may be better to just scrap this engine and start fresh. They think that with what happened in Spain there may be a blockage further inside the engine that may be causing issues with oil circulation which is then triggering these recurring breakdowns.
But I think that after some thought there could be different reasons for all these issues. I know that the piston that was put in in Spain was in a pretty bad condition. The mechanic actually said so, but it was the only one I could find at the time (if I knew more about engines then I would have had a brand new one shipped over) and maybe by the time I got to St Louis it had had its day. The work I had done there was obviously poor as whatever he did, it made the engine seize seven times on the next cross capital ride. It was unfortunate I was stuck in the customs office when he was working on the bike. It took them two days to sign a bit of paper for my bike! The seizing has now stopped since I've had another rebore and new piston... but I think now that I do need a new cylinder. Its had two rebore's now and I know the last one wasn't good. It actually has a smoothed out hole in the barrel. It doesn't sound good. And with the spark plugs it may be down to a case
of having to use cheap parts. So maybe its not necessary to have a totally new engine bolted in. If I get it fixed right with good parts then the problem may be solved. I was under the impression though that Honda still made c90's in Japan and still sells them in a few countries around the World? I think they brought out a new model in 2007 and was under the impression that the engine space is still the same size so placing a new engine in would work? I may be wrong.
 I think my next plan is to get to Ghana. I know that Accra has the biggest market for finding spare parts in the whole of West Africa, so finding a good quality cylinder and piston maybe hopeful. I will then find a good, recommended mechanic, sit down with him, explain everything and then work with him as much as possible to get it fixed. Ghana is an English speaking country so this will be a massive advantage. Its been a huge hindrance trying to explain things with the mechanics so far due to the language barriers. They have been shit too, really shit. I don't care if I'm going to be the Accra mechanics most annoying customer... we will work to the European standard!

And with response to the other comments... I took off the sprocket cover the other day as we thought there may have been a timing issue, but everything looked fine in there. My spark plugs are generally black, so the mixture is rich. I am finding it very hard to get a slow steady idle speed without the bike shutting off every time I come to a stop. The carb seems to need constant attention as after an adjustment where it stays on, the engine is steady etc, after 800 miles or so the engine shuts off at a standstill again. I do the adjustments when the engine is warm too. Sometimes after an adjustment and I start the bike cold the idle speed is revving like crazy. I am finding it a challenge. The carburettor was fully dismantled and cleaned when I was in Bamako too, 800 miles ago.
I'm pretty adamant that there isn't an issue with the air filter or any gaps in the line. My head is down that way often but I'll try the WD40 experiment and see. Just got a new can. I'll get on with the filters also and I think its a very good idea to try and find another filter for my fuel line.

Anyway, I'll try all this and if it doesn't work I'll just have to try something else. It is quite easy to go a bit mental out here with all these bike problems but I'll keep going. At least with every time the bike breaks I become less and less devastated so that's a good thing I suppose. And with all this I'm learning about the bike. Before I left home I would have been hard pressed to point out where the piston was in the bike and what job it did. I practically knew nothing. I think now though I could have a good go at drawing the inside of the engine from memory. Learning the hard way!

Thanks for taking the time to write these replies. Its really appreciated and it helps a lot.

All the best,


Monday, 17 February 2014


I've been talking with mechanics, people who know a lot about engines and a guy called Ed March who's ridden a Honda C90 great distances around the World pretty much all day today. I've been saturated with mechanical advice and I think I know what to do. I know that I have to change the cylinder I have in now, its seen too much damage, has had too many, probably bad rebore's, which also means that I need a new piston. I'm thinking that its highly likely that the top end of the engine has been damaged from the seven seizures on the St Louis-Bamako ride due to bad mechanical work I had done in Senegal. I'm hearing a 'clanking' sound when the engine is put under pressure and this may be a sign that the top end is starting to see the end of its days. I'm going to try and get to Ghana where I should be able to find a decent, new cylinder, piston and an English speaking mechanic. When we take off this cylinder I can check to see if the top end is okay. If its not then it is time for a new engine. No sentimentality about holding onto it, its going to die a death. But if there's no linear play from the top end then it all should be okay. We'll see.
 My suspicion is that this is the end of my poor little 90 engine. This clanking sound isn't happening if there isn't anything wrong. I'm going to take it steady on the ride to Accra. It might take a week to get there. If the engine dies on route then it will be time to reverse the trend and get the Greek to give an EU member a bailout... Push my bike to Ghana! Either way, if I do need a new engine, Ghana will be the best place in West Africa to find one. If I can't get through the border though as I'm travelling without a Carnet d' passage and have to turn back into Burkina then I can do all these tests here, and may have to settle for an unknown Chinese engine. The choice isn't too great in Burkina. 

So these are my options. Besides all the pain its all been one huge lesson in mechanics. Probably a good thing. Maybe.

Monday, 24 February 2014


'You need a Carnet to get into Ghana'

'You'll have to pay loads of money to get in if its even possible.'

'I just crossed into Ghana and they said its impossible to get in here without a Carnet.'

'Good luck at the border, Liam. I reckon I'll be seeing you back in Burkina in a few days.'

