Rush hour…

Beach time did not really work out as hoped. One day of splashing in the sea and snoozing in the sun before my belly started another war. But it turned out the beach was a cool place for recovery, which is in a way a sort of relaxation…

On our way east from the beach the scenery was stunning, lush green bush and tall palm trees stretching high into the clear blue. We passed through the bright fishing village of Dixcove where vivid rags and flags flapped wildly in the wind as the boat owners took a rest from the heat of the midday sun.

The beach at Green Turtle Lodge on the west coast of Ghana

Mikaela gets extra sick at the beach and instead of beach-bumming ends up sleeping in the shade…

Imran enjoying a little beach rest!

The colourful fishing village of Dixcove close to the Cote d’Ivoire border

Because we stayed longer on the beach than planned we now find ourselves rushing to Cotonou. With only a few days before our flight leaves from Benin we are facing a race through Togo and the prospect of barely seeing Benin. But it’s been an amazing journey and we can’t really grumble. Instead of feeling disappointed we have decided to see it as a good excuse to return and do it all again.

Mikaela wearing her new helmet after the old one fell to a serious crushing accident (luckily NOT with her head in it!)

The old colonial buildings of Cape Coast’s historic streets

Cape Coast bay

We weren’t sure of what this sign actually meant?

Thirsty at the roadside: a coconut break

Leaving Ghana behind us we will whizz through Togo, collecting our French friends and cyclists Jérémie and Claire en route as they will join us along the coast. After which we will say our goodbyes and leave them as we cross into Benin. Then, in the way that only we know how, we will throw everything together, pack up the bicycles and jump on a 5 am plane from Cotonou to Lagos, Lagos to Casa Blanca, and finally Casa Blanca to London Heathrow. Then, home.
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Jesus seems to be everywhere: blessed be the blog…

Here in the south of Ghana it’s all about Jesus. The music, the schools, the t-shirt slogans… and, most entertainingly, the business names. Here are some favourites…  

‘Jesus Cares Carpentry Shop’

‘Seek Ye First (Mat 6:33) Supermarket’

‘No Jesus No Life Supermarket’

‘Prince of Peace Cosmetics’

‘Only Jesus Can Do Fashion’

‘God’s Signature No Eraser Enterprises (What Is Written Is Written)’

‘Patience to All Car Wash’

‘Let There Be Light Electicals’

‘Christ In You Barbering Shop’

‘Lion of Judea Metal Works’

‘Dr. Jesus Fast Food’

‘Relax Jesus Is In Control Unit Transfer’

‘Virgin Kids Junior High School’

‘The Blood of Jesus Fitting Shop’

‘Peculiar Child Academy (We Are Different)’- Okay so the last two aren’t religious, but we couldn’t leave them out.

‘Stomach Has No Holiday Food Shop’

Being a bicycle sister…

Mik takes the slope carefully

Cycling in West Africa can sometimes challenge some strong stereotypes,

The bicycle is the poor man’s way to travel.

The bicycle is just a donkey. It’s no good.

The bicycle is not for a woman*.

For me, the last has had true resonance. Some of the comments, responses and hecklers have been worth remembering, some not! Here are a few of my favourites…

Hey bicycle sister!

You are a terrible husband. Look at your poor wife. She is so tired.’ (Multiple men have exclaimed this to Imran in horror).

Well now you will never have children‘, (Bassekou Kouyaté’s mother, Yakaré. She now requires evidence should I ever have any children).

Strong woman. Strong, strong woman.

So you cycled here all the way from England? And your wife, she flew to meet you?

(Yelled out of a truck window by a grinning driver as I cycled up a steep hill in Ghana)… ‘Hey achey, achey! You ache because you are a woman!

(Shouted by many beautifully rotund Ghanaian mothers) ‘Eat sister, eat to bicycle!!!!‘, (hand gesture of food to mouth as I cycle past).

On entering a shop accompanied by two other male cyclists, (male shopkeeper to me), ‘you’re tired, sit here now‘. I respond (rather sharply) ‘I am not tired thank you I will stand‘. Thirty minutes later I am forced to request his floor for a nap, he smiles understandingly.

(In response to our journey), ‘I prefer the Mercedes.‘ (My friend Fatu, wife of Gambian musician Jaliba Kuyateh and a formidable female force, though no cyclist!).

*Note: In Burkina Faso many women cycle.

Taking the long way home…

With only a few weeks left til our flight home, it has become very difficult keep friends, family, chocolate and the dreams of bangers and mash from the back of our minds. Especially after a very steep hill when our bellies grumble with hunger…

But we’ve been making the most of the final leg of our journey. In Bobo-Dioulasso,  our fantastic host Boubacar (AKA Baba AKA Colonel) proudly showed us around his fantastic city. Wherever we went, he got sidetracked by his many friends who, like us, were affected by his contagious smile.

