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 , 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://greece2india.apriliabikers.gr
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, is travelling with me. Therefore, we are 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. 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.
It is well known that the original headlight of the XR 250 is just a little bit brighter than a lighter! It is only useful for being visible by vehicles coming from the opposite direction. It is definitely of no use, however, to the rider. This certainly makes riding at night dangerous, if not impossible. In the countries where we travel, driving at night is dangerous anyway, as vehicles are grouped into two large categories: the ones that use headlights and the ones that don’t! Indeed, in some countries it is totally legitimate for vehicles that move under a specific speed not to use headlights! So, we travel at dark very rarely and that’s only if it is really necessary.
These few times that we have to travel after sunset or when we ride in a city, in neighbourhoods with dirt roads without any lighting, the headlight should illuminate efficiently. On my quest for proper headlights, the first door to knock was that of the renowned Baja Designs, even though I knew it is established in the faraway U.S.A.. The reputation of this firm, specializing in lights for every kind of vehicle, has reached Europe and beyond!
Baja Designs saw to our case seriously and after a thorough debate, in order to find the proper equipment for our expedition in Africa and Middle East, they were generous enough to sponsor us with all the necessaries! They sent us a huge package to Greece, inside of which there were the most powerful LED headlights for motorcycles, the legendary Squadron! The main reason for choosing LED technology was the low power consumption. This is very important, as the motorcycle is our home and our energy production plant. That’s where we charge all of our electric appliances, which are quite a few. So, it is crucial to diminish power consumption. Squadron has four of the most powerful LEDs on the market. Nevertheless, it consumes just 42 Watts in total, which is less than the consumption of a simple glow lamp of 55 Watts. Its luminosity, however, is 4,300 lumens, which is more than this of two Xenon lamps!
When I first installed the headlights on my motorcycle and had them tested, I could not believe my own eyes! I never had such powerful headlights in any of my motorcycles! I was enlightened at last They produce a milky white light which is very convenient, especially in off-road riding, when it clearly indicates the terrain ahead of us. Moreover, I would really like to shake hands with the people who designed the headlight’s beam… They have done an amazing job! Relatively close to the motorcycle (the distance can be adjusted), a really bright circle is being formed. This helps us to observe every obstacle we are about to run over. At the same time a wider circle illuminates softly all the area around us. For instance, when being inside a tunnel, both the sides and the ceiling are illuminated. This is very helpful, especially when riding in the countryside, where we need to have a full view of the entire area, not just of what there is in front of us.
Besides the headlights, we had also every other light on our motorcycles replaced with LEDs. The turn signals and the taillight, even though small and with minimal power consumption, are extremely bright, catching the attention of other drivers. By having Baja Designs backing us up, our motorcycles don’t have a single glow lamp, meaning that, besides everything else, we also don’t have to care about replacing lamps due to excessive vibrations in off-road riding. LEDs practically never need to be replaced!
Baja Designs, it’s thanks to you that we are not afraid of the dark anymore! Even when the sun goes down, we know that we can ride safely.
Here you can watch the test I ran to check how waterproof the Squadron headlight is:
Leaving Accra, the capital of Ghana, we headed north, hoping to meet some friendlier people, as we had heard that the culture there is quite different. After having passed the hills of Aburi, it finally got a little bit cooler. It started to rain and Christina put on her REV’IT! rain suit for the first time during the trip.
We reached the villages east of Lake Volta, the largest artificial lake in the world. After having passed by the town of Ho, it started to get dark, so we followed a dirt track outside some village, in order to find a campsite. While Christina was preparing dinner in the dark, she saw a man’s figure approaching but as soon as he noticed us he disappeared without even saying hello.
After dinner, we entered inside the tent and we were about to sleep, when we saw people with flash lights coming. We greeted them but at first they didn’t hear us. While they were leaving, we greeted them again and they came towards our tent. Suddenly, we found ourselves surrounded by a dozen of men pointing machine guns at us! They were yelling: “get out and leave your guns”! We got out of the tent to see that we were surrounded by a bunch of policemen. Christina was in her underwear. The Rambos were shouting at her to come out while she was trying to put on some clothes. She could not believe what else we would have to face in this country and she could not stop laughing. She was joking with the policemen, who they were surprised to see that we were just a couple of white “tourists”. The villagers had informed them of the existence of some criminals in the area and that’s why they called for them. So, these people would take everybody wild camping in the nature as a criminal, even if they had not exchanged a single word. How many similarities there are between the Ghanaians and the Indians? In Asia, Indians were the only inhospitable and xenophobic people I met and I had the exact same experience…
So, same as that time, we packed everything, followed the officers and pitched our tent in front of the police station. They kept on telling us how dangerous it was to camp in the bush, as we could be attacked by lions. In Ghana you hardly find any lions even inside national parks but it is similar to the stories you hear in Greece about wolves and bears attacking everyone who dares to wild camp on the mountains! Christina was mocking them telling them that they were probably bored and they wanted some company, that’s why they came to pick us up… We entered inside the tent and we could hear all night someone on the television preaching about Jesus in a stressful tone.
Happily, this was the last bad experience we had from the Ghanaians. In the north, the majority of the people are Muslims, so they respect visitors and they are much friendlier. We would meet once more smiling people greeting us. In the city of Tamale we were hosted by Shiraz and Ahmed in a room that they rent in some farmhouse.
Ahmed told us about the unbelievable adventure he had experienced when with five other companions he crossed the Sahara in an attempt to immigrate. Riding on cars and trucks, they crossed Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad and after three months they arrived to Libya. Many die during such a hard trip, while others are being robbed. On the way, they had to stop often in order to work and save some money to continue the trip.
