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.
When I was entering Kenya from the dirt roads around Mt Elgon National Park, a big and diverse country was unfolding in front of my eyes… I made my way south to Lake Victoria, where I was hosted by Dennis in a lakeshore village. After meeting the local fishermen, I rode through the picturesque tea plantations of Kericho area.
By the end of the day I had reached Lake Naivasha. Andrew, a local biker, made my stay there very enjoyable… First, we went for a dirt ride and he guided me through the geothermal power plants which dot the area. Since decades ago, they make huge amounts of electricity by using the steam which comes out of the earth. In the evening, we got a boat with some friends and we enjoyed a wonderful sunset in the lake. We stopped in a remote part of the lakeshore and then it was time to enjoy the night as white Kenyans do… We lit a campfire, grilled some juicy meat and exchanged stories under an African sky full of stars!
It was time to enter chaotic Nairobi, also known as Nairobbery due to its reputation for crime… There I had the chance to experience the luxurious life of Kenyans who live in the suburbs, in beautiful villas surrounded by lush gardens, tended by maids and of course, with inviting swimming pools. I also had the chance to experience the other side of Nairobi, the side that most Kenyans experience. I was hosted in the Orthodox College of Nairobi, which is located in a township full of slums. People are friendly and everything is fine during the day. But when the night falls, the dangerous face of Nairobbery appears… Nobody wants to be on the streets at that time.
Having seen the disappointing scams of the Orthodox missions in neighbouring countries, I was really surprised to see how different the Orthodox mission of Kenya is! About 400 schools are operated around the whole country by this mission, even in the remote area of Lake Turkana. They also build wells to offer clean potable water to the remote communities of Kenya. I was there during some seminars, so I met tens of African priests coming from all around East Africa. I was surprised to see how dedicated some people were. A few of them could even speak Greek, since they studied in Greece.
It was time to explore the highlands and the coast of Kenya and I had a wonderful company for that… Roos is a Dutch who volunteers in Rwanda the last three years. She had hosted me there and then she joined me for three weeks to travel around Kenya! We started with the otherworldly Lake Baringo, which is full of crocodiles and hippos. Despite that, the locals organize annual swimming races! They say crocodiles know them, anyway!
It was time to ascend to Nyahururu, at 2,350 m. (7,710 ft.). We enjoyed a lot the cool weather there and the impressive Thomson’s Falls. We left the highlands back and we slowly made our way to Mombasa. It was gradually getting hotter and hotter as we were approaching the coast. We immediately fell in love with the relaxed atmosphere there, the friendly Muslims and the interesting Swahili culture! Our favorite spot in Mombasa was some benches near the Portuguese Fort Jesus, built in 1593. We were drinking our tea or spiced coffee, sitting high above the ocean and enjoying the sunset while chatting with friendly locals who gather there every evening to meet each other and socialize.
If you want to see beautiful corals in that area, you don’t even need to dive… Snorkeling is enough! Mombasa Marine Park is a very nice spot for that, as is the area around Wasini Island. That’s a tiny little island without cars, motorcycles, electricity or running water. It only got some Swahili ruins, houses made out of corals and a few Muslims living there.
South of Mombasa we incidentally met the guys from Motor Safaris, an interesting company which organizes amazing motorbike tours around East Africa! We were glad to be their guests for a couple of days in their cosy Sawa Sawa Beach House. We visited the famous and touristy Diani Beach but the neighbouring Tiwi Beach became our favorite one. There we found one of the most beautiful seaside spots where I have ever camped!
The north coast was also very interesting to explore… We reached some isolated areas through dirt roads, where the scenery was astonishing! We made our way to the picturesque Takaungu village, where the river empties to the endless Indian Ocean. The beach of Watamu was scenic and the coastal town of Malindi was interesting. However, the biggest draw on the north coast for us was Lamu Island…
It is not easy to reach Lamu, since you need to follow long dirt roads (not a good idea during the rainy season) and you have to travel next to Somalia. There used to be some security issues there, which emptied the island from tourists and that made it much more attractive to us! Lamu is a small island in the Indian Ocean where the only transport is donkeys. There are about 3,000 of them there! The coral houses are guarded by elaborate wooden carved doors and the narrow streets of the old town form a real labyrinth. This is one of the most authentic samples of Swahili culture. On top of that, when you quietly dine with seafood next to the waves, under the soft light of a candle, it doesn’t get any more exotic…
I would easily stay in Kenya for much longer but the expiration date of my visa was getting closer… I returned to Nairobi, arranged the paperwork and prepared my motorbike for a rough and very interesting route that I was planning to ride since a long time ago. I wanted to reach Ethiopia through the remote region of Lake Turkana. Recent discoveries of hominid skulls in the area, millions of years old, reveal useful information about the human history. After all, that’s one of the areas where our race started its life. However, nowadays it’s a very isolated spot, really inhospitable, with only a few tribes succeeding to survive there.
