Back on the road


I’m back on the road after a couple of months stuck in Nairobi – the result of both the financial crash and the fact that I was locked in a room trying to write a book. Travelling would have been enough in itself but this is also my first trip to Chad. Arriving in Francophone Africa is always great, and arriving from East Africa always makes a place feel rather more exotic. Nairobi with its shillings, red letterboxes and "pubs" sometimes feels more British (in an odd 1950s way) than Britain.

The French bit of Chad is everywhere. My hotel bar serves pastis. I saw a man with a baguette under his arm earlier. And everyone here is an Arsenal fan.

The Chinese bit of Chad is everywhere too. I’ve written about the Chinese invasion of Africa umpteen times, met frightened Chinese road builders in Mogadishu and driven over Chinese bridges in Khartoum. Nowhere have I seen so many Chinese hotels and restaurants as the Chadian capital N’Djamena though. I’m staying at the Shanghai Hotel and have had my beef in ginger sauce with egg-fried rice. With a glass of pastis after (proving that fusion food is always a very, very bad idea).

There are also two monkeys tied to trees in the car park.