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.
Tanzania welcomed me with lush, mountainous areas… The rolling hills around Tukuyu have a beautiful, green carpet of tea plantations on them. After exploring the mountains around Mbeya for a few days, I headed east. I passed through Iringa town and I enjoyed a nice ride through the Baobab Valley. I was riding between hundreds of those characteristic trees and next to a river. Then I had to cross Mikumi National Park. Motorcycles are usually forbidden in areas where there are wild animals but the highway crosses this unfenced park, so all traffic is allowed on this road. I finally saw giraffes, warthogs, plenty of impalas and a lot of baboons too!
My first impression from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city, was a terrible one… It’s just a huge, crowded, noisy and polluted city. The traffic there is hectic. Cars, buses and trucks manage to block each other on junctions, so nobody can move, sometimes for half an hour! Everybody tries to find a way through this chaos without minding the other drivers… What happens usually is that he comes to face a truck which is blocked on every side by other vehicles and at the end nobody can move! I was very grateful once again that I was on a motorbike…
My getaway from this frenetic place was Zanzibar… That’s a different story: an island with exotic beaches on the Indian Ocean and a unique melting pot of civilizations! Ships were mooring on its coast for centuries from as far as India and Middle East. They were bringing spices, glassware and textile, while they were taking slaves, ivory, gold and wood. They were also bringing the Eastern civilization and Islam, which stayed until today. Zanzibar was united with the country of Tanganyika in 1964. Using the first three letters from the name of each country, Tanzania was just formed.
Back in Dar es Salaam, I made a very special friend: Costas Coucoulis! As he says, he is an African, born in Burundi, with Greek origins. He has not only spent almost his whole life in Africa but he has actually dedicated it to Africa. Through his NGO called SANA (Saving Africa’s Nature), he struggles for years to save some of the last pristine areas that are left in our planet. That has become his life goal! His most special characteristic that I admire is that he tries to do that by educating and collaborating with the local communities. He doesn’t want to be the hero behind this story. He wants the indigenous people to be the heroes of their own story… Despite he has seen the atrocities of the human race, experiencing the genocide in Burundi and the disaster of our planet, he still believes in humans like a child who always hopes… After all, if it’s not humans who will make this change, who will be?
Saadani National Park is Costa’s baby, as he says. He first visited that place when it was not even a national park. That’s where the bush meets the ocean and one of the very few places where you can see elephants in the sea! Costas fell in love with a spot under a tree, next to the river. He immediately decided that this is the place he wants to make his home and spend the rest of his life.
Since then, he is struggling to stop poaching, save the forest, build schools, dispensaries and whatever else is important for the neighbouring communities. Imagine that in this part of the world even clean drinking water is a luxury. Now they have access to it through a wind-powered pump. You cannot make these people care about the environment without satisfying their own basic needs first. Over the years, they have destroyed a big part of the forest to make charcoal. Costas knows he must offer them an alternative because they cook everyday on charcoals. He is trying now to make charcoal out of organic waste.
Poaching is a big issue there. Tanzania is Africa’s largest source of poached ivory. Every single day 25 to 30 elephants die in this country. Their population now is alarmingly low. It’s obvious that educating these people is necessary. SANA has built a school and provides education to tens of children. They are also planning to establish an environmental training centre. Funds don’t come easy, so if you want to support these amazing projects, donate to SANA or visit Sanctuary Saadani Safari Lodge to experience all these firsthand!
I couldn’t miss to see all this paradise by myself, so I visited Miseni Camp, just out of the national park’s border. I spent several wonderful days next to the spiritual hill on top of which the indigenous people used to pray since centuries ago. I enjoyed a lot the beauty and the silence of the nature… In the evenings, I was lying down in my tent listening at the concert of the bush babies and the birds, before my eyes were closing under a sky full of stars…
Through some narrow trails, I enjoyed a great dirt ride which brought me to the coast. I visited Pangani with its Arabic and German colonial buildings. After a break in Tanga, it was time to explore the Usambara Mountains… Wow, unexpectedly, that became my favourite part of Tanzania! I was riding mountains up and down as high as 2,000 meters (6,562 ft) through remote dirt roads and trails. Some of them were full of stones and ruts while there was some mud too. I was passing through small villages, blurred by fog, where smiling people were covered in fleece blankets. I even enjoyed a short hike in Amani Nature Reserve. I visited some scenic waterfalls and an old hydroelectric power station from the colonial era.
There was something around there that I wanted to see before I close my eyes… It was Kilimanjaro! I was in Moshi town when the clouds were gone for a while and I laid eyes on Africa’s highest mountain for first time! I wanted to see the characteristic shape of this mountain and its snowy peak at 5,896 meters (19,344 ft). Unfortunately, the last snow on Kilimanjaro is estimated to melt forever by 2020. I rode all around the mountain and I enjoyed a great dirt ride on its foothills, through thick forest, which brought me to Marangu village.
My next destination was Rwanda. I was riding on cool plateaus for four days through dirt and paved roads. Every night I was wild camping in the bush and that’s how I enjoyed the 27th full moon I saw during my African adventure 😉
You can check out the map with more photos and reports at: Live Trip Traveller
Malawi shares its name with the lake which defines the whole country. Lake Malawi is 580 km (360 miles) long and 75 km (47 miles) wide. It covers almost a third of Malawi’s total area. When I entered from Mozambique, I rode straight to Cape Maclear to enjoy the famous beaches of Lake Malawi. It was hard for me to believe that this is not the sea but a lake.