First I had a treat in a beautiful, little, wooden house next to a stream in Naro Moru, on the foothills of Mt Kenya (5,199 m., 17,057 ft.). The mountaintop is famous for being shy, usually hidden behind clouds. So, I didn’t have the chance to see it. After Isiolo, I left the tarmac and I knew I will not see that boring thing in Kenya anymore!
The area around Maralal became my favourite part of this route and one of the most scenic ones I’ve ridden! I was on green mountain plateaus at around 2,000 m. (6,562 ft.) altitude. The views were jaw-dropping! The Samburu tribe is offering its color to the landscape with the huge, beaded necklaces that women wear. Men always walk their herds of cows, goats or camels while holding their spear and carrying a big knife on their belt. Their earlobes got huge holes and they wear some big white earrings. Some of them have a thin golden chain going from one ear to the other passing through the chin.
The route north to Barsaloi, Baragoi and South Horr is still on the mountains, so the weather is not too hot. I was wild camping in beautiful scenery every night enjoying the full moon! While I was approaching Loyangalani, the landscape changed… I descended to 400 m. (1,312 ft.) altitude and the vegetation was almost gone. The only feature around was the volcanic rocks. Some parts of the route became rough but when I was standing up on my bike and riding slowly and steady, it was OK. After all, I enjoyed a lot this remote route and my only worry was the availability of water in this dry area. A couple of times I had to use the 2-liter water canister that I carry for emergencies. I have used it only a few times during my trip.
One morning, when I was wild camping next to a dry riverbed, I tried to start my motorcycle but I realized that the battery was flat. After a lot of tests the following days, I figured out that the alternator had failed. It is the first time that I experience this fault but it’s normal for a 20-year-old bike which has covered much more than a hundred thousand kilometres. This was the second time that I was grateful for choosing an XR with a kick-starter. I was on a sandy patch in the middle of nowhere and it would be bloody difficult to jump-start the engine there. However, with the kick-starter it was a piece of cake! The engine was still working properly, so the only issue was that the next month I was kick-starting the bike until I got another alternator shipped from Greece.
Seven days after leaving Nairobi, I reached Ileret, at the Ethiopian border. Actually, there is no border post there, so I had to arrange the paperwork in Nairobi. I had finally made it! I knew it would not be easy but it was lovely and it’s one of the routes that I will be remembering. That’s a very authentic and adventurous part of Africa and I’m glad I had the chance to explore it…
After an impressive sunset over the legendary Lake Turkana, my two-month journey across Kenya came to an end. For some reason, this country was one of the countries that felt like home… Maybe it was the nice friends that I made, the diverse landscapes and for sure the relaxed atmosphere too!
You can check out the map with more photos and reports at: Live Trip Traveller
My first stop in Uganda made me fall in love with this country at first sight… Well, if you visit the mountain Lake Bunyonyi, you will see why! I was on 1,962 m (6,437 ft) altitude and the weather was cool. Bunyonyi means “place of many little birds” and those small creatures were only adding to the enchantment. The lake is full of tiny forested islands and wherever you look, you see mountains surrounding it. I love mountain lakes and my favorite activity is getting a canoe and exploring the little islands on my own pace. It was hard work paddling against the wind and the waves, so when I got to a secluded island, it was the perfect time for a swim in the cool water! On the way back, I laid down on the canoe and I just let the wind and the waves to take me… I was not in a hurry, anyway 😉
It was not easy to leave behind such a beautiful place but when there is a good reason, then it’s not that hard… The good reason was an amazing off-road route through the incredibly lush Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the Queen Elizabeth National Park. The first one is famous for its primates. I love the white-and-black colobus monkeys when they jump from tree to tree and their hair waves with the wind!
I had the chance to cross the Queen Elizabeth National Park through the transit dirt road, which is the only one where motorbikes are allowed. I had another one great safari on my own two wheels! I saw plenty of buffaloes, many Uganda kobs, beautiful topis and the usual baboons. I met also a few elephants. I saw some locals running on the dirt road and waving at me trying to say something. Well, a few meters later, I got their point… An elephant was just next to the road! Happily, it was not trying to cross it, so I passed peacefully next to that huge mammal being astonished by the little distance between me and it!
