This is a copy of the journal kept by Steve throughout the trip on a Palm M125 handheld computer. The layout and quality of the entries varies significantly throughout the journal.
You should also bear in mind that there are over 70 pages of text here, so think carefully before you decide to print it all out.
20 Oct - Day 1
We drive down to Dover with Barbara & Michael. The journey is shorter than expected so we have an early dinner / late lunch in a pub.
We drive to the docks where we see the truck for the first time. Everything is a bit chaotic, with people finding places to stow their kit.
The crew are: Richy (driver), Paul (mechanic) & Kaz (trainee courier).
Barbara & Michael say their goodbyes and head off while we start to chat with the other passengers.
On the ferry over to Calais we sit in the lounge & chat with the other Truch Africa passengers.
Once in France we drive a short while then park up in a layby where we hope the police won't find us.
21 Oct - Day 2
Lunch at service station. Baguettes from "Ed" supermarket. All troop in to little petrol station to use facilites.
48 43.836N 4 13.738E
Drove all day in the rain - pushing hard for Lyons. Went faster (80-90kms) after adjusting accellerator cable. Even managed to overtake some trucks! Everyone in the back asleep at first but later on singing along to 80s hits.
Debs appointed one of 2 quartermasters, Steve in one of the cook groups.
45 25.605N 4 49.404E - truck stop
rain. Take a digital photo of a map showinq location of camp site. Sign advertises showers but we can't find them.
22 Oct - Day 3
Manaqed to get up on time. Breakfast and fire extinguisher demo.
back on the road. Fog closes in as we head almost due south. Everyone in ths back readinq now. Out of fog into beautiful sunshine.
Past Chateau Neuf du Pape. Stop at Avignon (43°57.087N,4°48.182E) for supplies and McDonalds. Wearing t-shirt, jumper and coat when we stop. T-shirt only when we leave.
Lunch at picnic area (43°45.096N 4°13.638E). Frisbee. Cook team rota now in force.
Push on for Barcelona. Big cheer when we first see the sea (43°08.554'N 2°58.755'E).
Another big cheer when we cross the border into Spain (42°28.427N 2°51.600E).
Stop for night in layby (41°43.577 2°35.642).
23 Oct - Day 4
Afternoon on campsite at the beach @ 40°31.059'N 0°30.386'E . 1st shower in 3 days.
Veg curry for dinner
Drunk (cheating) twister and drinking games.
24 Oct - Day 5
Another hard driving day.
Bus camp overnight @ 37°36.186N by 1°53.855W.
25 Oct - Day 6
Up at 6.30am & drive in darkness.
Past Malaga & Marbella.
Stuck on beach (36°18.609'N 5°15.549'W) - learn how to use sand mats
Dip in the Med.
Some of the group go off & find a pub.
26 Oct - Day 7
Just a short hop (40 mins) to another camp site about 7k from Gibralta. Thls one has all the facilities including showers, washing machines, shop etc. Location 36°15.044'N, 5°20.245'W.
Went into Gibralta to see the rock apes, check email and eat fish and chips. Photo of Steve with a baby rock ape on his head. Locals playing Command and Conquer online in Cybercafe - pound coin stuck to floor and old black and white posters on walls.
bangers and mash for dinner.
Taught the guys to play "Pit" in the evening. First round was a riot but Richard pointed out that we were making enough noise to wake the dead. Switched to silent version from then on.
Nice, hot shower - lovely.
27 Oct - Day 8
Quiet day today - staying at same camp site and Steve on truck guard duty.
Steve enters waypoints into GPS from map. Debs paints name on side of truck. Adam clears up crazy golf course but breaks 1 shovel & 1 broom in the process.
Put on a load of washing in a real washing machine!
Paul replaces wiring to rear lights.
28 Oct - Day 9
Up at 6.15am as Steve has to prepare breakfast. Adrian and Clare turned Richard & Lucy's flysheet around overnight - lots of confusion.
All on truck and out of campsite by 7.45am, so we manage to catch 9.15 ferry at Algecira - we all had to run though. Ferry is a big cat with water jet engines - up to 53km/h or 29 knots! Adrian saw a dolphin.
Steve got lost in Ceuta. Adam bought
a load of booze for the "bar".
Cross border into Morocco. People try to swim around - police stroll along waiting for them to drown.
Bush camp at 35°25.769' N 5°23.539'W. Crazy old man. Steve helps Adrian and Clare make burgers for dinner. Veggie burgers proved troublesome but worked out fine in the end. Beef burgers took forever to cook.
Crazy old man got into a fight with another local so Richard sent them both away.
29 Oct - Day 10
On road by 8am and drove down to Sale (Rabat). Got some video of the truck on the move. Took the top off the top of the truck for the first time.
Sitting in the front of the truck on the way down to Rabat was wonderful.
Quick impromptu tour of Rabat before finding campsite.
Find another overland truck at campsite - "Bog rat". Smaller and slower but 4 wheel drive. Their driver is "Two Dogs" - nobody knows why.
Steve borrows Sara's mobile and calls home to wish his sister Caroline a happy birthday but no answer so leaves a message.
Adam starts the beer tally.
Steve gets drunk with Bog Rat mob.
30 Oct - Day 11
Into Rabat to change money and give passports to Richard so he can get Visas. Debs signs in the wrong place so we have lost 1 $50 traveller's cheque, but we put Pizza on card later which makes up for it.
Pizza hut for lunch in shopping mall. Buy another note book, some highlighter pens and Lion bars.
The girls (Lyn and Rachel) buy a football and a basket ball.
Ferry back across the river - standing up forwards rowing.
Back at camp Rachel starts playing wlth the basket ball but falls back into the wheel that Paul has taken off the truck. Ben retrieves the ball but it explodes when he kicks it.
31 Oct - Day 12
Into Rabat to see carpet Market at the Kasbar. Take photo of camp site across the river. Find women making carpets but they demand 10d for video so we don't bother.
Ben has spent the morning messing about in boats with the ferry men. Just about got the hang of the rowing.
Debs and Vanessa re-arrange the dry stores and free up almost an entire compartment.
Trivial pursuit challenge, boys vs girls.
Steve and Paul up on roof to get the rest of the sand mats and jerry cans. 8 more jerry cans perfectly fit the gap that Vanessa and Debs have made.
1 Nov - Day 13
Left campsite in Sale and headed West towards Fes. Adam had planned to pick up more beer but everything was closed as it was Friday.
Roman ruins at Volubilis. Guide for 8d. Lots of mozaics but all artifacts now at museum in Rabat. Doesn't seem to have been restored very well. Shop wanted 125d for book - no way.
Top down again. People sitting on roof - video of shadows.
Went to look at dam but warned off by well dressed English speaking Maroccan in a Merc ("you don't go left, you don't go right, you go straight") - conspiricy theories abound.
Bush camp at 34°2.190 N, 5°17.454 W. Gather lots of firewood and replace logs in store with dead trees which just seem to fall over.
Veg ristotto for dinner - only just fits in the big pan. Out of beer.
2 Nov - Day 14
Very cold night - could use a blanket.
Breakdown 1 - 34°3.181' N, 5°11.922 W. Water hose ruptured. Use garden hoze to fix until we find something better.
Shepherd running his flock over the road.
Shell service station at 34°2.572' N 5°3.761' W. Meet guide for Fes. Toilet stop.
Into Fez - visit Royal Palace. Panoramic viewpoint - group photos.
Then into Fez ancient Medina - following guide (Khalem) around like proper tourists. Saw lots of streets, stalls and heavily laden donkeys. Over to tanning square - just like on Michael Palin! Lunch in carpet maker's co-operative - sausage and egg sandwhich and mint tea. Hard sell on carpets after, but we resist the temptation. Then on to rug shop where we see a huge blue and yellow rug that we love - we fluff the bartering but still get it for 600d - about 40 quid which we are happy with. Finally on to a clothes shop where the boys try on dresses and everyone has a laugh.
Back to truck and off to campsite (33°59.217'N 5°1.085W).
Head back in to Fez about 7.30pm for dinner. Morrocan dinner/caberet with acrobats and belly dancers. Dan and Vanessa get "married". Maroccan beer and wine at central London prices.
Back to campsite and to bed - tucked up toasty and warm in our new blanket.
3 Nov - Day 15
Lucy's 26th birthday.
Morning at campsite then into Fez around 11.30. Steve, Adrian and Clair go shopping - super market is crap so we head for the local market and get loads of fruit and veg, and a hunk of beef and still not hit our limit.
Lunch is down to us today - don't have time for pizza so we get some sandwiches from the local deli.
In the afternoon we head south into the mid-Atlas. Over one pass at 1978m. Camp on plateau at 1500m - it's a rock garden, but we are guarding the truck tonight !
Amazing sunset - we get photos but are out of battery for the camcorder and the truck charger is bust.
Veg soup and pasta for dinner.
4 Nov - Day 16
Steve, Clare and Adrian do bacon for breakfast. Some left over so BLT for lunch.
Everyone picks a name out of hat for "secret Santa". Have to buy a small Christmas present.
Hard driving day - down to Todra gorge. No GPS for campsite because we are at the bottom of the gorge.
Some good photo and video opportunities - a herd of camels, old style town surrounded by palm trees.
Arrive at Todra gorge and find Bog Rat already here - re-name Bog Roll as they admitted steeling Brian'e loo roll back in Rabat.
Book into Hotel Les Roches - we opt for a private room as Steve is not feeling too well and appreciates the en-suite. 150d (about a tenner) for the room but the kitty supplies 20.
Stir fry for dinner.
5 Nov - Day 17
Day at Todra gorge. Steve stays in room - sleeps and reads.
Group meal in restaurant in evening. Steve plans to skip but Richard orders omlette and chips anyway.
Andy and Debs clear out the beer cooler as we suspect that the water in it may be causing the group's stomache upsets.
Sara is not well at all so Debs gives up bed in private room.
6 Nov - Day 18
Drive back over High Atlas towards Marrakesh.
Take tarp off front of truck late morning.
Lunch at movie set/studio outside Ouazazate. Local kids appear on top of hill nearby - slide down and play frisbee. Get some video of truck with roof down as we leave.
Road over mountain pass is spectacular but slow. Also very cold as we still have tarp off.
Camp in dry river bed next to bridge used by locals for building materials (31°34.908'N 7°42.827'W). Softest surface (sand) we have slept on in ages. Big plate of pasta for dinner.
Steve starts recording mileage at the end of each day's drive - 84942k tonight.
7 Nov - day 19
84968K on clock - 4643K since leaving Halesworth in UK.
Drive into Marrakesh - Hotel Ali at 31°37.476 N, 7°59.401 W. Some of group will sleep under the stars on the roof, but we opt for beds in the small dorm with Adam, Vanessa, Ben and Sara.
Steve and Mike go for a Hamam - Moroccan bath. Scrawny little guy throws buckets of hot water at us then scrubs with a rough mitten. Have a laugh at the colour of the dead skin coming off. Stretching nearly snaps us in half. All for 40d.
Bog Rat turns up.
Dinner in hotel - Maroccan buffet.
Bazaar in main square at night. Acrobats, musicians, snake charmers and other street entertainers. Lots of food stalls - into Ramadan now so the locals all head for food after dark. Small boys boxing.
8 Nov - Day 20
Another day in Marrakesh, still based in Hotel Ali. S&D have truck guard duty from 10-11am.
Buy 30 postcards - Debs sits and writes while we guard the truck. Steve writes diary.
Quiet day. Bit of shopping. Debs has evening meal in square - fried aubergine and calamari. Steve not eating.
D&S share a nice hot shower.
Chatting away with Adam, Vanessa, Sara and Ben before bed. Discuss dialects of English language and definitions of lobster, crayfish, prawn & shrimp.
9 Nov - day 21
Leave Marrakesh around 11am. Stop at hypermarket on way out of town. Debs and Vanessa replenish dry stores but cheese is way too expensive. Adam buys a load more beer - 2 stacked trolleys. Lots of people take opportunity to have McDonalds.
On the road we pass a tree full of goats and also a camel and a donkey pulling a plough.
Camp at Essaouira at 31°29.539' N, 9°45.779' W. 85161K on clock. Late lunch.
Wander up to a dune overlooking the beach to watch the sunset but arrive a bit too late.
Turkey, boiled spuds and veg for dinner.
Start takinq Doxycyclene (anti-Malarial) as it is also an antibiotic & may help Steve's upset stomache.
10 Nov - day 22
Leave camp site around 8.30 and head into town. Not much there and Steve is on truck guard. Ben, Andy and co play frisbee on beach.
Debs gets photos of old man sitting on rocks cracking shellfish, and also her first "Sand Person" photo.
Steve and Richard wash window. Photo of 2 sandpeople on bench.
Get a photo of goats in tree.
Bush camp @ 29°51.568' N, 9°37.030' W. 85416K on clock - 255K today.
Rocky sand. Right hand side of road. Firewood available.
Veg stew for dinner - yum :-(
D&S sleep on truck - wey-hey.
11 Nov - day 23
Fog has descended overnight - everything is wet. On road by 8am. D&S sit up front but only thinq to see is fog.
Plan is to drive to Layounne and buy lunch and 5 days of supplies.
Stopped by Police at road block in Ante Atlas - "Perimetre Reboisement del'Akhass". Need a French speaker - Sarah saves the day. 29°19.027' N, 9°45.094' W.
Another road block in Bouizakarne a few miles later.
.Top down after mid-morning break but quite cold.
Photo of "camels crossing" sign.
Count 7 shipwrecks along the coast.
See first sand dunes.
Have to stop at one point to let a camel cross the road.
Camp at 5pm, still 50K plus from Layonne! 27°35.781' N, 12°57.862' W
85942K on clock. 526K today.
Loud bang as we head off-road looking for camp site. We have broken part of the air suspension on the rear (non-drive) axle.
As we set up camp a small herd of camels come over to investigate.
Maccaroni cheese from dry stores for dinner as we still have not been able to shop.
12 Nov - day 24
8.20am start. Paul & Richard pull the wheels off the back axle and we load them into the back of the truck - quite crowded in here.
