“I came in from the rain, late Thursday on the avenue. Thought I heard you talking softly.
I turned on the lights, the TV, and the radio. Still, I can’t escape the ghost of you” – Duran Duran.
In April 2023, I embarked on an ambitious MMM tour. It meant I would backpack three countries all in close geographical proximity to each other and all beginning with letter M. I recognise Madagascar🇲🇬, Malawi🇲🇼 and Mozambique🇲🇿 as three separate countries, and I also recognise Mayotte🇾🇹 and Mauritius🇲🇺 as real countries, but to do a five pack MMMMM was even too ambitious to me on this, my 14th trip to Africa. So I was all set for the MMM hat-trick, all three were new to me. I did toy with the quintuple at one point, mind you…
Flights were easily organised in and out of both Malawi and Madagascar, thanks to Ethiopian Airlines and the use of their epic hub in Addis Ababa. That in itself had me seriously reminiscing on days gone by. It was ten years since I had backpacked through Ethiopia including the wacaday hyena feeding at dusk in the city of Harar. This time, I would actually transit Addis Ababa a hat-trick of times, including leaving the airport and visiting the city again and a brace of airport loyal stopovers, more to come on that madness as well as an unexpected flight diversion and ended up BACK in the Democratic Republic of Congo! It felt weird and freaky that it was 2013 – 2023, a ten year gap. I felt so old as back in 2013 I was such a vibrant glory days loyal long-term backpacker.
Before I started the trip, from my base in Poland, I booked all the visas I needed in advance; at least that’s what I thought…more to come on that of course…
Malawi is much stricter now than in days gone by (as I was to learn). Years ago, the country was visa free, no stress and I probably regret that I didn’t backpack it years ago. This time, I needed an evisa in advance which was $50 US and an absolute pain to get. As usual, what annoys me about these stupid visa applications is that they are so strict on things they don’t even care about. For example, the passport photo upload. It is an excruciatingly difficult procedure. I have over 10 passport photos from down the years, 3 of which have been on my official passports and therefore they are 100% legitimate. Yet neither the Seychelles, nor Malawi, nor Mozambique accepted most of the uploads. It took hours to get a size of passport photo that they accepted. Later, that would prove even more annoying. I also needed a proof of banking details and hotel reservations for countries that really shouldn’t give a flying fuck about such stupidities. Just take our money and let us in?!
With three visas seemingly in hand, I boarded my flight out of Warszawa to Vienna, where I’d have another stopover (my fifth time in Vienna in total), before Addis Ababa again.
This trip is now over and I’m going to start writing about it soon, but it was easily one of my hardest and most ambitious yet, and that is saying something. Strictness and the aftermath of COVID have sucked away the hardcore backpacking Jonny Blair of yesteryear. This was a tougher trip to organise than Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, French Guyana and even overloading all the Stans. It was much more tasking and wore me down. Plus the infrastruscture of parts of Africa seems to have got worse in the last 10 years. This time, I had more power cuts than ever before, was offline a lot and relied on fake bus routes and more dodgy drivers.
I hope to get back to being a brilliant blogger again though as my posts and articles in recent years have definitely taken a turn for the worst. I have about 1000 written and unfinished/uploaded blog posts and a further 1000 unwritten blog posts, I seriously hope one day I will get them all online so you can see my real journey. I want to cover everywhere I slept, every settlement I backpacked, every visa I got, every border I crossed and all the usual bar, café, restaurant and football madness. Plus I have about 6 more books to release (printed of course). In the meantime, catch my UPDATED old books here –
Don’t Look Back In Bangor (Backpacking Centurion Volume 1)
Lands Down Under (Backpacking Centurion Volume 2)
Taints And Honours (Backpacking Centurion Volume 3)
The Black Volume (Backpacking Centurion Volume 4)
I Went To Gdansk With Somebody
So look out for the articles from my ambitious MMM hat-trick!
Here are some videos from my MMM Tour: