Tag Archives: Burkina Faso

A goodbye blog…

It has been the most incredible journey of both of our lives. There have been challenges; the heat, the hills, the dust and the desert.

We set this blog to publish as our flight takes off out of Africa. I guess it’s a bit of a symbolic posting. It’s a goodbye blog.

We want to share a few photos we had been saving for the right moment. Some of these faces you may have seen in previous postings, some are new, but all showed us pure kindness, warmth and generosity. For that reason we wanted to devote a blog to the theme of generosity. These are the faces we will not forget as we leave African soil.

Mama: It had been a long day of cycling. We had never slept in a village before. She welcomed us with warmth, fed us and even gave us a crash course in Wolof. It was to be the first of many village camping experiences.

Senegal 010

Cheick shared a roadside pot of tea with us one hot Malian lunchtime. He had lost a bull and hadn’t had the best of days. But he dismissed his misfortune and instead welcomed us to the village, occasionally leaving us to make bull-related phone calls.

Cheikh

Pete: We met on the ferry to France. He was our adopted dad for the first leg of our trip. He encouraged us, kept our spirits up when our bums were burning and shared some very useful bike-touring wisdom with us. He was our first friend of the trip.

Tentatively we peeked through the bushes at a group of party-goers, only to be snapped up by the father of the bride who insisted that we join the festivities. We shared goats milk and attempted to learn a few words of Fula. It was the perfect half hour.

Semi Nomadic Fula Wedding

With a contagious smile he opened his home to us. Boubacar Kone is an artist, a philosopher, a businessman, but most of all he’s everyone’s friend. Bouba had polio as a child and now runs ‘Handicape Production’, a small shop selling his artisan work.

Boubacar

Ba Fousseyni: What can we say? Fousseyni, our Malian uncle and good friend. He fed us, offered us a home and became a very wonderful friend to have around.

Imran and Fousseyni

Sodio Boureïma: It was getting close to 50 degrees in the midday sun and we had been cycling on ‘corrugated iron’ sand piste for a long time… visibly exhausted we were heckled from the road and invited to rest. We napped at his side and when we awoke, waiting next to us was a pot of tea and a bowl of mangos.

Boureïma Sodio in Dogon village of Tedie Kanda

Jaliba Kuyateh: We had heard about him, turned up at his house on a whim and ended up sharing almost a week with him and his family. Generous and wise, he showed us a truly different side to The Gambia.

djeliba kouyate

Mama Lamlih: Baking us fresh bread every morning, preparing us a special couscous dinner (it wasn’t even ‘couscous friday’), she was the heart of the fantastic Lamlih family and made sure we felt at home as we entered the desert.

Mamma

Souleymane and Chekoroba: We met in Bamako, their home city. They agreed to teach Mikaela a couple of Bamana songs. A couple of songs turned into a true friendship, based on wonderful descriptive song translations from Chekoroba, the beautiful songwriting of Souleymane (which we ended up recording) and of course, Chekoroba’s mother’s ‘giniberri’ (ginger juice)..! We felt part of a family.

Souleymane

Souleymane`s final run through his song structure...

Chekoroba- Photograph by Florant Lalet

Coroba

There is a Moorish proverb that puts it more simply,

To travel is to know the true value of mankind.

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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…

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!

Hello Burkina Faso: the highs and the lows…

On a low: Only 5km into our day of cycling and a huge thorn has buried itself within the depths of Mikaela’s front tyre and is causing multiple punctures. Time for a new tyre.

Mikaela gives her new tyre the kiss of luck!

On a high: A long day of pedalling and we arrive at an actual hotel. As students on bicycles we are swiftly shown to a cheap spot on the roof… we discover the hotel has a swimming pool and sneak lots of cheeky dips free of charge.

A blissful afternoon off the bikes…

On a low: Discovering the rumours were wrong, the road had not been paved as far as hoped…

The signpost gave little detail as to what the ‘danger’ was…

On a high: We rest our piste-shaken bones in the small village of Tedie Kanda. It’s an artisan village of Dogon people and we are invited to meet the local weavers at work.

Hard at work weaving cloth

On a low: The dust is bad and the borderland is much bigger than the map told us.