Ahmed had really only the worst of the experiences, as far as it concerned the way people in those countries treated them. It is obvious that they respect white people, as they have money to spend but that is not the case for the rest of the Africans, who immigrate there to make some money, “grab” their jobs and so on. Unfortunately, it is the same story as in the rest of the world. Money is the moving power and that’s what controls people’s attitude…
Naturally, Ahmed and his companions were aiming to enter Europe but they were lacking both the necessary paperwork and the money. They worked in Libya as construction workers for some Turkish firm but after three years their Tunisian employer refused to pay them and handed them over to the police. Not having the proper documents, they were kept in prison for nine months, facing, of course, inhuman behavior inside the Libyan cells.
Feeling shocked and sad by the stories of the people we met, we headed west. We were planning to visit some villages with interesting, old mosques, built in Sudanese style using mud and sticks. They consist of many whitewashed, conical towers and they look more like weird, alien constructions. This is also the way the palaces of the tribal chiefs are built, some of which we visited at the village of Wechiau, as well as in the town of Wa.
Next to the border with Burkina Faso we enjoyed our first safari in Africa! We went down the Black Volta River inside a wooden pirogue and we were quite lucky to run into hippos that pass their time there! We were watching them from a distance. They spend the whole day inside the water to cool off. They go out only during the night to feed themselves. A beast like this weights around 3 tons (6,614 pounds), while it can eat 40 to 50 kilos (88 to 110 pounds) of grass daily.
So, after almost one month, we completed our journey around Ghana, having some more pleasant experiences than the ones we had in the south of the country.
It’s been a while since we last crossed borders with actual buildings and well-organized offices. In the previous countries, we were used to searching the huts where we could find the officers that would stamp our passports. When we arrived at the Ghanaian border, before asking even for our passports, they asked us for our Carnet de Passages en Douane. These are the documents necessary in many of the developing countries, ensuring that we will not sell our vehicles without paying duties. We had our Carnet checked three times while crossing the border. God bless ELPA that granted us all the essential documents and we have nothing to fear!
Entering the country, we traveled mainly on the coastal road and discovered many stunning beaches, where we wild camped, swam and had fun. Especially near Akwidaa Beach, we discovered an abandoned, wooden pavilion on a serene part of the beach… real magic! We loved it so much that we spent two days there!
While traveling on the coast of Ghana, we visited a few of the numerous castles built by the colonialists. They were constructed for the protection of the coast from the other European powers. Portuguese, Danes, Swedes, Dutch and British were in conflict for controlling the commerce on the Gold Coast, as they used to call Ghana because of its vast gold reserves. However, by the 16th century, slave trade became more profitable than trading gold or ivory. The castles were turned into prisons for the slaves, who stayed there waiting for the ships that would take them far, to an unknown destiny… Slave trade was formally declared illegal at the beginning of the 19th century but unfortunately it is practically active even nowadays. You can read a relative story by our friends of the pin project.
Unfortunately, as much as we were impressed by the beaches and the castles in Ghana, we were equally disappointed by its people. The slaps on the face came one after another. In the previous countries we were accustomed of everybody greeting us with a wide smile. From the first day in Ghana, however, we noticed that when we were greeting the locals they did not even bother to reply. They just looked at us with an arrogant attitude wondering why we would speak to them without knowing them.
One morning, there were kids gathered on the beach where we had camped and Christina started to play with them, while I was packing the tent. When we got on the motorbikes, all set, we saw two of them running away and we were really surprised to see them leaving without even saying goodbye. Ten minutes later we knew why… In the next village Christina noticed that her backpack was half-open and her cell phone was missing! We turned back where some other kids brought us the cell phone immediately. They were blaming each other but Christina was not interested in finding out who was the responsible one… She was really upset because while she thought that she had met some nice kids in this country, they proved her wrong once again.
The next slap on the face was for me… I was overlooking a beach, photographing some fishermen that were pulling their nets out of the sea. Christina saw a few of them getting annoyed, waving me to stop photographing, but I was looking at them through the camera and could not notice that. I was too far to talk to them anyway. Then, I saw someone dropping the nets, grabbing a coconut and starting running towards me! I could not believe this was happening and I was frozen for a moment! When I realized that he was really furious, determined to hit me, I started the engine and I disappeared as if I had robbed a bank! Luckily no coconut found its way to me…
Sad and disappointed as we were, we headed to Kumasi, where we were hosted by the family of a friendly guy, Densi. Luckily, in their home we found ourselves in a haven of friends, because elsewhere… impoliteness and arrogance were astonishing. And it’s not that they are being hostile only to foreigners. Unfortunately, they don’t get along with each other either. We are tired to see people picking up fights on the street.
West Africa’s largest market is in Kumasi and it has taken over even the railway. Until a few years ago the train would cross the market every now and then. The stall owners were used to remove their merchandise in an eye blink. Nowadays the train does not pass from there, so the occupation of the railway has become permanent. The city sky is full of bats, which you can also find on earth, sold roasted by vendors! Christina was ready to try one but as soon as she saw them roasted in whole, with their head, wings and legs, she changed her mind…
Now we are in Accra, the modern capital city of Ghana. Here we had a nice surprise… Through our host, we met Nikos, a Greek who lives here! He is the first Greek we met since Morocco. Christina is preparing some Greek recipes every day (as long as we can find the proper ingredients!) and we enjoy them all together, talking and laughing around the table until it gets late…