Bradt’s Mike Stead comments on the African Cup of Nations
Mike Stead, author of Bradt’s Angola, former Deputy Head of Mission and Consul at the British Embassy in Luanda, comments on events surrounding the African Cup of Nations.
Angola’s hopes of winning serious international respect were severely blunted when the Togolese national football squad was ambushed by Cabindan terrorists just days before the African Cup of Nations football championship opened in Luanda earlier this month. Three members of the Togolese party were killed and others seriously injured in an incident that should never have happened. Just why the squad took the most dangerous overland route into Angola is not known. Various factions of FLEC (the Cabindan separatists behind the attack) have long threatened foreigners in the oil-rich enclave of Cabinda and have threatened further attacks. It would be foolhardy of any commentator to declare any country safe from terrorism, but provided visitors avoid the interior of Cabinda province, they are far more likely to come to harm in a mugging or traffic accident than be caught up in terrorist related violence.
In a show of defiance, the Cup of Nations opened on schedule and every town and village has worked itself into football frenzy with Angola’s national colours of red, black and yellow on display everywhere. If Angola wins the cup, expect the party to go on for a week. The government is using the tournament to show off the billions of dollars it has spent over the last few years on bringing the infrastructure up to scratch – new schools and hospitals, new roads, railways, hotels, upgraded airports and brand spanking new Chinese-built stadia. There’s still much to be done – you don’t heal the mental and physical wounds of nearly 30 years of armed struggle with dollars, even when they are counted in billions. Angola is opening up and becoming an easier destination for experienced businessmen and travellers alike but mass tourism is still many years away due to the difficulty of getting visas, flights and cheap hotels.
Bradt’s Angola is the only English-language guide to the country and is essential reading for all visitors and residents.
ISBN: 978 1 84162 304 7
Publication: Out Now!
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Haiti – Devastating Earthquake Hits Poorest Nation
In early December 2009 Bradt’s Nick Redmayne was on freelance assignment in Haiti. Here are some reflections upon his experience.
Floating, looking up at the sky, my ears were occasionally muffled by cosseting Caribbean swell entering the sheltered cove – God, is this really Haiti? Well, it was certainly Cyvadier Plage, a few kilometres beyond the south coast town of Jacmel and given its derivation from ‘Ici va Dieu’ there remained the outside chance of divine confirmation. Lobster sautéed in garlic butter, a green salad and banane peze (fried plantains) digested pleasantly in my stomach assisted by the waves’ gentle rocking and the semi-euphoric effects of a cold Prestige beer. Yes, this was indeed Haiti.
Given half a chance – Haiti and Port au Prince in particular – rush to confirm preconceptions: crushing poverty – tick; piles of refuse – tick; crumbling infrastructure – tick; a highly visible UN military force – tick; bad French… However, a country should not be measured solely by the extremes of its capital and it’s all too easy to allow media ‘analysis’ to define real life, spoon feeding us infantilised pre-chewed portions of reality. Few have heard of Jacmel’s beautiful New Orleans-style architecture, the laid back resort of Port Salut, the pretty fishing villages of Île à Vache, and the Caribbean’s most remarkable castle of Citadelle Laferrière. The truth of Haiti has long proved an awkward story to process – and even before Tuesday’s earthquake – one that has suffered from misleading packaging.
After 29 years of corrupt and despotic Duvalierism, a proceeding period of chaos, disappointment and broken promises so bad that in some areas it spawned a dark nostalgia for Baby Doc, things did finally seem to be improving for Haiti. Mobile phone and internet provision was better than neighbouring Dominican Republic. In the north near Cape Haitien, USD$55 millions had been lavished on Royal Caribbean’s faux Haitian Labadee© beach site, and following downgrading of foreign governments’ travel advisories inland excursions for its float-and-flop cruise clients were being promised. Elsewhere, USD$1 million was to be spent upgrading Port au Prince’s international airport and before Christmas foreign hotel chains had committed to open new properties providing further resources for the country’s small but growing tourism industry.
Last month, passing the pre-earthquake catastrophe of Citie Soleil’s slums, I watched a stream of Port au Prince’s characteristically colourful tap tap buses. One bore the epithet ‘Le Bon Samaritan’, another a flattering portrait of Barack Obama, and behind it ‘Chuch Norriss’. Now amidst settling dust of 12 January Haitians are still waiting, increasingly desperate for any of these buses transporting salvation to arrive.
During my time in Port au Prince I stayed at a guesthouse attached to St Joseph’s Home for Boys. Funds from travellers using the home as a base supported the work of St Joseph’s to bring impoverished boys off the street and into a safe and stable environment. The earthquake has almost levelled the seven-storey building undoing much of the good work started in 1986. To find out more and to donate towards St Joseph’s see heartswithhaiti.org.
