Francis Tapon has been travelling through Africa for a year and has already visited 20 countries, but he’s just at the start of his journey.
The American adventurer is planning to spend four years travelling through all 54 countries in Africa — and he is documenting his journey with incredible photos and stories on his blog, The Unseen Africa. Tapon is on a mission to “reveal the unseen sides of Africa.”
“Our image of Africa is wrong,” Tapon wrote to us. “It’s either heaven (safaris, primitive tribes, pyramids) or hell (Ebola, wars, famine). 99% of Africans live neither in heaven or hell. I want to capture their everyday lives. I want to encourage people to go beyond Kenya, Egypt, Morocco, Tanzania, and South Africa; I want them to discover and learn the difference between Guinea, Guinea Bissau, and Equatorial Guinea.”
Tapon is travelling through every country, by driving in a beat-up old SUV, hitchhiking rides, or trekking on foot. He doesn’t have firm travel plans, but he is following a general route that “would have no backtracking and would take me to the tallest peak of every African country.”
After his journey concludes, he plans to create a documentary and write a book about his experience. You can follow his journey on his website.
We’ve included pictures and captions from his journey.
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I drive in difficult conditions (in this photo I'm crossing a creek near the Guinea/Guinea Bissau border). ANY car would struggle with the endless mud, pot holes, sand, and water that I drive in all the time.
Standing on Morocco's Wall, which is nearly as long as the Appalachian Trail, in the Western Sahara.
I accidentally ran over a camel in Mauritania, and in the Western Sahara I ate some camel meat. It basically tastes like a hamburger with some nice spices sprinkles on top. But I don't need to try it again.
At 747 meters (2,451 ft), Mount Tenakourou is the tallest mountain in Burkina Faso. When you're on it, Mali is easy to see.
My car broke down 3 times between Niamey and Agadez in Niger (one day's drive, normally). This is the last place it broke down. Lonely, but luckily only 20km from Agadez. It's a hot part of the Sahara, but fortunately, a guy with a gas truck stopped and offered to tow me into Agadez.
When travelling, I usually stay with Africans. Some of them are friends of friends. Some I meet on Couchsurfing.org. Some are hitchhikers who invite me to stay with them after I drop them off (I've picked up over 1,000 hitchhikers). Some are just random people I meet on the street. I love staying with Africans because it gives me unprecedented access to their inner, unseen family culture. These are my neighbours in Niamey, Niger.
My most memorable moment so far was climbing Niger's tallest peak, Mont Idoukal-n-Taghès. It was in the middle of summer, so I started hiking at midnight and reached the summit at 8 a.m. (after getting lost on the way). Two things made it memorable: (1) there's a self-sufficient village near the summit, which feels like a lost city of the Incas; (2) I ran out of water, which made the descent in 40C (104 F) temps uncomfortably memorable.
White camels in the Sahel, in Niger. Notice that the middle camel has his front feet tied. This is to impede his movement so he doesn't wander too far away. Herders do this to many camels.
I was climbing North Africa's tallest peak (Mount Toubkal summit 4,167m) by the rarely used southern approach. I used my umbrella as an ice ax on the steep, slippery snow fields.
I saw these ladies on the side of the road with a bunch of gigantic bags of rice and wheat. I offered to heave them on the top of the car and drive them 10 km to their village. Another hitchhiker (unrelated) helped unload the stuff.
The 'rainy season' of the Sahara doesn't get much rain, but it's enough to make some crops grow in Bol, Chad.
I'm back in the Sahara and it's Ramadan. You can't drink water during the day. Which is hard considering it's 45C/108F. No eating either - that's a bit easier in this heat.
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