Boubacar is one of the most inspiring and hard-working people we have befriended, his limitless hospitality and generosity made our good-byes difficult.

Our host Boubacar Kone in front of his artisan shop

Since then we’ve covered some serious ground.

After many months in several West African countries, we had got used to crossing borders to only initially notice subtle differences; the police wearing different uniforms, slightly sweeter tea… But coming into Ghana was like jumping to another world.

The arid, monotonous and dry semi-desert of the Sahel has given way to lush trees, green green grass and tall bushes. The long straight flat roads have turned into hill after hill. And of course, the rain!

Because the road we are using is quite a busy one, its side is littered with crumbs of exploded lorry tyres. These harmless-looking pieces of rubber lie quite innocently on the road, but in fact contain deadly shreds of wire which go straight through our tyres.

Time for a new tyre… the kiss of luck!

We often get asked, and ask ourselves, why are we cycling? A car would be much easier. But everyday that question is answered by the people we meet. Lannis’ family for instance welcomed us onto their farm, gave us lunch, water and a cool place to rest.

Lannis and her family

We took a few days off the bikes at Mole game reserve, where we befriended baboons, elephants, warthogs and many other animals. We took the cheapest accommodation (camping), but after the encounters with curious gibbons and warthogs became too many, we decided to sneak into the dorm

Pumba greets us

Relaxing baboon

Elephants having some breakfast

Now we’ve covered some kilometers but Mikaela’s tummy is sulking and she is struggling to eat enough… Making the already difficult hills insurmountable!

Time is no longer on our side so we’ve both decided that the most sensible decision is to take a few buses to a secluded beach and try to reawaken her appetite with the freshest of fresh fish and coconuts just plucked from the palm trees…

The beach awaiting us…

Chasing storms… accidentally.

In Ghana it now rains daily, usually as we attempt to cycle our last 10-20km of the day.

The blue sky fades away and an eerie wind sweeps over the lush green bush of Ghana’s dense forests. The sky turns dark with angry clouds and then the rain falls.

In its first few minutes the rain steals away our road and a river of muddy water floods the path ahead. Visibility is zero and we push the bikes to some kind of shelter. In a moment it all feels rather like a British summer style picnic-panic-run; madly covering our bags and throwing an ugly raincoat on.

After a while the heaviest drops have left and by now we are ready to jump on the bikes again. But then we notice the sky ahead is darker,

The storms all go south to the coast, just like you actually…’

Thirty minutes of pedalling pass us by and sure enough, we have caught up with the monster again. He growls at us and beats his thundery chest. He punches at the sky above with deadly forks of lightening. Time to make another swift exit...

Cycling towards a storm

Fishing after the rains

We arrive in Wenchi just as the sun goes down and storm clouds threaten…

“The old village beats are leaving”: Badenya Percussion play it funky…

The band tell us energetically that ‘the old village beats of Burkina are leaving‘.

‘Now Burkina Faso is listening to the imported sounds of Guineé, but we asked ourselves why?’

‘So we decided to bring all that inspires us together, from our traditional and modern lives, to create a new and exciting sound that Burkinabés will want to stop and listen to’.

Strong rhythms, funky riffs, earthy bass and soulful voices. Badenya are young, innovative and inspired. And Badenya Percussion has only just arrived on the music scene.

‘We formed in December and already have enough material to go to the studio’.

But finance is not easy here, Burkina Faso is one of the worlds poorest country’s and finding cash for recording time is no simple task.

With some support from a local music association the band have a rehearsal space and have found a way to live in one house, a sort of musical-villa, stuffed with balafons and drums, tucked in a corner of sleepy Bobo-Dioulasso. They live together, eat together and find creative connection in each other’s ideas,

‘There is no leader in our group, we are all equal. If someone wants to bring an idea to the table then fine, we will try anything.’

They are dedicated musicians, inspired by the complex and irresistible rhythms of Burkina Faso and driven by an energy of youth that may well take their music far beyond Burkina’s borders

Yacouba Diabaté plays kamele ngoni (the hunters harp)

Mohammed Outarra plays Calabasse

Diakaria Diabaté from Badenya Percussion plays a flute from Guineé

Diakaria Diabaté and Yacouba Diabté play some funky beats

(Note: when we have a better connection we will be sharing more clips of Badenya’s music)

Photo blog: A different wedding to gaze at…

It was disappointing that even in this corner of the world we couldn’t escape a mentioning of the ‘grand marriage‘… so with that in mind we thought it was time to embrace wedding fever and instead of the dull platter of royal crap you’re being offered elsewhere, give you a quick glance at a marriage Burkina style. Hopefully it will ease your pain (and possibly sickness)…

Owing to a terrible internet connection that visits us only occasionally we have only had time to offer you photos. Put it like this, we know which party we’d rather be invited to.

A different wedding!

A different wedding!

A different wedding!

A different wedding!

A different wedding!