PICTURES: Scientist turned adventurer covers 25,000 miles of Africa - on public transport

Croydon Guardian: Ian Packham waiting for transport in Obock, Djibouti Ian Packham waiting for transport in Obock, Djibouti

Instead of bleary eyed bus journeys to work every day, one 28-year-old man decided to do something very different.

Ian Packham travelled 25,000 miles in 13 months, crossing 31 African nations, to discover for himself the daily struggle of living in and travelling through the continent.

Croydon Guardian: Travel in Mozambique is often limited to travelling on the back of flat-bed trucks on top of cargo

With no vehicle of his own he crossed the continent in battered minibuses, bush taxis, on the backs of flatbed trucks, over rivers in dugout canoes and in a van which was delivering meat pies.

Croydon Guardian: The four wheel drive vehicle got stuck on the north-south Liberia highway

He was forced to fight off thieves in Senegal, got mistaken for an undercover UN official during Liberia’s presidential election, refused entry into the Democratic Republic of Congo, and while in Sudan got tear gassed while visiting a museum.

But overall he says he loved the adventure and returning to the UK was very difficult.

Croydon Guardian: A double decker bus took Mr Packham from Cape Town to Caledon, South Africa

Croydon-born Mr Packham, who is now 30, said: “It was a very positive experience.

“Everything I knew about Africa from the news was turned on its head by the kindness of the locals, and travelling on public transport made them interact with me.”

The former John Fisher School pupil added: “The first month seemed like a holiday, the second month was quite hard and I felt lonely and it was coming up to my birthday.

“Then it just clicked and I interacted and did not feel lonely until I came back.

“I have absolutely no regrets and it will be great if more people want to repeat the adventure to see for themselves rather than believe what the media outlets say."

Croydon Guardian: Taking a dhow to Kilwa Kisiwani, an island off Tanzania

Mr Packham, whose family live in Oval Road, Croydon, says the trip cost £15,000, which the scientist raised by working for two years.

While his bank balance is recovering he is thinking about what his next trip will be.

He wants to either walk or cycle around some of the Indonesian islands which are off the tourist trail.

Croydon Guardian: This decorated minibus is used as an intra-city bus service in Saint-Louis, Senegal

A book chronicling his African adventures entitled Encircle Africa: Around Africa by Public Transport is out now.

Click here for more details.


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