Friday, April 07, 2006

More Walking

Before you all think I am dying out here I need to make a new posting. I am happy and healthy and back on my feet, the infection passed without worry and only held me up a couple of weeks in Dakar. After I could walk again I decided to recommence my walking journey. So with Banjul as my target, another 300km away I began to trek again.

Walking is the most pure form of travel and I have learned to do it well. After 17 more days and a thousand more adventures I arrived in Banjul having walked more than 550km and crossing Northern Senegal in 27days. It is astounding the way people respond to this type of journey, and the people I have met along the way have been amazing. I have passed nights in the forest, slept with fisherman, rowed accross rivers, run from monkeys, battled entire villages, ate fantastic french food, starved, froze, melted, fallen in love, met 1000 wonderfull people and a few not so wonderfull, I walked and I walked and I walked. Truly, there are so many stories to tell from this journey that I can not even hope to put them in the blog. I will try to put a few in. For now I am in The Gambia, passing some time and trying to decide what to do next.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Not Walking

My stay in Dakar continues. It seems I pushed myself over the line during my 10 day march from St. Louis. After arriving in Dakar and sleeping for 3 days with my stomach churning from the untreated water I had been drinking and questionable food I had eaten I hobbled around town getting things done on my weary blistered feet. During this time a nasty infection appeared on my right index finger but I was able to fight it off after inserting my knife into my cutical to release the pressure which had me in excruciating pain. At this point I thought the worst was over and I was on my way to recovery. Unfortunately this was not to be the case.

At least I can thank my right foot for waiting until my left foot was healed before beginning its decent into unhappiness. 4 days ago a painful and rapid infection erupted near the bottom of my shin like a petit volcano. I had been prepared to begin my walk to The Gambia on Thursday and unfortunately as I set off for Rufisque only 30km away the activity motivated the infection to further growth and it has now spread painfully into my foot rendering it swollen and useless. So instead of walking to The Gambia I was forced to walk directly to the doctor. I am now taking a slew of French drugs and have spent the last two days lying in my bed. I can feel the antibiotics taking hold and am certain to recover in a few days. For now, I sit and wait.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


After a seductive stay at Auberge Menata in Noakchott I left by car for St. Louis, Senegal. Arriving in Senegal was yet again a tremendous shift, and even the colonial architecture and pervasive tourism was not enough to block the overwhelming sensation of having truly arrived in Africa. I recognized my need for more time to adjust and not wanting to stay still in St. Louis I decided to slow down my travel even further and walk the 250km to Dakar.

I took this decision rather lightly, and did not realize what an incredible adventure I was about to begin. Though looking at a map you may suspect that this central region of Dakar would be reasonably developed and populated I found that the opposite was entirely true.

So I spent the next 10 incredible days living through a never ending array of soul wrenching experiences. In truth, the adventure soon became so astounding, I was not sure people would even believe me. After remote villages, freezing nights, forest fires, broken feet, albino children, violent tribes, beautifull villagers, dolphins, puffer fish, shooting stars, sleeping in the dirt, giant birds, goats milk, malaria, waiting for morning and a million other insane things I arrived exhausted into Dakar and have spent the past 7 days recovering both my body and my mind.

Sometime during that stretch, I looked into my little pack. Inside was 2 carrots and a coconut. My only food out here miles from anywhere. It is those kind of moments that will change you forever.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Martin and I

Me and Joshua
Originally uploaded by lindahl.martin.
A couple of rough looking characters during our Saharan crossing. Tired, but happy.

Under the Blazing Sun

Originally uploaded by lindahl.martin.
A photo from Martin, of me and my Bicycle under the blistering Sahara sunshine.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Road Ahead

After a brief stop in Nouadhiboo Martin and I hop back on our bicycles to continue the ride south through the desert, though we had not expected it, this part of the road was even more desolate than the previous stretch. 500 more kilometres to Noakchott where I am today.

The first night we camped 80km outside of Nouadhiboo and ended by pure chance on an incredible fossil bed. I spent half the next day looking for dinosaur bones before Martin finally dragged me back onto the road.