Indeed the first thing the customs people asked me was to see my Carnet. Then they told me that I need one to enter the country. But after talking with the chief in the customs office for 40 minutes explaining who I am and what I'm trying to do I walk out of the office with the official temporary import permit, completely exempt from all charges (even the locals pay 10 Euros) with the words of 'You take care of yourself, sir, and have a safe journey.'


I'm staying in a town called Kumasi, in a locals house who stopped to take a photo of me. Last night was the first night I'd slept behind a door for two and a half months. Quiet.

Thursday, 27 February 2014


I have a new engine. I took mine apart yesterday to have a look. Aside from needed a new cylinder and piston I would need a new crankshaft, the valves looked pretty knackered too. Whatever I did to the carburettor wouldn't stop the bike from cutting out whenever it warmed up and it would overheat after an hour at riding 30 mph. I think it was best to just start fresh and treat this new engine well from now on. 4 gears and 25 more cc's was pretty tempting too! Apart from hopefully not having an engine that will break down all the time I'm hoping this will be the end of having to source out spares, trawl through markets on false promises, find mechanics and generally go through the intense mind fuck it is trying to deal with all this in every large town in every West African country I've been in. I haven't had the best experience with the mechanics here so far and I'm starting to lose my temper with people quite easily. Things are different here, but it will be nice to be able to step back from the chaos for a bit.
 Special thanks go out to all the people who've given me engine and mechanical advice during the death, and a big thanks to Kofi and his brother (sorry, I don't know how to spell your name) for letting me stay at their place this last week and helping me find the engine.


Wednesday, 5 March 2014


I've reached the Gulf of Guinea! It took me tow days to reach after I left the Kofi residence in Kumasi. I thought it would only take a day but the night came in before I was anywhere close. Thankfully a village was more than happy to take me in. Especially the children 'Look at the white guy with the blue eyes and blonde hair!' I'm staying on a camp site by the beach but still haven't managed to find my peace and quiet. I haven't been feeling too well over the last three days. Eating has been very hard. I went for a malaria test as my neck started aching but it came out negative. A British couple in their 70's at the camp who have been travelling around the world in a massive truck for the past 14 years took me in and made me some mushroom soup, English style! I'm starting to feel better now. I'm friends with my new engine too... This little unknown Chinese thing took me 130 miles from one tank of fuel. My tank is only three and a half litres. About twenty miles of that was in second gear too due to the state of the roads. Doesn't feel natural!

Thursday, 6 March 2014


The rains are coming. Today was the most rain that I've seen since I got washed out in the Sahara. I think I've only been in rain five times since I left England, but I think this torrential thunderstorm is a taster of what's to come through central Africa. Rivers of water started to flow under my tent and started to form tiny springs through my groundsheet from the holes that ants have made as they've eaten their way through to get at my food when I've been sleeping wild in the bush. You can literally hear hundreds of tiny mouths chewing sometimes. Things got very wet. The weather has never really been a challenge so far but I'm feeling that the rains to come will be a test when you're living outside. Still, its nice to not have blood encrusted in my nose from breathing in dust all the time!

Saturday, 8 March 2014


The photo's for Burkina Faso are now up in the photo gallery.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014


Yesterday marked the six month anniversary since I left England on that grey, cold morning. A lot has happened in this last six months. I feel that I've aged more in this time than any other period of my life and I feel I have experiences which you would normally gather in years. I think I've changed quite a lot since I left home too. Most notably in the case that I don't shy away from speaking my mind anymore. Africa has forced that out of me. Its unfortunate though, that recently my thoughts and words have been directed out of anger. All that shit with my engine generally turned me into an angry man with a lasting legacy of frustration which derived from constantly dealing with inept people with faces of unquenchable optimism. I had a word with myself yesterday to take it more easy with people and realize that things work differently out here and I should approach things with an open mind. Later that day the Benin embassy lost my passport... which has all my hard won and expensive visas for the following countries in. The message I tried to give myself that day didn't quite sink in. I have no idea how, in the space of two hours that it was in their possession that they managed to lose it, but it look like its gone.
 On the ride home from the embassy the two screws on my front sprocket came lose and the bracket fell off. This caused the chain to fly around which smashed into the top part of my mud guard which was also loose, ripping it to pieces and sending it flying into my spokes. This happened on the only motorway that I've ridden on since Europe... at rush hour too, which was fun. I have no idea how none of my spokes broke. The last thing that a mechanic
in Africa touched was my front sprocket and chain. The legacy of them doing more damage than good is still at 100%. I did say I would never take my bike to a mechanic in Africa again but most of my tools went missing in Ouagadougou, and I thought 'how wrong can you go with a chain and sprocket?' Fuck me.

 They do say it comes in three's, so without disappointment, later that night whilst on the way home I was trying to traverse a dirt track back to the village when the biggest rain storm I have ever witnessed descended, turning the dirt track into a river. This broke my phone which was in my soaking pocket.

I'm glad the word 'bastard' exists as it makes me feel better when I identify things as such.

You Bastard. You bastard. You bastard.

I'm technically going back onto British soil tomorrow in the form of the embassy in Accra, where I can explain what the Benin embassy clowns have done and try to sort out whatever we can do about this.