3 police checkpoints entering Laayoune.
Shopping in Laayoune - not much there but we need to stock up for 5 days. Get some Internet access - read some mail and Yahoo! chat with Joel & Janice back in the UK.
Bush camp at 20°15.588' N 14°17.812' W. There is a loading ramp here for building supplies that we use to move the wheels onto the roof. The girls all watch while the men folk do the "man thing". Ben has bought an axe handle for use as a baseball bat so a game of "pig ball".
86183K on clock.
Camel tikka massala for dinner with fried bananas for pudding.
13 Nov - day 25
Porridge for breakfast.
Lose a pair of wheels and have an exciting few moments. Takes us about 3 hours to replace. One is ruined.
25°48.273' N 14°35.186' W.
Back on the road by 1pm, after salad for lunch.
Bush camp on Daklar peninsular at 23°50.002'N 15°52.005' W.
86543K on clock - 360K today.
Maroccan veggie dish for dinner.
14 Nov - day 26
Head to Daklar but police tell us we dont need all the paperwork anymore so we get water and move on.
Cross into tropics mid-morning.
Border is closed for day - will open again at 9am tomorrow.
Bush camp on border at 21°25.425' N 16°57.463' W.
86922K. 379K today.
15 Nov - day 27
Pancakes for breakfast.
Wait in line for passport stamps like school kids.
Get lost at border. Miss the Mauritanian border controls.
Sand matting, 4 times.
Arrive at Nouadhibou (pronounced Noud-bou). Loads of kids. Lose football. Debs/camcorder/kids. Get customs stamp. Need to wait for police to stamp, leave passports - "come back later".
Camping "Abba" at 20°54.493' N 17°3.215' W. Hot (actually just not totally cold) showers, but in a private room. Poor guy who has paid for private room suddenly finds it is not so private!
86992 K on clock - only 70K today.
Thai red curry (veggie) for dinner. Play Lin's "pick up the box with your teeth" game - keep cutting an inch off.
16 Nov - day 28
Bacon and eggs breakfast. Kalima leads a group in to town to change money, then on for shopping.
D&S head off to find food with Adrian and Clair. "Supermarkets" not much good. Hook up with a couple of local kids who speak french and show us to the market. "We need bread" - "How much ?" - "30 loaves" - they take us to a shop with a load of bread. We buy them a bottle of pop each.
Back to camp site - quick shower. Lunch. We will be staying at "Abba" another night while the truck is fixed, but at least the passports are back.
S&D head back into town with Sarah. Lots of fun shopping for a "Bu-Bu" for Steve and some material for Sarah. Woman offers us a sample of something to eat - turns out to be doughnut so we buy 1/2 kilo and munch. Steve buys a white Bu-Bu (8000 UM=Ouguiya Mauritanie) to go with his black Cheche - all the locals approve and offer advice on how to hold it away from feet while walking. Sarah buys a blue Bu-Bu and scarf.
See a couple of people wearing "Dragonball" T-Shirts.
Some of group go off to beach to see seals (they don't) and almost get into a fight with a guy trying to charge "park entrance fees". Guy offers to take us in his van for 1000UM pp but this seems too expensive so they get a lift with some guys at the camp site - the guy chases them to the beach and demands the cash anyway, getting really lairey. He can't produce any documentation or ID though. Group wisely bring him back to camp site to resolve. He eventually produces (dubious) park authority ID so they pay up.
Richard and Paul "played around" with the truck and got the wheels back on the rear axle.
Stir-fry veg in a Peking lemon sauce for dinner. Really nice.
NDB win football premiership so celebrations all night.
17 Nov - day 29
Breakfast at 8am so we can leave by 9.00. Guide turns up and drags Richard and Sarah (translator) off - don't know why. Everyone sits on truck and waits. Guys get fed up and start softball game. Turns out they are arranging insurance.
Lots of time waiting as we leave town - our guide trying to buy his lunch.
3 x sandmatting before lunch, plus 1 x digging out another van that was stuck in front of us. Debs continues collecting a shell each time we get the mats out.
Potato salad for lunch.
4 x matting after lunch.
Meet Bog Rats coming the other way.
Follow local truck into desert.
Semi-circle of stones with a pile in the middle = land mine (according to guide).
Bush camp in middle of desert at 21°05.570' N 16° 39.741' W.
87087K on clock - 95K today.
Ahmed the guide tells us that we won't be able to take the truck up to the island for bird watching.
Get a bit of video of Steve in Arab gear walking across dunes.
18 Nov - day 30
Eary start - alarm at 5.30am, breakfast at 6am, head off by 7am.
Sand-matting at 7.30am.
Other truck set off at 6am so we are on our own.
Jupiter looks spectacular before dawn.
Megan organises us all into 3 sand-matting teams, A, B and C. D&S are in A.
Steve, Ade and Lou (Claire) had planned soup for lunch but it was too windy to keep the gas burners going so sandwhiches as usual.
Sitting on top of the truck driving through the Sahara desert.
Stop to help out a couple of locals who's Land Cruiser has broken down. Achmed, our guide, thinks he is an expert but mainly just revs the nuts off the engine. The guys bump start the car while Kalima befriends a local camel.
Debs gets a tic-tac box full of Sahara!
Side tarps come off the back of the truck for the first time.
Discover we have driven all the way through the park.
Into Mamghar to arrange bird island visit. Cannot pay in $ or Euro so we have a bit of a currency crisis.
Camp at 19°20.475' N 16°30.386' W just outside Mamghar (Nouamghar).
87361K on clock, 274K today.
Steve, Ade and Lou make veggie chillie for dinner - goes down a treat, nice and hot. Steve the rice "expert" ?!? Popcorn as an apetiser.
Re-arrange cook groups - they pick names out of a hat for some reason. Steve now with Lucy and Mike, cooking on Thursdays.
19 Nov - day 31
Very windy night. Tent is all over the place.
5.30 am - Most of the group head off in a couple of local LandCruisers to visit the bird watching island.
S&D stay behind with Richard, Caz, Paul, Sara and Clair, so get a lie-in.
Debs makes pancakes for breakfast.
Steve tries to fix the camcorder battery charger but can't get the test light to work with only 12V.
Re-pack the bags.
Paul greases up the truck.
Rich, Paul & Steve move a couple of tires from the back of the truck onto the roof as a strut holding them in place has broken.
Rich and Caz get the oven out to make a potato bake. Buy (very) fresh fish from local fishermen. Debs watches them clean & gut the fish while Steve makes sauce and stuffing (Rich's secret recipe). S&D help to stuff fish.
Steve and Sara calculate more waypoints down to Nigeria.
S&D climb huge pile of sand & sea shells.
All in all a very peaceful and relaxing day.
1st birdwatching group arrive back around 5.30pm. 2nd group at 7pm - they broke down and had been preparing for an overnighter in the desert.
Apparently they had a great display of meteors in the early morning - Leonids according to the book.
Bog Rat turns up again.
Vanessa cooks scones for after dinner.
Lin becomes first person to finish quota of 53 beers. Andy, Claire and Richard not far behind.
Local fishermen tell Richard that the best time to travel along the beach is 7am.
20 Nov - day 32
Up, breakfasted and ready to go by 7am. Guide tells us we are not leaving until 1pm!
Tent was pegged down really well last night and had no problems.
Steve sits on top of truck and writes diary.
Wandered into village to buy bread for group and biscuits for S&D's secret stash.
Game of cricket with Bog Ratties - tennis ball with gaffer tape "seam".
Leave about 1.30. Drive along beach in convoy with Bog Rat, sitting on the roof drinking beer. Sand dunes right down to the beach.
Paul rides doughnut off back of truck.
Steve burns backs of legs and tops of feet.
Only sand-matted once - bit of confusion about teams/sides.
Bush camp on beach at 18°55.755' N 16°11.168' W. S&D sleeping on truck tonight.
Everyone goes for a swim - Steve wears his trunks on his head.
Went for a short walk along dunes.
Potato bake and fish for dinner again. Chocolate sponge for pudding.
Andy and Adam bury Matt in sand while he is sleeping. Debs gets it on video.
21 Nov - day 33
Late start today as the "road" is underwater until 2.30pm. Steve, Lucy and Mike make porridge for breakfast.
Ratties out swimming - fishing boat motors up to them offering fish and turtles.
S&D go walkabout with camera in dunes. 2 pix of beetle on leg & the guides against the dunes. Sand coloured lizard - fast mover! Shell dunes. Debs on top of big dune.
Soup and a sandwich for lunch, then away by 2.30. One serious sandmatting session as we leave the beach. Break another spring but manage to carry on anyway.
Into Nouakchott - all concrete buildings but some look quite nice. Head for hostel - "Auberge Nomade" (18°5.341' N 15°58.693' W). Steve drags Debs off to find a hotel.
Group splits up UMs from kitty and disperses to find dinner. S&D have shawarma and steak-burger with frites. Steve happy as he doesn't have to cook. Stock up on chocolate.
Hotel room has a TV (french/arabic channels only), fridge and bath.
Bath (!), cold beer and bed.
22 Nov - day 34
Wake up all clean in clean sheets. Wonderful.
Head back to truck. Steve glues boots back together.
Richard and Paul are fixing the truck. Paul had his wallet nicked from his tent last night.
Wander off with Sarah, Jess, Richard & Lucy. Post office js shut. Get a cab (400UM between us) to 5th Market. Lots of fabrics, food, etc. Full of locals. Buy lots of batteries. Sarah gets a bag of fresh coconut.
Taxi back to truck. Get pulled over by police; no idea why but driver sorts it all out.
"Demi-poulet" (900UM=£3) at Restaurant Snack Irak for lunch with the rest of the group. Beggar asks for our chiken carcass, rubbish thrown on street.
Temperature hits 37°C (in the shade) on the truck at 3pm.
Add some more waypoints to GPS. Debs gives herself a manicure.
Steve heads for cyber-cafe. Chat to Mum, Gaz and Joel on Yahoo! Messenger. Check email. Post bulletins to web site. Ask Dad to send camcorder battery charger to Bamako, and another to Lagos.
Adam teaches Steve to play Backgammon.
Plate of pasta for dinner so Steve goes out for Chwarma at "Ali Baba's".
Over to Cafe Cleopatra for coffee and share a "chichet" smoke - apple flavour. Costs our last 300UM.
23 Nov - day 35
S&D went looking for fuses for truck but none to be found near campsite. Steve bought a multimetre for 25 US$.
Andy and Brian head out to central gas depot to refill cooking gas cylinder.
Lovely fresh, slightly sweet, bread for lunch.
Truck leaves Auberge about 12.30.
Star petrol station near airport in Ksar district. Filled up with diesel and bought fuses from nearby shop.
Herds of goats by side of road - obviously for sale to city folk.
Leave Nouakchott - hard to tell where city ends and desert begins. Two colours of sand.
Emergency stop for a family of camels crossing road.
Stop to work on suspension about 1/3 of the way to Aleg.
Couple of photos of sand dunes.
Finish film D&S 35, 688-273.
Andy, Adam, Matt and Ade try to get a board to slide down a dune but no go.
Temperature reaches 39°c in the shade by the truck at 2.45pm. On the sand in the sun it reaches 44°c.
Bush camp at 17°24.591'N 14°28.749' W. 87741K on clock. 380K since Mamghar (bird watching).
Lin has a bad migrane.
Paul & Rich "fix" the suspension with duct tape (photo).
Shortly after we arrive a Merc pulls up with two local guys, a little girl and a baby goat. Debs and Paul have a basic conversation and determine that they have goats for sale.
Steve traces fault in battery charger to a blown diode on the PCB.
Cous-cous for dinner.
Bugs everywhere - crawling on the ground and swarming in the air. Scorpion wanders throuqh the camp - not really threatening anyone but it gets killed anyway (over protests) as some of the group have had nasty experiences with them before.
24 Nov - day 36
Up at 6.30 for an early start. Debs has a nose bleed. Pack up tents and start finding scorpions hiding underneath. Adam & Vanessa have a big one and everyone gets photos. It starts heading for their tent bag - Steve kicks sand at it but it keeps on coming so he has to kill it. One small one and a tlny (baby?) one under our tent.
Adam's birthday today. Vanessa has bought him a Gameboy Advance and some bottles of Stella.
Have to start sandmatting immediately just to get back to the road.
Pass through Aleg - quite a fertile region, lots of green.
Photo of Steve wrapped up against sun with hat over hands to protect "doxy knuckles".
Through Passe de Djoûk in Massif de l'Assaba at 280m altitude.
At lunch time temp hits 40° in the shade on the truck.
Make up a couple of litres of mango drink.
Into Kiffa and buy ice and cold drinks.
Road runs out at16°35.666 N 11°24.040' W - take dirt track, detour via runway of airfield.
Dodging trees as we head through bush.
Bush camp at 16°09.610'N 11°31.832'W. 88230K on clock - 489k today.
Space station and space shuttle overhead 5 mins apart around 7pm.
Veg & salsa wrap for dinner. Vanessa makes Mars & Twix cake.
25 Nov - day 37
7.30 start. Debs has coffee morning with Lin-La in tent.
Video of truck headinq down bush track and through village.
Dodging trees in front of truck.
Photo stop at watering hole.
Border station at Kankossa. Passports out but no stamp. Photo of local ferry service across lake.
Long wait while Richard sorts out formalities with police.
Woman with bucket and washing on her head; baby on hip and kid training behind. Wrong angle for photo though.
Get lost in bush.
Puncture while climbing rocky slope.
Almost full circle at one point.
Steve helping out with GPS. The batteries we bought in Nouakchott only last a couple of hours in the GPS.
Plenty of sandmatting.
Bush camp at 15°44.542' N 11°33.395' W.
88351K on clock = 131K today, although we are only 46K from yesterday's camp site.
Never really made it into Mali.
Corned beef hash for dinner - sort of.
7.30 start. Steve rides in cab with GPS.
Pick up road at 15°41.828 N 11°30.960 W. Lose it coming out of village a while later.
Smash up front of truck a bit (photo) crossing a gully.
