Welcome to mad nomad’s adventurous website! This site is about travelling the way I’ve been dreaming of as a child! When I took the decision to make my dream come true, it seemed remote and totally unfamiliar to me. Finally, after two years of profound research and intense preparation, I hit the road!
On the 14th of April 2007 I set off solo from Thessaloniki, Greece by my small motorcycle (Honda XR 250S), on a journey to four countries, for ten months’ time: Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and India. During my trip, however, there were many changes in my schedule, and, finally, I ended up returning to Greece after two years and two and a half months, having covered 73,000 km. (45,361 miles), after travelling to fourteen Asian countries: Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh! This was my journey known as “greece2india“. You will find my trip reports from that time at: http://www.moto.gr/forums/showthread.php?t=38448
On July 18th, 2013, we hit the road for an even longer journey! Africa and Middle East are calling us and we are eager to explore those lands! Why do I use the plural form? This time, Christina, the she-mad nomad, was travelling with me for 10 months. Therefore, we were riding two motorcycles of the same type (Honda XR 250), travelling according to my usual recipe: innumerous detours, in order to visit everything interesting, years on the road, to catch the scent of the local societies we are visiting, always guided by the love for People and Nature. Since August 2014, I keep traveling solo, as Christina decided to fly from Zambia back to Greece because of some personal reasons. This is the expedition called “mad about Africa“! You can check out our route on Live Trip Traveller and you can enjoy our reports at the Trip diary section.
One of the hardest difficulties during a trip is to say goodbye. You make so many friends around the world but soon the time comes when you have to leave them behind, without even knowing if you will see them again… Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo definitely became a special part of my trip. Leaving from there, on one hand I was sad because I was saying goodbye to some good friends I had made. On the other hand, it was clear that my wanderlust had grown bigger… I had missed traveling for a while!
It is known that once you cross the border into Zambia, you feel like going from Africa to Europe! Entering in Southern Africa means the end of the hardest part of “mad about Africa”. Traveling in Southern and East Africa is not at all as difficult as traveling in West Africa.
I visited Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, just to get my Namibian visa. However, I had the chance to look for Dimitris, a Greek who lives there the last years and we happen to have some common friends, despite we had never talked to each other. When he showed me that he got the “27 full-moons in the East” and even with an inscription from our common friends, I was moved… I never expected to find that book in Zambia! This may be the most well-travelled copy of my book!
We had a great time with Dimitris. Along with some other friends of him, we visited the Lower Zambezi National Park. We explored the banks of Zambezi River on a boat. They were full of animals, which were coming to the river to cool off. This was my first safari in the famous parks of Southern Africa, which are full of wild animals. We saw hundreds of hippos, plenty of elephants, crocodiles, different kinds of antelopes, warthogs, baboons and many tropical, colourful birds.
The exciting thing is not that these animals are rare. It’s watching them all together, free , in their own environment. I could see them living all together in harmony and I could only admire the glory of nature! Elephants were drinking water next to the hippos, while exotic birds were resting on their back. Close to them crocodiles were swimming sneakily and at the same time baboons were moving around bushbucks, waterbucks, kudus and impalas.
I was trying to imagine how the landscape would look like when Scotchman Dr. David Livingstone was exploring the region. I guess the nature hasn’t changed much since then and that’s one of the reasons Africa is fascinating… Sure, the biggest part of this continent is moving towards “development”, like the rest of the world. However, in Africa there are vast areas where the nature is almost undisturbed by humans and it’s functioning as it was centuries ago. Animals keep living with the same habits, sometimes migrating in huge herds to find food and water.
I rode towards the southernmost area of the country, at the point where the famous Victoria Falls are. In the local language they are called “Mosi-oa-Tunya”, which means: “the smoke that thunders”. The name refers to the cloud that the water spray forms when this huge amount of water hits the surface of the river from a height which reaches 106 meters (348 ft.). This cloud is visible from a distance of 30 to 50 kilometres (19 to 31 miles) away! However, the record that Victoria Falls hold is for the largest curtain of natural falling waters in the world. The waterfalls are 1,708 meters (5,604 ft.) wide.
Unfortunately, when I was there, I couldn’t see any of these extraordinary facts, since it was the peak of the dry season. At least, this means I was able to walk on top of the waterfalls and reach the famous Devil’s Pool. That’s a natural infinity pool right on the edge of the rocks, on top of the Main Falls! Unfortunately, I couldn’t wet my toes there, since they ask 50 USD for that, plus the 20 USD that the foreigners have to pay to enter in the waterfall’s area. Actually, I was not even allowed to reach Devil’s Pool but I had planned a whole mission to sneak there and have a look at least. When they got me, I went back and I finally enjoyed a swim above another waterfall, which was Rainbow Falls. I was alone there, so I had my own private pool
The border post with Namibia was just 200 kilometres (124 miles) away approximately. I rode towards it in order to finally get in one of the countries I was dreaming about for years. Everybody was telling me the best about Namibia, a country which is considered synonymous to adventure! So, let’s see how it will be like…
After working in Lubumbashi for a little bit more than two months, it’s time to hit the road again! Of course, I am not using the plural form now, since I will be travelling solo, like I was doing some years ago… Indeed, this job offered me everything that I was wishing when I decided to let my motorbike rest on its sidestand for a while. It was a really interesting experience… I learned a lot more about the way the Africans live, work and cooperate with their white masters.