I was meant to go to Togo today but looks like I'm going to be in Ghana for a long time yet.

You bastard.  

Wednesday, 12 March 2014


Its not good. My passport is gone. The people at the Benin embassy think that someone has taken it whilst it was on the table... I went to the British embassy today which was also far from helpful. For some reason they've recently changed the regulations for British tourists applying for a new passport abroad and they say that it would be best if I fly home to sort it all out as it could take six weeks to get everything together. I'm not prepared to do this as

A, It would mean that I would have gone to the Benin embassy with the intention of getting a 10 pound bit of paper in my passport and then two hours later have to spend over one thousand pounds clearing up after someone else's mistake.

B, I can't afford to fly home.

C, I have my bike here which at the moment can only legally be in the country for another 10 days.

D, If I do go home my enthusiasm would be broken and I doubt I would bother coming back here. It just hasn't been worth it so far.

I'm going to apply for a temporary passport tomorrow, which only has five pages, but this should get me to Cameroon. The Benin embassy are actually been very helpful and say they will reimburse and renew the visas that were in there and also cover the costs of the passport. During this time I can try and sort out a new passport from England and have it couriered to Cameroon. The British embassy say this isn't possible but surely you can post a passport?

Things are wearing thin.

Friday, 14 March 2014


It took three hours of arguing but I've finally managed to get all the money back from the Benin embassy for the costs of my emergency passport and lost visas. Its not been the most civil of days. The consulate is a mammoth of a man who could get impressively irate; pounding the table with his fists, throwing his papers at the wall and throwing his arms up to his God. I only raised a finger! Still, I have all the money now, which is still quite decent of them as I didn't have any proof of what visas were in my passport at the end of the day. Monday begins reapplying for everything... and then I can LEAVE!

Saturday, 15 March 2014


Its really not good. Its looking like I'm going to have to come home. I can't apply for a new passport whilst I'm in Ghana. A law which came into force last October states that I need to be a resident of the country that I'm applying for the passport in. I've looked into it and I don't think there's a way around it. The only way I can apply for another one legally is to go back home and sort it all out from there. I have my bike to think about too. Its only legally meant to be in the country for another eight days, so I'm going to have to go to customs on Monday and see what they say about storing my bike here in case I do decide to come back. Disastrous....

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Options in light of disaster.

After extensively thinking about all the possible options that I have since my passport was stolen from an embassy I think I have now rationally gotten them down to two options....

I am now riding on my third engine, I have gone through two other pistons, cylinder rebores and now a stolen passport. All in the space of 6 months. A lot of people in the world seem to think that things happen for a reason. That life gives you signs and you should follow them. There's no doubt that human history has been shaped by people following signs, but personally I don't take to such things. I don't believe in God, divine intervention or the sort. If things happen for a reason then why are babies born with heart defects, children getting cancer, loved one's dying in road accidents. This is what life can give you. It is a game of chance and it can be cruel. There's no way around it, I feel I have been very unlucky since I left home. But that is it.

After everything that happened with my engines I really thought most of my troubles were over and I lulled myself into a false sense of optimism where I expected everything to be fine, for a least a while anyway. So when my passport was stolen a week after I got a new engine it hit me hard. In Africa you can sweet talk a pharmacist into giving you anything... Diazapam, Dihydrocodeine, Tramadol, and I spazzed myself out on a beach for the best part of a week.

After realising this really isn't the best thing to do I escaped the beach and I am now living with an American diplomat in Accra central, in a massive air condition house (which feels really weird) and he even has a pool! He's a very positive and travelled man and we've talked a lot about my current situation.

There's no getting around the fact that I need to go back to England to get a new passport. As of 13/10/13 the British government changed there legislation on their foreign citizens acquiring a passport abroad. If this happened before I would have been able to get a new passport from here no problem. But now I need to be a citizen, local insurance ID, proof of address etc. I looked into temporarily becoming a citizen but that isn't possible. I could become a citizen of Togo for the some of £20 but then have no British high commission there. What my government now does is issue you with an emergency passport... which only has five pages in. I could technically reach South Africa with this, but I'm doubtful it will work. Both of the Congo's stand in the way and they have visas that are very, very hard to obtain. Togo is the best place to get the visa, but then my 5 page passport would have expired before I get to the Congolese border. If by a stroke of luck I did manage to get through then by the time I get to South Africa I would still need to fly home. The further I go from here the more expensive that is. And if I get stuck outside the Congo it is even more expensive to fly home. The emergency passports are £100 a pop too. I don't think going on as it is, is a viable option.

I do need to get home from here and pick up my standard passport. The two options are; fly home from here, sort a passport out in England, hopefully find some work to equate my expenses and then come back and continue. The sting of this is that I will be leaving my bike in the country illegally. Out of the many things I've learned in Africa you can talk your way out of most things at borders. But this is still a risk and it could be expensive.

My second option is to turn around. I can make it back to England on two emergency passports and I can see a lot of West Africa that I haven't seen yet. I can pick up a 5 country visa in Togo which covers Benin, Burkina, Ivory coast and Guinea. I can then go to Sierra Leone and the Gambia and then make my way back up through the Sahara (which has been one of my favourite parts of the journey so far) and make it back to England.