Another long day of cycling and we sleep out under the stars, waking wet and cold to the a morning dew but an incredible sunrise.

Day 3 we camp with some local bedowin in an small wooden shack they have built. The drafty roof seems like an incredible luxury after our 2 weeks spent mostly in the open desert.

On day 4, some 800 km after putting together my $50 bicycle it broke down for what would be the last time. Two spokes snapped on the back tire, turning the wheel into a figure 8 under my 40 kg of supplies and the chain derailed, jamming the pedals. I managed to bring the poor machine to a stop. The bike ride was over. So I grabbed up my pack, waved goodbye to Martin and began a long walk back to our last stop where I was able to catch a pimped up ride into Noakchott with some European electronica pounding in the car. I passed the crazy Swede (Martin) stopped and dancing on the side of the road to the tunes from his mp3 player and waved frantically as we sped on by.

Africa on Drugs

Any of you who may have travelled to a malarius country before will have experienced the frustrations and question marks around what to do to prevent malaria. For those of you who haven't here is a little information.

Unlike many 3rd world health problems such as yellow fever, typhoid, polio or hepatitus there is no vaccine for malaria. The disease, carried in mosquitos can only be prevented by not getting bitten or by taking one of several preventative drugs which are available to reduce the risk of aquiring the symptoms of the disease when you are infected. Unfortunately, with the list of preventative drugs also comes a long lineup of undesirable side effects. Many of which could be considered worse than actually getting malaria itself.

In Africa everyone gets malaria. Many of the locals will get it several times per year and it comes on like a strong cold or flu, some never get it, and some people die from it. Though the deaths tend to be in young children, or if no care is available. In Mauritania, where I am today, a large percentage of children (something like 20%) die from Malaria before age 5.

All travellers face this risk and must decide how they will tackle the problem. If you go to a health clinic in North America or Europe they will make the case sound pretty simple, select from one of these drugs and take it. In Canada before leaving for Asia I took a prescription of Doxycycline which is a strong antibiotic. This may be an ok solution for a 2 week trip but to take antibiotics for several months is attrocious to your body. I took my pills, one per day, for about a week and each day my stomach crunched up like I had swallowed a tin can and my mood swung into an unpleasant frustration much like if I haven't eaten in a long time. I quit the drug and though I spent 3 months in malarius zones and was bitten by many mosquitos I don't believe I had malaria. However, here in Africa the risk is much greater.

In Sweden I got a new drug, called Larium or Mefloquin. According to most countries this drug is the most effective against preventing malaria. It also has a reputation amoungst travellers which far exceeds its positive affects. This drug directly affects your psyche. Side effects listed on the package include mood swings, intense dreams, hallucinations etc. Basically it is described by travellers as a mild form of LSD, or perhaps not so mild. You take one pill per week and it builds up in your system. Last week I took my first pill to see how it would affect me, hoping that perhaps the affects would not be so strong. I took the pill on Tuesday, by Friday its effect was at its height, I was high on mefloquin and happy about it. During the previous few days I had begun to notice a few funny things, most notably that I was using my left hand for things I never use it for and that night I entered a place in my mind I have never been and woke to a dream which continued a few moments after my eyes had opened.

On Saturday I was as low as I can get, unable to lift my spirits and uncharacteristically swearing at everything. This affect lasted a few hours.

One week on Larium.

One last knock on Larium is that if you get malaria while on the drug (which can still happen) you must take a big overdose of Larium to treat the disease. From a first hand account I recieved last night this will put you on another world. Many of the other drugs have similiar treatments and effects.

So it is that each person must decide. Take a risk with the drug, or take a risk with malaria. Most long term travellers choose to carry with them some medications to take if they get malaria and forego the prevention drugs. Sticking to insect repellent as the main method of prevention. Today I should take my next Larium dose. What would you do?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Fruit of the Desert

It took 7 days, and many, many gallons of water but my charming bike and I made it accross the desert into Maritania. The trip was made possible by the tremendous generosity and helpfullness we encountered while pedaling under the blazing sun.

