Tag Archives: roads

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…
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Just another day on the road…

19:00- A full day of cycling behind us, we have found our spot for the night and its right under a Baobab tree. The tent is going up and the soon the moon is lighting our campsite with a beautiful glow. We gaze at our beloved bicycles, now locked to a root of the Baobab, we know we will wake at regular intervals to check on them.

20:00- We are ready for bed, the sand beneath us is still warm from the days sun but the air cool. The breeze is gentle and sweeps over us as we drift off into a long sleep.

05:30- The first alarm screams in our ears. Its not light yet and now the moon has disappeared its darker than when we fell asleep. Groans can be heard before we both continue to sleep.

05:45- The second alarm sounds, we discuss the time, consider getting up before continuing to sleep.

early morning

06:00- The third alarm stirs us and reluctantly we peak our noses from our sleeping bags to see that its still not light. We fumble to find our smelly cycle shorts and discuss the stealth operation of leaving the tent whilst managing to avoid the savagery of the mosquitoes that await us.

06:05- Mosquito stealth fails; we spend a good five minutes killing the invaders in the tent. We realize we have camped on a bed of thorns and spend additional time removing them from our bodies, bags, tent etc…

06:30- Our morning wash stretches as far as tooth brushing but no further.

toothbrushes

7:00- After our breakfast of two bananas and a vitamin C drink we are finally on the road, the sun is on its way up the air is fresh and cool.

09:30- The children in the villages we pass have woken up which means the chorus of ‘TOUBAB!!!’ (meaning ‘white person’ or ‘foreigner’) returns. We are tired and grumpy, the children run in front of our bicycles, we shout at them angrily and then feel guilty.

09:45- Hungry for a second breakfast we find a street cart cooking up egg and onion sandwiches served with a super-sweet mug of condensed milk coffee. Belly bliss.

10:00- We befriend another cyclist who lives in a near by village, a warning of the condition of the road ahead is given to us, though he is happy to inform us the road improves after 35 km…

11:00- We hit the rough part of the road. Its bumpy, very bumpy. The dust is in our eyes and we begin to experience a sensation of ‘bum burning’ as we like to call it.

sandroad

12:00- Mikaela realizes she has lost another water bottle, this time the pot holes are responsible. For a brief moment consideration is given to following our route back, but it is a very brief moment before we continue on.

13:00- The temperature has risen beyond 40 degrees, we are sweating faster than we can drink and our heads are beginning to throb. Time for a long lunch break. We find some shade, lay out our blanket and settle down for a nap.

13:30- Children wake us up by asking us how we are. We respond in a bitter tone and then feel guilty. Its now lunchtime which means cheese triangles and peanut-chocolate spread (and I mean together in the case of Imran).

15:00- We have avoided the worst of the heat and its time to get back on the road.

16:00- Village stop, water refill. A local man tells that if we return through this route to England he would happily take the bicycles off our hands, to help us of course. We thank him.

16:15- A village mad-man squeaks past us on a very rusty bicycle with no inner tubes, he is singing and yelling frantically at us. Locals remain unstirred by his musings thus we do not worry.
16:35- A short bum-break becomes a long one as we get distracted by passing monkeys.

whydidthemonkeycrosstheroad

17:00- We reach the border of Senegal-Gambia. Immigration are pleasant and easy going. The customs official looks utterly bored as he asks us to list everything we have in the panniers. We approach using a bore-him-senseless tactic to avoid being searched. We begin to list everything, ‘Four t-shirts, two for each of us, one sports bra, two pairs of flip flops, some soap… oh no hang on I think we might have two bars of soap- is that bar finished?? No, actually one bar. Ten hair clips, four hair bands, errr, four pairs of socks, or is it five..? No, its four. Two books, one is an autobiogra-…’, ‘okay, okay. You are fine. Go please’. Content with our work we continue on. But alas, the plain clothed police officer has spotted us and requests that we empty each pannier discussing every item as we go. Resisting the urge to huff heavily we begin the tedious task, the medical bag brings the most lengthy search ‘that’s an anti-biotic, this is also an anti-biotic, this one is an anti-biotic…etc’. The repetition continues until he strikes gold with a mystery drug which he whips away from our hands and disappears with. He returns announcing it is controlled but as we are on bicycles he will ‘let us have it for free’. The drug is Lopermide, an antihistamine. After the long searches it is dark and we cannot clear the border for the night. The kind immigration officer advises us of an auberge we can sleep in. The corrupt police officer urges us to camp by the border because ‘these Senegalese are always plotting against you’. We assure him that we will be careful of any plotting and make a swift exit. He is excited for our return to the border when he tells us he will take some euros from us. We are less excited.

21:00- The owner of the auberge thinks we are mad as we put our tent up, turning down a bed for the night but we are content in our mosquito free home with the breeze washing over us.

05:00- We wake up and as though we are on a military operation, pack away the tent and head back to the border.

05:30- Keen to avoid waking the corrupt policeman we use hushed voices to convince an official we have already been through immigration. He appears to care little either way.

06:00- We avoid the policeman and with our emergency euros still in our pocket we cycle victoriously away from the border, our laughter filling the dawn air.