The main goal out of all of this was to get to Canada with my girlfriend. She was going to meet me in South America and we were going to ride up together. But if I decide to ride home, which would still take me another 6 months, I could meet her, work until the weather changes and replenish some much needed funds and then we could set off to the far East together and make it to Canada whilst seeing Russia, Kazakhstan, Kygzstan and Mongolia. Everywhere in the World interests me but these countries do especially.

I'm torn between both these options. I do wholeheartedly begrudge been in the position where I now how to fork out on an air ticket for England after walking into an embassy for a £10 piece of paper. But these things happen. (I have said this a lot so far!)

As yet I am still very undecided about both of these. They both make me happy, but if I'm honest my heart is shifting towards riding home and going East. But then I have always wanted to see central Africa....

I don't know yet.

Suggestions are welcome.   

Wednesday, 19 March 2014


There may be a way for me to get a passport sent out here without me having to go home. I'm very thankful that I'm staying with a diplomat. He's given me a lot of advice on diplomatic law and these's options seem viable... so I'm going to try at least! I really don't like the idea of flying home to get one. Not only because of the cost issue but also because it would feel like the trip would be broken up in a way. Turning around and riding home does seem very appealing. Anything which includes riding my bike through countries does! But I did come here to ride a moped to South Africa, and I'm going to try my up most to do this until the very end! It would mean that I have to stay in Accra for at least 4 weeks, but Will doesn't have a problem with me staying. I think a break is something that I need also. A time to relax from all the stress is very welcome. We'll see what happens. I'm hopeful that it would work, but if it doesn't then I will turn around. And if I do end up having to stay here for 4 weeks it will give me time to get some things on my bike sorted out; new battery, off road tyres etc. I split up with Stergio when I first entered Ghana as I wanted to travel alone for a while but I would really like to go through the Congo with company. I think I could catch him and Steven up in the time. We'll see what happens. If this fails then there are still other options...

Thanks to everyone who have sent me messages, I really appreciate them. Even though I have no idea what most of you look like I would like the opportunity to meet everyone at some point and shake your hand.

This place is a challenge... and it really has been, in every way. This is what I came for, but I'm surprised at the things that I've found challenging. Roughing it in the wild is something that I relish. Been confronted with constant breakdowns and borderline bureaucratic insanity is something I do not. But I'm still going to push on to the end.

In the meantime I'm going to enjoy living in a comfortable place with a pool and try and put on some much needed weight!

Thursday, 20 March 2014

The fallacies of African paperwork.

I've manage to make my bike legal in the country for another 30 days. I started the process yesterday and finished late this afternoon. The process consisted of; go to the main customs office in Accra with all my papers, getting batted from room to room (in each room most people were asleep at there desks) before I found someone who could do it. They then said 'yes you've come to the right place, but you need to go to the place under that tree so they can fill out a form that means I can process yours...' I get batted around the many trees before I found the person who could right 'this letter'. I return to the main office with said piece of paper. 'Now Mr Parkin you need to go to the customs office on the other side of town to pay and bring back a receipt before I can stamp this paper'. I ride 15 miles to the other customs office where they then tell me that the main customs office made a mistake on the issue number. I ride back to the main office and explain. No apology but they assure the problem is fixed. I then ride back to the other side of town and the same problem was there. I ride back to the main customs office (quite angry) and they give in and just stamp the paper...

Now coming from an organised culture wouldn't it make sense to just have everything centralised?? All this for the equivalent of £3... which I didn't pay anyway. Africa.

Monday, 24 March 2014

From Bamako, Mali, through Burkina Faso and to Kumasi, Ghana.

It took three days to reach the Burkina Faso border from Bamako. I really enjoyed Mali. The country was a huge surprise; the people were wonderful, the landscapes beautiful and I felt incredibly safe and relaxed. Mali had been one of my favourite countries from the journey so far and I wondered how Burkina Faso would fare. A year previous I had been unable to pin point where Burkina Faso was on a map. Now I could see it on the road coming towards me.

Burkina Faso is the World’s third poorest country; a landlocked state with poor soil, lacking infrastructure and a massively corrupt government. It was evident straight away from being on Burkinabe soil that poverty was an issue. I’d seen a few children on my ride through West Africa with swollen stomachs from lack of food, but sadly it was a common sight from the beginning in Burkina. It was the second most corrupt border in Africa also, after Senegal. The police demanded money to stamp our passports. When they saw that we weren't going to pay, they then asked for a present, in this case, Stergios helmet. I mean, a tourist turns up to your country on a motorcycle with the intention of riding the motorcycle through the country and the police want you to give your helmet to them… 

We rode into Burkina, two helmet donned foreigners on tiny motorcycles. We camped about 20 km away from the border that night and then ventured out into Burkina for the first full day that morning. I think I had my cheapest ever meal that day; a huge bowls of rice, vegetables and fish for around 12p. Whilst I was eating, sat on the wall of the open sewer (a very common feature around Africa) a baby being carried over
the shoulder of its mother was staring at me, mouth open, about half a metre away. I was making faces at it, moving from side to side, nearly bringing a smile to its little face… then a big black nipple just gets shoved into its mouth right before my eyes.

