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.
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…
Davide and Patrique were the two out of the three Congolese with whom we were traveling to Tshikapa. Those guys proved to be our saviors… We had never heard about the route to Lubumbashi which they indicated to us. The few foreigners who cross overland the Democratic Republic of the Congo pass through Mbuji-Mayi. Our friends told us to branch off south just before Kananga and pass through Luiza, Musumba, Sandoa, Kasaji and Kolwezi. This route is still rough but not as much as the one through Mbuji-Mayi. We were not sure if we should listen to the advice of our friends, since we didn’t know any traveler who had tried that route. We were 1,590 km (988 miles) away from Lubumbashi, so we had to be sure that the route we were going to take was accessible.
Just before reaching Kananga, we asked some local motorcyclists about the preferable route to Lubumbashi. They confirmed that it’s better to ride through Luiza. So, we avoided entering in Kananga, since most problems due to the cops happen in the cities. We took the route to the south.
Unfortunately, we often couldn’t find some space for wild-camping, since the region is either inhabited or it has lush vegetation. What we were doing was to choose a small village and ask for the chief’s permission to camp there. However, this means that more than 50 persons were gathering around us and they were not letting us alone until we were going to sleep. They were watching Christina cooking and they were asking her how she prepares the potatoes. The Congolese don’t use potatoes in their diet, so they are unfamiliar to them. When you cannot have a moment for your-self for days in a row, this situation gets really disturbing. One night, especially, we ate in our tent in order to make the crowd leave. However, some of them stuck their face on our tent and they were still trying to stare on us… At least, they were not messing with our stuff. At dawn, the crowd was coming again to wake us up and watch us packing our motorbikes.
South of Luiza we entered in Katanga Province. This country is so huge that the borders between the provinces resemble national borders. Happily, the cops on the route that we chose rarely meet white guys, so they are not too horrible. Sure, they ask for bribes but we could get away easily without taking our wallet out of our pocket.
A few kilometers before Musumba we had to load our motorbikes on a pirogue in order to cross Luluwa River. It was July and the more we were going to the south, the deeper we were getting in the winter of the southern hemisphere. We were traveling on altitude which reached 1,400 m (4,593 ft). Until noon it was cold enough to use the warm liner which is provided with our REV’IT! summer jackets. After so many months on hot climate, we really enjoyed the low temperature!
After Kasaji, while we were riding on a smooth dirt road, Christina called me through our Sena intercommunication system to tell me that the water tank fell from her bike! We were expecting this, since half of the brackets which hold the handmade aluminium water tank had been broken due to the prolonged and tough off-road riding. I turned around to reach Christina and I noticed that the water tank was in place. However, Christina told me that her motorcycle stopped while she was riding and she heard a sound of metal.
When I saw the rear wheel, I noticed the cause of the problem… The stainless-steel mesh which Christina was carrying in order to lock her luggage, fell and it was jammed between the brake disc and the brake pads, so the wheel was blocked. However, this was the least of the problems… I immediately noticed that her backpack was missing. The persistent vibrations that the dirt road was causing, made the backpack to slip under the straps which were keeping it in place. The same happened in Sahara but that time it was another stainless-steel mesh which was missing. The backpack had blocked the real wheel at that time, so she noticed that and she didn’t lose anything from the backpack.
Christina was insisting to keep her most valuable things in that backpack instead of keeping them next to her body or in another safer place. Usually she was keeping there even her motorbike’s documents! Happily, while riding in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we had our documents in the inner pockets of our jackets, since we often had to show them at some of the plenty checkpoints which exist on the roads of this country.
We immediately started thinking what was lost: money, credit cards, documents, souvenirs… In the meanwhile, I went on my motorbike to check if I could find Christina’s backpack on the road but of course, nobody would leave alone a bag with so many valuables inside. When I returned to Christina, I saw her crying and at the same moment I realized what had happened… I was sure that Christina was not crying for the money or the credit cards that she had lost. She had just realized that she had lost her most precious thing: her diary!
This has never happened to me but I always know that my diary is the most precious thing that I carry while I travel. I could feel how painful this was for Christina. She was sobbing and saying that nothing is left out of this trip… That phrase was breaking my heart. I removed the rear wheel from her bike and I took away the stainless-steel mesh. We rode back 25 km (16 miles) looking for the backpack. Christina was crying for hours, since she knew that the possibility of finding her backpack was next to zero.
Being on a terrible mood, we proceeded to Kolwezi. Our arrival at this large city was meaning that we had almost achieved to complete our route through the D. R. Congo! We saw again that boring asphalt, which Christina wanted to kiss! That paved road would lead us to Lubumbashi, our final destination on this country.
We knew that there was a large Greek Orthodox mission in Kolwezi and it was the first Greek mission that we visited. We were welcomed by miss Theano, a very sweet, old lady who lives there the last 25 years. Archbishop Meletios arranged two rooms for us. Then he sat with us to have dinner while listening about our adventures. He also had many interesting stories from all these years that he lives in D. R. Congo.
The next morning, when we visited the church, it was surreal to listen to the chants that we knew but being chanted in Swahili by black priests! Some of them had visited various monasteries in Greece and they had learned some Greek. Of course, a few of them didn’t want to return to the turbulent D. R. Congo, so they disappeared somewhere in Greece…
In Lubumbashi there is a huge Greek Community, maybe the most well organized in Africa, with a story which goes back to 1886. Nikos Tsavalos, a motorcyclist who was born in Lubumbashi, was the only one who learnt about us through the internet and had invited us to his birthplace even before starting our trip. We kept in contact and he was always helping us on whatever we needed to cross this huge country.
When we arrived in Lubumbashi, we went straight to the beautiful place of the Greek community. The highlight of it is its luxurious restaurant, which has been turned to one of the most popular places in town. Congolese, Greeks and other expats come to enjoy the Greek cuisine. Next to the restaurant is the very well-equipped Greek school which serves about seventy students. There is also a nice playground, sport fields and some cosy houses which are given to the school’s teachers.
Since it was July and the teachers had their vacations in Greece, they gave us one of those empty houses. Stergios was living next door. He had arrived in the town one month ago with his inoperative Vespa carried on a truck. It was the second time we met Stergios in Africa. Of course, sleepless nights followed, talking about our adventures in Congo!
We were still trying to realize that we travelled from Kinshasa to Lubumbashi in just 13 days! This is a route which is considered almost impassable and we haven’t met anyone in this country who has tried it. Sure, it was important that we were using two of the most suitable motorcycles for this kind of use and they were properly equipped. However, of course, we faced some mechanical failures in that rough terrain but we were prepared for them and we could fix them. After all, nothing stopped us and we achieved to become one of those few foreigners who have explored one of the most unspoilt African countries. Finally, our trip in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was much more pleasant than expected…
Here you can watch a short video (in English) about our trip in D. R. Congo, while we were testing a very useful product: the Sena Bluetooth Audio Pack, which enables us to add our conversations to our videos!