The first day we cycle northward out of Dakhla into a strong headwind and can only complete 50km with my poor tush suffering desperately from my BMX style seat. In the evening we find a cave in a small mountainside and sleep inside. The stars are spectacular and the desert sunset incredible.

Day two we cycle hard and make good distance camping out on the open dunes. The night is made memorable as I don my Moroccan Jallaba (think Obi Won Kenobi) and Martin strikes up a tune on his old Swedish bagpipe. What a pair we make.

On we ride, day 3, day 4, camping in the cool nights and covering our faces with scarves through the day. The sun in blistering, reflecting off the sand. Each day it seems good light shines on us. An old fisherman offers us freshly caught fish for dinner, a friend I met on a bus finds us on the road as she's passing and her driver gives us an incredible camel steak and even a red bull, a caravan stops for a smoke and we eat apples and lose half the day looking out at the strange landscape and my favourite comes as I am parched for fresh food, and thinking of nothing else. I turn a bend and see a van out in front, then an arm and at the end of the arm two beautiful oranges which come bumping and rolling along the road toward us. No orange has ever tasted so good. I wave frantic thanks to the man whose face I never even see.

Day 5 turns spectacular as we reach a long awaited hotel and get our first shower since leaving. The food is great and the place is clean. We stock up and head for the border. Day 6 night falls and we must camp near the border, nervous from reports of landmines we must stay near the road. Neither of us blow up so the next morning we cross into Mauritania.

The crossing is the icing on the cake as we leave the Moroccan post after a long wait and cross an eery unmarked 3km zone of no mans land. The wind seemed to whistle cautiously past and the quiet landscape tingles your neck. Finally we push our bikes over the rocky ground to the Mauritanian post and things are now very different. 3 rough men in an old shack stamp our passports and off we ride knowing we are now truly into Black Africa.

Our first encounter with a Mauritanian local comes after another 40km of hilly terrain when we come accross a man with a large group of camels. He is gesturing to us to come help him and his friend so we wander over to see what is up and what a surprise it is. A young camel has fallen into a well! This is so astounding in fact, because the well is only about the size of a manhole and the camel is huge. We have to pull it out he says and I am thinking there is no way. This is like animal rescue or something! Needless to say, the guy gets a grip on the camels lower lip and starts to heave with the poor creature screaming like its going to die and so we just grab on and start pulling by the neck. I was sure we would injure it somehow, but we just kept pulling and pulling and soon we had a grip on its legs and up it came. It must haved weighed about 150kg (350 lbs). Incredibly, we got it up on its feet and it seemed to be ok. Though I thought its mother was going to kill us. Handshakes and laughter all around with a few pats on the back for good measure and we were off carrying silly grins on our faces. A few days have past and still we can't get over the insanity of those few moments.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Sahara by Bicycle

From Agadir I watched Emma leave on a bus back to the real world and realized once again I was alone. There are a lot of feelings which come to you during those moments. I sipped a mint tea and pondered my new position. I decided it was time to leave Morrocco and head south into the disputed territory of the Western Sahara and continue my trip south on what is known as the Western Sahara route. One of only 3 primary ways to cross the desert. This way leads along the Western shoreline on a long lonely road through the dusty landscape into Mauritania. I stepped on a bus in Agadir to begin the journey, and after 1600km of painfully boring and uncomfortable bus travel (there were a few hilights) I found myself half way across the desert in the town of Dakhla knowing that I could not allow myself to cross the Sahara by bus.

I sat and considered this dilemma at a little cafe eating a fried fish with my hands. Do I hitch the rest of the way? Try to buy my way on a car? What do I do? Well, as things usually go the decision was made for me as an interesting character rode up on his bike, loaded with supplies. "That guy looks interesting.", says I and sure enough he is. "Oh, I just biked here from Sweden.", he says, "My name is Martin".