Sunset on my first evening in Burkina Faso.

Dusty roads and termite mounds... keeping distance is the key!

We rode to a famous waterfall later that afternoon and found out that we could sleep there for around £2 a night. The waterfall was pretty spectacular; lots of tiny pools connected by flowing cascades surround by massive, towering trees. For most of my time in West Africa I’ve been travelling through a semi Sahel-like environment which has been very dry, with a few exceptions, so being around a waterfall was a refreshing change. Especially as it meant I could have my first shower since Bamako. The waterfall and camp ground were quite close to a village and we could sometimes see villagers coming down the hill to collect water. I would always wave, and when this came to waving at children they would always come over.
A group of four children came over to our camp. Two were about five years old, one around two and the other was a baby clinging on to the back of the seemingly oldest child. They were all adorable, but it was quite a sad sight. One had the swollen stomach and another had rotting teeth. The baby had a chesty cough also. It’s strange when you actually meet people who live in mud huts with straw roofs and with no access to healthcare or a decent education. Most people in Burkina are subsistence farmers so they just live off the land and a little gathered money. The eldest child grabbed my hand and put hers to mine, turning my hand over to see if it was the same colour. To someone with very limited access to the outside world I must look very strange. It’s wrong when people refer to Africans as coloured. Africans in general are dark all over due to a higher pigment in superior defence against UV rays, whereas my skin can be white, pink, red and brown. I have blonde hair, blue eyes and pink lips. I am definitely more coloured. 
Me and Stergio decided to make them some food. I made a soup and Stergio rice and tuna. When it came to handing the spoon to the children they went to grab the food out of the spoon with their hands. People there don’t eat with utensils. It does take skill to scoop rice into your mouth without making a mess. Soup is a bit far though.

Children from the village.

Amazing hair.

It was so nice to be around running water after months of desert and Sahel. 

The driving in Burkina became notably worse. It became not uncommon for someone driving a car, lorry, truck, anything to overtake a slow (ish) moving vehicle when I was riding the other way. The person sat behind the wheel would just flash their lights at me until I got out of the way. This would usually mean slamming on the breaks and swerving off the road into the bushes. One of the few times I’ve actually feared for my life was around an hour outside of the capital, Ouagadougou. I was riding on the road, quite close to the edge as drivers generally don’t leave a lot of room to overtake. We were the only ones on the road, everything was quiet and my mind was on other things, then somebody driving a white Toyota pickup decided it was appropriate to swerve into me whilst overtaking at high speed. The car actually clipped my pannier and the force from the wind nearly sent me off the road. Some people literally drive like animals. 

I was excited for Ouagadougou, mainly because of the name.  We managed to find a cheap place to stay which was at a catholic mission in the centre of the city. After eight days of being on the road it’s nice to stay still for a while and get everything together, clean clothes, strength, sleep, food etc. After the amazing street food of Bamako I was looking forward to seeing what the culinary delights of Ouaga had to offer. I ventured out to get a coffee in the morning and to pick up some provisions. This proved exceedingly difficult. After utterly failing to by some milk to make coffee with (French for milk is ‘lait’ yes!?) I thought I would just go into a café and buy one. I walk past a place which had mugs of coffee painted on the outside, go inside and people are there drinking coffee. 

‘Can I have a coffee with milk please?’

‘We don’t do coffee.’

*look around at everyone drinking it*

‘But, but.’

‘We don’t do coffee!’


Later that evening me and Stephen, a German guy who’s riding around Africa on a 125cc motocross, went out to get something to eat. We made the mistake of going back to the coffee place. Pretty much the same thing happened. We walk in and everyone is eating food from bowls.

‘Hello, are you serving food.’

‘No, we don’t do food.’

*look around at everyone eating*

‘But people are eating in here!’

‘That’s the last of the food.’

There was a woman cooking in the kitchen, steam and frying sounds were coming out of the door. That kitchen was alive and there were containers full of food everywhere.

‘But I can see food in the kitchen. Look, there’s loads there…’

‘That’s something else.’


After around forty minutes of walking around we managed to find another place that ‘served food.’ It was an open kitchen stall by the side of the street, gas hobs, pots and pans, food stored in the back etc.

‘Hello, do you make omelettes?’

‘No we don’t have any eggs.’

The man was standing in front of a mountain of egg cartons, all full. There must have been hundreds.

I point to the eggs.

‘Well, what are those?’

‘Oh them, well I don’t have a pan.’

The man was washing a pan with his hands as he said this to me.

‘What do you mean you don’t have a pan, your holding one!’

‘Okay, okay. 600 FCFA 

This is about four times the price it should be.

‘Right! Fine! I’ll fuck off!’

