Published: January 6th 2008January 3rd 2008 Those who have been reading my blog are probably aware of my love of meaningless lists, and my trip wouldn't be complete without just a few more.
Crossing a very flooded road, with the most recent victim clearly in view. Burkina Faso, July.
So, here, in no particular order, are all of my Top Fives (and some Bottom Fives), to give you an idea of what I loved - and hated - about Africa.
First, I'll do a ranking of the 18 countries I visited (I did pop into Lesotho as well, but didn't see enough to pass judgment on the place). Trust me, I did a lot of thinking about this, and took into account such factors as cuisine, cost, security, friendliness, travel, accommodation, and even the beer on offer. So here it is - the Big List:
Tom's African Country Ranking - Best to Worst 1. Egypt
5. South Africa
9. Burkina Faso
17. Cape Verde
And now - all those meaningless lists I mentioned...
Top Five African beers 1.Tusker (Kenya) - tastes great, plus I love the fact that the beer
is named after the rogue elephant that killed one of the brewery's founders.
Fishing boats on the beach at Cape Coast. Ghana, August.
2. Windhoek (Namibia) - the Germans left a great brewing legacy in Namibia.
3. Gazelle (Senegal) - a big bottle and a tasty drop.
4. Star (Ghana) - a nice one to have sitting on the beach.
5. Primus (Rwanda) - big bottles!
Top Five African dishes 1. Lamb and prune tagine (Morocco) - delicious!
2. Yassa poulet (Senegal) - mustard and lemon make this tasty.
3. Kushari (Egypt) - pasta, lentils, dried onions, and a spicy tomato sauce.
4. Cachupa (Cape Verde) - beans and chorizo taste good.
5. Red red (Ghana) - beans and plantains...tastes better than it sounds.
Top Five African monuments 1.The Pyramids (Egypt)
- as incredible as everyone says.
2. Djenne mud mosque (Mali) - the largest mud structure in the world.
3. Hassan II Mosque (Morocco) - massive in its scope.
4. Hatshepsut's Temple (Egypt) - stunning architecture, built into the cliff-face.
5. Slave forts (Ghana) - illustrate the tragic history of slavery.
Top Five African beaches 1.Kendwa (Tanzania) - turquoise ocean, white sand.
2.Butre (Ghana) - empty and untouched.
3. Tofo (Mozambique) - great diving
Beach soccer and slave forts
View from Cape Coast's slave fortress, to a bunch of guys playing football on the ebach. Ghana, August.
4. Likoma Island (Malawi) - clear water for snorkelling, in the middle of Lake Malawi
5. Toubab Dialow (Senegal) - a refuge just 40kms from Dakar.
Top Five African landscapes 1. The sand dunes near Chinguetti (Mauritania) - the romantic image of the Sahara.
2. The Serengeti (Tanzania) - endless savannah, full of acacia trees, lions, and a million large herbivores.
3. The Atlas Mountains (Morocco) - snowy peaks in North Africa.
4. The Wild Coast (South Africa) - crashing ocean, craggy cliffs, and Xhosa settlements.
5. The Dogon Country (Mali) - otherwordly African villages set against a stunning escarpement.
Top Five capital cities 1. Cairo (Egypt) - exciting and full of history.
2. Maputo (Mozambique) - a real Mediterranean vibe.
3. Kampala (Uganda) - fun and friendly.
4. Lome (Togo) - good beaches and bars.
5. Accra (Ghana) - modern infrastructure and good food.
BOTTOM Five capital cities 1. Dakar (Senegal) - unsafe and polluted.
2. Lilongwe (Malawi) - boring as can be.
3. Nairobi (Kenya) - it's not called Nairobbery for nothing.
4. Dodoma (Tanzania) - in the middle of nowhere, with nothing to do.
5. Mbabane (Swaziland) - two shopping malls
A display of animal heads at the Fetish Market in Lome. Togo, August.
and a post office.
Top Five animal encounters 1.Swimming with dolphins at Tofo (Mozambique)
2. Ogling lions in the Serengeti (Tanzania)
3. Hippo spotting near Banfora (Burkina Faso)
4. Cycling with zebras at Mlilwane (Swaziland)
5. Driving with elephants at Addo (South Africa)
Top Five African rivers and lakes 1. Lake Malawi (Malawi) - beautiful at sunrise or sunset.
2. Exploring the Nile by felucca (Egypt) - a great way to enjoy this majestic river.
3. Tis Abay waterfalls (Ethiopia) - huge, crashing falls at the source of the Nile.
4. Lake Bunyonyi (Uganda) - great place to take a canoe out.
5. Lake Tana (Ethiopia) - see this one on a flimsy papyrus boat.
Top Five African mountains 1. Table Mountain (South Africa) - stunning views of Cape Town from the top, or of the mountain itself from the base.
2. The Atlas Mountains (Morocco) - majestic North African peaks.
3. Mount Kilimanjaro (Tanzania) - rising like Olympus above the Serengeti.
4. Sinai Mountains (Egypt) - arid, earthy and jagged.
5. Drakensberg Mountains (South Africa) - verdant valleys and craggy mountain passes.
Top Five cheapest African countries 1. Egypt - live on $10 a
'The Smoke of the Nile' waterfalls. Ethiopia, August.
2. Ethiopia - sit down meals for a dollar or two.
3. Morocco - good, cheap shopping.
4. Malawi - more affordable than any of its neighbours.
5. Ghana - a pleasant surprise after expensive Francophone Africa.
Top Five most expensive African countries 1. South Africa - western quality at western prices.
