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.
From the first day we entered Togo, we were lucky enough to explore the countryside of this tiny African country and be hosted by local families. This was made possible via many American volunteers, who are scattered all over Togo and usually live together with some local family. That’s how we arrived in Chelsea’s village, asking for the white woman’s house. Some barefoot, one-arm young man in dirty clothes lead us there. He seemed like a humble man but nevertheless he was the chief of the village!
Chelsea’s host family was very welcoming. They brought us some chairs to sit on and various people were coming to greet us. They were bowing to the ground to pay their respects, making handshakes with both hands. They brought us to drink some water inside a bowl they make out of the shell of calabash. It is tradition here for the one offering something to taste it first himself, in order to verify that there is no poison in it! So, the woman who brought us the water had a sip first and then gave it to us. The family was thanking Chelsea over and over again for bringing the white people to their house! Don’t get suspicious. They had no profit whatsoever, they just felt really honored to have us there.
It was the season when many memorial services are held. So, that Sunday three memorials were taking place in the village. Many times they have to postpone them in order to save some money, as they use to spend a lot on memorials and funerals, even if they are poor. In Togo, when the deceased is elder, the funeral is a joyful celebration. When the one who died is a child, however, the funeral is a mournful ceremony.
The first memorial was a Christian one, the second was Muslim and Animist was the third one. Relatives were coming from all over the country, even from Burkina Faso. We were all sitting on benches and women were serving us some food: a ball of mashed yam, called fufu, accompanied by meat and some green-leave sauce. At the Christian memorial they also served beer made out of millet. So, many people would pay a visit just to have a drink. It was so crowded, as if it was a fair! There were even some vendors there, selling their stuff.
Visiting volunteer after volunteer we were gradually moving south. We visited the Koutammakou area, famous for the architecture of the Tamberma tribe. It is even listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Indeed, the huts of this tribe are very distinctive and impressive ones! They usually unfold in three different levels and they are properly designed in order to protect the family from any intruder.
From Atakpamé we headed west, taking a road which used to be tarred… many, many years ago. Nowadays, there is just a series of innumerous huge potholes left, that made even Christina miss the dirt roads I discover all the time. We visited the spectacular Akloa Waterfall near Badou! We hiked through the jungle and we saw trees of bananas, cocoa, coffee, cassava, as well as the exquisite plant where pineapple grows, looking like a diamond in the centre of a jewel. After this short hiking we were all sweaty, so what’s more delightful than taking a dip inside the small pond forming at the bottom of the waterfall…
The off-road route we took from Badou to Kpalimé was by far the most beautiful we did in Togo. The scenery was mountainous and the views from above were breathtaking! It reminded us of our beloved Guinea for a while… In Kpalimé we were hosted by Matthias, a German in our age, who has visited a big part of our world with just a backpack, without even carrying a camera! He and his friends all ride motorcycles, so that weekend we went together for a ride on the dirt tracks around this lush and beautiful area.
In Lomé, the capital of Togo, we saw the sea again, after almost two months. We didn’t miss the chance to take a dip there as well! After wandering in the area around, having spent three weeks in Togo, we headed to the border with Benin. We were delighted to have explored profoundly this country, having been under its skin, and all this thanks to the wonderful people we met…
I met Philippe at the Immigrants Joint in Thessaloniki, Greece just before setting off for our trip to Africa. He was born in Ivory Coast in 1978 but his roots lie in Burkina Faso. For the past decades Ivory Coast had been the financial giant in West Africa and as a consequence many economic immigrants were drawn there. Later, his family returned to Burkina Faso but his parents are no longer alive.
At his twenties, Philippe started a small furniture manufacturing business with a friend of his. One of the Canadian companies that exploit the gold deposits in Burkina Faso was one of Philippe’s best customers. But still, how many furniture would they buy? Philippe had to change trade and started a small business selling carpets along with his sister. However, his sister got married and she stopped working, so they had to close down this shop as well.