My bike started to make two distinct noises on the ride from Bamako to Ouagadougou, a knocking from the cylinder and a metallic rumble from further inside the engine. Due to a lot of people’s recommendations I thought it best to see if I can find a new engine for the bike. When my bike breaks down, or shows indications that it needs immediate work, it’s a massive bastard enough on its own. But the shit filled icing which comes with the massive dump of a cake is the fact that you now have to go through the rigmarole of trying to find spares, mechanics, shops, markets, people that understand you whilst at the same time being the white guy in the middle with the money that everyone wants a piece of.  
Ouagadougou was the third major West African city that I’d been in and this was the third time I had to go out to try and find spares. I had my sight on finding a Lifan 110cc semi auto engine. People in the UK use these engines to upgrade Honda c90’s so that was a good enough testimonial to their quality. I know that Lifan do deal with the African market, but it proved difficult to find one. Like in every big city in West Africa where you need to find things, the experience feels like it’s a lot more difficult than it should be. Ouagadougou was no exception.
It’s easy enough to find the area in town where people do most of the mechanical work, which is mainly identified by rusty wrecks on the side of the streets and the sound of people hitting things with hammers. There are always lots of shops to serve their needs in these areas too. The strange thing about this though is that every shop seems to stock the same items. If one doesn't have what you’re looking for then chances are that the rest won’t, but everybody is adamant that ‘their shop’ their ‘friends shop’ friend of a friend etc has what you're looking for… Thus experiencing the great headache of finding out what ‘African time’ means. People don’t bat an eyelid if you are in their shop which fails to stock the item that you will buy, but they do know a friend who does and they have just called them and they are on their way but in reality it takes them two hours to turn up. This is quite normal. Trying to do all this with a language barrier is hard, so sometimes they call their friend who can ‘speak English.’ You wait for two hours, they turn up and each of us doesn't have a clue what each other is talking about… But they know a friend… this is also quite normal. People try to sell your absolute crap also whilst they stand in front of you and tell you it’s fine. One man just kept telling me that the spoke key he wanted to sell me ‘was fine’ even though the part that would fit my spoke was dented into itself.  False promises are the most infuriating thing. It’s hard enough to have a bike that constantly breaks when you’re trying to ride the thing around the world, so it’s quite understandable that all you want to do is to get it fixed. However, it is also a common thing in West Africa to promise blindly that they, their friend definitely has the part you’re looking for. ‘It will all be fine, don’t worry!’ You can go around all day with people like this and in the end get nowhere. This also feels like it is quite normal. Sometimes it is so blatant too.  After one particularly annoying day of doing everything mentioned above I went into the last shop. The mechanics son who I was with asked if they had a Lifan engine. He turned round with a huge smile on his face ‘Yes, they have a Lifan!’
There wasn't a shred of hope inside me.
After twenty minutes of waiting for the lady to get said engine, which was mainly interrupted by serving people who can shout the loudest, I had in front of me the box containing the Lifan engine. Sure enough, there was something completely different inside. 
Why? WHY!?
There’s one cultural trait throughout West Africa which I have difficulty with; ‘TTTHHHHSSSSSS!’ is used to get people’s attention out here and it’s quite normal. Where I come from though, hissing through your teeth at someone is very rude. I grew up with realising that people make this sound when they want an annoying animal to go away. So after 28 years of affiliating this sound with a negative reaction I find it hard not to get offended when every time I walk down the street I can hear a chorus of hisses directed at me.  People driving past, street vendors, shop owners, everyone, will hiss at the white guy to get his attention for ‘something.’   In Burkina alone it’s quite normal to get mobbed by a crowd when you go to buy something, usually fruit. It can be a daunting experience though,  to find yourself surround by ten women all shouting things that you can’t understand shoving all manner of fruits and vegetable in your face, prodding, poking, pulling on your clothes whilst all the while ‘THHHSSSSS, THHHSSSSS, THHHHSSSSS!’ It goes against my instincts. I found myself caught between my British reserved politeness and a primal urge to just tell everyone to fuck off.
‘I just want a mango. JUST ONE MANGO!’

Generally I became quite an angry man in Burkina Faso. I felt I couldn’t get a break, no privacy, was forced to go out and farcically deal with everyone and everything to try and get my bike fixed. Writing this now, with a new engine in my bike, I consider been able to have a break from all this on a par to the nice understanding that my bike shouldn't break down the next time I ride it.

The Nigerian embassy in Ouagadougou is only open for dealing with visas for four hours a week. When we finally managed to get in and fill out the paperwork the consulate said we each had to go into his office for an interview. It wasn't totally unexpected as I had to write a letter to the Ghanaian consulate to get my visa, but this time he popped the question ‘So what do you know about Nigeria?’
Thoughts came into my head about how the president, Dr Good luck Jonathan is putting his time and money into making sure gay people publicly have their flesh torn out of their backs whilst at the same time there is violent religious chaos in the North of what is the most corrupt country on Earth.
‘Erm… one in every five people in Africa are Nigerian, its got the biggest economy in Africa and they also brew Guinness there, which is important for someone from the UK!.’

This made him laugh and I had a £100 Nigerian visa in my passport.  

Entering Ouagadougou.

After two weeks in the city I started to have blood clots in my nose from breathing in the dust.

A backstreet in Burkina's capital.

Andre roasting a single cashew nut in the Catholic mission.

A typical petrol station that you would find outside of the cities. Makes your bike jump!

