Nearly two decades ago a young Irish lad signed on for a trans-Africa adventure. Here he details his journey from Ramsgate to the Indian Ocean.
TV documentarian Magan (Angels and Rabies: A Journey Through the Americas, 2007, etc.) started his globetrotting career at the tender age of 20, when he took his life savings of £1,000 and embarked on a truck ride from Casablanca to Mombasa. He and 18 fellow travelers headed south from Morocco across the desert, then due east from Togo through Darkest Africa to Kenya. This troupe of strangers on a six-month journey of discovery looked less like Stanley’s band of explorers and more like performers in an odd replay of Lord of the Flies. Among the diverse cast bouncing along in the old truck were nurses on holiday, an athletic Lothario, a military type and a nubile London girl. None seemed to have made any progress in emotional maturity since junior high. On the road, they picked up additional extravagant figures like sex-starved Englishwoman Salade and hard-partying shepherd Mustafa. Taking occasional leave of his group to sample native food, drugs, djinns and dalliance, the author showed scarce concern for the very real dangers of AIDS. The pleasures of sexual byplay and innuendo were dampened here and there by angry crowds, avaricious border guards and venal military police. Their guide Suzi tended to abandon the wayfarers when the going got tough. Through domains of dictators, robbed of money, passports and food, sick and starving in the Heart of Darkness, the author and his fellows encountered pygmies, an albino and eventually some Peace Corps workers who came to their aid. A terrible time was had by all. Yet, resting under a baobab tree, Magan reflected on his adventure and was glad he had taken the road trip of a lifetime.
Group dynamics and danger make for an engaging African adventure.