Well, let me tell you the tale of wandering Colin, a fellow Irishman, and an adventure he took that made me look like an amateur.
Colin and I met recently in a hostel in Kingston, Jamaica. Rather clean-cut and humble in character, I assumed the guy was just another tourist. I was dead wrong.
Colin had cycled from Edinburgh to Ethiopia—an impressive feat on it’s own—but when he told me he did via West Africa, from Morocco all the way down to the Congo and back up through via Uganda and Kenya, I was dumbfounded.
You need to look at a map to appreciate it.
“Wow. How long did that take you?” I asked.
“Originally, I planned a year,” Colin began. “But it just stretched out and next thing I knew, four years had gone by,” he told me.
Four freaking years! You’re probably thinking Colin was a retired millionaire, but that was far from the case.
“How did you finance your trip?” I asked.
“I spent only spent €10,000 [$13,500] in the 4 years,” he casually informed me.
“F**k off! How?”
“I worked for Guinness operating a forklift and just saved up. Transportation was free, obviously. And I don’t drink or smoke, so living was cheap.”
His budget was as mind-blowing as his trip. Over four years, that works out at over just over $9 a day! (But to put this is perspective, most Africans are living on less than $2 a day.)
“So tell me, what were the memorable moments of the trip?” I asked him.
“I met this crazy Japanese guy cycling through Africa as well. In Cameroon, we bought a pirogue (a hollowed out tree trunk used as a canoe). We spent three weeks going down river to the Congo. In was an amazing time. I then spent six weeks in Kinshasa, the craziest city I’ve ever been—even crazier than Lagos!”
Quite an adventure. And that just a segment of his journey.
“Any arrests?” I asked, suspecting it wasn’t all smooth sailing.
“Yeah. The Japanese guy got arrested in Cameroon. Obviously tired of dealing with street hustlers, he unknowingly ignored a friendly invitation from the local police chief at a restaurant. Feeling disrespected in front of his wife, the chief had him arrested and locked up for the night. His jail mates beat him and stole a couple of hundred dollars from his person.”
He told me of another incident, one that confirmed what I’ve said before: the most dangerous thing is Africa is not war or corruption, it’s the women. And even solid Colin fell prey to their bootylicious charm.
“In Ghana, I fell in love with a local girl and ended up staying there for 8 months. The only problem my visa was for three months, so I altered the visa—which was hand-written—by changing the number 3 to an 8. But the pen colours were ever so slightly different, so when I got the border, they knew something was up. ‘We don’t issue eight month visas,’ they said, and after figuring out what I’d done, they locked me up. I eventually had to pay a bribe to leave the country.”
Unfortunately for me, our conservation was short-lived, but I imagine Colin had many more tales to tell. He is currently spending several months cycling around the Caribbean countryside. I wish him well and hope his spirit of adventure inspires you guys.
For those of you interested, I have several slick city guides in my Africa section.