A camel leather pouch containing dates that Elias bought in Mauritania.

Elias and Christina who we camped with on our last night in Burkina.

When I was taking a photo of Stergio refuelling this child just walked up to me, stared like this for a few seconds and then walked away. He is going to have an interesting life.... for good or for evil. 

We entered Ghana the next day. I was worried about the border. Travelling without a Carnet is a lot cheaper but it does make the borders a lot more complicated, and Ghanaian was meant to be an exception. Nearly every overlander I'd met on the road had warned me that I probably wouldn't get into Ghana without one. I'd been thinking of my inevitable discussion I would have with the border guards for a while and thought that I'd boiled down a plan into something quite plausible and hopefully successful. As I said before, the RAC, the only carnet issuer in the UK would only value my bike at £1000 or over, even though I bought mine for £450. This was my scapegoat... 'its impossible for me to get a Carnet as my bike isn't worth enough money to start the initial value process.' A little white lie but it does have some truth. I had to have a 40 minute discussion with the chief of customs though, upholding this reason whilst also trying to flower his favour with the fact that I'm trying to ride this moped to South Africa for charity, one of those charities being Wateraid... and Ghana does have some water issues. In the end the chief decided to give me a temporary import permit (meant only for locals, not foreign vehicles) which was totally exempt of all charges, even the locals have to pay! I left the office to the words of 'you look after yourself sir and have a safe journey.'

Impossible to get into Ghana without a carnet. Pa!

Even though it was evident that Ghana was vastly richer than Burkina (seeing how the chief had an ipad) the roads we took into Ghana for the first two days were the roughest I'd ridden in Africa so far. Very good fun to ride on, not so good for the bike though.

For a while I had been thinking of going off on my own for a little while. Travelling with company is good fun, there's always someone to laugh with, talk to etc, but doing it on your own is different, in a lot of good ways. Its more intense. Every decision you make is your own and the journey becomes a bigger reflection of what you do. So on the third day in Ghana me and Stergio took off down the road on our separate ways.

The thing that makes Ghana different than any other African country is the fact that they speak English, which is a great pleasure. To be able to converse with local people in my own language ads a huge aspect to the general experience. 
 I was making my way down South to Accra, the place of the visas! Along the way loomed Ghana's second city, Kumasi, which I decided to stop in for a few days and rest. Another thing which sets Ghana apart from the other West African countries is that it is a Christian nation, whereas most the others are mainly Muslim. There is a very evident change in the behaviour of the people from their religious differences. I've found that Muslims are quite quiet; on a whole they are respectful of my privacy and it is rare to get shouted things at me when I'm riding along. Most of the times it would be waves. In Ghana however... in every town people would shout things as I would ride past 'Hey, hey hey!!!' Sometimes it would feel quite aggressive too. I mean, what do they expect me to do when I'm riding on a rough road, trying to pick out a route between potholes and gravel at speed and someone starts shouting at me; slam on my breaks... 'oh hello sir, what can I help you with?' It did become very annoying. Often I would ride on, imagining that I'd stopped and engaged in a violent argument with them (I never would). This idea amused me greatly for half an hour when a midget from a stall started shouting and running after me.

 On the way into Kumasi I entered into the urban sprawl. I've found that aside from the Mauritanians, Ghanaians have been the worst drivers I've encountered so far. 50% of the time people indicate or don't leave them on, which is unusual, but it's the overtaking with Ghanaians. There's no need to plough through the road so fast and so close to people. It's as if people have no concept of death. I've never raised my middle finger to people on the road so frequently before.
 After around five minutes of entering Kumasi I heard yet again more shouts and calls from people and cars... one of them was a question though.

 'Hey you, where are you going!?'

 I thought I'd be honest with him.

 'South Africa!'

This man behind the four wheeled drive car was amazed and pulled over to take a picture of me. The man was called Kofi and he has turned into a friend for life. I said that I was looking for a cheap hotel and he said that I could come and stay at his house. I did a quick scan of my instincts, everything fine and so accepted his invitation.
 It was amazing sleeping inside a room again. That night was the first time that I'd slept indoors for over two months. Under a ceiling fan too! It was a very quiet and refreshing night. I ended up staying a week there, meeting his friends, talking politics and religion.

The first camp in Ghana

The red dust!

Nearly every morning when bush camping there will be a local there watching. When in Ghana they can speak English... usually just prefer to stare though.

The barrage of smiles, excitement and questions that I have to plough through to get to a village water pump. 

