I'm realising now, twenty years later, that I have gaps in my memory of cycling through Africa. That's not surprising. It was so vivid at the time and it remained so for a long while. Yet, life gets in the way when you are earning a crust, bringing up a family and trying to get some time to do what you love.
That's why keeping a diary is so important when you travel. What you experience seems to be so memorable at the time that you question how you could ever forget it. But, I have forgotten the details of certain parts of the journey. Luckily, I wrote many letters back to Penny who, fortunately kept them. They are helping to piece together the gaps.
And yet, there are often gaps for good reason in my diary. In the first six months of the journey we were regularly ill and the last thing I wanted to do was to write up my diary. I am writing up my diary from when we entered Ghana in early 1991 when I was ill and I neglected it for a few weeks which I regret. I can remember parts very clearly but not names or people.
I wish we had had the luxury of the internet at the time. We could have written our blogs up regularly and kept all that was going on then alive so much more easily. I'm reading Peter Gostelow's blog as he cycles through Africa now. He writes so vividly and his photographs are excellent too. It's a delight to read his experiences and it shows that things have not changed that much since Dan and I went through similar regions.
The lesson is to always write your diaries no matter how good or bad you feel. You will be glad that you did.
It's been a few days since I updated my diaries on the website solely down to the fact that I have been away on business with the company I work for in Philadelphia for afew days.
As usual at these events, there is not much time for seeing the place because of the number of meetings I attend, the socialising (it's not all bad) and the travelling to and fro (helped by the fact that a friend of mine is a British Airways pilot and managed to get me a more comfortable seat across and back over the Atlantic!).
The main reason I have not updated my diaries is the jet lag and lack of sleep for the last few days. I got back on Thursday last week from the US and I have been in pieces since then. Air travel is necessary for my work but my body thinks different.
Anyway, I will start updating my diary on the website tonight and continue the journey through Morocco.
I have just set up a new blog on this site onto which I am publishing my travel diaries from August '91 to July '92 in their raw state. My intention is to use these as the basis for the book of them which I am aiming to have published by the end of this year.
I will publish a daily post covering, at least, one day of the journey. I encourage feedback on the posts. Let me know your thoughts about them and how I can improve them. Let me know what you would like to hear more or less about. Anything!
You can read the first post here: http://www.twoforafrica.co.uk/2/post/2011/05/andover-portsmouth.html
From the Crossan ferry to Lochaline, the road takes you through wild, open country for an hour on a single track road through the glacial landscape until you arrive in the small ferry terminal where the friendly port assistant sells you a ticket and briefs you about the short crossing to Mull.
The ferry dropped us off at fishNish, which is not much more than a concrete ramp, and we soon joined the main road on the east of the island, heading north. The road soon turns into a single track with plenty of passing places as it undulates and twists along the coast. Emily & Toby's excitement grew as we saw Tobermory in the near distance and they recounted stories about the characters and scenes from ‘Ballamory’.
In April, Tobermory was surprisingly empty of tourists and its shops were catered not for tatty mementoes and souvenirs but for local art, food and activities. The town has three distinct industries, namely fishing, whiskey and tourism.
Our home for the week, Kate’s cottage, formerly a bothy named after the centenarian occupier in the 1900s, was on the Glenaros estate overlooking the tumbledown castle below.
I've now completed the first 24 days of our journey from my diary. It's going to take me several months at the rate I am typing up the diary at this rate. I need to up my work rate.
I looked up the website of someone who was an inspiration to us both before we left England that August, namely Josie Dew. She has cycled all over the world and written many books. You can see them here.
On 16th August 1991, my brother, Dan, and I set off on the first leg of a long distance cycle journey which was to take us from Hampshire in the UK to Cape Town. We cycled 17,000 kms in a year through some parts of Africa which closed to outsiders after we left them. We cycled through the Sahara, through tropical rain forests, savannah and cities. We wrote diaries and letters but never published them.
This website is the start of the process of publishing my diaries and memories of that adventure which had a major impact on our lives.
Will Hawkins lives in Lincolnshire with his family and is now a magazine editor and occasional adventure cyclist.
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