Quondam

A tale of search and adventure, intimacy and renewal, landscapes and imagination, long before the tech-umbilical.

If you’ve got this far, I guess you are either reading ‘Quondam’ or are interested in doing so. Thank you for that! If you have already read it, I do hope you got more than you bargained for, and if you are about to embark into it, along the road of the journey, keep an open mind as you turn every page. It may not be what you imagine!
Again, if you have not yet turned a page, might I recommend you do so BEFORE looking at the photos. Let the words and rhythm settle in you first, before the images. I may be wrong but I believe it will be worth doing it that way – your own images are more important than my ones… but of course I understand the temptation!
The pictures you see here were all taken with a small Rollei camera. It was the only camera I had on the trip. Please forgive the graininess, the washed out colour, the at times lack of sharpness or focus or the poor ‘framing’ of some, and so on.
Trust me, at the time of clicking, I was certainly not thinking of ‘websites’. The internet had not been invented yet! Rather, I imagined that these shots would be for no one but myself…to perhaps one day take down and be reminded of a once-upon-a-time incredible and indeed, in hindsight, a seminal journey.
To help you, as you read the book, I have given each photo a page number so you can, if you so wish, refer to that image and sense the reality of that ‘clicked’ moment so long ago.
Thank you again and I do hope you enjoy the story, this first installment. I will and am doing my best with the sequel. That will take time. Be patient! Someone said of Quondam, that it seemed ‘otherworldly’? In the eyes of todays world perhaps it is, but do bear in mind, every person, every part, every high and low experience happened. It is all true.