 Christianity is big in Ghana, very big. In all my travels I have never seen so much religious promotion before, and I travelled through the Islamic Republic of Mauritania and Mali. You see it everywhere... peoples bumper stickers praising Jesus with slogans of 'showers of blessings' 'one God one life' God is eternity' or even some slightly worrying ones... 'A fool works for a pension but a wise man works for eternity.' Shop names also seem like they have an agenda to promote God. 'God's gift canteen' 'Jesus will come again electrical shop' I have the grace of God pharmacy.' There are billboards lining the roads with people proclaiming that they are profits offering healing, exorcisms or the chance to communicate through them with their dead relatives. Religion is big business in Ghana and it is making a lot of people rich. One night I was kept awake until three in the morning by a man and a microphone performing an exorcism on someone to a big crowd somewhere far off in town. For hours he would shout in tongues which would be occasionally interrupted by 'Jesus saves!' 'The power of God compels the devil out of you!' To which the crowd would cheer in hysterics.
 I've looked into exorcisms in the past and why some people believe that some poor individual may be possessed by the devil and the cause is usually some medical condition like epilepsy. It makes people fit, they lose themselves and throw themselves down on the floor and usually strain incomprehensible words out of their mouths. I find it sad that masses of people think that a man with his microphone literally shouting 'BLUB BLUB BLUB BLUB BLUB BLUB BLUB!' for hours at a time in some poor chaps ear while he's making a lot of money amidst the cheers of a huge crowd will think that it's going to make the person better. In reality they need medication. 

 I've found it hard not to talk about religion in Ghana. I am not religious, I'm a man of science. Nearly everyone who I have a conversation with will ask me about my religious beliefs and they are taken aback when I say I have no God, have never been to Church, prayed and some literally can't believe that I'm not baptised. I'm honest with people when they ask me about it, and I explain why I don't believe in God. These have been very interesting conversations on a whole. I'm not out to offend people when I talk to them about it, and the conversations I've had with people have been enlightening on both parts. I am very surprised though to find out that most people I've spoken with look at me like I'm stupid when I tell them that a woman wasn't created from a man's rib and that the world isn't 6000 years old. I've felt like I've taken on the role of a science teacher in some respects with some people and some things that I've said have got a lot of favourable nods and some appreciation of where I'm coming from. 
 If I'm going to be politically correct here I would say that's its fine to have a religion.... but science should always come first when you're teaching children about the world and the origins and mechanics of life. It stops people thinking, saying and doing stupid things... like paying people to shout into sick peoples ears.          

My engine was really not in the best shape. After all the work that the mechanics have done to it during my time in Africa it came out really bad. I'm not exactly sure what the mechanic in St Louis did wrong, but whatever he did it made the engine seize seven times on the ride from there to Bamako. I have the feeling that he didn't space the pistons rings out properly which stopped the oil from getting through causing the seizures. Then the mechanics in Bamako.... I could go on for a long time about the shoddiness of their work but basically, from a combination of this my engine was on its last legs. When it ran on idle their was a metallic tapping sound which came from the cylinder barrel. It completely lost power going up any sort of gradient, even small, and when I tried to get power a hard knocking sound started to come from the back of the engine. It would overheat after only 30 miles and would constantly cut out, whatever I did to the carb didn't work. It was burning oil like hell too. Even though after all these problems I was still attached to the thing. It had got me from my home to Ghana and getting rid of it was not a light decision. I decided that if it was going to be the final straw I would take it apart myself and have a look. A lot of people had got in touch with me giving me mechanical advice (thank you) and I downloaded diagrams, videos and instructions on how to take the engine apart and put it back together. Unsurprisingly the results weren't good. From what I saw I would have needed to replace the cylinder barrel, which would mean a new piston. Both valve seals were ruined, so two new valves, and the crankshaft baring was on its way out. I think there must have been some blockage further in the engine stopping the oil from circulating properly too. It was time to let go.

The death of my engine.

Mr hospitality, Kofi.

Kof'i's mother and cousin making fufu 

Same old bike, brand new engine.

I wanted to put the new engine into my bike myself, but Kofi and his brother recommended that I should take the bike down town in the back of their car just in case the engine wouldn't fit. I conceded and the experience has once again affirmed my desire to never take my bike to a mechanic here again. After everything that's happened with my bike I was in quite an angry mood with been in the circumstance in the first place, and seeing the due care to my belongings with the simple task of bolting an engine into the bike pushed me over the edge. Obviously the exhaust was off and for some reason the mechanic picked it up, realised he didn't need to do anything with it yet and wanted to put it back on the floor. How did he do this? He threw it on the floor. Not place it down like a normal person with respect to peoples things, he threw it on the floor.


'Why did you just do that!? Why did you have to throw it on the floor? What the hell's wrong with you?'

'But its metal...'

'Yes, of course it's metal, but your floor is solid concrete! And look at the state of it, its smashed to pieces! Everything around here is!'

I've had enough of having my things wrecked by carelessness. I'd reached the end of my patience. There's a reason why people ride or drive around on massive hunks of mangled mess. He was offended when I wouldn't let him ride my bike. I've been on the back of local bikes, mechanics bikes and felt the over revving... I never want anyone else to touch my bike again. I'm treating this new engine like its my child.

Generally, up to having the new engine put into my bike I've been having a level of anger building up inside me. Some people from back home thought, quite ignorantly, that I was riding into my imminent death by coming to Africa; that its a dangerous place full of violence and thievery. From what I've seen it isn't at all, but it can be a very annoying place. I was looking forward to this new engine signifying the beginning of a more relaxed state of travel through Africa where I can start to enjoy myself, relax and not be compelled to struggle on with a failing engine with infuriating outcomes.

Then the Benin embassy lost my passport... 

No comments :

Post a Comment