I took a traditional, wooden pirogue to West Thumbi Island. I was paddling with my kind guide, Enock, for more than an hour. Lake Malawi has more fish species than any other inland body of water in the world! The turquoise fresh water around the island is an ideal spot to swim among the plethora of colourful fish. I never had such an enjoyable snorkelling!
I wouldn’t miss the Mufasa Rustic Camp in Monkey Bay. That’s very close to Cape Maclear but it’s a different world… Cape Maclear has a long beach and you stay in the village between the local houses and huts. Mufasa has a tiny, secluded beach and there you live in harmony with nature in a very beautiful setting.
It was time to make a detour south to Zomba. I was hosted in a township and that was nice. I was there to explore the Zomba Plateau, a mountainous area full of nice forests, waterfalls and a small lake. It was a really beautiful setting! We took my motorcycle and we visited some relatives of my host in a remote village. Nobody could speak English there but my host was translating for me. They were insisting to cook something for us. They took some fresh rice and they skilfully peeled it by hitting it in a big, wooden mortar like those ones that are used all around Africa. They laid a mat on the ground to sit on and they served us the rice with some brown sugar.
I headed back north and after a long day on the road, I arrived at the touristy Nkhata Bay. It is built around a picturesque part of the lake. I enjoyed some hiking on the neighbouring hills but the best thing I did was a boat trip to a remote village called Kawanga. I camped on the beautiful beach and the first thing I enjoyed when I opened my eyes was the crystal-clear water! I sat on some rocks in the middle of the water and I was admiring the beauty of the scenery. I was helping the local fishermen to pull the nets out of the lake, I was playing with the children and then I was enjoying the night with my friends around a warm bonfire…
My last stop in Malawi was at Livingstonia, a small, former colonial town which was set up as a Christian mission in 1894. A rocky dirt road took me to the plateau from where the views over the lake are gorgeous! I did some hiking and I enjoyed Manchewe Falls. After almost three weeks in Malawi, it was time to exit the country from its northernmost border. Tanzania was waiting me…
You can check out the map with more photos and reports at: Live Trip Traveller
Mozambique is a quite big country and I had almost a month to explore just its northern part. I rode 1,400 km (870 miles) from the border with Zimbabwe to reach the coast. When I saw those exotic beaches with the turquoise water, I knew it was worth the effort! I relaxed for a few days in a spartan room in Mossuril, next to the water, being hosted by some friendly locals. Everyday I was exploring the region around there. My favorite beach was Cabaceira Pequena with its long, white sand. I loved watching women and children fishing on the coast while the wind was blowing the sails of picturesque dhows in the background…
Somewhere around there, I celebrated a great moment… Since 2007, when I first hit the road on my motorbike, I spent more time traveling around the world than being settled in Greece! Between my two long trips in Asia and Africa, I stayed in Greece for four years. However, the time I am exploring the world is longer since now and… I’m still going strong!
I visited Mozambique Island which packs so much of history… Well before the 15th century, it was already an important trading settlement dealing with Madagascar, Persia, Arabia and elsewhere. Then, Vasco da Gama landed there and eventually Mozambique Island became the capital of Portuguese East Africa. The Portuguese architecture is still evident on the forts and the old houses which survive. As a result of history, this little place is home to a diverse and multicultural society. On an island that you can walk from side to side in a few minutes, you can find Christian churches, mosques and a Hindu temple!
I couldn’t stop enjoying the majestic coastline, so I spent several more days around the small town of Nacala-a-Velha. With my host, Joachim, and his friends we visited the Catholic mission of Cava. On Sunday, Father Silvano got his motorbike, I got mine and we were riding on trails in the bush for an hour to reach a remote settlement. Tens of villagers from the whole region came to attend the open-air liturgy. They were surprised to see me there and they were very curious about my adventures in Africa. I was answering their questions in English, Elena was translating my answers to Portuguese and a local elder who speaks Portuguese was finally translating everything to Makua, the language that the villagers could understand. They never had a guest from that far, so they made me feel really honorable. They even organized some traditional dancing for me! The interaction with those people was really interesting…
After singing all together “What are the problems in your house?”, the villagers were replying to the question one by one. This way everybody knows what is happening in the village and if it is possible, the elders give their advices. After that, the liturgy started with local music and dancing, mostly by women. They had brought two live chickens to prepare a meal on the fire for everybody. After eating, we bid farewell and they asked me to let them know if I will reach my country safe and sound.
It was time to leave my motorcycle for a while and take a small boat to Ibo Island. I had to camp on the coast and wait 22 hours until the next boat would leave. Forty people were packed on a tiny, wooden boat with their luggage. Men, patient women and children were sitting anywhere, on the floor or on the luggage. As the old boat was battling with the waves and some water was getting inside, I felt that this must be what all those African immigrants go through for days when they try to cross the Mediterranean Sea and reach the promised land, Europe…
Ibo used to be an important slave-trading port and Mozambique’s second-most important town. Now it’s a surreal place full of old, dilapidated Portuguese houses. Some of them are already ruined, while some other look ruined but people live inside. Mozambique suffered a terrible civil war for 15 years and everything now looks ruined. The country is less developed than its neighbors but Mozambicans are still smiling and trying to build a life out of the ruins…
It was time to move inland again, since I definitely wanted to visit Malawi. It was more than 1,000 km (621 miles) away but I took some nice shortcuts through dirt roads. Some of them had quite a lot of sand and what they call “fis-fis” in Sahara. It’s that powder-like sand which makes a whole cloud of dust once you hit it. Anyway, the ride was enjoyable and after a couple of nights wild camping in the bush, I reached the border…