2. Mozambique - overpriced buses and accommodation.
3. Swaziland - nearly the same as SA.
4. Cape Verde - everything is imported from Portugal.
5. Senegal - pricey hotels and food.
Top Five activities 1. Diving in Tofo (Mozambique) - dolphins and manta rays.
2. Safari in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro (Tanzania) - more wildlife than you could imagine.
3. Diving at Dahab (Egypt) - clear, warm waters, full of fish.
4. Trekking in the Dogon Country (Mali) - a great insight into traditional African life.
5. Surfing in Cape Town (Cape Town)- Sheldon got me standing up!
Top Five African cities and towns 1. Cape Town (South Africa) - bars, beaches, cafes, and an amazing location.
2. Chefchaouen (Morocco) - a lovely town with an atmospheric medina.
3. Saint Louis (Senegal) - music and colonial architecture.
4. Stonetown (Tanzania) - where India,
This should be Africa's national game. Ethiopia, August.
Arabia and Africa meet.
5. Fes (Morocco) - a living, breathing, medieval city.
BOTTOM Five African towns and cities 1. Chimoio (Mozambique) - corrupt cops and nothing to do.
2. Atar (Mauritania) - hot and full of rude blokes.
3. Tambacounda (Senegal) - the arse of West Africa.
4. Blantyre (Malawi) - crap accommodation and the rudest folks in Malawi.
5. Dori (Burkina Faso) - dusty and isolated.
Top Five friendliest African countries 1. Malawi - a quality bunch of smiling, innocent folks.
2. Ethiopia - almost too
3. Uganda - polite and easy-going people.
4. Egypt - those who don't want your money, want your everlasting friendship.
5. Swaziland - super-nice people after the glum Mozambicans.
Top Five African hotels 1. Wakwenda Retreat, Chizimulu (Malawi) - on Lake Malawi, with hammocks, and a bar built into a baobab tree.
2. Pension La Castellana, Chefchaouen (Morocco) - cute rooms, with views over the medina.
3. Byoona Amagara, Lake Bunyonyi (Uganda) - a library, DVD room, and great food, with canoes to take on the lake.
4. Ellis Hideout, Butre Beach (Ghana) - Swedish food, a pet monkey, and a great spot by the ocean.
A noble-looking Ehtiopian beggar in Gondar. Ethiopia, September.
5. Keur Bamboung, Toubacouta (Senegal) - eco-lodge in the mangroves, with warthogs living nearby.
BOTTOM Five African hotels 1. Blantyre Lodge, Blantyre (Malawi) - this place makes Fawlty Towers look like a professionally-run establishment. And who ever heard of one free breakfast for a double room?
2. Pink Papaya hostel, Chimoio (Mozambique) - crap hotel, crap town, lots of pink decor.
3. Hotel Majestic, Essaouria (Morocco) - rude staff and noisy building work.
4. Hotel Provencal, Dakar (Senegal) - expensive, and a thinly-disguised brothel.
5. Ethiopia Hotel, Gondar (Ethiopia) - smells of paint stripper and has some very gross toilets.
Top Five African journeys 1. Camelback safari, Chinguetti (Mauritania) - sleeping in the sand dunes.
2. Felucca on the Nile (Egypt) - three days of sailing, sleeping, and swimming on the mighty river.
3. Iron ore train to Choum (Mauritania) - a tough but unique way to travel through the Sahara.
4. Trekking in the Dogon (Mali) - walking from village to village, and staying with chiefs.
5. The Ilala ferry (Malawi) - travelling along Lake Malawi with every man and his bunch of bananas.
BOTTOM Five African journeys 1. Kaolack to Tambacounda (Senegal) - hard,
crowded seats, 40+ degree heat, crying babies, squawking chickens: the worst bus ride ever.
A graceful cheetah strolls past our truck. Kenya, September.
2. Atar to Nouakchott (Mauritania) - seven of us squeezed into a Merc for a trip through the Sahara heat.
3. Kahama to Dodoma (Tanzania) - broken axles in the middle of nowhere are not good.
4. Moyale to Isiolo (Kenya) - 16 hours in a truck, on a dirt road...
5. Segou to Djenne (Mali) - four hours to cover the last 30kms in a broken-down ute.
Top Five African moments 1. Meeting my girlfriend, Suze, in Morocco, of course!
2. Seeing the Pyramids up close and personal.
3. Seeing my first wild lions, hippos, rhinos, zebra, giraffes...
4. Diving with Dad and some manta rays in Tofo, Mozambique.
5. Listening to my first African band (from Guinea), and drinking Gazelle beers, on our first night in Senegal.
BOTTOM Five African moments 1. Suze catching malaria in Ghana.
2. Being attacked in the street by a mad beggar in Ethiopia.
3. Being jumped by two guys in Dakar, Senegal (we got away).
4. Dealing with the corrupt bastard cop in Chimoio, Mozambique.
5. Being chased by a mad Sierra Leonean who had
View over Lake Bunyonyi. Uganda, September.
it in for us, in Senegal.
Top Five things I will miss about Africa
-The genuine hospitality.
-The majestic landscapes.
-Being able to buy anything you want through a bus window.
-The music and colour of the place.
-The amazing wildlife.
And the Top Five things I won't miss...
-The beggars...who hounded me everywhere.
-Having to constantly worry about personal security.
-Being the only white guy in the street.
-Having to bargain for everything.
-The hustlers who try to sell you wooden masks, postcards, necklaces, paintings, statues, weed, tours, hotels, women, whatever, and get angry when you don't buy. So, folks...that's it. Thanks for reading and responding to my thoughts and mindless ramblings. Until next time...
There are more photos below