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"I often wonder what would have happened to me if I hadn't made that decision. I suppose I would have sunk. I suppose I would have found some kind of hole and tried to hide or pass. After all, we make ourselves according to the ideas we have of our possibilities. I would have hidden in my hole and been crippled by my sentimentality, doing what I was doing, and doing it well, but always looking for the wailing wall. And I would never have seen the world as the rich place that it is. You wouldn't have seen me here in Africa, doing what I do."

- V.S. Naipaul, A Bend in the River
Apr. 1st, 2009 @ 10:32 pm Vintage Lonely Planet
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where can you see lions?
(crossposted from my LJ)
I've discovered that going through old Lonely Planet travel guides can be fun. Yes, I'm a total nerd. Today, the second edition of Lonely Planet's Africa guide ("Africa On The Cheap" by Geoff Crowther) from 1980 arrived. Some interesting points of note..

Most of the maps are hand-drawn. Several countries (Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo-Brazzaville, one or two others) have only two pages of detail, as they can't find anyone who's been there... though in the third edition (which finally gets the name "Africa On A Shoestring") Crowther talks about getting a tourist visa to visit Equatorial Guinea, and discovering that it's Tourist Visa #001.

All of the country chapters are fairly brief on detail. Occasionally you'll see editorial comments that would never make it into a modern LP book- in the section on getting visas for other countries in The Gambia, Crowther notes that "the Secretary at the Sierra Leone High Commission is a real bolshie bastard".

Crowther says Lagos, Nigeria is a hellhole, but that "if you are crazy, do not miss this place". Roads in Nigeria are "very good and most are sealed" and "journeys are relatively short". How much has changed.. There are details about taking trains around the country (try that now!), and even information about sleeper cars and first/second class seating.

In the third edition, things have changed a bit- Nigeria has hit its 1980s economic bust and has finished its mass expulsion of Ghanaians and other foreigners. All of its land borders are sealed, and the only way in or out of the country is by air. And that's not a very happy way to enter the country either- Crowther warns that you absolutely do not want to be the last person off of an arriving international flight, otherwise you're going to have to hand out bribes right and left.

I still haven't found the first edition for sale yet, but I'm looking.... Anyone have any interesting/amusing bits they've found in African travel guides to share?
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Date:April 2nd, 2009 08:44 am (UTC)
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nigeria being difficult to get into... ugh.

i remember being at my friend's house in lomé and all of us having the bright idea to go to a party in lagos that night. none of us felt like having to go to abidjan to change planes, so we drove.... and got stuck at the border... i had two passports, neither of them ecowas, and i was Just Not Going To Get In[tm].

we did, however, end up phoning a dude we knew in cotonou and having the most decadent party evar there.

i think the chillrens are STILL talking about that party, 20 years later.
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Date:April 2nd, 2009 07:56 pm (UTC)
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I spent 8 months in Equatorial Guinea in 06-07 and before I went I spent SO LONG looking for any type of travel guide that had more than a couple pages about the entire country. No luck. So I guess the situation hasn't changed too much since 1980.
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Date:April 6th, 2009 07:32 pm (UTC)
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I think I have that same edition! Although mine could be 1984, I'll have to check.
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From:Raine Alexander
Date:May 17th, 2011 06:47 pm (UTC)

Lonely Planet 2nd Edition

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Yes, I too had a laugh at what they had to say about my part of the world ... according to the excerpt LP said that the country was overrun with nightclubs and brothels and people coming across the border for banned movies! Ha ha how I chuckled ... it was exactly like that! I'm hoping they will send me a copy of the whole book, if not, where did you get yours?