Pick up road aqain at 15°9.391 N 11°38.871 W.
Lunch @ 15°4.366' N 11°38.127' W - 16K from Aourou, 75K from Kayes. 75K from camp.
First sighting of topless native girls.
Plenty of exciting moments in the truck today. Photo of truck emerging from under low trees after gully.
Debs gets photo of desert rose.
Stop at Aourou in Mali to fill up water. 20 cans (100 gallons) for 500cfa (about 80p).
Richard spots a Licac Breasted Roller.
Lots of waypoints in case next year's group have a GPS.
Bush camp at 14°33.868' N 11°25.655' W. 88520K on clock, 169K today (131K as crow flies). About 15K out of Kayes. Upside-down trees all around.
Find a big, sand-coloured spider eating a grasshopper. After photos and letting it finish it's meal Steve tries to re-locate it - it shoots off through the camp, people flying everywhere getting out of the way.
Spaghetti for dinner (with meatballs). Vanessa bakes scones. Steve and Debs hit the Vodka bottle (with Sprite).
Yet another 7.30am start. Steve on washing up duty today.
Into Kayes around 8am. Stop when we pop a spring out near the bridge over the Senegal river (14°27.235' N 11°25.741' W). Only 2.4K from where I put the waypoint in the GPS
Richard & Caz head off to get carnets stamped. Bit of a saga.
Steve, Lucy(and Richard) & Mike head into market to buy food. Get 2 kilos of fillet steak for 4000cfa (£4.00) plus a load of fresh veg and bread. Spend 15,000cfa all in all, out of a budget of 20,000.
Arrive back at truck to learn we won't be heading out before lunch.
Steve & Debs head off to change money.
Changing money at Bank of Africa. ID cards in a pile rather than people queueing.
100 euro = 64,840 cfa.
Back into Market. Buy another 2 kilos of meat. Steve buys a Dragonball T-Shirt.
Nice fresh bread for lunch.
Drive a few K towards Kita to water falls. Bush camp @ 14°21.321' N 11°20.977' W. 88559K on clock, only 39K today.
Go for a swim in the falls.
Rice with Lentil Dhal for dinner. Matt had bought some meat which he fried up.
Steve has his 53rd and final beer. Adam has found that 33 have gone missing.
Lights off at 9pm so we head over to Bog Rat.
Steve and Lucy try to get last night's pots clean by boiling bicarb of soda in them. Mainly successfull. We make porridge for breakfast.
Debs has a coffee morning with Sarah in the tent.
On road by 8.45.Debs up front (dodging trees), Steve in back.
We pass lots of villages on the way. Round mud huts with conical thatched roofs, sitting on piles of stones (photos).
Mali seems a very friendly place.
Get a blister on one of the left rear tyres. Pull over next to a village (@ 14°10.719 ' N 11° 14.692' W) to swap it out.
Finish film 982-906.
Bush camp at 13°51.540'N 10°46.876'W.
88698K on clock. 139K today.
Steve, Mike and Lucy are making curry. Fridge was not working though - meat smelled bad. Cooked a bit up to test - tasted bad as well. Threw 4kg of rump/fillet steak on the fire - what waste. Luckily the QMs have a packet of dehydrated chicken curry which we can use and we make a veggie balti as well.
Day doesn't start well...
1: We haven't closed the side cupboards properly.
2: The right side rear tarp rips all the way along.
3: The clutch breaks!
Bog Rat is a few minutes behind us so we have help fixing (bodging) the clutch.
We wander back down the road a way and find the missing bit of the clutch (photo).
Location is 13°49.962'N 10°47.412'W, about 10k north of Bafoulabé.
Get clutch fixed after about 2 hours and drive on to Bafoulabé. Road goes down to river (Bakoye) @ 13°48.884' N 10°49.482 W.
Get ferry across river - 50,000cfa per truck (us and Bog Rat). Not able to negotiate because we have no choice but to use ferry.
We are taking the southern route from Bafoulabé to Kita, via the lake.
Road improves significantly - obviously needed while building dam.
Stop at Manantali near dam and Richard buys a goat (Dimeatrius, photo). A bit traumatic for some people when we load him onto the truck with us, but he soon settles down.
Bush camp at 13°11.867' N 10°26.301' W, under bridge below dam. 88826K on clock - 128K today.
Richard slaughters and skins Dimeatrius. Steve digs a big hole and buries the head, skin and guts.
Bog Rats have a spit so we have a goat roast.
There is a bar/restaurant in Manantali so cold beers all round tonight. Adrian has had a skinful of G&T before hand and so gets ratted.
Debs gets some washing done.
8.30 start but have to wait for Bog Rats to get their act together. Ben and Matt have beer for breakfast.
Went up to dam for a swim, but not allowed.
Stop for water at village (12°58.383'N 9°52.305'W). Treat with iodine.
Cool and cloudy all morning.
Lunch at bridge over (Bakoye?) river @ 12°58.521'N 9°44.344'W. Locals washing clothes in river (photo).
Arrive Kitta around 2pm. Buy bread and cold drinks.
Bush camp at 4.30pm by bridge over Baoulé river @ 12°55.432'N 8°37.832'W. 89078K on clock - 252K today.
Rice & Veg for dinner. Water mellon and cola nuts (yeuch!) after.
8am start - heading into Bamako today.
Police stop at outskirts of Bamako @ 12°40.192'N 8°0.464'N.
Hotel Les Arbres by 11.30am @ 12°35.777'N 8°1.184'W. 89189K. Has a bar and pool but is quite a distance from town centre. No running water today though.
Debs, Vanessa, Ben and Lin clean the dust out of, and re-arrange, the dry stores.
Steve checks email - apparently DHL have lost our package
We pay a guy to do some washing for us - costs us 4000 (£4) for a bag full. He does a good job though.
Lots of beer is consumed. Debs, Lin and a few others find a nightclub for some dancing.
Steve sits in the bar getting drunk and chatting to a local who calls himself "Grandpére". He is a guide who knows Dogon country although he is not Dogon himself.
Got a mini-bus into town - cost is 4500cfa which we will pay to the hotel.
Find the post office and pick up 5 letters from poste restante. Debs buys some hand-made fabric cards.
Find the DHL office (12°38.309'N 7°59.913'W) but they don't have our parcel. "Try again tomorrow".
Pizza at Restaurant L'Olympien next to DHL - 8000cfa including drinks. Very nice - good food, good service, clean, proper toilets.
Taxi back to Les Arbres. Vanessa is making Macaroni Cheese for dinner but Steve, Debs, Richard, Lucy, Sara and Michael wander down the road a bit to a restaurant and have steak and chips. Takes forever to arrive, though the lady did warn us that it would. Nice food though.
D&S go to a teleboutique across the road to call gran and say "happy birthday". We ask the guy how much it costs per minute to call the UK and he writes down "125". We make the call and it then turns out that the price is 125 per unit and we were using about a unit per second, so the total cost is 15000! We argue for a bit but end up just paying.
We all pile into mini-buses around 11am and head for the Nigerian embassy. Sit around playing cards while waiting for the rest of the group who have stopped at the Bakima Faso embassy to pick up the passports (photo). They turn up around 1.30 (Mike wins sweepstake). S&D buy Vanessa a bar of chocolate for her birthday, and even wrap it (Steve sacrifices the sellotape he is using to protect the screen on his Palm Pilot).
Andy is not feeling too good. Some concern that he may have a fever.
We fill in all the forms but it turns out the embassy will be closed for the next week or so due to the end of Ramadan, and so we won't be able to pick them up. We decide to get the visas later.
Get a taxi into town. Back to DHL - no sign of our package. They will forward to Ouagadougou if it turns up.
Check email - Dad says that the package he sent to Lagos has now left there for some reason. He will chase with DHL in the UK tomorrow.
Steve buys a wallet to use as a decoy (1000cfa). Also manage to pick up some more AA batteries - pukka Duracells as far as we can tell (5000cfa for 12).
On the way back to the hotel in the taxi we pass Clair and Lucy who are getting directions to the hotel. We jump out and give them the details we have, but it turns out their taxi driver had just figured it out anyway.
Back at the hotel Richard's cook group are doing a roast - goat, spuds, veggies, gravy and everything. Wonderful. Vanessa has baked her own chocolate birthday cake. Get some photos of her stuffing her face!
There is a live band playing at the hotel, but not much interest from the group.
Richard introdces Grandpére to the group - he will be our guide into Dogon country. Some discussion about the price of the Dogon trek - the Truck Africa Part II book says that a 3 day / 2 niqht trek is about 15gbp, and we are being quoted 15gbp per day. Richard consults his notes and concludes that 15/day is correct.
Paul and Adam had tried to buy a replacement stereo for the truck today with no success. They find a guy who claims to be able to fix it - he takes it away.
Steve on washing-up duty today.
Kalima, Michael and Brian head off to Timbuktu. They will meet us in Djenne (hopefully).
Steve buys bread and then heads to market to buy potatos and onions. Attempts to find pineapple prove futile.
Grandpére arrives and the group grill him over what is included in the prices he is quoting. Eventually we decide it is all fair.
Sarah has made up a crib sheet with a number of useful phrases in French. Includes "Can you repair these sandles?" especially for Matt.
Steve looks at the fridge with Richard. The 12v supply simply heats an element, and that is working. No idea why the cooling system is not working.
Everything is pretty much ready for departure but we have to wait for the guy to return our stereo.
Early lunch and then leave - we write the stereo off.
Fill up with fuel - 360cfa / litre which is quite expensive so we don't fill the reserve tanks.
Decent roads - tarmac and everything.
Bypass Segou (13°25.3'N 6°17.6'W) on nice new 4 lane hiqhway with streetlights! They have a football stadium.
The girls in the back are singing Christmas carols.
Right at roundabout (13°26.244'N 6°14.302' W) in Segou towards Mopti.
Crossed over Bani river about 5.30 pm.
Bush camp on a dry lake bed at 13°11.206'N 5°52.708'W. 89483K on clock - 294K today.
There seems to be another stomach bug going around.
Sweet and sour veg stir fry with rice for dinner. The group is pretty much out of alcohol so everyone is in bed by 9pm.
Up at 6am as Steve is cooking today and we are leaving at 7.30. We cook scrambled eggs on toast.
Bit of a chilly morning. S&D sit up front - tarps are down - goosebumps.
Through San around 9.30.
Police checkpoint at 13°14.080'N 4°52.975' W.
Debs opens her door on the advent calendar - picture of presents behind.
Carrot and coriander soup for lunch.
Arrive in Mopti - park up outside restaurant "Sigui" (photo) which is one of the best according to the guide book..
Grandpere organises some locals to help the next few cook groups find food. Looks like the local markets are shutting down.
We can't find cheese, but do manage to get a tin of pineapple slices for 1000cfa.
Large beers in Restaurant "Sigui" on the waterfront cost 1200cfa - they were 850 in Bamako.
Richy buys a few crates of beer on the way out of town - large beer for 800cfa.
Bush camp outside Mopti at 14°31.916' N 4°1.194' W. 89858K on clock, 375K today.
Pizza (ham&pineapple,mushroom), salad and garlic bread for dinner. Tastes great even without cheese, and goes down great with the group.
36°c by 9am - today is goinq to be a scorcher!
Photo of mosque in Mopti.
Truck guard from 10-11am, then off shopping with Sarah. Buy some material for 1500cfa (he started at 6000) to make neck scarves. Then we meet a chap who claims to be a tailor - we head back to his stall and Steve commissions him to make some cotton gloves. Aqree to pay 2500cfa if ready by 2pm, 2000cfa otherwise. Leave a 500cfa deposit.
Then head round the harbour to restaurant "Bozo". Meet up with Clare, Lucy and Lin. Justine, Ben and Matt turn up a while later. Order half a roast chicken and "Poulet Yassa". Sarah's chips take forever to arrive. We can't tell the difference between the roast chicken (1800cfa) and the Poulet Yassa (3000cfa).
Get a ferry back across the harbour - costs 100cfa (10p) between 4 of us.
The guy has made the gloves but the fingers are all wierd lengths. Steve wanted fingerless gloves anyway, so we get him to chop them off - sorted! They try it on over the price but we are having none of it - we hand over the 2000 and they just take it. Debs gets a photo of the guy.
Back to the truck - stop on the way for Steve to buy Secret Santa present.
Bush camp in a palm grove valley "thingy" at 14°28.971'N 4°04.543'W. Nice site - hidden from road, sandy soil, sheltered.
Steve, Adam and Richard sit on the rock overlooking the camp site with Grandpere and the other guide.
Potatos, aubergine and cabbage for dinner.
Eary to bed.
7 Dec - Day 49
Pack up the tents and head into Mopti to catch the boat. Only 15 of us takinq the river trip so we load up the boat and wave goodbye.
Two day trip costs £15 per person. Take tents, sleeping bags, cooking gear and food & water.
Turns out the boat belongs to Grandpere. Has a german flag flying for some reason - turns out the boat driver just likes the colours.
River is the "Bani" which flows into the Niger just after Mopti.
Photos - fishing boats in harbour - goats having a bath - riverside villages.
Steve hemmed the raw edges of his glove fingers - Debs takes pity and does one for him.
Have some lunch by the river - dry bread and marmite. Turns out the guides have made a load of rice which they share with us.
Steve lying in bottom of boat to find shade.
Spot a couple of monkeys sitting on a rock - Sarah names them "Bobo" and "Nouna".
Lots of birds - Herons, African Eagles.
Boat grounds every so often and we push ourselves of with a long bamboo pole.
Goat/cow herders wearing conical hats.
Bush camp by side of river @ 14°01.728'N 4°14.617'W. Steve has sun-stroke so goes straight to bed.
Spaghetti Bolognaise for dinner.
Only 3 tents and nowhere to hang mozzy nets. Richard & Lucy hang theirs between two tents - others sleep on boats.
List of things we should have brought with us -
Forks, More cups, Oven gloves, Washing up bowl, More tents
Photo of tents & boat. Coffee and toast for breakfast, after Grandpere brings us a kettle of hot water.