P. 2 '...six months was what John needed to cycle first to North Cape...'
P.4 ‘...and there waiting for him, strumming his mandolin, was his friend Eamon.’
P.5 Author with his ‘mop’ outside the cafe
P. 8 'to ride, unbelievably rain sodden...into Egypt's capital...'
P.11. ‘The cart was driven by two youths...’
P.11 ‘On New Year’s Day we raised a glass of guava juice... and said our adios.'
P.13 ‘By late afternoon the ionic step pyramid... came slowly into view...’
P.15. ‘Never had I considered the role of the donkey.’
P.17 'A crowd of youths piled in for a final photo... '
P. 21 '...while lines of white round loaves... rose gently in the rising heat.'
P.26 'Muhammad’s father, in a deep brown jalabiya stood centre... '
P.26 Mohammad, pushes the bike to the main road.
P.27 'Within the hour ... the valley of the Queens was below me.’
P.33 ‘Twenty kilometres north the road hugged the river.’
P.37 ‘The ‘Magnificent Seven’ was the name we gave our little group...’
P.37 In Aswan: the front carrier gets a final adjustment before Nubia.
P.38 'Arie, (on the right), and Alain would depart first...'
P.47 Aswan (Syene) receding, 'we lashed our bikes to the rail for the two night trip.'
P.48 ‘... watching their Muslim countrymen face Mecca.’
P.52. ‘...the most amazing engineering-archeological rescue... ’
P.52 ‘I first saw Abu Simbel... through the toilet porthole.’
P.54 ‘... and I was surprised to feel a wonderful sense of readiness...’
P.54 ‘The (chai) shack boasted a shining new siding of corrugated tin.’
P.56 In Wadi Halfa, negotiating with the truck driver.
P.60 ‘It was 1,800km to Juba...that felt a long way... ’
P.60 'All settlements had at least one large earthenware (water) urn...'
P.65 Ismail, his wives and friends outside their home in Nubia.
P.67 ‘ The teachers name was Akasha...’ (Akasha trying to bend down beside me!)
P.69. ‘By late afternoon my progress was halted by a ... wooden direction sign...’
P.72. ‘In his uncle’s courtyard he pumped up cold water...’ (The curly haired Maher!)
P.73. ‘Feluccas are crafts of great timeless beauty, steeped in the Nile’s DNA’
P.73. ‘Maher’s young brother helped, holding up the ... rear wheel.’
P.76. ‘Something about that moment, something about how she looked...’
P.78 ‘The two fabricators had never worked on a bike before...’
P.80 ‘The irrigated plots were full of working men...’
P.80. ‘Dr Essam, I salute you still...’
P.81. ‘ Five builders beckoned...’
P.84 William and Mary in Dongala with ‘the blackboard’ in ‘The Club’.
P.89 ' The firm track ended a few kilometres out...'
P.92 ‘I passed a dead donkey half buried in sand...’
P.92 ‘...I passed a large area...where small mounds of stone and dry dirt covered the dead.’
P.94 ‘When they reached me I was under a small prickly bush...’
P.96 ‘For much of that late afternoon my right arm ached’
P.100 'Up ahead fifty or sixty camels closed in on our path...'
P.100 The ‘turn-boys’ always at the ready to jump down and dig the truck out.
P.111 'I pushed my little world out into the sand trail...'
P.118 'Ali was a good man and no fool...' (Ali, centre, Kabashi to his right.)
P.123 '... and for the bones of that day I made my way between the rails.'
P. 127 ' ...from the bridges vantage point the Al-Mogran was clearly visible...'
P.133 'We got on right from the start...' (Geoff, always the joker, scratching himself in Khartoum.)
P.142 ‘...at last the great train curved into Nyala.’
P.145 ‘We walked straight through the village...’ (Geoff in picture.)
P.145 A Village meeting about possible attacks.
P.145 ‘...knowing...that their youngsters would...quickly and giddily lead the way.’
P.146 Writing the diary neath a baobab in Darfur.
P.147 'In the cool of our tea-lady's fenced off corral...'
P.149 The author in that borrowed jalabiya.
P.149 A chai stop between Nyala and Al-Fashir.
P.152 'The camel market drawing to a close...'
P.155 'From then on and unfairly of course, we christened him 'the link'...'
P.155 ‘...what he didn’t know and what I didn’t know was that I had hepatitis.’
P.155 ‘Our driver honked his horn, the signal to climb on board.’
P.159 ‘I slotted-in between the ‘link’ and the tyre trying not to disturb. We were ready.’
P.190 'On to Aru – 100km of a dirt-red rock-n-roll jungle road ...'
P. 190 'Fahmi Hassan, the driver of our Bunia bound truck...'
P. 197 'Dead ahead a large ring of people had gathered around some as yet unknown activity.'
P.197 Fahmi's truck taking on another load.
P.203 ‘In Komanda Ben popped up again.’
P.203 Ben among the bananas in the Komanda market
P.206 ‘By late afternoon Beni lay before me ... and the sight of the Rwenzori’s...’
P.207. ‘...under the wing of a caring Mama I was blessed to be welcomed.’
P.208. ‘Ayuba...proudly wearing his crocheted taqiyah.’
P.211. ‘That days ride is up there among the top twenty best...’
P.211. Up ahead baby elephant crossed the trail
P.211. Then mama showed herself and I braked!
P.214. Bike being repaired in Evan’s village of Mutwanga.
P.216. ‘True to his form Evan rode a little way, his camera dangling as ever round his neck.’
P.220. ‘To cross the river (Semliki), two metal pirogues had been lashed together...'
P.220 ‘The unconcerned ferrymen took their long poles and pushed us out.’
P.220 ‘Kyavinyonge sits just south of where the Semliki leaves Lake Edward...’
P.221. ‘If the ‘undertakers’ owned the roofs above...hippos and pelicans owned the waters edge.’
P.223. ‘He wore a blue-white hat...but he was the skipper!’
P223. ‘On board, his three fishermen mates... ‘
P.223 A long way out in Lake Edward, wearing my own shrunken blue hat!
P.225 ‘Before me, leaning safe against the port side, as if leading me on...’
P.226. The boys were told to ‘...help the mizungu cook his fish.’
P.239 ‘I rode the rising contours...those hard-worked terraces below...’ (Uganda)
Spares and replacements arriving in to Nairobi! The flight I was waiting so long for.
Helmut with my cardboard box of bicycle spares.
Happy with a new wheel in Mrs Roches hostel-garden
With Pete Colebrook on left after a nasty fall on Mt Kenya.
P.245 Mrs Roche, in her home-hostel in the suburbs of Nairobi and a bunch of us!