It should have been 15km…

An orange mist

On a high: At the Malian exit point, we worry about our dodgy visas (Imran was mistakenly given a 100 years duration). But it seems the officials are so happy we took the road against the advice of ‘evil Sarkozy’ (we assume a reference to the kidnap warning recently issued by the French Embassy for this particular road), they offer us tea and barely even glance at our invalid visas.

Sharing a glass of tea

On a low: We cycle past a truck accident, no one is hurt but there is fuel all over the road. It coats the tyres in a greasy layer and we nearly fall of our bicycles trying to brake, we then have to clean it off before heading down a bit of a hairy hill…

Scary stuff

On a high: We reach Ouahigouya and the end of the piste, smooth tarmac stares us in the face and a friendly ‘ça va?’ calls out from next to a cart full of mangoes, we lean the bikes against a signpost for cold coca cola, time for a break…

Djenné, the dry dry road and decisions ahead…

Mikaela’s triumphat arrival at the ferry crossing to Djenné

Djenné did not really welcome us; a flat tyre, disappearing daylight and a mass of children demanding gifts.

After a tough day of bum adjustment back on the bicycles we crashed early and limited ourselves the next day to market-and-mosque-meandarings only (after our rushed exit from Bamako we still had a mountain of bike jobs left to do!).

Djenné’s history is rich and colourful, between the 15th and 17th century it was an important town of the trans-Saharan trade route. Centuries ago precious goods such as gold and salt passed through this town. Now in the aftermath of its economic decline the tourists are the most precious things passing Djenné’s narrow lanes. But whilst the impact of tourism shows its irritating face, the city’s Sudanese- style architechture remains beautiful, particularly the Grand Mosque; a sun-baked mud brick structure with smooth curves, touched only by the annual rains after which the whole community works together to restore the structure to its former glory.

Djenné’s famous Grand Mosque

Djenné’s equally famous market

The dust from Djenné’s weekly market begins to settle

Now we have reached Sévaré, 120 evil, hot, sandy, unforgiving desert kilometers from Djenné. Here we hoped to hear good news on the military mutiny and civil unrest in Burkina Faso. But just three days from Burkina Faso’s border we hear mostly bad reports and new warnings against the route. In what will be our last internet stop before passing the frontier and with only three days to go it seems we have some big decisions to make.

Imran crosses what was once a river

Mikaela’s Shimano shoe gets stuck to her pedal!

Thinking about April: The road ahead…

We both feel it has long been time to change the header of our website ‘From the UK to Mali…‘, and now, after some agonising over what to change it to, the time has arrived.

We have both been investing time towards planning for the next exciting leg of our journey, the visa beauracracy, security situations, FCO advice (and the obvious insurance implications), sending emails to other cyclists, calculating kilometers, calculating days of cycling and rest, the list goes on.

So, right now the plan when April arrives, looks a little bit like this (ambitious and still a work in progress!),

– Pedal out of Mali and into Burkina Faso, where we will met with an Association of Young Musicians.

– Cycle through Burkina Faso and into Benin.

– Crossing our fingers that the Nigerian Embassy in Cotonou issues us a visa (they normally refuse visas to travellers with an Embassy in their country of residence), we will cross the border into Nigeria.

– After enjoying the music scene in Lagos we hope to continue through Nigeria on a carefully calculated route (owing to security issues) and cross the frontier into the green (though rather hilly), Cameroon.

– Hopefully overcoming more expected visa problems, we will manage to obtain a visa for Gabon (known for its lush rainforests covering more than 85% of the country). By this point we are almost expecting to have run out of time and will possibly be forced to fly home from Libreville (Gabon). But if not…

– IF we can secure a visa and time remains on our side, we will cross into Congo heading a few hundred kilometers to Brazzaville.

– At Brazzaville we will take the ferry across the Congo River and border into Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, famed for its rich music scene.

Admittedly the last two stages of the journey are by far the most ambitious and remain in our minds a hopeful extra! But even if we only get as far as Nigeria’s energetic Lagos, I know we will have been slowed down by the best of distractions, as has always been the case on this fantastic trip.

So with many hopeful ‘ifs’…’ hanging in the air, we’ll leave you with a map of our proposed 5000 km additional route, some images of the countries we hope to pass through and the funky sounds of DRC’s Baloji!

Mount Cameroon, 4,040 m (13,255 ft), we will be cycling its foothills and if we have time, who knows we might even climb it!

One of DRC’s biggest stars, Baloji