(By Mikael Strandberg) "My worst day of last year was when I was mugged by 5 men in Dakar, Senegal, who slashed my left wrist and left foot with a machete as I attempted and failed to prevent them taking off with my camera and day-sack. Just in case youre wondering the foot slash was minor and I was back on my feet walking fine within a week. The injury to my wrist was much more serious as 4 tendons were severed and required stitching together. There remains a slight stiffness, but no real discomfort."
Technical problems in Cameroon
This was Peter Gostelow´s strongest memory when he summoned up his trip so far at the end of 2010. Since than he has passed Cameroon and advanced into one of the most demanding countries on earth, when it comes to cycling - Central Africa. Fortunately he is crossing the country together with another cyclist, Hiromu from Japan. But the hard dirt roads in the Central African country has already taken its toll on the gear. Peter writes on his blog:
"Hiromu is currently outside attempting to fix his front rack. One of the brackets attaching it to the forks first broke while bumping along a terrible road in Nigeria. Its been welded back and re-welded twice again to the point where there is very little strength left. So some chap cut a new piece of metal (by hammer and chisel!) in a welders yard this morning. It might hold across the Congo, but I feel something else may fall apart."
Still faking visas
Peter is still faking visas. Basically due to the costs involved getting a new visa. But it is of course a dangerous activity. He writes the following explanation on his blog:
"My visa for Cameroon had expired two weeks previously. In most parts of the World this should and would mean a fine, calculated on a daily basis for the length of overstaying the visa. It probably would have done in Cameroon, had I not taken a tip-ex correction pen to the date of entry on my Cameroon stamp (written in biro). The tip-ex job was a result of having previously failed to get a visa extension at the immigration office in Yaounde. Here I had been told to pay for an entire new visa. It was partly something about the rudeness of the woman who told me this and partly my mood at the time that had me decide there was no way I was paying another $100 to stay in Cameroon for a few more weeks."
Tip ex job
"So when Hiromu and I rolled up to the immigration office in the border town of Kentzou I was relieved to find the official in charge was from the Anglophone part of Cameroon. He was also sober and more interested in hearing about our journey than checking the dates we had entered Cameroon. A few minutes later another official in another office was giving us the exit stamps without having even looked at the entry stamp and my DIY tip-ex job."
Central Africa turns out to be one long hassle with check points demanding money. Hiromu dealt with most of them in his magic way. Peter explains:
"At a few problematic check posts I let Hiromu produce his own magic letters. These consisted of slips of paper where he used Chinese characters to write down the name of the officers, then presented the paper with an explanation that if they kept these pieces of paper in their shirt pockets they would be protected from any harm. I found it difficult to keep a straight face as one soldier seemed hypnotised by the Chinese characters before carefully slipping the paper into his breast pocket. Traditional/spiritual beliefs are very strong in this part of Africa. Hiromu has since found better paper to write on, the colours of which match those of the Democratic Republic of the Congo flag, the next country where we anticipate more of these problem check posts."
Cycling is of course a good way to get lose to village life. Especially when putting up camp in a village.
"At night we camped beside schools, following the usual procedure of cycling into a village shortly before sunset and asking where the chief of the village was. Dozens of children would characteristically follow us to watch the procedure of pitching the tent and cooking. For seven continuous nights this consisted of us sharing 3 cups of rice (0.5kg), mixing it with tinned sardines, maggi stock cubes, and if we were lucky some tomatoes and maybe a few cloves of garlic. On one night I couldnt finish my bowl so offered it to the children silently waiting a few metres away in the darkness. An older boy of about 11 came forward to take the bowl then returned to the darkness. There was a brief report of shouts. A minute later the bowl came back without a grain of rice in it."
Preparing for Congo
Right now, the two cyclists are resting in the capital, Bangui, preparing for the mighty Congo. Peter reflects on his future:
"Bangui itself looks like its been caught in a time-warp. The city, which sits on a bend of the Ubangui river, is my last stop here in the Central African Republic. Across that brown murky expanse lies the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Its an exciting and daunting thought the hundreds of kilometres of rarely travelled tracks that lie ahead in a country that has occupied my thoughts for many months. I expect more problem check-posts, mud, sand, intense heat, humidity, rain, sweat, bees, flies, mosquitoes, lack of edible food and clean water and scenes of desperate poverty on a scale greater than anywhere else on this journey over the next few months. This is the main course for me. If it isnt hard Ill be disappointed. All I hope is that I exit the other side with bike, body and belongings mostly intact and a few good stories to tell. I feel there will be plenty of those, but you might have to be patient to hear them."
Peter Gostelow, who lives in Dorset (UK) when he is not on his bicycle, was born in 1979 and became an English teacher and long distance cycler. During 2005 to 2008 he cycled from Japan to the UK, a distance of 50,000 km. Currently he is cycling from London, through Africa, to Cape Town; a 20,000+ km distance which will take two year to finish. He started on 16 August 2009.
Peter charity Against Malaria: Click here
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