Bozo tribe - fishermen
Fulani tribe - cow herders
Both tribes are nomadic, returning to their villages in the rainy season (except for old people who stay there all the time).
Bozo head off in boats for months at a time. They smoke/dry the fish they catch and then head into Mopti to sell them. Fulani just follow herds.
Stop at village of Sofara. Fulani village at cattle crossinq.
Debs sits on side of boat and washes Steve's hat (photo) while we continue down the river.
Stop at Bozo village of Barakou. Debs carries kid into village (photo). S&D teach kids how to play naughts & crosses - big audience.
Arrived at ferry crossing near Djenné around 2pm. See Bog Rats on ferry then Priscilla on far shore. Load gear back onto truck then back onto boat and cross river - truck follows on ferry.
Give a tip (around 12000cfa) to the boat crew - Ouayay & Noch Traore.
All back on truck to drive into Djenné.
Camp in restaurant @ 13°54.368'N 4°33.271'W. Cold beers & showers.
Richard is nursing a sore head this morning - he had an argument with one of the Bog Rat passengers last night and someone hit him with a big Mag-light torch. Andy is also nursinq a sore head - he had an argument with about a dozen beers.
Negotiate with one of the locals to get some washing done - starts at 250cfa per item but manage to get it for 2000 for the load.
Head off around 10am exploring Djenné, aided by a local who says he is not a guide - this is OK as we say we are not going to pay him.
Go to the shop of Pama Sinantoa. She makes material from cotton strips sewn together, dyed yellow with patterns in brown from mud dye. See book "Africa Through the Eyes of Women Artists", Betty La Duke, Africa World Press, ISBN 0-86543-199-X, Chapter 6. See a nice strip of 7 pictures - they want 1500cfa per picture. We offer 1000 for the strip and the contest begins. We leave the shop after offering 3000 for 5 - they are still on 1000 each. They chase after us and ask 3500 for 5 which we accept.
Have a look at some silver bracelets for Debs but too expensive - they start at 20000cfa and we don't know if they are pukka silver.
Buy half a kilo of Cola nuts for 800cfa, and also some african doughnuts for breakfast.
Restaurant "Kitta Kourou"for lunch - Debs orders "Poulet au Yassa" and Steve "Tiontion" which is apparently a Djenné speciality rice dish. We order at 11.30 to eat at 12.30. Both dishes turn out to be a quarter chicken with a plate of rice - different seasonings and veg in the rice. Some of the others turn up a bit later and have pizza. There is also chips, steak & fish on the menu but these are not available today - apparently no potatos arrived in the market today which is why there are no chips.
Pick up washing. OK but not brilliant.
Leave about 2.20pm. Back over river on ferry then head for Mopti. Stop to change filters.
Boys target shoot with slingshot. Matt hits first time.
Stop at a shop outside Mopti - Steve buys beer & Fanta. Cold Heineken for the first time in over a month!
Bush camp at 14°25.949'N 3°46.843'W. 90210K on clock. 352K since we 1st arrived in Mopti.
Sweet & sour chick
7.30 start. Head off through Bandiagara towards Dogon country.
Dogon people working in terraced fields along the river. Carry water in spherical pots to water the crops - women carrying babies on their backs.
Guys on mopeds with shotguns over their shoulders.
9.30 arrive in village of Durou (14°18.293'N 3°26.128'W, 524m alt). We sit around in hotel Teriya while Grandpéré organises lunch for later.
Speak to one of the locals - he uses the Palm Pilot to spell out his name: Ousmane Kamia. Introduces his friend Soulimane.
Grandpéré introduces second guide - Segou.
Wanded off through the village. See women making indigo dye - Debs buys a block of dye (they start at 1000cfa, she only has 100 which they eventually take). Mix it with water, dye and leave for 1 day then dye again.
Meeting point - building with low roof. Too low to stand so discussion possible but fights not.
Small square buildinqs are granneries. 1 gannery per wife, but max 4 wives.
Millet in bales drying of roof.
Market place is just piles of stones today - market was yesterday. In north of Dogon country the week (market day to market day) is 5 days.
Back to hotel Teriya - 30cl Sprite costs us 500cfa. Large beers are 1000.
Head off on Dogon trek just after 2pm. Wander over rocks for a while then plunge down ravine (photos) through escarpment.
Bottom of ravine at 345m alt. 179m (over 500ft) drop from village. Finish film 471-568.
Arrive in Nombori around 4pm. Head up to bar before going to the market. Fanta for 600cfa.
Down to market - buy a gourd full of millet beer for 250cfa and a baq of 20 mini-doughnuts for 100cfa. Try to take a photo of Debs and the millet beer lady but another old woman dived in and screamed at us until we gave up. Grandpéré advises us not to drink the millet beer - not good for the stomache. The locals are OK with it because they are started on it as babies - we see mothers feedinq it to babies in the market.
Just as we are finishing in the market a few drops of rain fall and we scurry off back to the restaurant.
The restaurant guys bring us a gourd and we have a group beer tastinq (photo). Megan has bought some peanuts as well.
After dark the market continues - locals gettinq drunk on millet beer. Apparently some of them will get drunk and then climb back up the ravine in the dark, but no-one ever gets hurt.
We sleep on roof tonight, under mosquito nets. Find the plastic gekkos we had on the mozzy net in Amsterdam.
Everyone wakes up in the middle of the night as it starts raining - scramble for a while but it soon stops.
Breakfast is served at 6.30am - toast & doughnuts.
Head off again at 7.30.
Up to old village. No-one lives there now but we can't go there as that is where they keep their secrets.
Dogon greeting - "Sayo" "Sayo" "Una sayo" "Sayo" "Umana Sayo" "Sayo" "Jama sayo" "Sayo" - "How are you ?" "Fine" "How is your wife?" "Fine" "How are your children ?" "Fine" "How are your animals?" etc. Then same questions asked the other way round. Greetinqs continue as they walk past each other until out of earshot.
Have a rest in village of Ijali after an hour or so.
Richie and Paul arrive on rented dirt-bikes but can't stay as they need to return them.
Grandpéré tells us he has lost count of the number of times he has done the Dogon trek.
Arrive in Tirelli (14°22.864'N 3°20.886'W) around 10.30. Fanta for 600cfa again. Spaghetti for lunch. Bartering for masks and knives.
Dogon masked dance.
Walk through village. One hut specially for women on period. Another hut houses the sacred masks.
Hike off to Amani - see our first crocodiles. Only little ones though, and they are vegitarian.
Arrive in Irelli around 5.30pm. 14°26.139'N 3°18.430'W. We walked 15K today. Cold Fanta & beer.
Pasta & chicken for dinner.
Debs early to bed. Steve stays up with Grandpéré, Lyn, Andy, Richard & Lucy. Drink beer & learn Fulani phrases.
Nice sunrise, but don't think that the photo worked.
Steve has lost his water bottle & toothbrush. A quick word with Grandpéré and they point them out to us where they had put them when they cleaned up.
Grandpéré is still very amused by us speaking Fulani.
Walk up through the village to see the burial sites in the cliff. Hand out cola nuts to jolly old men. Old men makinq rope from Boboab bark. Steve buys a length for 500cfa.
One of the locals has been following us for a couple of days trying to sell trinkets from an old leather baq. Steve buys the bag from him for 10,000cfa.
Boy tries to sell Debs a mask charm. He wants 1000cfa - Debs offers 2 biros.
Trek off to Banani. Sit in restaurant playing cards. Debs takes a photo of a Dogon ladder.
Lunch is cous-cous with meat chunks (mutton or goat?). They have some chillie flakes as well to give it a bit of kick.
After lunch we head out for the climb up the escarpment. As we leave Debs finally buys the mask charm from the boy for 200cfa.
Views are spectacular! Get a couple of photos.
Meet up with truck at top. All pile on then head into Bandaraga and camp site - (Auberge Kansaye14°20.748'N 3°36.564'N). 90370K on clock. Debs goes shopping, Steve hits the bar. Debs comes back with a really nice silver bracelet - modern design - that she bought for 12000cfa.
Get the details of our second guide - "Segou Oulgiaa, guide a Bandegara tel. 420487".
Richard has organised pork & chips for dinner - lovely. Dancing to "Greece" and Latino music into the night.
Tents on the roof and cold showers.
Nice sunrise this morning but the camera is in the truck.
Locals setting off fireworks next to the truck - apparently they are celebrating a new birth.
Porridge and water mellon for breakfast. Debs tries to buy doughnuts for Steve but the locals won't take money for them - we give them some cola nuts instead.
Steve swaps e-mail addresses with Grandpéré.
Stop at the shop in Sévaré & buy a few stores. Say goodbye to Grandpéré.
Lunch just after passing through Karaba, 43km south of San (12°54.341' N 4°54.025' W)
Mali border controls at Kouri - 12°9.908'N 4°46.995'W.
Burkina border controls at Faramasa - we all have to fill in immigration forms, despite already having visas.
Bush camp next to mud brick quarry at 11°21.469'N 4°21.397'W.
90880km on clock - 510k today, the most since leaving Morocco.
Pasta shells with cheese sauce and tinned ham for dinner.
On the road by 8am. After about a minute a police car flies past with sirens blazing and tells us to pull over to the side of the road. A convoy of 4x4s then screams past followed by a jeep with a huge machine gun, and an ambulance.
A few minutes later another convoy screams past - this time it is Mercs with no machine gun and bike outriders.
Police check outside Bobo Dioulasso. Another convoy comes through - 4x4s again.
Centre of Bobo at 11°10.260'N 4°17 972'W. Right next to Internet - 9.30 to 10.30 for 700cfa. Post office is only 2 mins walk away - we have 4 letters at poste-restaunt.
New cook groups are announced today, but Debs is still a QM and Steve has swapped with Ben & is now a fire starter.
Sit in bar (350cfa for small beer, 500 large) - speak to local Justin - he tells me the best bar is "Bar Atlantique" in the centre of town.
Good band in Bar Bamba tonight, apparently.
Debs buys some material in the market.
Camp site "Casa Africa" (11°10.152'N 4°18.706'W). Two (cold) showers, flushing squat toilets, washing service (200cfa per item) & private rooms. 90908 km on clock.
Chip butties with vinegar and ketchup for lunch, washed down with a cold beer.
Buy an elephant key-ring from a guy called Yakouba for 500cfa. Will make a nice present for Nikki.
After lunch head into town and visit the market. Debs gets her material made into a skirt. Steve buys a kerosene lamp & looks for a zippo lighter. No zippos available on the market thouqh - we even have the locals out looking for us.
Back at the camp Debs has a shower & Steve begins his firestarter apprenticeship under the master Ben "Kenobi".
[Re-constructed after data loss]
Leave Bobo - take out gate post on way out of campsite.
Hippo lake. Narrow road into sanctuary. Richy's notes say previous truck could not make it, but we do fine.
Pile into boats,12 at a time. Steve & Debs are in 1st boat. We get within 50ft of a group of 10 or so hippos and get quite a few photos. We tell the 2nd group that we didn't see any - gosh, aren't we funny!
Hit a tree stump on the way out, but no serious damage - have to straighten a few bits of metalwork later though.
Bush camp. Lose co-ordinates.
[Re-constructed after data loss]
Sacred crocodiles - photos of Steve & Debs holdinq tail. Feeding live chickens to them.
Drive into Ouagadougou. Stay at hotel "OK Inn". Lose co-ordinates. Nice hotel, and they don't charge us for camping in the grounds. Crazy golf and swimming pool.
Pick up camcorder charger from DHL office.
Meal in restaurant to celebrate - starters, 2 x steak main courses, wine, port & Irish Coffee for £20.
Sit around chatting in the bar until late.
Steve starts official firestarter duties today. Breakfast is no problem.
Steve & Debs go into town with Adam & Vanessa to buy for stores. The cash & carry listed in the Rough Guide has shut down, but we find a supermarket next to the Grande Mosque.
The Palm Pilot reset itself and lost all its data today - luckily the last backup is only 2 days old. Have to re-write entries for 15th & 16th, but don't have co-ords or mileage.
BBQ steak with frites by the pool for lunch.
Steve manages to get to Internet to tell Dad that we have charger, and still get back to camp site in time to grab a guick shower before we leave.
Leave at 3pm - rip a branch off a tree on the way out. Stop to get fuel & Steve tries to get kerosene again - still no luck.
Bush camp @ 11°25.987' N 1°10.601' W. 91478km on clock. Lots of firewood available. 3 course dinner tonight - garlic bread then rice & veggie then apple crumble.
Plug the new charger in and get the red light - hooray!
See the space station go overhead again.
Lyn is not well this morning so Steve does the breakfast fire.
On the road by 7.30am after inflating the tyres for high speed running.
Reach the border (11°00.182'N 1°06.94'W) by 9am. All going well until Paul runs over their "Halte - Police" sign. Gets fined 55,000cfa.
Half a mile later we pass into Ghana - big white archway with "Welcome to Ghana" written on it. Park truck & begin immigration procedings at 9.20am.
Our address in Ghana (for the immigration forms) is "Ryan's Irish Bar, Akkra".
Change 10 usd for 75000 cedi with a local who is hanging around the truck with a calculator - he originally offers 70000 but relents when Steve gets back on the truck.
It is nice to be in an English speaking country again.
Finish immigration & head off again just after 10.30.
Brown & yellow school uniforms in villaqe schools (Wulugu, Walewale).
Compounds of orange mud buildings with thatched rooves linked by walls. One or two large rectangular buildings & a number of small round ones.
Incredible vivid green leaves on some of the trees/bushes.
Very hazy day - visibility no more than a km or two.
Lots of toll gates. Toll fee schedules are posted so it all seems above board.
Roadside lunch (pasta salad). 207km so far today.
Arrive Tamali (9°24.359'N 0°50.546'W) about 2.45pm. Has a Barclays Bank with a cashpoint, although we don't stop. Debs gets some video.
Girls singing Christmas carols in the back (video).
Reach Techiman (7°34.910'N 1°56.114'W) around 7pm.
