Tag Archives: camping

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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From Mali we blog..!

Beaming to each other as we pedalled over the River Senegal Imran’s words cut through the heat of our afternoon of cycling.

‘We’ve done it. We have bloody well cycled to Mali.’

border1

The route to the border had been dusty and tough but as we crossed the fresh river air welcomed us to Mali.

senegal river

The customs officials were interested in little more than a brief ‘hello’. In fact as soon as they absorbed the phrase ‘we’re on bicycles…’ we were dismissed as they returned to the daily grind of dealing with the hundreds of trucks waiting to bring supplies to landlocked Mali.

The days leading up to the border crossing brought peaceful encounters with other travelers, nomadic goat herders on their meandering path, wandering men who had walked some 500 km bare foot and hundreds of teenage boys on the first bicycle pilgrimage we’ve seen.

Previously spoilt by frequent villages this most recent leg of our journey has been far quieter, thus more of a challenge in terms of water, food and sleeping. But with a little bit of planning and a change of fuel in our previously failing expedition cooker we embraced a bit of solitude. Our culinary experiments have revolved around a variety of rice dishes; beef stock rice, fish rice, powdered milk rice pudding and this inspiring list is only in its youth…

whisperlite imran

morning chores

But rice only fills the cyclists belly for a short time and Mikaela was starting to experience recurring dreams of multiple food groups. Thankfully as we cycled into Kayes, a city about 100 km of the border, we spotted in the distance, a beautiful, though be it lonely, carrot stall…

carrot

So tonight, before we make a quick exit from the rumoured-to-be ‘hottest city in Mali’, we will create stew a la carrots, our first meat and rice free meal for quite some time!Tomorrow it’s back on the road. But with only around 600 km left to go the question that’s on both our minds is, where to cycle after Mali..?

To leave you with something small to ponder, take a look at our recently purchased Chinese-imported playing cards and see if you can spot the problem…

puzzle

Time to leave France…

To summarise a few things and update you…

Days since we left: 15

Kilometers cycled: 1024 (636 miles)

Average daily distance cycled: 80 km

Baguettes consumed: 29

Whole cheeses consumed: 17

Canned meals eaten: 10

Bike falls (owing to clip-ins): Imran 6/ Mikaela 1

Well, leaving Bordeaux was never going to be easy, but it was a departure made easier by one of Polo’s lovely housemates Arnaud who generously suggested we stay with his parents on the next leg of our journey. Somehow the incentive of a bed and shower led us to cycle 120 km across hilly terrain reaching the warmth of French hospitality in a village called Lavardac by nightfall. Feeding us with a fantastic feast and insisting we try a local digéstif, we settled down to sleep with absolute contentment. The next day, in spite of the bum-suffering, we continued to cycle through the Lot-et-Garonne and past the Landes, known as ‘France’s lungs’ as it’s composed entirely of sand and pine trees.

Nérac

We were relieved however to reach Toulouse and the beginning of the Canal du Midi, a beautiful stretch of water listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and running for 240 km from Toulouse to Séte .

Mikaela in Nérac

Canal CrossingsThe original purpose of the Canal du Midi was to provide a shortcut between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, avoiding a long sea voyage, a hostile Spain and Barbary pirates. The canal has a rich history including the story of the thousands of labourers it took to build it, of these many were women who came from the Pyrenees specifically for this work. These peasant women were mainly of Roman descent and their knowledge of water systems was apparently vital to the construction of the canal, which in its era was a feat of engineering never seen before.

We followed the path of the Canal du Midi for just under 200 km, passing Europe’s largest medieval fortress in Carcassonne. Our time by the canal had its advantages given that it was of course very flat, but the ground was broken, uneven and seriously bumpy. We were slowed down by the difficult terrain and tired of camping in the cold we decided to take a slightly different route and made our way to Montpellier to stay with friends. Once again we have been shown huge generosity and when we catch our ferry this evening we’ll be sad to have only stayed one night. But the new leg of our journey begins soon, crossing continents from Europe to Africa on the 36 hour ferry from Séte to Tangier putting us another step closer to Mali.

Naptime in Montpellier