One thing led to another, and today I scrambled around town, buying bits and parts of the many piece of junk bikes you can find here at the end of the earth (along with every cassette tape you never bought) and with the help of some handy Morroccon mechanics essentially built a bike. Though its stability is questionable, its charm is undeniable. It is now loaded with supplies, a couple of blankets, 12 litres of water and enough food for us to cycle the remaining 600km across the longest stretch of no-service road on the Western Sahara route! It should take us 5 or 6 days with us camping through the cold desert nights. If you feel the kid in me in this posting, its because I'm here, playing out in the backyard and happy as hell.

Wish me luck.

PS. Don't worry Mom, we'll stick to the road at the Mauritanian border, so don't worry about all the land mines.

Friday, January 27, 2006


On Tuesday, less than two weeks after seeing the Pope, Emma and I attempted an ascent of Jbel Toubkal, the tallest mountain in the Atlas range and the highest in Northern Africa. Though normally a fairly smooth 2 day trek in the summer months we were warned a winter ascent may be difficult. This proved a remarkable understatement.

Perhaps an easier climb might have been a better choice for Emmas first mountain. We arrived late in the afternoon into the mountain village of Imlil looking up at the stunning snow capped peaks surrounding us. Arranged our gear, snow clothes, sleeping bags, crampons and ice picks and after a chilly night began our trek to the base camp refuge to spend a night at the treeline before the final ascent. Unfortunately we never made it.

Like a story book fable we advance, the trail, though snow covered is fairly good and my spirits are high. I chat freely with the guide and Emma though slipping seems fine. Soon however, we sight the mountain, clouded in a hazy mist and the trail grows steep and soft. Mules and local tribes men pass us on their way down, reports from above growing grimmer and grimmer. Flakes begin to fall as we slip up the icy slope and the wind begins to howl. I glance back at Emma now 20 feet behind, now 30 feet, trudging in poorly fitting boots, and I begin to feel the pressure of decision. We push on, 3 hours up now, we are going to slow, our guide glances at me with worried eyes, the wind and snow whip his scarf around his face and he looks back toward Emma. More steps up, 4 hours now, and the mountain erupts. An incredible force. The wind tearing at us, threatening to pull us off, the snow blinding, impossible to see, the trail becomes blurred as we reach a small hut. The last shelter before the refuge, still too far away. We stop, and as Emma struggles up, I know our trip is done. I step out onto the trail for one last look and the world dissolves around me, spectacular, dream-like, wondrous. I could not have planned this moment better. We return the long walk back to town, calmer with each step and Emma suggests a bus to the beach in Agadir. Why not? This way is blocked.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


From Rome, Emma and I travel to Barcelona by plane, spend the weekend partying and dancing it up with her friend Ange. We spend a day site seeing the Gaudi exhibits and buildings and travel up to Figures to see the Dali museum. A trip well worth it.

From Barcelona we catch an overnight train down to Algecires and Emma goes to Gibralter for a day. I miss out on a forgotten passport in the hotel and a nagging cold. So it is, 3 weeks after starting this part of my trip we arrive excitedly off our boat into Tangier, Morocco, Africa to begin the most interesting and challenging part of this journey. Immediately the excitement rises as we spend the evening walking around the Medina (old town), its fresh sites and sounds rewarding us. Today in Fes I have no timeline and a rough plan after Emma departs in a few days. I hope to start by crossing the Sahara by land and entering the heart of this intimidating continent.

We shall see how the wind blows...

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Pope and the Con Man

In Rome we went to see the Pope. I would suggest that few things are more rewarding than this experience if you allow it to be. The fun began as I walked up to a Vatican guard blocking a side entrance and announced, "I would like to see the Pope." His eyebrows seemed to rise, widening his eyes as they did, a clear sign of surprise, concern and alertness. So I clarified, "I hear you can get tickets somewhere?"

The following day we arrived at 10:30 into the main auditorium with a thousand or so other tourists, pilgrams or locals and were treated to a display of love, affection, theatre and wonder as his holiness, glowing white, entered the room to the heart warming cheers of all and the sound of children singing from the audience. After an short sermon in an impressive 5 or 6 languages and the pledging of faith by song, cheer or waves by the various audience groups we all sang and he departed. While, I am not a Catholic, and while we have had many discussions since this experience, the sheer reverence, the love shown by the audience, their faith and desire for holy expression reduced me, along with men and women all around to tears of joy the likes of which I have never before experienced. You could only say, I wept.