Camp at Presbetarian Church of Ghana (6°41.285'N 1°37.273'W) around 10pm. 92127km on clock - 649km today.
The cook group decide it is too late to cook - Steve is about to head into town to find his own food when they relent. Hoy Sin veg with rice.
The crew skip dinner & head off to a bar. After dinner Steve & Matt head off to find them, but it seems all of the bars around here shut by 11pm. We find later that they were in a winh bar near where we were looking and it was open until midnight.
Night is warm & muggy.
As soon as we step out of the tent we are offered laundry service - 2000 cedi (about 15p) per item. We get together 11 items & send it off.
Proper toilets with toilet roll & air fresheners! It is amazing what simple things can seem like luxury.
Change 50 euro for 425,000 cedi (rate = 8500) at Forex place. Head to Barclays & test my Connect cashpoint card which works fine. Barclays also offer 8600 for euro.
Lots of millionaires come back to the truck - 1 million cedi = £77. Also, the largest note seems to be 5000 cedi, so lots of fat wads of cash.
Wander over to the central market - big, bustling but not pushy. Lots of bright fabric. Find Kentish cloth area - buy one single strip & one double strip for 60,000. Also a couple of short zips from a stall nearby.
On the way out of the market Steve buys some new trousers - on the large side, but lots of pockets. 78,000 cedi.
Get a taxi to the cultural centre & Kentish Kitchen - 6000 cedi. Steve & Debs order pie & chips - it comes with chicken.
We then go to the museum & see exhibits from the Ashanti kings. Buy a tourist map & a childrens story book.
Debs buys some Ashanti buttons from the craft shop for 4000.
Sarah buys an Owari (Mancala) set & rule book. She sits down with Steve to figure it out and an old local guy walks up and teaches them.
Steve & Sarah head back to the truck. Debs, Jess & Justine continue shopping for a while - Debs buys a clay necklace, some beads & a bumper pack of pocket size tissues.
In the evening Steve & Debs go out with Paul, Rachel & Lin for dinner @ Vic Baboo's. Steve has Chinese, Paul & Debs have curry and Rachel & Lin have burgers. The girls drink cocktails - Margarita / Sex on the Beach.
Paul heads off to fit a new stereo in the truck & we wander down to the Eclipse wine bar for more beer. They are playing good music so Steve heads off with the DJ (?) in a taxi to buy a copy of the tape. It costs 10,000 (80p) but turns out to be the wrong one.
7am start for the drive to Accra as we want to try and get started on the visas today.
Thick fog - can't see more than a couple of hundred meters.
Paul has fitted the new stereo so we have music again. He has wired it in to a different circuit to the cigar lighter so hopefully no more blown chargers.
We put on a Christmas tape and the girls all sing along (video). We also try the tape we bought last night but it is not the one we wanted.
Get some video of the rain forest going by, listening to Aerosmith.
Line of hills from Nkawkaw - Lake Volta should be on the other side. Road not as good so we can't go as fast.
Arrive at outskirts of Accra about mid-day & sit in traffic. Seems to be a devout place - every taxi & business has a religious name or slogan. "God First Radiator Works", "Jesus Never Fails Beauty Salon".
Arrive at Nigerian High Commission (5°34.396'N 0°11.012'W) at about 1.30. Richy & Caz head in to start the visa process while we get lunch sorted.
We fill in the forms and wait (a row of us sitting on the wall reading our books) for Richy & Caz to hand them in - they will be ready lunchtime on Monday.
Head across town to Ryan's Irish Bar (5°33.463'N 0°10.832'W, 92393km on clock). Proper Irish pub, except that they are out of Guinness. Bog Rat is already here.
Quite a few beers are sunk. They allow us to run a tab & pay with Visa, but they charge it in USD and I don't know what exchange rate they use.
Debs heads off to the post office & market - we have 1 letter (from Gran) at poste restante.
Roast lamb for dinner - yum!
Lots of people with sore heads this morning. Steve & Debs go out with Lin lookinq for the patisserie but don't find it. Adam & Vanessa do find it & come back with pies, pastries, etc. Steve has a pain-au-chocolat.
Set off from Accra around 9am.
Arrive at Big Millie's Back Yard in Kokrobite (5°29.738'N 0°21.935'W) on the beach 20km west of Accra about 11.30. 92432km on clock - 2.5 hours to drive 39km.
Debs buys a camera bag for 30,000 cedi. Steve buys a "Grandpéré" shirt for 64,000.
Tropical sandy beach, complete with coconut palms.
Dinner in the restaurant. Debs has a kebab of mini lobsters. Steve has chicken burrito. Both very nice.
The staff put Kerosene lamps on the table so Steve grabs the guy and goes off to get some Kero. Fills a 1.5L bottle for 5000 cedi (40p). We test the lamp & it runs all night on a capfull of kero.
Live band in the evening, with lots more drinking.
Andy's 21st birthday today. We have all signed a card, and clubbed in to get him 21 cans of beer & a Playboy magazine.
Paul buys coconuts for us - we watch the guy climb the tree to get them.
Debs helps brinq the fish in (video).
Steve & Brian have a drumming lesson - 1 hour for 20,000 cedi each. Debs videos. Quite a laugh and we sort of get the hang of it. Afterwards Steve passes of his new knowledge to Debs.
Lunch in the restaurant - steak sandwich (Steve) & plantains with fresh fish (Debs).
Steve plays touch rugby against the Bog Rats - picks up a big blister & lots of aches.
Debs has her hair braided (60,000 cedi) - it looks fabulous.
Steve has another drum lesson in the afternoon & Debs has a quick lesson as well.
Fresh fish & pasta for dinner (Steve gets a plate of chips from the restaurant). Vanessa has made a birthday cake and we all sing "Happy Birthday".
Andy has drunk his 21 beers between 6.30am and 9pm - nice work!
By the evening Steve is limping pretty badly.
We all sit around in the bar until after midnight. At one point the police turn up, blue lights flashing. Adam gets a photo of one of the policemen holding his AK47 at his teddy bear's head.
Debs is not well this morning, and Steve can't get his boots on because his foot is too painful. Great start.
Richard has abandoned the idea of gettinq taxis into Accra today as it is too expensive so he takes the truck in. Hit traffic well outside town about 9.35am.
Several of our mob (includinq Debs) stay at Big Millie's, and we give a lift to a few of the Bog Ratties.
Park up in Ryans.
Taxis won't cross town so we can't get to the post office to pick up post.
Steve gets a quick half hour on the Internet. Cheeseburger & chips with a pint in Ryans. Steve does a half hour of truck guard but Matt & Michael do the bulk of it.
Leave again about 3.30pm - pick up others at Big Millies around 6ish.
Camp at Brenu Beach Resort @
5°4.084'N 1°25.363'W. 92656 km on the clock.
The site has a bar, toilets, showers etc. They have no water pressure when we arrive though.
Justine has a look at Steve's foot & gives him some anti-inflamatories.
Spaghetti for dinner but Steve & Debs go straight to bed.
Christmas Eve. We wake up to a wet tent and a beautiful sunrise. Steve's foot is a bit better. On the road by 8am.
Stop at a security checkpoint outside Busua. We pull up 5m too late and the guy says "We go to court, or do you have a present ?" so Paul gives them a couple of T-shirts.
Arrive at Alaska Beach Club, Busua (4°48.436'N 1°56.261'W ) about 10.30am. Very nice beach, bar, restaurant, showers & proper toilets.
92753 km on clock.
Richard speaks to a local called Agua about getting a pig. An hour or so later he gets back with a huge hog-tied pig. Steve helps them slaughter and gut it - quite a job. We then wrap him in plastic bags and hang him up - use Paul's tent fly sheet so that we don't have to sit & look at him.
We change another 100 US, but only get 8200 per dollar - should have changed more in Accra.
Debs does midnight mass in the church across the road. Very "happy clappy".
We start the fire and spitting up the pig around 7am, and he goes on around 9. We have a couple of bags of charcoal to give us a good heat all day.
Steve & Debs go to telephone shack around mid-day. Try to make 5 calls but only Gran & Grandad answer. We will try the other 4 again later.
Steve has apple pie & ice cream for lunch - everyone else has pasta salad & quiche.
Mince pies, jam tarts & Christmas cake afterwards.
We do secret santa after lunch. Ben is Santa Claus & Michael is his helper. Everyone gets a present, and sits on Santa's knee for a photo. Debs gets a bracelet & necklace; Steve gets a flashing Pokemon deely-bopper. Aftewards we get group photos and some photos of Santa with bikini-clad babes.
We try to make the phone calls around 3.30pm, but still no answer.
The original estimate is that the pig will take 8 hours - we started it at 9am so the cooks do the veg for 5.30pm. We eventually get it mainly cooked by around 7pm, with the rest finishing off for the next hour or so. We needed a third baq of charcoal though
Magnificent feast ensues - roast pork, roast spuds, mashed spuds, beans, turnips, aubergines, two kinds of stuffing, cranberry sauce & gravy. Wash it all down with a nice Riocha.
Try phoning the UK again around 9pm - still no answer.
Steve & Debs head off to bed around 10.30 and open presents. Steve has a stonking Swiss army knife with a huge, lockable main blade & a wood saw which will be very useful when fire-lighting. Debs gets a long, slinky night-dress which is why presents aren't opened until the end of the day.
Best sort of boxing day "pick'n'mix" breakfast - cereals, toast, scrambled egg, tomatoes, minced pies
Vanessa bakes a birthday cake for Meghan.
Steve sits in hammock & plays Freecell. Debs lies on beach & writes diary.
Steve learns how to play "President" card game.
Adam & Matt spend the morning cleaning the kitchen stuff in the sea. Adrian helps - cleans one of the teapots & we discover it is actually silver not black (photo).
Bubble & squeak for lunch, followed by a cheese board. Steve & Debs share a pizza with Jess and Sarah as well.
Steve & Debs try calling home again with more success. Steve gets through to Gaz's mobile & finds that the whole family is with him.
Debs speaks to Michael and learns that her mum has been taken into hospital for an operation on her back.
Debs is pretty upset so we go for a walk down the beach. Afterwards she retires to the tent for a bit of solitude.
Steve plays Owari with Lin.
Pork curry for dinner, followed by créme brulee.
Kaz joins Debs for a chat, and they emerge a couple of hours later with Debs a lot more cheerful.
Drive to Elmina (5°5.180'N 1°20.963'W). Leave Richy, Kaz at Busua - Kay stays as well. We will meet them in Accra.
Take a guided tour of the castle (40,000 cedis each, plus 10,000 for the camcorder) and learn a lot about the history & the slave trade.
Lunch on the truck - rice sandwhich.
After lunch we wander up to the fort & get a panoramic video clip. Then into town but nothing there & Debs gets tired of the locals grabbing her.
Head over to the restaurant at the castle for a couple of beers.
Drive back to Brenu Beach Resort. Quiche & roast spuds for dinner, but Steve has cheeseburger & chips from the bar - tastes great but they charge 18000 cedis for a plate of chips!
Steve has a bad night chopping fire wood. First a piece of wood hits him in the face, and then he is humiliated by the local security guard who knows how to use the axe properly.
Early to bed.
Richy's birthday today but he is not with us.
Eggy bread for breakfast, though Debs has left-over apple crumble.
The cook group are doing hard boiled eggs for lunch, but can't get them boiled & we are waiting to leave. Paul puts some charcoal on the fire to speed things up a bit, but the eggs are boiled by the time the charcoal is hot. We then have to figure out what to do with the hot charcoal.
Debs goes for a walk along the beach & collects some more shells.
On the road by 8.15am. Paul is driving with Andy & Matt in the cab.
Get to Cape Coast (5°6.754'N 1°15.486'W) & park truck next to castle.
Steve & Debs head off to get news about Debs' mum. Internet place supposedly opens at 9.30 on a Saturday (8am weekdays), but at 10am it is still not open.
We buy a Ghana Telecom 150 unit phone card for 36,500 cedi and manage to get through to Dawn. News is encouraging, but the operation was delayed. Steve gets through to Gran Taylor to say Merry Christmas.
Get to a cyber cafe & check email. Start to write next bulletin but don't finish it.
Visit the castle & museums. Buy a guidebook & a language guide for one of the local languages.
Lunch - egg, tomato & cucumber sandwhiches - at Kakum National Park (5°20.894'N 1°23.002'W). Paul organises camping, hiking & canopy walk, with a bit of help from Steve.
Forest elephants live in the park but they are very rarely seen. Only 1 photo in the info centre - that is of an elephant backside as it disappears into the forest.
Steve puts up the tent on a platform in the forest. There are 6 platforms altogether - 2 are already taken, then the others are used by: Steve & Debs, Mike & Meghan, Lynne & Kalima, Ben & Brian. Platforms are about 2 feet high.
Lasagne and garlic bread for dinner, then we head off to the tent & bed.
Get some funky nightshot video of us walking through the forest & getting in to bed.
4.30am alarm but we are already awake. We wake up Lynne & Kalima and head back to the truck.
Meet the guide (Prince) just before 5am. He waits for us all to get settled and then tells us no shorts, no sandles - we all troop back to the truck to change.
We follow the guide into the forest - to start with it is all replanted. We start to climb up a hill and then enter the natural rain forest.
Start the canopy walk. Built by a couple of Canadians with help from locals who were good tree climbers.
Seven walkways between platforms. Each platform built around a tall tree.
Generally about 30m above the ground. No more than 2 people on each walkway at once.
We see a monkey leaping between 2 trees, but not sure if we get video.
Video of ants along tree. Photo of large spider.
Some of the group continue on a nature hike - we head back.
"One soldier ant can kill an elephant" story. It climbs up trunk then bites repeatedly - the elephant goes mad & bashes it's head into trees.
Scrambled eggs for breakfast back at the truck.
Boys bandanna photo.
Into Accra again. Traffic much lighter - probably because it is Sunday.
Trees full of bats.
Arrive at Ryans about 1.30 but it is shut - it opens at 5pm on a Sunday. Paul has a word & they let us into the car park anyway. 93127 km on clock.