It was around there where I crossed the equator for a second time. The first time was in Congo, one year and three months ago. If you would ask me at that time, I would have no clue about what was waiting for me in the southern hemisphere. But it’s those unexpected things that make our life beautiful. I love surprises and I had plenty of nice ones in the south 😉
On my way to Fort Portal, I enjoyed a nice off-road route between some tiny crater lakes. The landscape was really mountainous and green, a scenery that made me stopping often to admire it! Another great off-road route near Fort Portal took me to the foothills of the grand Rwenzori Mountains. The Mountains of the Moon, as the Alexandrian Greek geographer Ptolemy named them, make the tallest mountain range in Africa. It’s highest snow-capped peak rises at 5,109 m (16,762 ft).
The road took me through Kampala, the crowded and chaotic capital. I had to be really careful there to avoid all those cars and motorbikes that seemed like they were trying to run into me! Neighboring Jinja is much more peaceful. That’s where one of Nile River’s sources is located. I visited the exact spot where the water comes out, at the edge of Lake Victoria.
This stretch of Victoria Nile River is one of the most amazing spots for white-water rafting! So, I didn’t miss the chance… After some briefing, we hit the water on our rafts. We are talking about some serious rafting here… The rapids are grade IV and V! We were going down some steep rapids only to see huge waves ready to swallow us! Our raft was overturned twice. I fell in the water and in that mess I had no idea where I am… I didn’t know where is the surface! Where should I go to take a breath? Well, I just had to trust nature’s laws and let the water uplift me. Then I had to look around me to see if I was still floating on a dangerous rapid or if I was on safe waters. Nevertheless, the beauty of the scenery and the excitement of white-water rafting are always worth the effort!
Back on solid land, I took some small dirt roads to get to Nyero. That’s where I visited some interesting ancient rock art made by the Twa tribe, who are hunter-gatherers of Pygmy origin. The locals consider this place sacred and smoke from sacrifices in the caves is still visible.
My last stop in Uganda was at Sipi Falls. That’s a series of three large waterfalls in a mountainous location in Eastern Uganda. After some short hiking, I visited all of them and they were all gorgeous! On top of that, I found a wonderful campsite and I pitched my tent opposite of the largest waterfall. That was quite a view!
It was time to enter Kenya and of course, I would not go there through paved roads… I chose some beautiful dirt backroads around Mt Elgon National Park. After passing through nice forests and tiny mountainous villages, I got to the border. Uganda, for sure, is not big but it packs a lot! Especially the western part of it is one of the areas I will always remember…
You can check out the map with more photos and reports at: Live Trip Traveller
Mention to anybody you are going to Rwanda and most probably you’ll hear: “Oh, really? Is it safe?”. People know Rwanda just for the horrible genocide which took place in 1994. The funny thing is that it’s one of the safest countries in Africa now, if not the safest! Despite that, first of all I had to ride safe… I was used to drive on the left side of the road for almost a year. In Rwanda I had to remember how it is driving on the right side. Wow, when I was on the right side, I was feeling I’m on the wrong direction! The problem was occurring when I was stopping for some reason… A few times I started unwittingly on the wrong side of the road and I was only reminded I shouldn’t be there when I saw a truck coming towards me! Happily I had the time to move to the other side.
Of course, a visit to Rwanda is first of all a history lesson. I visited many genocide memorials and I started with the one in Kigali, the capital. It was shocking to learn the details about the atrocities that happened. I visited the memorial with Jacques, the young Rwandan who was hosting me. While walking through it, he was telling me his own story… He was just ten years old when the whole country was full of roadblocks and fanaticized Hutus were looking for Tutsis to kill. The names of the targeted people were even broadcasted through the notorious Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines. That’s how thousands of people got brain washed and they took their machetes to kill their friends.
Jacques couldn’t understand what was happening at that time. He just knew he had to hide in the bush because they would kill him! He ended up eating scraps or whatever he could find in the bush. He was the only one out of the three siblings who finally survived the genocide… He was a young boy and he didn’t even know the story between Hutus and Tutsis. After all, this segregation had started only a few decades ago, when the Belgian colonists introduced the identity cards. The ancient tactic of divide and rule works for millenniums all around the world… People who had more than ten cows were considered wealthy, so Tutsis. The rest were considered Hutus. The colonists were also taking in account the physical characteristics of the indigenous people. Tutsis are usually tall and slim with a characteristic long nose. So, suddenly people’s race became very important and it was even written on the identity cards that were introduced by the Belgians!
