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.
Heading south through gravel roads, I reached Lüderitz, another one city where the influence of the German colonizers is obvious until today. I also enjoyed a relaxing ride around the deserted and windy beaches of the peninsula that protects the city from the wild Atlantic Ocean waves.
A place that I definitely wanted to visit was Kolmanskop. This village was established in the desert in 1908 when a local worker found a diamond in the area and without knowing how much it was worth, he showed it to his German supervisor. They figured out that there were so many diamonds in the area that sometimes they didn’t even have to dig the ground to find them! As expected, the German government soon declared the area forbidden to everybody. German miners started to gather immediately, while of course the locals were the ones that were used for the heavy labor.
The security precautions out of fear of diamond theft were very harsh. The workers’ hands and legs were tied and they were left to look for diamonds crawling on the ground. They were even mouth gagged so that they would not swallow any diamonds and transfer them in their body. Despite all that, many workers had thought tricks beyond imagination just to grab one of those precious stones and change their whole life. They even used pigeons to secretly transfer the diamonds! This led pigeon ownership to be forbidden in the area up until today.
The city of Lüderitz and nearby Kolmanskop were Southern Africa’s richest cities at that time. At Kolmanskop, in the middle of the desert, they had installed pipes to bring water from the sea. Then they could make ice for the Germans to cool their beers! They even had a big swimming pool. Tons of drinking water were carried overland by that era’s means of transport… Tons of coal were imported from South Africa so that the electric power plant could operate. The settlement also provided a school, a casino, a bowling alley and a theater where famous artists were coming all the way from Europe to entertain the diamond miners. That was also the place were Africa’s first tram was introduced and it also facilitated a hospital equipped with the first X-ray machine in southern hemisphere! Do not jump to conclusions that the German employers were worried about the health of their workers. The X-rays were used to find out if anybody was hiding a diamond inside his body, a technique that is common even today! Imagine that the workers were not allowed to leave the settlement for the entire two years their contract was on…
I rode some gravel roads again to reach Fish River Canyon. On the way my motorcycle’s engine started to stall. While I was riding the endless straight roads with a steady speed of 70 km/h (43.5 mph), I did not notice any problem . But while I was slowing down, I was realizing that the engine was not working properly. I thought that I should clean the carburetor since I had been riding thousands of kilometers in rough off-road conditions with fuel of uncertain quality.
I did actually remove some dirt from my carburetor, despite I have a fuel filter installed! The weird thing though was that the problem was not solved. I was now at a lower altitude than before and I thought that maybe the valves’ clearance should be adjusted since the heat might have led them to remain open. I wild camped at a beautiful place in front of the canyon and I let the engine to cool off completely. In the morning I adjusted the valves’ clearance, which I had neglected for 11,500 km (7,146 miles). Unfortunately that was not the solution either…
The first thing I did was to check whether there was a spark at the spark plug or not and that fooled me. When I checked again, I realized that the spark was not steady and strong. That led me to the correct conclusion… The suspects were: the CDI, the ignition coil and the alternator, with the first one being the more plausible. While traveling with Christina, diagnosing faults was a piece of cake! I was exchanging the suspected spare parts between the motorbikes and I could immediately spot the problem. But this time I was traveling alone in the desert of Namibia and there were no spare parts within a range of thousands of kilometers!
I struggled and made it to a settlement where fortunately my mobile phone could get some reception! Thanks to PlanetSim that works all over the world! I called Dimitris Katigiannis from NRG, the mechanic that always saves me in situations like this… He suggested an old trick that I would never have thought of; to hit hard the CDI in case the problem was caused by poor connection or something and can be temporarily solved by hitting the unit.
I fitted all the parts on my motorbike again, I pressed the start button and everything was working fine! I could finally go on after two days of searching for the problem! I had hundreds of off-road kilometers ahead of me and I was hoping everything would function properly until I reach Cape Town in South Africa, where I would be able to find a permanent solution…
With the problem solved, obviously more relaxed, I visited the Fish River Canyon. It is considered to be the second largest canyon of the world, after the Grand Canyon, but this depends on the way somebody measures a canyon. It is definitely impressive, anyway! I reached Aussenkehr, where I was hosted in a huge vineyard at the banks of Orange River that separates Namibia from South Africa.
That was where I ran across a dilemma. I wanted to make a long detour heading west and enjoy the picturesque and quiet off-road route next to the river. I would enter in South Africa through some forgotten border that one can reach after crossing the river on a barge. As I wasn’t sure if the CDI would keep functioning properly, I was thinking if it is more wise to take the paved road to reach South Africa through the quick and easy way. Well, you know me, what do you think I did? After all, I had already covered thousands of kilometers on dirt roads and the motorcycle was running perfectly well!
I spent an entire month at this amazing country and I realized that I was dreaming about it all these years for a reason! I explored it thoroughly and I feel satisfied and complete. I rode almost 5,000 km (3,107 miles) in Namibia and 3,000 (1,864 miles) of them were far away from the boring tar! This is an even greater percentage of off-road riding than we had in Mauritania, Guinea or the Democratic Republic of the Congo!
Before I even started travelling in Africa, whenever I was reading about Namibia, I could not stop dreaming of exploring its endless, vast and wild landscapes. I already knew that it was the second most sparsely populated country in the world, coming right after Mongolia. I love countries like that, since I can explore off-road trails all day long and at night I can wild camp wherever I want to!