Steve has egg & tuna sandwhiches off the truck for lunch - Debs goes down to Steers for a burger with the girls. Steve joins them for beer & ice-cream, then spills chocolate sauce down his trousers.
Back to Ryans. Debs has a shower while Steve works out some more waypoints for the GPS. Steve also finds the zip-off legs for his khaki trousers which have been lost for a week or so.
Richy, Kaz & Kay have arrived at Ryans by now, with Agua in tow.
Steve & Debs go out to the Dynasty Chinese restaurant - very posh. We start with mini spring rolls & spare ribs. Main course is sweet & sour pork, sizzlinq shrimps & chicken fried rice. Along with 3 small beers the cost is 183,000 - pricey but worth it.
Taxi into Accra centre with Jess & Sarah at 7am. Traffic is light. Cost 10,000.
Get to main post office at 7.30. Jess & Sarah post letters. They run out of high value stamps so have to put 5 stamps on Jess's postcard but there isn't room so they stick some of them over the text.
Meet up with Lynne, Rachel & Karyn outside poste restante about ten to eight. They open at 8am but there is no-one at the counter.
We get someone to serve us after 20 minutes or so. She hands out a few letters & then says "that's it" and walks off. Sarah has 2 letters but was expectinq 7, and Lynne is missing a parcel.
We wait and argue for a while before they bring out the Christmas box and demand a present. We take out 10,000 cedi but don't put it in the box until they search properly.
They are still bringing out new post even after they have told us there is no more.
In all Steve & Debs have 8 new letters.
We then wander over to the Novotel for coffee & a bun, and read the post. Lots of cards, lots of letters. We also pick up freebie A4 news sheets.
Non-resident guests can use the Novotel swimming pool for 40,000 cedis (about £3), but we don't bother.
Steve buys a pair of LL Bean boots for 210,000 (£16). Debs gets a string of clay beads for 3,500 - 3 clasps thrown in.
Steve buys a blue T-shirt for 111,900 in Woolworths - puts it on the visa.
Have bags made on maket - Alina (cutting), Mary (sewing) & Tina (cloth) - also Christiana. 2 yards of material for 20,000 & 9 bags of various sizes sewn for 20,000 - well overpriced but we had a nice chat.
Stop in at Despite Musical Productions opposite the market & get hold of a copy of the Daddy Lumbar tape - 10,000 cedies.
Get a taxi back to Ryans (10,000 cedi) - again the traffic is not too bad. Lunch in the pub - cheeseburger & chips / Pita Pockets.
Pop round corner to cyber cafe. Write & send bulletin #4. Yahoo! chat with Joel. 12000 cedi for 2 hours. We also check the Whistler Webcam - they are having one of their best Decembers yet for snowfall.
2 small Star beers at Ryans cost 20,000! It is a lot cheaper to buy pints.
Back in time to truck guard at 6pm, then build fire for dinner - veggie spag bol. Steve goes off to Steers for another cheeseburger.
New Year's Eve
Walk round to the 24 hour bakery. Chocolate croissant, meat pie,jam doughnut, coffee & mango juice, plus a couple of bread rolls to take away.
We also stop at the Supermarket & pick up some "secret stash" supplies - salad cream, Branston pickle, cheese triangles & slices, Weetabix & corned beef.
Change another 50 usd - 425,000 cedi.
Walk down to African Market. See some nice Owari boards. Debs buys 8 postcards & a bookmark for Steve.
Steve buys a pack of 4 ni-cad rechargable batteries at PhotoClub - expensive (112,000) but probably worth it as long as Justine's charger survives.
Back to the truck for lunch then pack everything up in time to leave at 12.30. Only one problem - no crew!
About 2.15 we head into the pub & join the others for a pint.
Richard, Kaz & Paul arrive at 4.30 - they have had trouble getting the visas.
We head straight off for Kokrobite - most of us have been drinking so it becomes a bit of a party bus.
We get to Millies after dark - there is a big party tonight so we have to park outside the compound, but we are allowed to pitch our tents inside.
We get the dinner on straight away - Satay fried rice which is lovely. Then the party begins in earnest.
They have a drum group - Ghanaians wearing grass skirts called "African Showboys". They also sing, dance & do simple magic tricks. They are all brothers.
After the drummers they have a reggae group who play us into the new year.
We drink wine and champagne, and everyone gets very drunk.
Steve falls asleep of the truck about 1am so Debs helps him back to the tent. Debs comes to bed around 3am.
Happy New Year!
We wake up around 8.30 and have a bit of breakfast.
Steve & Debs share a "bucket shower".
We get some washing done - 15 items for 14,000 cedi.
Kaz & Richy have had some more photos developed so we look through them. Steve & Debs borrow a photo of the truck from the discard pile for scanning.
Debs & Steve order a club sandwich to share for lunch. It is nice but we are still hungry so we dig out rolls, cheese slices & salad cream from secret stash.
Debs gets the beads sewn properly into her hair so hopefully she won't lose any more.
Rice & veg for dinner.
Steve reads most of the Matt Dickenson Everest book.
Fruit salad for breakfast. Steve pays off the bar/restaurant bill & gets a surprise - we are being charged $2 US each for the entertainment. It sounds reasonable but it would have been nice to know up front.
Steve donates his old hiking boots to the truck's "bribe fund".
As we prepare to leave Richy tells the group about the $2 charge, and also mentions the 30,000 cedi he wants from each of us to pay for the Christmas pig. Mike leads a rebellion about extra costs being sprung on us, and a general lack of information.
The traffic into Accra is quite light again so we make it in to town from Kokrobite in just over an hour.
Steve buys a samosa from a lady at the side of the road on the way.
Steve straps his "1000 mile" socks to the roof as they are still damp after being washed yesterday.
We arrive back at Ryans (again) by 11am. 93197 km on clock.
Check email & transfer some cash around accounts in the UK.
Change another £60 into cedis at 13,200 per £.
Steve buys another pair of sunglasses.
Lunch at the food court - burger and chips. Debs has the chicken burger which she says it "fantastic".
Back to the truck & Steve finishes his book.
We spend the afternoon on the Internet - Steve transfers the bulletins onto a web paqe. We can't scan the photo of the truck because their server has died.
We get back to the truck where Steve lights the cook fire and puts up the tent while Debs has a pint.
Paul & Richy have picked up the truck parts they ordered and are preparing to fit them but it is starting to get dark.
Steve & Debs then head out to find food. The pizza stall is in the food court which seems to be having some sort of coupon day fs it is packed with locals clutching yellow slips of paper. We end up in the Tip Top Chinese Fast Food place. The food is fast (as claimed) and good.
After the meal we rush off and get back to the truck just after 9pm to do our truck guard stint. There are numerous huge mozzies flying around so Steve and Claire (who is waiting around for Lucy anyway) send her off to the safety of the tent.
Debs has an early shower then gets Steve breakfast in bed. She then packs up the tent while Steve enters a few more waypoints into the GPS.
Kalima rolls in after breakfast; she went out with a group of Irishmen last night.
We then head off with Lynne to meet Sarah, Rachel, Jess & Justine at the 24 hour bakery. Debs has a fruit juice & jam doughnut, and Steve has a chocolate croissant, an iced doughnut and a coffee. Justine gets a quick Palm Pilot lesson from Steve.
We all then head back to the truck as we are due to leave at 10.30am.
Richy, Kaz & Paul turn up at about 11.20, but the cook group have already started lunch.
After lunch we head off for the Akosombo dam. We get on the wrong road (through Aburi) but the view from the ridge is great.
Stop for fuel in Anokorum (5°56'N 0°6'W) on the Akwapem ridge around 2.30pm.
Head down off the ridge (on a road that is not marked on the map) & meet the road we wanted just after 3pm. Through Somanya then Kpong to Akosombo.
Photos - the dam, Steve & Debs in front of the lake, Debs & Lynne in front of the dam.
Bush camp near dam @ 6°16.421'N 0°3.560'E. 93317 km on clock. Locals all gather round to watch us collect firewood & cook - Debs gets some video.
Debs & Jess teach the locals to play tic-tac-toe.
Matt & his group make a fantastic beef stew for dinner.
The police turn up at one point and we think we are going to get moved on, but he just advises us to sleep "like a monkey" (with one eye open) so that the villagers don't steal any of our stuff.
Steve & Debs retire to the tent to play backgammon before bed.
Breakfast at 7am - Steve has warmed-up stew. The crowd from the village are back again, and end up with a few empty plastic bottles.
We have managed to fill both wood lockers but there weren't any large logs to put on the roof.
Stop at Ho (6°36'N 0°28'E). Steve & Debs wander in and buy some bread & buscuits.
Back at the truck, Kaz asks us if we want to go for a walk. We stroll off and have a talk about gripes and issues - Kaz is speaking to everyone like this.
Arrive at Tafi Atome monkey sanctuary (6°54'N 0°23'E) at about 1pm. The locals direct us to the shade of a large tree where we park up & get lunch ready. The villagers get out chairs and benches for us to sit on.
The monkeys (Mona monkeys) have gone off into the forest so the locals send people out to find them.
After lunch we go to see the monkeys. Our guide's name is Innocent.
We see the monkeys in the trees at the edge of the village. Get lots of photos & video. The leader of the family is called the "commando".
Meghan gets digital photos of the locals and they all cluster around to see.
Back to the village to sign the visitor's book and pay. 20,000 each - the prices are posted & we get a receipt.
Bush camp on a rubbish tip at 7°9.324'N 0°30.605'E. 93519 km on clock.
Rice & lentils for dinner.
Break camp & on the road by 7.30am.
The locals see us off. Woman runs barefoot through smouldering trash to pick up our rubbish bag.
Arrive at Aqumatsa Wildlife Sanctuary at Wli (pronounced "Vlee") (7°07.105'N 0°35.382'E, altitude 285m) near Hohoe around 8am. Richy organises the walk to the waterfall. We pay half price because there are 20 in our group - 3,000 per student, 10,000 per adult plus 3,000 per person for the guide. 2000 for a still camera, 20000 for video.
See coffee & cocoa trees. Short fingered banana plant. Female Papaya. Palm tree pulled down to tap for palm wine - they then distill to gin.
River Agumatsa flows directly from the Wli waterfall.
Base of waterfall at 307m alt. It is about 90m from top to bottom.
Paul, Matt & Michael wade out into the pool and under the falls for a shower. Brian, Richard, Lucy, Andy & Claire all follow. Paul: "bit cold, bit painful but well worth it".
We get some nice photos of butterflies.
As we sit down on the bridge to write our diaries a swarm of fruit bats takes off from the cliff. At one point the sky is full of them.
Our guide is Alfred Kodzo from the
village is Wli-Agorviefe. He trained in Accra as a tour guide, and gives me a potted history of his tribe, the Ewe.
After lunch Steve, Adam & Bryan wander round to the bar for a beer & get chatting to one of the locals.
Steve was born on Sunday and so his Ghanan name would be "Kossi"
Back to Accra via Tema (5°41.139'N 0°0.922'W). We drive down our first stretch of motorway in 2 months.
As we turn in through the gate into Ryans they lift the back axle - the wheels stay on the ground & the floor lifts up in the back of the truck!
Meatballs & potatoes for dinner but Steve & Debs are heading back to the Chinese fast food place.
At the Tip Top restaurant
Souffle bowls for rice bowls
Hobson's choice for wine - no ice bucket.
Steve & Brian do truck guard until midnight.
Breakfast at the bakery - 2 steak pies, chocolate croissant, coffee & juice
Back to truck for washing & re-packing the bags. Brian gets some video for us.
In to Ryans for a couple of pints. Debs gets a policeman to pose for a picture with Shawn.
We finally leave Ryan's (and Accra) for the last time shortly before 3pm. We head east alonq the motorway to Tema & then turn north back past the dam.
Suitable bush camp sites are not easy to find east of the Volta lake. We have to spend quite a while looking.
Find a camping spot at 6°40.496'N 0°18.798'E. We immediately send everyone out looking for firewood. One of the larger pieces has an ant's nest in it - when we start hacking it up a swarm of flyinq ants appears. They get everywhere for half an hour or so.
Nut roast for dinner, and Vanessa bakes scones for breakfast.
The QMs announce that they are keeping 3 week's worth of rice, pasta & sauces aside for Tchad & Sudan. After discussion this is raised to 4 weeks.
We spend an hour or so stashing wood in the wood lockers before we set off. We are on the road by 7.30am.
We head up into the hills & reach the border (6°58.170'N 0°31.220'E) around 9am. They want to see each of us individually wlth our passports. Kaz has the passports in alphabetical order - we all file off the truck in order and line up. We fill in the Togo immigration cards while we are waiting.
To cross the border into Togo we all have to get off the truck and walk across while they have a look around the truck. We finally drive away just after 11am.
Once into Togo the road degenerats significantly. Most of it is just a sinqle lane dirt track with patches of tarmac. We slow down almost to walking pace. In addition we are continually battered by overhanging trees.
Arrive at Auberge Marquise (6°54.257'N 0°37.851'E) in Kpalime just before 1pm, but they won't let us camp - they want us to take rooms. We prepare to go elsewhere & they change their minds - we can camp for 1000 cfa each (out of kitty). We have to park the truck in the Steve.
Debs cracks open a beer from under the floor.
Steve & Debs wander into the market after lunch. Debs gets a bit of video. We buy a machete for 2000 cfa. Steve takes a digital photo of Debs & the guy who sold us the machete - we show it to him & he is really chuffed.
Steve hires a moped along with Andy & Lucy Lou. Claire gets a backie with Andy, & Michael with Lucy. We head out of town a couple of km in each direction. At one point we do a quick tour of a village. The villagers all want to know where we are going, but we manage to get across to them that we are just wandering - "promenade".
Back to the truck for 10am as Steve has truck guard.
While we were away, Debs went shopping in the market.
After truck-guard, Steve, Andy & Lucy (with Sarah, Claire & Michael on the backs) ride out to the Cascades (7°0.424'N 0°38.758'E).
We stop at a restaurant on the way back. The food takes a while to arrive so we miss our 2pm deadline to meet back at the truck.
