Bulletin 4

30 December 2002

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Hiya all.

It's been a while since the last bulletin and a lot has happened.

From Bamako we headed up to Mopti which is a tourist town. We then had a wonderful two day cruise down the river to Djenne. We visited a couple of the local villages on the way, and saw how simple a life these people live in comparison to us. They treated us very well, and hopefully provided us with some great pictures. It was so relaxing. A couple of people on the truck went up to Timbuktu instead, but there is nothing there and we are happy we did the river cruise. Djenne has the largest mud mosque in the world and it really is something to behold. The pix cannot convey the size of it. The town in general, although as hectic as most other main African towns, was the most peaceful and we got no hassel from the locals trying to sell us stuff - relatively! This was one of Debs favourite places.

From Djenne we headed into Dogon Country. The Dogons are an amazing tribe who live along a huge escarpment about 500ft high. We did a three day walk down the escarpment, along the villages at the base and then back up again which was definately one of the highlights of the trip so far. In one of the villages they laid on a traditional masked dance for us; we thought it would be a typical tourist thing but most of the village turned out to watch as well so it is obviously still a special event for them. They even allowed the girls in the truck to watch (local women are forbidden). All the village elders sat and got drunk on millet beer - after the dance we all paid our respects to the elders and gave them some Cola nuts as gifts. This was the first decent excercise we had done, so we were all really knackered. We had porters to carry all our water and sleeping kit though. While in the Dogon villages we slept on the village roofs under mosquito nets - one night we had a few drops of rain which sent us all scrambling. In the mornings we were woken up PRE-dawn by the variety of farmyard animals who soundede like they were slowly being killed, and it was amlified by the escarpment. It made it by far the noisiest place that we have been.

Our guide for the boat trip and the Dogon trek was a colourful character who was known as Grandpere (Grandfather) - see "http://www.askia-expeditions.com/askia-uk/team.htm". He has been a tourist guide for longer than almost anyone else in Mali. He was fantastic.

After the Dogon trek we headed down into Burkina Faso. It was on the way to Ouagadougou (the capital) that we saw our first hippos. The next day we went to see some crocodiles - we have photos of us actually holding the tails of one of the crocs!

In Ouagadougou we finally managed to collect our replacement camcorder battery charger from the DHL office. There was much celebration!

We stayed in a really nice hotel here, with a swimming pool and everything. We were camping in the crazy golf course though. Steve bought Debs a really nice meal in the restaurant to celebrate the arrival of the new charger.

About this time they changed the cook groups around again. Ben, one of the firelighters, wanted to try his hand at cooking so Steve took over as one of the firestarters. Because neither Steve or Debs is in a cook group now it means we don't have to worry about shopping for food - wonderful.

After Ougadougou we headed down into Ghana. We stopped off at Kumasi which was the capital of the old Ashanti empire. It was nice, but all the old Ashanti town had been razed by the Brits. We did manage to get to the cultural centre for a couple of hours though, and also bought some traditional Kente cloth in the market. The stretch from Kumasi to Accra was our first taste of rain forest and it was wonderful.

We are not so impressed with Accra itself though. The traffic is absolutely horrendous - 1 or 2 mph is probably about as fast as we can travel there. We did Kumasi to Accra in one day because we needed to get the Nigeria visa forms submitted - most of the travel time was in Accra itself. We stayed at a traditional Irish pub called Ryans. Everything was like a pub at home, except that the Bog Rats had arrived first and drunk it out of Guinness. Debs managed to get across town to the post office and check the Poste Restante. Only one letter had arrived (from Gran Taylor).

We next headed west down the coast to a place called Kokrobite where we stayed at "Big Millie's Back Yard" for a couple of nights. Nice and relaxing beach holiday, straight out of a glossy magasine. Debs helped the locals haul the fishing nets in from the sea. She also had her hair braided - it looks fantastic.

For Christmas we headed a bit further west to Busua where we stayed at the Alaska beach club. We had a huge spit roasted pig, with roast potatoes, veg, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce - the works. We had all stashed away bottles of wine and champagne. It was fantastic. Steve spent most of the day looking after the fire for the spit roast. Debs had brought Steve a serious swiss army knife for Christmas. It has a huge lockable blade which is incredibly useful, and also a wood saw which is perfect for a firelighter. Steve then produced a black satin long nightie for Debs' Christmas present. A bit of luxury, but it is too hot to wear it as a general rule.

Richy, our driver, had a bit of a fever over Christmas, and they treated him for Malaria as a precaution. He stayed at Busua for a few days to recover while we moved on.