The colonists favored the Tutsis initially. So, they were the ones who had better access to education and they held important positions in politics and business. Naturally, Hutus were frustrated. Starting in 1959 there were many bloodsheds between the two tribes. Both in Rwanda and Burundi tens of thousands of Hutus and Tutsis were massacred over the years. In 1962 Rwanda became independent and the situation escalated to the genocide of 1994. Those one hundred days almost a million people died. They were not only Tutsis but also Hutus who were suspected of sympathising Tutsis. Whoever wouldn’t kill for the ethnic cleansing would be killed himself. Don’t think people were simply killed by guns. Most of them were tortured and killed by machetes, clubs, spears or whatever was available. The streets were littered with dismembered bodies and dogs were shot en masse as they had become very aggressive. They had developed a taste for human flesh…
Despite UN Force Commander Lieutenant General Romeo Dallaire was asking permission to do something, he was clearly ordered not to intervene. So, Rwanda was left absolutely alone by the international community. Right after the genocide, RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front) attacked and took control of the country. That was a paramilitary group which was formed by Tutsis who had fled already Rwanda because of the massacres that had happened the last decades. The head of the army was the current dictator of Rwanda, Paul Kagame. As you can expect, then they were the Hutus who were massacred and actually the RPF didn’t even bother to check if they were Hutus who fought for the genocide or against it. RPF even attacked the Hutu refugee camps in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo.
I was shocked to see that today the genocide is formally presented as a genocide against Tutsis! When the opposition leader Victoire Ingabire returned from exile in 2010 to challenge Kagame on the elections, she was sentenced to eight years in jail. The justification was that she asked why there are no memorials in Rwanda about the hundreds of thousands of Hutus who were killed. Presenting only the Tutsis as the victims doesn’t make justice and unfortunately, I don’t think it helps the trauma of this nation to be healed.
The most moving moment for me was not learning about the atrocities that I had already read about. It was when a Rwandan school visited the genocide memorial. After a while, I saw the teacher sitting down and bursting into tears. That was when my eyes became wet. Who can imagine what kind of images she had from that dark era…
In Kigali I was hosted by Jacques and his wife Marie. They live in a simple house but they did everything to make me feel as a king! Marie was cooking everyday on charcoals meals with chicken, rice, beans or chips and of course ugali, the African staple, equivalent to bread, made out of maize or cassava flour. They are a lovely young couple who were making jokes and teasing each other all the time!
What a visitor in Rwanda seemingly realizes is that a miracle is happening there… Can you imagine how would a country look like after such a horrible genocide? It’s unbelievable to see that nowadays everyone talks to each other and Rwandans are friends again, no matter their race. It’s actually not even allowed to ask somebody in which race he belongs. Everybody is considered just Rwandan. On top of that, the country is remarkably well organized, with little corruption (seemingly), tidy and clean. But unfortunately, that’s only the surface…
As somebody would expect, this peace and unity doesn’t come out of peoples’ heart but it’s imposed to them by the totalitarian authorities. Of course, it’s still important that peace prevails but I’m wondering if that will be the case in the future… The international community turns a blind eye on the dictator’s heavy hand and on the crimes that he has committed. It serves everybody’s consciousness to think that Rwanda nowadays is an African role model and finally the international community does something about this long-suffering country. However, a very interesting documentary by BBC, called “Rwanda’s Untold Story“, reveals a truth that is hidden for decades. Just make sure that if you watch it, you are not in Rwanda… As you would expect, this documentary is banned there, as is BBC in general!
I visited the churches in Nyamata and Ntarama where thousands of people were massacred. I headed south to Huye and I visited the Murambi Genocide Memorial where the visitor can see almost a thousand bodies preserved with lime on their last position before being killed. After all those terrible stories, I was thinking once again how lucky I am that I was born just a generic human and not a Hutu or a Tutsi…
As a human, it was easy for me to travel around Rwanda and experience the pleasant side of it… I could cross the gorgeous Nyungwe Forest National Park and play on its inviting curves with those two cables going from my motorbike’s throttle to the carburetor. I could enjoy the dirt rides and the amazing views of Lake Kivu. But I always had the dark history in my mind…
If someone achieves to overcome the past, he will see the country of a thousand hills, as it is nicknamed… Rwanda is full of green hills which are cultivated all the way to the top, since there is not enough space to grow food. This tiny country has one of the highest population densities of any African country. As you can imagine, going up and down those hills through dirt roads is very enjoyable. One of my favorite routes was on the north, around Lake Ruhondo and Lake Burera. The landscape was amazing! These lakes on 1,900 m. (6,234 ft.) altitude are full of tiny forested islands. If somebody would tell me that I was on the Scottish Highlands, I would have no doubt!
You can check out the map with more photos and reports at: Live Trip Traveller