We get a share taxi out to Hotel Campment (6°57.614'N 0°34.481'E, 651m alt.) where the truck is. It costs us 300 cfa each but they cram us in - driver & 1 passenger in the driver's seat, 2 in the front passenger seat, 5 in the back seat and 1 person & 2 baskets of tomatoes in the boot.
Debs has bought a flour sack which she is sewing a draw string into to use as a laundry bag.
Kaz gathers us all together to talk through the itinerary for the next few days. She is just about to start when the heavens open - everyone rushes out for a quick shower.
The meal tonight is fabulous. Lucy has bought some beef which she fries up along with spuds, green beans and fried pineapple.
Into Lome by 11am. We stop in the centre for people to get off, and then head out to the camp site. I
There is some sort of festival going on and the main road is shut. We park up by the road outside a bar / restaurant for an hour and have lunch & a beer.
Stop at Robinson's Place (6°9.044'N 1°17.979'E) but they are too expensive.
Move down the coast 200m to Restaurant "Le Ramatou" (6°9.088'N 1°18.116'E). They are more reasonably priced.
There are only 6 of us on the truck (Steve & Debs, Richy, Kaz, Sara & Lynne) when we arrive. Sara and Richy & Kaz take rooms so there is no rush for showers or tent spots. Steve & Debs take advantage and get clean.
We get some washing organised but it is five times as expensive as it was at Millies in Ghana - we pay 4000 cfa for 15 items (he started at 7000!)
Small beers at the bar are 500 cfa.
Steve & Debs have a fantastic meal in the restaurant.
The meal off the truck is plantain soup and pasta, but the soup doesn't work out.
Up at 6.30 so that Steve can get the fire going for breakfast at 7am, only to find that we had been misinformed - breakfast is at 7.30am.
We have a general discussion about money changing. For Nigeria we need about £80 each for visas (Chad, Sudan & Cameroon) and we guess about £50 each for spending. Lome is supposedly the best place to buy Nigerian currency, though it has to be on the black market.
Richy has organised a guy to come to the camp site & change money. To start with he offers really bad rates, but after we get ready to head into town he gives a better deal. The people who changed in town yesterday got slightly better rates but this way we don't have to carry large amounts of cash into town.
Steve & Debs share a taxi with Lynne & Sara into town - it costs us 200 cfa each.
We start at the grande marche. Debs buys a few cowrie shells for 1100 cfa. Steve spends 500cfa on some "super" multi-vitamins but they turn out to be huge - horse capsule size.
We then wander down to the Restaurant Diaby as some of the others tried it yesterday & recommended it. While we are there Kalima, Claire, Lucy, Matt, Paul, Adam and Brian arrive - obviously word has got around.
Debs has Shawarma & Steve goes for the "Diaby Burger" - beef, chicken, cheese, egg, salad.
We spend the afternoon on the Internet. About quarter to six Steve remembers he is on firestarting duty - we jump into a cab & rush back.
By the time we get back Adam & Matt, who are cooking, already have the fire on. Dinner tonight is kebabs with real meat!
Kalima has convinced us to have a Toga party tonight. Matt is preparing the food in his toga.
Before dinner Kaz gathers us all round and we talk through our issues.
By this time we are almost all in togas.
Ben puts on his coconut bikini top.
After dinner we sit around drinking. Kalima takes about 20 digital photos of Steve in his toga.
Back on the road, and heading for the Benin border.
Stop in Aného (6°13'N 1°36'E) for an hour. Really picturesque with sandy beach, lagoon & old colonial buildings.
We reach the border (6°14'N 1°38'E) on the edge of Aného, sooner than indicated on the map. It is about 9.45am when we start Togo exit procedings. Leave the Benin side around 11am. Clocks go forward 1 hour.
Stop at Ouidah (6°21'N 2°4'E) which is the centre of voodoo according to the guidebook.
Camp at Auberge Le Jardin Brezilien (6°19.505'N 2°5.486'E). It is a really nice place on the beach. The bar has Heineken (800 cfa for 25cl) as well as the local beer (700 for 33cl).
Paul sits on the truck & makes himself a pillowcase for his foam rubber block.
Debs and Sara wander down the beach to collect shells.
We wander down to the "Porte de non retour" and take a couple of photos. There is a bar there that sells 33cl beers for 275 cfa (less than 30p).
There is a pretty impressive thunderstorm and a few spots of rain.
Steve & Debs walk back into Ouidah to have a look round. There was some discussion last night about how far it is & how fast people can walk so we take the GPS with us. We walk at a medium pace which the GPS says is 5 km/h or 3 mph. The distance from the camp site to the Mosque is 3.7 km as the crow flies.
Main square 6°21.582'N 2°4.855'E
Mosque 6°21.434'N 2°4.995'E
Maison Brezil 6°21.383'N 2°4.520'E
Python Temple 6°21.590'N 2°5.122'E
Sacred Forest 6°21.871'N 2°5.785'E
The Maison Brezil contains some voodoo artwork - some of it is quite good. It costs 1000 cfa each to get in and takes us about 5 minutes to see everything. Photos are forbidden.
The cultural centre on the main square is shut, presumably because it is a Sunday.
We buy 3 postcards (300cfa each) from a street stall by the Temple du Pythons.
We pass a fetish stall. Lots of heads - monkey, rat, bat, cat, dog, crocodile.
Sacred forest - story says a man turned himself into a tree. Statues of gods. God with one leg - if you take the proper medicine you can see the other leg. Two faced man - is the king's spy ("007") because he has 4 eyes, 4 ears so can see & hear everything.
We walk back to the mosque to meet the truck for lunch at mid-day, but it is not there. We sit down in a bar to wait. They run out of soft drinks so Steve has a beer - "La Beninoise" at 250 cfa (25p) for 300ml.
The truck turns up about 12.45 - they got stuck in the sand at the beach and spent an hour sandmattinq out.
We have lunch & another beer then head into Cotonou. Taxi mopeds everywhere - drivers in yellow shirts.
We park up and a bunch of us (Steve & Debs, Richy, Kaz, Brian, Paul, Adam, Matt) go down to Restaurant Mic Mac (6°21.358'N 2°26.287'E). Debs orders Chawarma & Steve goes for the Royal cheese burger. They have promotional glasses for various beers so we get a digital photo of the waitress, the "Mic Mac" menu & 3 beers with their respective glasses.
On the way out of town we pass a ceremony of some sort with people in masks & someone on stilts - we manage to catch a bit of wobbly video.
Camp on the beach at Le Paradis du Soleil, Togbin Plage, Godomey (6°20.893'N 2°19.140'E). 94376 km on the clock.
Veggie rice for dinner - they use the big paella dish and so Steve builds an open fire for the first time. We have to search for the legs for the grate.
Steve loses the padlock for the wood locker.
After dinner most people turn in but Richy, Kaz, Steve & Debs walk 50m down the road to the hotel
We have a bit of a lie in - Debs gets up to make the tea before the breakfast stuff is put away.
Debs & Jess do some washing. We left the camcorder on in the bag overnight so we have to swap the battery.
Steve roots around in the sand for a while and finds the lost padlock - just as Richy gets out a spare.
Steve & Richard go to the restaurant for lunch.
Debs & Sarah go back to the restaurant to use their pool. It costs 1000 cfa per person for non-guests to use it. It is a saltwater pool, with the showers being saltwater as well.
Steve has chicken & rice from the local girls - 1000 cfa but very little chicken.
Lynne decides to take a week off from firelighting so swaps temporarily with Adam.
Steve is woken before dawn by something dropping onto him from the roof of the tent. He sits up and reaches over to grab the torch, resting on his hand - which comes down on something long, slender and definately organic. He searches for a couple of minutes with the torch but can't find anythinq. When we clear everything out of the tent to pack it away we find our lodger - Samual the Salamander.
Start preparing breakfast at 6am but as we are now on GMT+1 it is still very dark.
On the road by 7.30am. Last time we see the ocean for months.
As we leave the beach we are stopped by a policeman who is directing traffic at a junction. He takes our papers and goes back to directing traffic. We sit and wait.
Ganvie (6°26.863'N 2°21.612'E)
We catch boats (pirogues) out to the village - 6 people per boat for 2550 per person. Hotel "Chez M" on stilts like the rest of the town. They have a souvenier shop - we look at a fishinq net but they want 25,000 cfa for it.
Steve & Debs buy a few postcards.
We stop by the side of the road for lunch & pretty soon have a crowd of locals watching. They keep their distance though.
We get stopped at a police checkpoint and get told off again for having people on the roof.
Arrive at Abome (7°11'N 1°59'E) - capital of Dahomey empire. Get a guided tour of the royal palace (1500cfa per person).
12 kings from 1620-1900, before defeat by the French.
1 Portugese cannon = 15 stronq men or 21 beautiful ladies.
Steve & Debs almost buy a gorgeous wooden figure of a hunter - we offer 20 usd but this is not enough.
We head east towards the Nigerian border. They are (re-) building the main road so we follow it on a track to the side.
Bush camp in a sand storage area by the side of the new road at 7°12.283'N 2°16.373'E. 94558 km on clock, 182 km today.
We collect some firewood, and even manage to get some to put on the roof.
Cous-cous and woderful veggie stew for dinner.
Kaz gives us a prep talk to prepare us for Nigeria.
Police stop - truck is too long & they tell us to go back to Cotonou and cross border on the coast. After a short "discussion" they let us through and settle down to read their new copies of Bella & Women's Weekly.
Bridge over river Ouémé - single track with passing place.
Stop in village (7°13'N 2°30'E) before border to spend remaining cfa, but nothing much there.
Arrive at the start of border controls (Benin customs) just outside Ketou (7°21'N 2°36'E) at 10am.
We wander across into Nigeria but miss the border controls. We get a couple of locals on a moped to show us the way to the Nigerian immigration & customs controls at Alagbe/Ilara (WP 046=7°25.471'N 2°44.819'E). We get there at 11.25am - Richy & Kaz start the immigrations procedings and the rest of us settle down to wait.
We have lunch - pasta salad - while we wait.
Leave just after 1.30pm - only 2 hours to complete.
A few miles on we reach a checkpoint - just a bunch of logs narrowing the road and a line of huts with guys lounging around. No siqns, no uniforms, no badges or ID. We sit for a while as Richy & Kaz sort things out.
By 3.00 we are on our 4th checkpoint and less than 7km from the border. At 3.15 we hit another.
We hit tarmac again at Imeko (7°26'N 2°50'E), 10k from the border.
At 3.35 we hit yet another checkpoint. This time just two guys - no uniforms but one has an automatic rifle and the other has something that looks like a grenade launcher.
A bit later we are stopped again, this time by uniformed police. There are six or seven of them, all armed with automatic rifles, and the writing on their 4x4s proclaims that they are part of "Operation Fire for Fire".
We arrive at a roundabout in Abeokuta and stop to ask if we are on the right road for Ibadan. They direct us to the northern exit from the roundabout. As we head north we are having doubts, and when we reach Igbo-Ora we know we are on the wrong road. We cut off on a side road to the east, hoping it is the one marked on the map.
14 checkpoints in total since the border, plus 2 that didn't stop us.
Bush camp by teak plantation (7°24.945'N 3°33.038'E). 94788 km on clock.
On the road by 7.30am.
Palm trees rising above the mist on the ridge that runs parallel to the road.
We meet up with the main road as expected (7°22.996'N 3°40.436'E) - we were where we thought we were.
We arrive at the outskirts of Ibadan around 8.30.
"This house is not for sale. Be warned." scrawled on the outside of some of the buildings.
In central Ibadan (7°23'N 3°53'E) we get stuck on a road with loads of telephone wires that are too low for us to get under. We have to turn round & go back.
We park up at 7°23.939'N 3°53.342'E where there is a pastry house & a cyber cafe. Steve tries to check the email but half the truck is waiting.
Richy & Kaz get an email from Bog Rat telling them that the Cameroon embassy is in Lagos. They decide to head down there, with Ben and Matt, to get the visas while Paul takes the rest of us on the truck to Osogbo.
Steve & Debs ride in the cab with Paul as navigators.
The road out to Ilesha is a dual-carriageway - the Ife-Ilesha bypass and we make excellent time. There are a couple of toll booths, but even for Trucks/Luxury Buses like us it is only 100 Niara (50p) a time.
We are really worried about police stops as all the passports are with the Lagos group. We do get stopped 2 or 3 times but no-one wants to see the passports.
We miss the exit from the bypass at Ilesha - we probably should have taken the 2nd or 3rd exit. We double back on ourselves a bit, but when we get back to Ilesha town we pick up the Osogbu road easily enough.
We get to Osogbo (7°46'N 4°33'E) and start looking for the Okonfo Rao Kawawa Jungle Communication Centre. We stop to ask for directions & 3 traffic wardens jump into the cab with us - Steve & Debs on the bed behind the seats, Paul in the drivers seat and the three of them in the passenger seat.
When we arrive at the JCC (7°45.350'N 4°32.329'E, 95017k on clock) Okonfo is really excited to see us. He gives us a guided tour, cracking jokes (?!) as he goes.
Andy & Paul get a lift into town to buy beer and soft drinks.
After dinner (rice & veg) they put on a fantastic show for us. Steve & Debs then buy a round of drinks for them from Andy's stores - 2 beer and 8 soft drinks for 350 Niara (about £1.75) - and we sit around talking.
Brian makes eggy-bread for breakfast. We see the monkeys in the trees.
One of the guys from the JCC guides us to the Sacred forest. 100 per head for entry & 500 for a camera. Photo of Debs with statue of Oshun, goddes of the river/fertility. We dip our fingers into the river and make a wish.
We manage to get a bucket shower in after one of the girls from the JCC gets a few bucketfulls of water from the well for us.
Steve & Debs get a taxi into the town to have a look round. We aren't allowed into the Mosque, the palace is shut, the internet place has been shut down by a power cut & we can't find the central market. We walk back, stopping on the way for a really cold Fanta. We get chatting to a local girl - when we tell her we have been to the sacred forest she asks if we were scared. She is always scared when she goes there.