Unfortunately, the opinions I had formed while travelling around Africa were confirmed here. In Africa you can experience racism on its zenith, while slavery has just a different form now. Nowadays, the master’s whip is replaced by money and the chains which hold the slaves are replaced by poverty… When the salaries in this country are usually between 100 and 150 euros (per month!), how can somebody get out of poverty and misery? Somebody could say: “by education”. Unfortunately, even the educated people get similar salaries, if their skin is black.
The only way for a local in this country to get out of poverty is through the infinitive corruption. If somebody decides to forget his ethics and step on others, then, if he also has some connections, he can make a huge fortune. The thing is that when somebody gets in the higher class, he doesn’t only forget his past, but he also expresses all the spite that he was hiding for years. This way, this situation is going on for ever… So, the locals are the ones who are mainly responsible for the terrible life quality of their compatriots. The worst employers are usually the black ones… They pay almost nothing, sometimes they don’t pay at all, yelling and insulting their employees is part of everyday life, while the use of force is not unheard.
Some people believe that 150 euros per month may be enough for a six-member family, because Africa is cheap. That’s not true at all… The only cheap product here is the food which grows on this land. Everything else is really expensive, usually more expensive than in the West. For instance, milk, like most other products, are imported through South Africa. So, on top of the product’s value a lot of expenses are added: transporting and above all, the fat bribes which are demanded by custom officers, tax collectors, policemen, military officers, ministers and anyone else who has power. Without all those people’s favour, no business can survive in this country. That’s how huge the corruption is here…
Of course, the numbers for white people are different. Africa has two very different faces: one is for the poor majority and one for the few wealthy guys. When I had to put a simple filling on my tooth, I visited the only serious dentist in the town and I paid 90 euros for that. It’s obvious that most people in this country don’t have access to the health care system. When somebody gets sick, he just waits to get better. If he is not so lucky, he may visit a traditional healer, who will not help him probably. So, many people spend their life with serious diseases or they die a bit sooner…
After all, I feel that I experienced enough here and it’s time for me to hit the road again… The only issue is that the rainy season is about to start (not again!). So, I’ll change my route a little bit. I decided to travel relatively fast towards South Africa, which means in a period of two months. I hope that the weather will not be so rainy there. After a few months, when the rains will come to an end, I will return north to visit Botswana and Zimbabwe.
So, get ready, wear your helmet and… we’ll start the engine again because the savannas, the desserts and the mountains of Africa are expecting us
Christina decided that it is time for her to return to Greece. We always knew that we will travel together for a big part of this trip but not for the whole trip, since the financial factor was setting the limits. Finally, there were various reasons that made Christina to take this decision. The most important reasons were personal ones. We were travelling together for ten months in the hardest part of Africa and we were always complementing each other.
A question that I often hear is if I finally prefer traveling alone. I still have the same opinion that I had when I was traveling solo in Asia. I prefer traveling with my girlfriend. Of course, I had some extra responsibilities and worries but for sure this part of the trip became much more pleasant and more interesting because of Christina.
We, finally, kissed good-bye and Christina rode her motorbike to nearby Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. She is trying there to find a way to ship Leonida to Greece. After that, she is going to fly back to her hometown.
So, what about the poor lonesome cowboy who was left behind? Even before “mad about Africa” started, I wanted to live for a while in Africa, as I had done in Asia. No matter how detailed somebody travels in a region, he definitely gets a different viewpoint when he lives there for a while. So, I decided that this is the ideal time to take a break and work for sometime. I, finally, became the new waiter at the restaurant of the Greek community in Lubumbashi!
That’s a job that I have done before. Despite that, it was clear from the first day that this is a different story… Almost all of my colleagues are Congolese and this makes a huge difference. All those months that we spent around Africa proved to be an important experience for this job, since the mentality of the Africans was not unknown to me. However, when somebody works with them, he gets to know some details that a traveler, usually, doesn’t know.
Even the communication with my colleagues is not always an easy process. Some young undergraduates speak English. With the rest of them, I try to use the minimal French that I learnt while traveling in the francophone Africa and the Swahili that I started learning here. It’s a really simple language and after just one week here, I could already talk in basic Swahili about some simple matters. One month ago, I couldn’t imagine that I will be using in my everyday life the famous phrase: “hakuna matata”! It actually means “no worries, everything is fine”. “The Lion King”, my favorite cartoon, is everywhere around me… Even the most popular beer, which is produced in Lubumbashi, is called “Simba” and it’s logo is the famous lion!
When we were entering in Lubumbashi, I couldn’t even imagine that I would become a citizen of this town. However, this is the charm of travelling: the unexpected events. This is the charm of the freedom that somebody gets when he travels without any commitments and without any schedule. A nomad stops wherever he finds a green pasture for his herd and when the time comes, he hits the road again…