Since a long time ago, Philippe was thinking to immigrate to Europe. As these countries of West Africa were French colonies just a few decades ago, most of the people living here speak French. That makes France the obvious choice when they decide to immigrate. The French embassy, however, refused to grant a visa to Philippe.
Philippe started thinking about immigrating to Greece. When I asked him why did he choose Greece, I was really astonished by his reply… He is a Catholic Christian and he was always reading in the Bible about the Greeks. So, the poor guy thought that there would be some nice people living there. When he took the plane and arrived to Athens, he was disappointed… He worked there for two years and during this time he met many employers that did not treat him well, so he immediately walked out on them.
Now he lives in Thessaloniki, Greece and he works in a shop selling car spare parts. He is happy there. He attends the liturgy regularly and he even has a friend who is a priest. He is renting a two-bedroom apartment where he lives together with a countryman of his. He goes often to the Immigrants Joint, either to attend English and guitar classes or to watch the movie on Sunday evening. While speaking in Greek, telling me all about his country, he gave me the contact of his brother, in order to meet him in Ouagadougou.
So, here we are in Ouagadougou, one year later, eating brochettes with Cyrille, Philippe’s brother. When we called him and told him that we were in town, he immediately came on his motorcycle to meet us. Cyrille is ten years younger than Philippe. He is a nice, low-key and well educated guy. He holds a Master in the faculty of water treatment and apart from his mother tongue he speaks French, as well as English. He is working on his specialty eight hours per day, five days per week and he has a salary of 200 euros per month. That is considered to be a good salary by Burkina Faso’s standards, so Cyrille is quite pleased.
Contrary to his brother, Cyrille does not plan to immigrate. His supervisors sent him for training to France for two weeks but he did not really enjoyed life there. He thought of it as quite hard to live, since everything is expensive and people do not socialize easily. He prefers life in Burkina Faso, where people are very sociable and they have solidarity.
By meeting both Philippe and Cyrille, we were quite satisfied about accomplishing our mission. No need to hide that we were eager to arrive in Burkina Faso for this reason alone! We were delighted to finally meet two amazing guys who had many things to teach us about life in their homeland as well as life in our homeland too…
We were planning for quite some time to meet up with Stergios, who is traveling in Africa on his Vespa, and Liam, a guy from Great Britain who is traveling with Stergios on his old 90 cc moped. So, we made a detour, in order to narrow the distance between us and finally, it was close to the Ghanaian border when I saw two overloaded two-wheel vehicles coming towards us and I knew it was them! We pulled over and greeting one another took us some time… Meeting up was really unbelievable! We found a quite spot to wild camp and we spent two days there, talking endlessly about the experiences we had in Africa so far, as well as the next stage of our trip. We had so much to tell…
After having bidden farewell to Stergios and Liam, not knowing if we would meet in Africa again, we headed southwest in Burkina Faso, while the guys entered Ghana, the country we had just left behind. Day by day we would realize that the northern winds blowing from the Sahara, the ones that drop the temperatures, were dying down. The hot season was about to start and the further we were moving into March, the more we could feel the heat wearing us out.
In the country’s southwest we visited two sites, Sindou Peaks and Dômes de Fabedougou, both being peculiar rock formations. They were cool but nothing like Meteora in Greece! We were much more impressed by an old, deserted settlement, barely known but, in our opinion, much more important. It is situated near the village of Niansogoni, where the borders of Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Mali meet. Climbing up a hill, we suddenly found ourselves in front of a hidden rock facade. Inside its coves many huts out of mud were built! The natives inhabited these huts in order to be protected by both their enemies and the elements of nature. Inside the coves they would be protected from the sun as well as the rain. They would use some of the huts for housing, while in others they would cook or produce the local beer made out of millet. The supplies were kept inside huge earthenware jars, while in some huts we could see some kind of vault, where they kept the family’s valuables.