New Titles – Coming Soon!
Lake Baikal: Siberia’s Great Lake, Edition 1 – by Marc Di Duca
A guidebook to a region of Siberia is certainly Bradt territory, even one defined by an example of the planet’s oldest geographical features – Lake Baikal: the world’s deepest lake, holding one fifth of the world’s fresh water. An area of Asia little known outside Russia, the Siberian confluence of Buddhism, shamanism and Orthodox Christianity is described by Marc Di Duca as ‘a jumble of cultures’. Here, semi-nomadic Evenks emerge from their wooden tepees to rub shoulders with the descendants of Polish-Catholic exiles, whilst sharp-suited Russian businessmen bark into their mobile phones. Activities from hiking, ice moutain-biking, dog-sledding and horseriding are all explored, allowing forays into the untamed Baikal countryside. Distinct flora and fauna is highlighted, from delicate White Baikal Anemones to rotund Nerpa seals, troubled Siberian lemmings and ferocious Pallas’s cats – all species manifesting unique features born of many millennia in isolation. Bradt’s Lake Baikal is the only English-language guide of its kind and for Trans-Siberian travellers it’ll surely prove the catalyst that turns a brief stopover into longer exploration.
ISBN: 978 1 84162 294 1
Publication: February 2010
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Greece: The Peloponnese, Edition 1 – by Andrew Bostock
A cruise through the Peloponnese might sound like enticing if unexplored possibility – until one discovers that a car will be more use than a yacht in mainland Greece. Bradt’s new guide is not so elementary in its advice but it does go some way to expanding the scope of Greek tourism. Just like ‘the islands’ the Peloponnese does offer sun, sand and whitewashed villages but as the guide describes there’s much more. Towering mountains invite hiking and even skiing whilst white water-filled gorges strike rugged routes inland. Elsewhere, classical sites from Olympia to Epidavros litter the countryside along with mediaeval castles and Byzantine churches, many surrounded by verdant olive groves producing some of the finest fruits and oil in the Mediterranean. Bradt’s Andrew Bostock is never going to admit he was only in it for the Mani, but it was this peninsula of remote and nigh timeless Peloponnese highlands that provided his inspiration. Today he suggests the Mani maintains ‘an air of being at the end of the world still exists’ and that ‘out of season, or step off the beaten track even slightly, and you will find a Greece that has changed little in the last 20 years.’
ISBN: 978 1 84162 307 8
Publication: February 2010
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New Edition – Out Now!
Botswana, Edition 3 – by Chris McIntyre
As the Top Gear team high-tail it out of Botswana pursued by enraged Mma Ramotswe, Number One Lady Detective, a woman of traditional build, and a good shot with a substantial urn of Rooibos tea, it’s good to know that away from the TV screens Botswana is sticking to its tried-and-tested framework of responsible tourism. Botswana has never been a bargain safari destination; a stated government policy of high-cost, low-impact tourism has seen to this. However, an economy built on diamonds and beef has allowed the country time to gradually create a sustainable tourism model the envy of many neighbouring states. Given the costs, Botswana’s wealth of first-hand national park, lodge and camp descriptions allows travellers to make properly informed decisions, whenever they intend to travel and whatever the focus of their interest. Chris McIntyre’s third edition provides unrivalled coverage of environment, wildlife and the country’s often overlooked cultural history – including the rock art of the Tsodilo Hills. In this new edition details of accommodation are fully revised and updated, reflecting changes in concession grants and ownership, since 2007. As with the book’s previous edition a notable feature of Botswana is the inclusion of GPS mapping co-ordinates – information that’s proved invaluable for independent self-drive travellers and tour operators alike.
ISBN: 978 1 84162 308 5
Publication: Out Now!
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As the snow finally departs from the fields surrounding Bradt’s rural outreach office in Northumberland the former atmosphere of unreality in adversity dissipates with it – the noughties are no more and 2010 is here. The UK’s election campaign has also started in all but name with manifesto promises and dire warnings coming thick and fast. At least it’ll all be over by May… Across the Atlantic a paranoid and capricious electorate marked Barack Obama’s first year in office by turning its back on his flagship universal healthcare bill. Republican Scott ‘Senator Beefcake’ Brown won the poll in Massachusetts, taking a seat held since 1954 by Democratic aristocracy John F Kennedy and later his brother Edward. If the impotence of Democracy is starting to get you down and a dose of dictatorship overseen by a ‘great leader’ might seem a refreshing change, Bradt guides can point the way to the reality of absolute power… 2010 sees new titles and new editions featuring Zimbabwe, and Syria – all power corrupts, absolute power is no fun either…