For almost a week, I was heading west, right next to the Angola borderline, a country I did not visit, since the visa for it is the most difficult to get in the entire Africa (not counting the countries in war, of course). It was time to install the off-road tires on my motorcycle, the ones I was carrying from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I was looking forward to hitting the dirt and forgetting about the boring asphalt!
I was aware that the route between Ruacana and the Epupa Falls is rough but it was also the most beautiful I rode in Namibia! The unstable stones and the deep ruts made the “road” impossible to cross on anything but an enduro bike. In some places there was not even enough space for a four wheeler. As excepted, I did not meet a single vehicle those two days on that route. My motorcycle fell over five times, mostly on steep slopes full of rolling stones and also in the sand.
I was mostly riding right next to the river that separates Namibia from Angola. The landscape was so beautiful, I decided to pitch my tent there. While cooking my dinner, I was gazing at the numerous stars that were filling up the sky all the way down to the horizon. The Southern Hemisphere’s sky is a brand new thing to me. I could not even recognize a single asterism. That made me feel I am far away from home, in someplace beyond everything I’ve ever taken for granted.
Next morning, I woke up far more relaxed and as soon as I opened my eyes, I took off for a ride. I was riding standing up on my motorcycle and I was letting it jump up and down on the rocks! That was amazing… That small engine was making a sweet sound that was like music to my ears… The gearbox was constantly working, so that I would shift up when the path had less rocks and shift down on steep slopes. How lovely did the suspension manage… I built this motorcycle for occasions exactly like that: never ending enduro all day long on wild, deserted landscapes and camping at nightfall at the most beautiful places!
I couldn’t wait to reach the Epupa Falls and refresh in the river, wash away all my sweat from that rough enduro ride! I found some eddies that the crocodiles don’t reach, since the river turns shallow and rocky there. Some Himbas were washing in the river. The only people I was meeting in that area were of the nomadic pastoralist tribe of the Himbas. The exciting thing is that up until today they live in the same way they used to live for centuries… They build small settlements consisting of huts made out of sticks, hay and mud. They graze their goats in the area and they periodically move while searching for green pastures.
They have a unique culture with interesting traditions. What makes them distinguish is their appearance. All of their body is brown! They cover themselves with a mixture of mud, ash and butter. Some women even apply this mixture to their hair, right after they put their hair into plaits. They wear unrefined leather, brown capes, as well as tons of jewelry: necklaces, bracelets, belts… The materials they use vary: leather, bones, various metal, nuts and many more.
Through endless dirt roads I headed south. I saw petroglyphs dating from 6,000 years ago and also the 260-million-year-old Petrified Forest. The southern I got the sparser became the vegetation. The scenery started to look more and more like a desert. So, after a few quite enjoyable days at the eerie Namibian landscape, I managed to reach the glorious Skeleton Coast. I had not seen the sea since Cameroon, six months ago!
The Skeleton Coast got its name because of its inhospitality. Many ships were wrecked there from the era the Portuguese were exploring Africa, up until the 20th century. If the sailors were not drowned in the freezing waters of the Atlantic Ocean, they had an even worse death in the desert that lies right next to the coastline.
Swakopmund is one of the few towns I visited in Namibia. The country’s past as a German colony is obvious in the architecture and also in the city’s vibe. There, I had the chance to play with my motorcycle on the sand dunes of Namib, the oldest desert in the world!
It was time to visit Sossusvlei, probably the most touristy sight in Namibia. I am not enthusiastic about visiting such crowded places but most of the times it is worth the trouble and the cost. I knew that motorcycles are prohibited at the last 60 kilometers (37 miles) of the asphalt road leading to the famous reddish sand dunes in the desert. Yeap, that’s right… The entire country might be full of dirt roads but there, in the middle of the desert, there is a 60-km-long asphalt road, since the buses never stop carrying tourists from and to the sand dunes. So, I hitchhiked. I reached the sand dunes with some Japanese guys, I walked around and then I went back with a couple from France.
The truth is I am still wondering what’s so special about those sand dunes and thousands of people go there from all around the world to admire them! It is a “sterilized” place with no vibe, where nobody is allowed to stay after the sun sets, without any Bedouins or settlement. One can only visit and see the dunes in the same way he would visit a museum. I have seen hundreds of sand dunes all around the world, I have walked among them, I have ridden them on my motorbike, I slept between them… Sorry but I was much more touched by Sahara, which not only could I visit and see, but I could also feel and experience for many days and nights.
The reason, though, I visited Sossusvlei (and did not regret it) was something else: the impressive Deadvlei! After I had walked a bit more than a kilometer, I reached a dried marsh that had been created centuries ago, when the Tsauchab river had flooded after heavy rainfalls. This led some camel thorn trees to grow. When the marsh gave its place back to the desert, the camel thorn trees were burnt by the sun. Their trunks are preserved for the last nine hundred years, since the extreme aridity of the place protects them from decomposing. The white bottom of an ancient marsh, the black, burnt trunks, the reddish sand dunes as a background and the light blue sky that always surrounds the desert compound a unique scenery…
P.S.: Remember that you can check my route, as well as view more photos from my trip, at Live Trip Traveller!
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…