After this tremendous experience, we walked into the Sistine chapel and nearly died of emotional overload. Emma and I were useless to any task the rest of the day and sat over pizza after pizza in animated discussion.

So where does the Con Man come in? The following day as we left the Colliseum on route to the airport we were stopped by a man in a car on the street asking for directions. Even as Emma approached the car my spider senses were tingling, but perhaps he was too smooth, perhaps I haven't been on guard for too long. Long story short, he asked for directions, said he was French from out of town, he was well dressed, in a blazer and sweater, he talked to us, asked Emma how tall she was, flattered she said, "five ten". He said, I'm a fashion representative for Versacci, here, I will give you some samples for free. It sure sounded good, but I furrowed my brow, he saw and reached out for me pulled me off balance as he shook my hand, pointed something out and asked Emma for some money. Just a few dollars for gas. "What?", thought I, trying to slow things down, organize my thoughts, another question another tug on my arm. He sure seems nice, uh oh, she has some money out now. "No. Wait, no, you aren't taking any money. Give him back the clothes. Thats ridiculous." I finally take charge, get my grip and frustrated we walk away. "I can't believe that guy," ,I say. "What a thief." "Ya", says Emma, "He even kept my money." I missed that moment, of course, I had been looking at the dashboard where he was pointing.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Witch Burning

Turns out its still going on and not in the symbolic sense.

After a meetup in Milan I am now travelling with Emma Claire, my little sisters best buddy and Italy as been revealing itself to us bit by bit. Just north of Milan is a little town called Mezzago, which you probably can't find on a map and which happens to be the setting for a new play which Emma Claire will be starring in over the next couple of months. So it seems, we just had to visit. It was during this somewhat liesurely trip to the Italian countryside that I saw something which raised the hairs on the back of my neck and had me trying to jump off the bus to run back to the striking event. Looking out the window I saw a series of images, oh look, theres a big group of people, oh, it must be some kind of festval, hey they all seem to be cheering at something, what is that, hey, its a witch made of straw, and its on fire!! Not sure what that was all about... I never did make it off the bus.

From Mezzago to Firenze (Florence) and a sight of the most famous statue in the world, Michaelangelos David, a swing through Pisa for the leaning tower and into Rome. All I can say is, all my life I have been loving the food from here, now I just have twice the reason to enjoy.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Corto means Short

Ahh Venice, how many stories have been written about your windy little "streets". Well actually, I know how many cuz they are the only books available in English in every bookstore. I'd say about a 100.

I arrive in Venice from the boat at dawn, a beautifull sunrise over such an unusual city. Truly, it is rare I am so completely pleased at the differentness of a new city as here. Also, rarely have I walked into so many dead end streets. Anyone who's been to Venice will know what I am talking about.

In this winding village I decidedly completed more missions than any previous stretch of time so short. Mail was sent, banking done, phone calls made, new stuff bought, hair cut - speaking of which when you say Corto, it means you don't get to have any hair left when its all over. I now have the shortest hair I have had since I was in the crib.

By day three I began to have a good grasp of getting around, with only one short walk remaining from the hostel to the train station. Unfortunately, the city decided to reorganize itselfand nearly 2.5 hours later, including a rest stop with an Italian girl (my new found guide) I finally stumbled up to the train station and hopped on for Milan.

I love the food in Italy, actually, its what I always love to eat. Only now I can do it with an excuse.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year

Well, this year has been a good one. I have accomplished a lot and learned even more. Built some great friendships and some good memories. I had a lot to be thankfull for as I stood atop the roof of our hostel beneath the Acropolis ringing in the new year.

I would like to wish all my friends and family a tremendous Happy New Year and warm wishes for 2006 and thank you all for making it possible for me to be where I am today.

Thank you.

What about the Boxer Rebellion?

What? That was from the Ming Dynasty against northern China. You must be thinking of the Opium Wars...