It has to rate as one of the most ambitious New Year's resolutions ever made.

While most people settle for exercising more or learning a new language, Fran Sandham set himself a somewhat higher hurdle.

One drunk and depressing New Year's Eve in south London, he decided to abandon his life as a bookseller to cross Africa on foot, alone and on a route never before attempted.

Amazingly, he managed it - though not without a few scrapes along the way.

Now the 42-year-old, from Seven Dials, Brighton, has published a witty account of his year-long trek from the Skeleton Coast of Namibia to the Indian Ocean.

He said the seed for the journey was sown when he was just six years old, and had his first glimpse of Africa in the pages of a Tarzan comic.

Though he soon realised Tarzan bore little resemblance to reality, he went on to develop a fascination with the exploits of Victorian explorers such as Stanley and Livingstone and decided to follow in their footsteps.

Mr Sandham, a former Rough Guides editor, said: "When I made the decision to go I half-expected I'd wake up the next morning and change my mind, but I still wanted to do it.

"I spent the next year scrimping and saving. I ended up living on toast and porridge and saved pennies by walking everywhere.

"It was quite a miserable time but eventually I managed to save enough to enable me to live like a tramp."

A year later he set off across the desert, his only aid a pair of walking poles which quickly became his most essential piece of kit. For the first few days everything went fine, but after 270 kilometres he buckled under the weight of his enormous backpack and the intense desert heat, and his journey came to a halt.

He was on the point of quitting but decided to find another way to transport his possessions on the 3,000 mile journey and ended up buying a donkey.

He said: "The idea was that he would carry my bag and I would walk alongside. He was called Tsondab, which means 'the place where you get stuck', which turned out to be quite apt.

"He was a bit of a disaster really, as he was quite a useless pack animal, and so I ended up leaving him in a sanctuary. It turned out later he had the donkey form of syphilis, poor thing."

A second attempt at animal husbandry - this time with an enormous and terrifying "devil mule" - also failed, so after weeks of stalling he set off alone once again.

For most of the trip he slept rough or in a small tent he carried with him in a backpack, even camping overnight in a lion-infested game reserve.

Yet he discovered that what might seem like a highly perilous trip was actually quite safe - though he did come down with malaria the day after he finished the trip.

He said: "I very rarely felt as if I was in any danger. People did warn me about bandits and muggings, but I think perhaps I was safer travelling independently than if I were on a backpacker bus because I always arrived unexpectedly.

"I got a really warm welcome from everyone I met and encountered great generosity from people who had very little themselves.

"They seemed to take delight in what I was doing. I think they found the sight of me striding along with my hikes poles quite entertaining."

When he arrived back home he set about trying to find a publisher for a book about the trip, but found that a harder challenge than the journey itself.

It has been 10 years since he set off but his book, Traversa, finally came out this month.

*Traversa is available priced £16.99 from Duckworth Overlook.