Contains updates from Spencer. Click on England then on ‘Add Comment’ to Leave a message.
Circumnavigating Africa in aid of Save The Children
Contains updates from Spencer. Click on England then on ‘Add Comment’ to Leave a message.
Thumbs up for home.
Spencer being supported by a very enthusiatic crowd…including charlyboy.
Spencer making repairs on the road.
A REPORT FROM WEST AFRICA-SPENCER CONWAYS SOLO CIRCUMNAVIGATION OF AFRICA ON A MOTORBIKE
I departed from the UK on the first of November 2009 and having spent 167 days so far trying to circumnavigate Africa I still feel privileged to wake up and make my way through the most complex and vibrant continent the world has to offer. Struggling my way down the east coast I now find myself on the return leg-I literally “turned round ” at the southern most point of the continent and after 16 countries and 31050 kilometres on the clock I am still in awe at the complexity of the human situation. IT is impossible to have a dull moment and I have now stumbled upon the two most exciting, confusing and visually stimulating countries so far-Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo.As if to confirm this I am sitting writing this is a gloomy filthy room in Kinshasa while in the streets riots are going on over police brutality.Two policemen have been shot dead and I fear that the ever present armed forces will want to exact revenge but more of that later.
I entered Angola through the Santa Clara border with Namibia but only after having waited 14 days for the visa and being relieved of my HD Camera by thieves (which I was to sorely regret when I saw the beauty that Angola had to offer) and lastly having been rolled on by an extremely obese man while I was sleeping. On the last night before crossing the border I offered to buy a few drinks for Bongani, a Swazi/Namibian who I had befriended and had been very helpful during the days I was stuck at the border.
Unfortunately he was unable to hold his drink and I offered to let him have the inflatable camping mattress and “sleep it off “on my floor. During the night he decided that he was not comfortable enough and proceeded to lie on top of me. As riding with broken ribs is not ideal I managed eventually to roll him back on the floor-not without considerable effort I must add as he made Pavarotti look like slimmer of the year. Later I popped to the toilet and when I returned he was snuggled up in my bed with only his head sticking out of the sleeping bag. This was a bit too much for me and with some hippo herding tactics I learnt in Swaziland (not really!) I managed to coax him out of the door. So after this peaceful night I found myself in Angola
A terrain that is rich in oil, diamonds, iron ore and copper, plus a measureable hydro-electric capacity Angola has the potential to be one of Africas richest states. Instead the more common reality is of a nation of shattered infrastructure and devastated towns struggling to feed a desperately poor and eternally uprooted population. Despite this I came across the most resilient, helpful and friendly people I have ever met in Africa.
My first aim was to get to the city of Lubango and I was not dissappointed. Although it was a shanty town of massive proportions it had two hidden gems that I am sure people are not aware of. The city is surrounded by a spectacular mountain that easily rivals Table Mountain in Cape Town. Furthermore perched on the top is a statue of Christ reminiscent of that of Rio. Below that lived the most warm welcoming people and I spent an excellent evening eating goat kebabs and drinking local beer before heading off the in the morning to my next destination, Huambo.
Huambo formerly known as Nova Lisbon (New lisbon) has an estimated population of one million. It was once renowned for its expansive parks and attractive colnial buildings and was briefly touted as the countries capital in waiting. But then came the civil war in 1993, a gruesome 52 day seige reduced the city to little more than a pile of pock marked rubble. Although it is now taking the first tentative steps to recovery after a war that lasted 20 years it now presents a vista that is remarkably surreal-many of the buildings have lost their facades but are inhabited by families getiing on with their day to day domestic life as if it is completely normal-I watched families having dinner, children playing in their rooms and Televisions and radios blaring (for some reason Africans enjoy playing both at the same time at ear shattering distorted volumes). It was like peering in to real size dolls houses. I felt a bit like a voyeur but eventually realised it was completely normal and when people in the houses caught my eye they waved and smiled greeting me loudly in Portuguese.
From Huambo my next mission was to get up to the capital Luanda.-the roads turned out to be excellent and the countryside extremely beautiful. I was lucky to travel through the rainy season as the vegetation was lush-so green it almost looked like computer graphics and the road was bordered by shimmering lakes of crystal clear water. Scattered all along the route were small children-in tatty shorts or naked- fishing and swimming or proudly displaying their catch at the side of the road for sale. At one stage the vegetation changed and the asphalt road turned into a mud road-an implausible red colour which caused the puddles to become almost fluorescent orange. Lining the road was a massive Eucalyptus forest-the smell of the trees released even more powerfully by the rain pummeling their leaves. It was a spectacular experience made even more special by the fact that ther was not a single soul or vehicle around. Things were made a litte more difficult due to the fact that the rains caused the glue like red mud to stick to my tyres making them instantly twice the size and I inevitably fell off four or five times. This only added to the experience and fortunately none of the tumbles were any problem. I found myself lying on the ground completely mudcaked and laughing out loud at where I found myself. How did I get into this!!
The remainder of the journey into Luanda was fairly uneventful and although sprawling and dirty I once again found the Angolan people to be very welcoming and had no problem wandering out at night to experience what the city had to offer. My biggest regret was that I was limited by my lack of Portuguese but nevertheless the people of Angola made this a very special experience for me and up to this point it is unequivically my favourite country in Africa. This was in sharp contrast to what I was going to find in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo made famous by the exploits of Henry Morton Stanley to track the source of the Congo River which led to the interest of King Leopold of Belgium and subsequently the Scramble for Africa in 1878. From this point onwards DRC probably suffered more than any country in the world. But I still had to get there to see for myself.