After Christmas we headed back east to Elmina where we toured one of the old slave trading forts. Our guide gave us the local perspective about the slave trade, as well as the history of the castle. It was a humbling experience. The next day we went to another castle at Cape Coast - this one was British as opposed to the one at Elmina which was Portugese/Dutch. It also had a better museum, and a shop in which we bought a book about the castle, but we didn't bother with the guided tour here.

From Cape Coast we headed inland to the Kakum National Park in the rainforest. It was full of visitors when we arrived in the afternoon so we waited around and camped there overnight. Most of the group slept in the car park, but Steve, Debs and a few of the others walked into the forest to sleep on some low platforms in the forest. It was pitch black with the noises of the jungle all around. We woke up in the middle of the night to hear something wandering past us - it wasn't a person because we were at the end of the trail. We got up the next morning at 4.30 am and we all met up with a guide who took us back into the jungle to the canopy walk they have. This is a set of platforms attached to trees about 100ft up, connected by suspended walkways. It was an incredible experience, especially as Debs and Steve managed to see a couple of monkeys jumping from tree to tree. It was well worth the early start.

We are now back in Accra for a couple of days getting more visas, before we head back out to the beach for New Year. We went out for a Chinese meal last night which felt wonderfully civilised, as well as being tasty. We also picked up the rest of the Christmas post, so thanks to Barbara, Nikki, Dawn, Mike & Lin (x2), Gaz, Caz Jack, Joel & Janice, Barbara & Michael and Mary & Robert. You have all made our day.

We were checking back in the diary a couple of days ago to see what we were doing a month ago - it turns out we were in Mali and the clutch had just dropped out of the bottom of the truck. We went back a further month and we had just arrived in Rabat in Morrocco. It is amazing how fast the time is going; we are almost a third of the way through the trip already!


Detailed route from Bamako... BAMAKO - Segou - San - Sevare - Mopti - river cruise via Sofara - Djenne - Sevare - Bandiagara - Dourou - Dogon Trek then back to Bandiagara - Sevare - San - Kouri - Bobo Dioulasso - Satiri - Mare aux Hippopotames - Satiri - Sara - Hounde - OUAGADOUGOU - Tamale - Kumasi - Nkawkaw - ACCRA - Cape Coast - Takoradi - Busua - Takoradi - Cape Coast - Twifu Praso - Cape Coast - ACCRA

[Michelin map number 953, Africa North & West]


We hope you all had a great Christmas and wish you a happy New Year.

Debs & Steve

 

Bulletin 4

30 December 2002

Hiya all.

It's been a while since the last bulletin and a lot has happened.

From Bamako we headed up to Mopti which is a tourist town. We then had a wonderful two day cruise down the river to Djenne. We visited a couple of the local villages on the way, and saw how simple a life these people live in comparison to us. They treated us very well, and hopefully provided us with some great pictures. It was so relaxing. A couple of people on the truck went up to Timbuktu instead, but there is nothing there and we are happy we did the river cruise. Djenne has the largest mud mosque in the world and it really is something to behold. The pix cannot convey the size of it. The town in general, although as hectic as most other main African towns, was the most peaceful and we got no hassel from the locals trying to sell us stuff - relatively! This was one of Debs favourite places.

From Djenne we headed into Dogon Country. The Dogons are an amazing tribe who live along a huge escarpment about 500ft high. We did a three day walk down the escarpment, along the villages at the base and then back up again which was definately one of the highlights of the trip so far. In one of the villages they laid on a traditional masked dance for us; we thought it would be a typical tourist thing but most of the village turned out to watch as well so it is obviously still a special event for them. They even allowed the girls in the truck to watch (local women are forbidden). All the village elders sat and got drunk on millet beer - after the dance we all paid our respects to the elders and gave them some Cola nuts as gifts. This was the first decent excercise we had done, so we were all really knackered. We had porters to carry all our water and sleeping kit though. While in the Dogon villages we slept on the village roofs under mosquito nets - one night we had a few drops of rain which sent us all scrambling. In the mornings we were woken up PRE-dawn by the variety of farmyard animals who soundede like they were slowly being killed, and it was amlified by the escarpment. It made it by far the noisiest place that we have been.

Our guide for the boat trip and the Dogon trek was a colourful character who was known as Grandpere (Grandfather) - see "http://www.askia-expeditions.com/askia-uk/team.htm". He has been a tourist guide for longer than almost anyone else in Mali. He was fantastic.