While heading north, we were being hosted by many friendly locals that we met through CouchSurfing. Mohamed was one of them, a student longing for knowledge, dreaming of traveling all over the world while studying. Families in West Africa usually live in compounds of huts or buildings built around a communal yard. Naturally, three generations coexist inside these compounds, with the families consisting of ten to twenty people. There is, however, a nice atmosphere of collaboration and solidarity, even though arguments are not unknown during everyday life.
It was then when something inexplicable occurred… The tread of the rear tyre of my motorcycle was torn! Because of that the tube got punctured. Where we were it was impossible for us to find a new tyre. So, I had to replace just the tube, covering the torn spot of the tread from the inside with a double piece of an old tube, in order to protect the new one. As if that was not enough, in less than a hundred kilometers (62 miles), I ran over a huge bolt and the tube was punctured again! Happily, we always carry two spare tubes.
Unfortunately, the torn spot of the tyre later became so wide that the tube was forming a bump out of the tyre! We were half way our route, so I was running out of choices… I deflated the tube slightly, in order to prevent it from hanging out of the tyre and tied a rope around this part, to protect the tube from touching the tarmac. This way we covered 80 kilometres (50 miles) and we arrived in Bobo-Dioulasso, the country’s second largest city. That’s where, after a lot of searching, I was able to find a tyre of proper dimensions.
Arriving in Ouagadougou, we were delighted to meet some friends of Akis Temperidis and Vula Netu, the Greeks who had travelled around the world on a Land Rover! That’s how we found ourselves being hosted by Georges and Connie, a couple that spent two years travelling in America and Africa on a Land Rover. It was really enjoyable hanging around in the evening, exchanging stories from our travels and even organizing screenings of the videos we have made from the African countries we have visited so far.
We spent the International Women’s Day in Ouagadougou. Burkina Faso is one of the countries that this day is vividly celebrated. Contrary to the rest of the year, this day it is men who go to the market and they are always surprised to find out how hard it is to do the grocery shopping with the little money that they usually give to their wives for this purpose.
We were thrilled to attend the celebrations of the A.M.P.O. organization, where Connie volunteers. We saw many women that this active organization rescued out of poverty. Many of them had been orphans when in their childhood, others had been pregnant without being married, something that led them out of their family, some had been abandoned by their husbands, while quite a few of them were infected by AIDS or other illnesses. The organization, founded by Katrin, a German living in Burkina Faso the last 23 years, uses people’s donations, not to spread money around, but to train the locals in need and help them improve their lives based on their own skills.
There, we were really surprised to meet a Greek doctor living in Germany, who, through his medical association, visits many developing countries, operating voluntarily the ones in need. He is retired now, but he used to be a director in many hospitals in Germany. Once he was summoned by the Greek embassy to work in Greece and he was assigned to the A.H.E.P.A. Hospital. He didn’t stand the situation more than fourteen days! When he found out that it takes a bribe to get proper treatment, while doctors don’t give a damn about whether people live or die, he informed his supervisors that he was not willing to practice medicine in such an immoral way and he returned to Germany. That’s so typical… Whoever is honest enough not to knuckle under corruption sees self-exile as the only way to stay moral. Then, who are the ones who stay in Greece? They are the corrupted ones and some few romantics who stand up, dedicating their lives to a heroic struggle in order to make things better.
When we finally had all the essential visas in our passports, we reluctantly bid farewell to Georges and Connie and headed to the south of the country. We really wanted to visit the villages of the Gourounsi tribe, which are famous for the architecture of their huts. There are no windows, in order to protect the interior from the sun, while the outer facade is embellished with distinct symbols. The openings are low and the main entrance is protected from inside by a short wall. This way, when an intruder would force his way into the hut, entering by ducking was enough for him to end up decapitated before having his vision accustomed to the darkness of the hut.
After an entire month in Burkina Faso, we took the dirt roads leading to Togo. We left one more country behind us, having acquired beautiful experiences and having met interesting people…