Instead of taking the “traditional” route to Kinshasa through the border of Matadi I decided to take a gamble and test myself by taking a secondary road through such exotic sounding places as Maquela de Zombo, Banza Sosso and Ngidinga. It proved to be a remarkable decision as I was thrown into the centre of a tropical jungle with no cars, bicycles, people, electicity and to be honest -no road. The” road” turned out to be a track with ruts metres deep, rivers and puddles as high as my waist and bordering the path in a thick wall the lushest tropical forest I had ever seen. Tarzan would have been proud to hack through it and he would never have been able to swing from tree to tree it was so dense.The sounds of the forest were deafening created by monkeys, birds and God knows what. It was a punishing ordeal for myself and the bike and a test for the most experienced rider. I fell often, getting caught up in the dense undergrowth or slipping in the mud and was also drenched to the bone with sweat .This was the hardest ride of my life and I had to pyschologically change my maxim “day by day, border by border” to “kilometre by kilometre” and eventually to “100 metres by 100 metres”. The first day I covered 30kms in 8 hours, the second 40kms in 9 hours and on the third I managed 120kms as I finally hit the tar road turning to Kinshasa. I felt incredibly proud of my achievement as I had to really work for the kilometres and this was compounded by the fact that when I reached the one hut border the guard was in awe and said the last foreigner to come here was four years ago. I think he may have been a bit out of touch with the border procedures as he read my passport for a full five minutes-upside down and then had no ink in his stamp so had to hand write over it.
My mood changed as soon as I hit the outskirts of Kinshasa. It was undoubtedly the hottest, dirtiest,l east stable, most unsafe and least friendly place I have ever driven into. I stopped at a petrol station and asked directions for the centre of the city. I was met with blank expressions-no wonder, as I subsequently found out it was going to take me two hours to get into the centre. Kinshasa has an estimated staggering 12 million people and is incredibly poor. The majority of people survive by selling what they can on the streets-plastic bags of water-the whole city is covered layers deep in these bags (the inventor of plastic has a lot to answer for) Others mill around holding 20 pairs of sunglasses in each hand in some Octopus imitating act while others carry an exceptoinal amount of baguettes on their head and are armed with a knife and a tub of margarine. Jostling for space are the food sellers-chicken in peanut sauce, fish wrapped in palm leaves and such delicacies as caterpillars and crocodile meat-the oysters and caviar of Kinshasas culinary scene-or chikwange-the leaf wrapped blocks of fermenting cassava paste that to the uninitiated resembles nothing quite so much as warm carpet glue. Then there are the fruit, mobile phone, cigarette and soft drink sellers balancing ridiculous amounts of products on their heads. Needless to say all the brands are fake and one particularly enthusiastic salesman tried to sell me a pair of sunglasses which had one arm missing-do I look like Van Gogh?
Adding to the mayhem are the ubiquitous yellow and blue taxis and mini vans careering around with their sweating crammed human cargo bouncing around on the potholed roads. On every street corner are the “Cheges” or street children (named after Che Guevara for some reason) who are feral and intimidating and demanding money-calling you “Le Blanc” or worse if you dont oblige. Seated on stools around the city are the money changers (always women) with huge wads of Central African Francs,a thousand of which might buy you a soft drink. Everywhere there is French and Lingala simultaneously machine gunning out of hundreds of mouths as people try to make their life heard. Amongst all of this are the occasional fat cats with brand new American 4 by 4s, smart suits, Raybans and mobile phones scornfully ignoring the masses surrounding their trucks trying to sell their wares.
Finally pushing, jostling and dragging themselves around the capital are the disabled and deformed and the cart pushers with their unfeasibly heavy loads with muscular bodies and shaved heads glistening with sweat as they try to make their deliveries negotiating the ruined roads that were at one point in time tarred. However it was a scene at the port that distressed me the most. I went to check on tickets for the ferry across the river to the Capital of Congo-Brazzaville (the only place in the world with two capitals a river distance apart)
I have been here for a week and I have not seen a single tourist.The only foreigners I have seen are members of aid agencies and can only be seen in 4 by 4s-they never walk in the street. The UN presence is massive-20 000 troops-the biggest in the world as well as UNICEF, World Food Programme, WHO, Save the Children to name a few. They keep their lives completely separate and go from compound to compound. A member of STC did not see the irony when I suggested walking to a Cafe-he said “no no we must drive-the children are too dangerous.”
I have taken the conscious decision to walk around and I will continue my journey and soak up the experiences and hope that things improve for the citizens of a beautiful land that was systematically plundered by the Mighty leopard Mobutu Sese Seko for thirty years
Spencer having a well earned break and taking in Africa’s beautiful landscape.
Spencer on the Libyan coast accompanied by a camera man and enjoying a well earned break in Egypt.
I am riding a motorbike solo and unsupported from England to the southern most point of Africa and back. The trip is basically a circumnavigation of the continent as I will be going down the east coast and returning via the west coast. The trip will involve travelling through more than 28 countries (hence the fundraising target) and I will cover more than 40 000 kilometres! (25 000 miles). To put it in perspectiveÂ I will ride every day for seven months+ and I will cover twice the distance that Ewan Mcgregor and Charlie Boorman did on their excellent trip and I will do it alone. I will cover one fifth of the worlds surface area.