After the Dogon trek we headed down into Burkina Faso. It was on the way to Ouagadougou (the capital) that we saw our first hippos. The next day we went to see some crocodiles - we have photos of us actually holding the tails of one of the crocs!

In Ouagadougou we finally managed to collect our replacement camcorder battery charger from the DHL office. There was much celebration!

We stayed in a really nice hotel here, with a swimming pool and everything. We were camping in the crazy golf course though. Steve bought Debs a really nice meal in the restaurant to celebrate the arrival of the new charger.

About this time they changed the cook groups around again. Ben, one of the firelighters, wanted to try his hand at cooking so Steve took over as one of the firestarters. Because neither Steve or Debs is in a cook group now it means we don't have to worry about shopping for food - wonderful.

After Ougadougou we headed down into Ghana. We stopped off at Kumasi which was the capital of the old Ashanti empire. It was nice, but all the old Ashanti town had been razed by the Brits. We did manage to get to the cultural centre for a couple of hours though, and also bought some traditional Kente cloth in the market. The stretch from Kumasi to Accra was our first taste of rain forest and it was wonderful.

We are not so impressed with Accra itself though. The traffic is absolutely horrendous - 1 or 2 mph is probably about as fast as we can travel there. We did Kumasi to Accra in one day because we needed to get the Nigeria visa forms submitted - most of the travel time was in Accra itself. We stayed at a traditional Irish pub called Ryans. Everything was like a pub at home, except that the Bog Rats had arrived first and drunk it out of Guinness. Debs managed to get across town to the post office and check the Poste Restante. Only one letter had arrived (from Gran Taylor).

We next headed west down the coast to a place called Kokrobite where we stayed at "Big Millie's Back Yard" for a couple of nights. Nice and relaxing beach holiday, straight out of a glossy magasine. Debs helped the locals haul the fishing nets in from the sea. She also had her hair braided - it looks fantastic.

For Christmas we headed a bit further west to Busua where we stayed at the Alaska beach club. We had a huge spit roasted pig, with roast potatoes, veg, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce - the works. We had all stashed away bottles of wine and champagne. It was fantastic. Steve spent most of the day looking after the fire for the spit roast. Debs had brought Steve a serious swiss army knife for Christmas. It has a huge lockable blade which is incredibly useful, and also a wood saw which is perfect for a firelighter. Steve then produced a black satin long nightie for Debs' Christmas present. A bit of luxury, but it is too hot to wear it as a general rule.

Richy, our driver, had a bit of a fever over Christmas, and they treated him for Malaria as a precaution. He stayed at Busua for a few days to recover while we moved on.

After Christmas we headed back east to Elmina where we toured one of the old slave trading forts. Our guide gave us the local perspective about the slave trade, as well as the history of the castle. It was a humbling experience. The next day we went to another castle at Cape Coast - this one was British as opposed to the one at Elmina which was Portugese/Dutch. It also had a better museum, and a shop in which we bought a book about the castle, but we didn't bother with the guided tour here.

From Cape Coast we headed inland to the Kakum National Park in the rainforest. It was full of visitors when we arrived in the afternoon so we waited around and camped there overnight. Most of the group slept in the car park, but Steve, Debs and a few of the others walked into the forest to sleep on some low platforms in the forest. It was pitch black with the noises of the jungle all around. We woke up in the middle of the night to hear something wandering past us - it wasn't a person because we were at the end of the trail. We got up the next morning at 4.30 am and we all met up with a guide who took us back into the jungle to the canopy walk they have. This is a set of platforms attached to trees about 100ft up, connected by suspended walkways. It was an incredible experience, especially as Debs and Steve managed to see a couple of monkeys jumping from tree to tree. It was well worth the early start.

We are now back in Accra for a couple of days getting more visas, before we head back out to the beach for New Year. We went out for a Chinese meal last night which felt wonderfully civilised, as well as being tasty. We also picked up the rest of the Christmas post, so thanks to Barbara, Nikki, Dawn, Mike & Lin (x2), Gaz, Caz Jack, Joel & Janice, Barbara & Michael and Mary & Robert. You have all made our day.

We were checking back in the diary a couple of days ago to see what we were doing a month ago - it turns out we were in Mali and the clutch had just dropped out of the bottom of the truck. We went back a further month and we had just arrived in Rabat in Morrocco. It is amazing how fast the time is going; we are almost a third of the way through the trip already!

We hope you all had a great Christmas and wish you a happy New Year.

Debs & Steve

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