Back at the JCC Okonfo & the family play for us again. They ask our names & make songs for us.
Potato bake & beans for dinner.
Okonfo is a bit drunk & starts beating one of the boys who works for him - apparently he had stolen some money from him. It all gets a bit subdued afterwards.
We are packed up & ready to leave by 10am, but the Lagos mob have not arrived yet.
We take the wrong road out of Ila and end up heading south instead of west - we should have turned left at the roundabout. We park up, have lunch (Tuna & sweetcorn sandwhiches) and turn round.
Ilali (8 2'N 5 5'E) - low hanging, uninsulated wires. We touch the 2 of them together & sparks fly into the truck.
We head up a dirt track looking for a camp site - get some video of us hitting lots of trees.
Bush camp just outside Kabba (7°52.139'N 6°3.631'E, 95295k). We are not very impressed with the site though.
We get another swarm of flying ants tonight. Paul tries to flambé them with a can of WD40 & a burning twig.
8am start - we want to get to Abuja today.
Meet main road at 7°49.1N 6°34'E, just before Lokoja.
As we cross over the Niger river (8°3.397'N 6°46.464'E) the traffic stops due to a cow-jam. There is a large gap in the bridge & the cows don't want to jump over it.
We hit a pot-hole at speed & blow one of the rear tyres, so we stop in a small village to change it.
Abuja (9°3'N 7°28'E) is a clean modern, high-rise, car-oriented city. The National Mosque is very impressive.
Park up at the Sheraton (9°3.838'N 7°28.990'E, 95586k) about 2.30pm. They have a car park they use for their staff buses - we can camp there. The lads have a "special Olympics" with shot-put, tossing the caber, etc.
We sit & drink by the pool. It is not cheap, with large bottles of Star for 340 Niara, but who cares ? Debs has a swim.
Debs & Vanessa sort out the stores.
Steve & Debs have a Tandoori for dinner in the hotel
Steve wakes up with a hangover.
Richy, Kaz & the Americans head off to the Sudanese embassy to get visas.
At 9am a group of us walk up to reception to try and check-in. Very slow progress & disagreement about whether breakfast is included.
At about 11am Debs heads off with Vanessa to buy dry stores.
Steve finally manages to get checked in and into the room at about 2pm.
Potato bake with chicken for dinner.
Drinks in Elephant bar with Richy & Kaz, but Steve is too tired.
21 Jan - day 93
Engish/French/American/German breakfast - bacon, sausage, egg, beans, pankakes, pain-aux-chocolat, bread & cheese, fresh fruit.
We hang around in the room until 1pm, watching a film on TV and having another bath/shower. At checkout time we are still arguing about whether breakfast is included - Richy turns up, has a word with the manager & everything is sorted. Steve scrounges a "Sheraton Abuja" pen from reception.
Debs & Vanessa go shopping for more dry stores. Debs carries a huge box of cornflake packets on her head.
Steve checks email & sends Bulletin number 5.
Dinner on the truck is pasta so
Steve & Debs wander up to Stars restaurant. Debs has spring rolls & shwarma, and Steve goes for a cheeseburger.
22 Jan - day 94
Richy takes the truck off to get fuel.
Debs washes windscreen.
Bush camp at 9°18.050'N 8°36.671'E, 95832k on clock. Lots of wood.
Beans & spuds
23 Jan - day 95
Jos - park at museum (9°54.861'N 8°53.045'E). Have a look at the architectural museum.
Lunch @ Juice & Grillade. Debs has shawarma, Steve has burger.
Buy an old map of Africa for 400 Niara. When they see it Karyn & Kaz both want one.
Steve changes £20 to Niara at 211 per £.
Bush camp @ 10°3.942'N 9°6.409'E, 930m altitude. 95977k on clock.
24 Jan - day 96
On the road by 7.30am. Everyone is wrapped up well against the cold.
Arrive at Yankari park entrance (10°3'N 10°17'E) about 10am. Richy gets off with the passenger list to sort out fees etc. The camera charges have gone up a lot - 1500 for a camcorder & 500 for a "professional" camera (anything with a changable lens ?). There is also an argument about "student" status.
We park up at Wikki warm springs (9°45.266'N 10°30.619'E).
Baboon checks out the truck - Richy drives it off, then it chases him & he shuts himself in the cab.
50 litre jerry can under the floor with our stuff, only there is no room.
We swim in the warm springs.
While waiting for our afternoon game drive we watch them turning the truck round. Either the truck has no brakes or the driver can't drive - probably both.
Game drive - we see...
Water Buck (larger)
Bee Eater (green)
Debs paints "Priscilla" on the other side of the cab.
Veggie stir fry & rice for dinner.
25 Jan - day 97
Very early start - 5.20am alarm. Our guide arrives and we head off for a game drive. Not as succesful as yesterday, although we do see some more wildlife, including a hippo (eyes & nostrils only). We also see some man-made caves. All in all we are out for four and a half hours.
We get back to the camp site around 10.30am and the cook group get brunch on.
We head off from the camp ground just after mid-day.
Stop in a small village to try & buy food. Steve picks up some dough-balls, bread and soft drinks.
Matt gets drunk in the cab as it is his birthday. We have to have a toilet stop every hour or so.
Stop in Gombe (10°17'N 11°9'E) to buy meat for dinner.
Bush camp at 10°25.858'N 11°44.087'E. 96491k on clock.
Rice, stir-fry veg & steak for dinner. Vanessa bakes a couple of cakes for Matt's birthday.
26 Jan - day 98
On the road by 7.25am. Stop at Biu to shop & spend the last of the Niara, but nothing much is available.
[Right at T-junction]
A little while later we find somewhere to get rid of the 4 crates of empty beer bottles we have - we exchange them for 2 crates of full bottles (Kronenbourg at that!).
After Gombi the road deteriorates and we averaqe less than 30k an hour. After Mubi it becomes a dirt track.
We arrive at the first border point (10°8'N 13°26'E) about 2.45pm. It is just a rope across the track. At 3pm we arrive at Nigeria customs.
Finish with Cameroon immigration at 5.20.
Bush camp at 10°10.585'N 13°31.391'E (96771k, 280k today) after Richy speaks to the owner of the farm.
After dinner (veggie rice) Vanessa bakes a birthday cake for Richy.
Steve gets out the telescope & everyone has a look at Jupiter. We can see three of the moons and a couple of dark bands around the planet.
27 Jan - day 99
On the road by 7.30am again.
We arrive at Rhumsiki ( 10°31'N 13°35'E) which is quite a touristy village. Steve & Debs get a guide to show us around (he charges us 1 usd each). We change 5 euro to get a little local cash but the rate is too low (600 cfa = 1 euro) to change more. Our guide shows us pottery making & cotton weaving, and of course we get the sales pitch.
Steve & Debs consult the witch doctor - he puts sticks/stones in a jar and drops a live crab in. He tells us we will have 2 healthy children - the first will be a boy (who will return to Africa) and the second will be a girl.
Rhum mountain by the village. Zivvi mountain is the tall thin one. Lots of photos.
The group decides not to stop in Makolo as it would mean missing the Monday market in Maroua.
We drive on to Maroua where we visit the Monday market. Steve & Debs change some money with Ben who has too many cfa. Lynne buys some lovely leather. Steve & Debs have an early dinner in one of the restaurants.
Steve & Debs get lost walking to the camp site as it gets dark.
Camp in Relais Ferngo (10°35.440'N 14°19.169'E). Pasta with tomatoes for dinner. Steve & Debs sit in the bar drinking beer.
28 Jan - day 100
Another 7.30am start. Steve is up at 6am to start the fire, and Debs has a shower. We refill the water jerries from achingly slow taps.
We are still at about 450m altitude so it is quite chilly early on. The road to Mora is 2 lane tarmac but quite badly pot-holed. It weaves between hills strewn with (granite?) boulders and villages of round mud huts with thatched roofs. We pass lots of locals on bycicles carrying huge loads of tobacco or water. There are also a surprising number of 4x4s operated by the local tourist companies.
Sarah & Jess need to buy bread so we stop in one of the villages along the road (11°11'N 14°14'E). A small market materialises around us and sales of biscuits & washing powder are made.
We arrive at the entrance to the Parc National de Waza (11°24'N 14°34'E) at about 10.20am. We all wait in the truck while Richy sorts out the prices. It costs us 5000 cfa pp for the entrance fee, 1000 cfa pp for the (compulsory) guide and 2000 cfa per camera (still or video).
We take the truck into the park for a game drive with the guide. Within half an hour we see our first giraffes. We also spot various antelope, hyenas (in the distance) and an ostrich (also in the distance).
We stop for lunch in the middle of the park with a one-horned antelope watching us. Steve and Richy transfer some diesel from one of the reserve tanks - Richy confesses he was expecting to conk out any minute.
After lunch we move on. In the distance we see some smoke, but it is moving strangely. When we get closer it turns out to be "swarms" of Quelea birds.
We spot four black dots on the horizon - Steve thinks they are
Land Rovers. They are actually elephants. A short while later we park up next to a herd of about 35 elephants, including infants. Unfortunately we get too close & spook them so they back off.
The terrain here is very different to the Yankari park. This is savanna with patches of thorn forest. There are vultures circling overhead.
We see some warthogs on the way back, but distant & into the sun.
[97158k after game drive = 209k today, less 124k on road = 85k game drive]
After the game drive we move on towards the border.
Bush camp at 11°50.382'N 14°36.763'E. Steve forgot to get the mileage.
The cooks tonight are doing rice with Thai green vegatable curry, so Debs makes poppadoms for everyone.
As we are sitting around after dinner we see a huge, bright green shooting star.
29 Jan - day 101
Today's cook group (Matt, Ben & Sarah) got up early to make omletts for breakfast. We hit the road by 7.15am and head for the border.
It is really quite cold as we set off, although the thermometer reads 16°c.
There is a new style of architecture here in northern Cameroon. The circular mud huts here still have thatched roofs, but these are dome shaped rather than the cones we have seen elsewhere.
We reach the Cameroon customs post at Kousseri (12°5'N 15°E) at about 8.30am. We sit on the roof of the truck to try and warm up in the sun, although it doesn't seem to make too much difference. As usual we have a crowd of locals standing around watching us.
At about 10am we drive across the bridge over the Logone river that is the border between Cameroon & Chad. We pull up just after the bridge (12°4.162'N 15°3.338'E) for the Chad border controls. We move on again at 11.30.
We drive into Njamena and park up by the Novotel (12°7.218'N 15°1.512'E, 97326k). Richy has a chat with them and they let us camp in the back of their car park. Steve & Debs are going to get a room but the cost is 110,000 cfa per night which is well out of our range.
After a shower and washing some clothes we wander into town. The Avenue Charles de Gaulle has "supermarkets" & restaurants but everything is shut. We find the post office & buy some stamps then look for somewhere to get a cold drink.
The only place that is open is a Chinese restaurant called "Shanghai". We have meal for two with beer & jasmine tea for 15,000 cfa. It was lovely.
While we are in town Richy, Paul & Adam swap the tyres over.
The hotel will change money but, apart from Euros, the rates are terrible. We change 60 euros in total, at 655 per €.
We just have time for a quick visit to the Artisan's Market across the road before Steve has to be back to light the fire before dinner. There is lots of interesting stuff but nothing worth discussing a price for. There are lots of big spiders on display which causes a problem for Debs.
The hotel bar is charging 2000 cfa for a beer so several of the group head off to try and find a cheaper bar in the area but with no luck.
After dinner (roast spuds, beans & salad) Steve & Debs head for the bar for one of their expensive beers. They have a live band and we sit there while Debs tries to name the capital cities of the countries we have been through.
30 Jan - day 102
We pack up and take the truck into town as we are all meeting up at 9.30 am at the Post Office. Steve & Debs take the opportunity to stock up on cans of Sprite & bags of crisps. When everyone is back we head out of Ndjamena.
The road is OK at first - tarmac with a few pot-holes - but soon ends & we move on to dirt track.
We pass a number of locals - men in their head-wraps on horses & camels,
women & children on donkeys.
At one point we pass close by some trees and swarms of grasshoppers lift out of the trees.
We stop for lunch 110k out of Ndjamena. There is a load of dead wood lying around so we collect a load for firewood. We fill both wood lockers and stack the roof, including a couple of huge logs that are going to be fun (!?) to split.
Steve & Debs video each other hanging out of truck.
As we pass through Ngoura there is a really wierd lumpy rock that makes a good photo.
We have more sandmatting to before the end of the day.
We bush camp at 13°5.929'N 17°15.818'E with 97653k on the clock.
After dinner (spaghetti with meatballs) we vote on the route we will take in Western Sudan. Despite an impassioned plea from Brian we choose the shorter Northern route.
As we have more wood than we can carry we burn the excess for a nice long fire.
31 Jan - day 103
[Sandmatting - llll ]
Photo of Debs & Shawn with the sunrise. Adam burns the rubbish. Paul saw the Southern Cross constellation last night.
We have a flat tyre that needs changing, but are still on the road by 7.30am. We are sandmatting by 8am. Shortly after a tree reaches into the truck and grabs Steve's hat.
We have to run some camels off the track at one point.
After some more sandmatting Richy decides to let some air out of the tyres.
The next drama for the day is a broken suspension spring. We stop to change it by a small village and the locals come out to watch. Debs makes friends and takes a few photos - she gives them some hair clips in return.
We have an early lunch and then move on. We have only been driving for an hour or so before the rear suspension spring on the other side breaks as well.
Adam leaves the thermometer in the sun for a while & it hits 54°c.
Bush camp at 13°11.028'N 18°28.699'E. 97805k.
Rice & chillie veg for dinner.
Total for the day...
1 flat tyre
2 broken springs
4 sandmatting sessions
152 km travelled
1 Feb - day 104
We see a Thompson's Gazelle standing around near the road,and we aren't even in a game park.
We stop in a village so that the cook group can buy bread. There is none available so they buy a few bags of doughballs. Steve & Debs buy a bag of doughballs & a goat leq to supplement breakfast.
When we arrive at Oum Hadjer we stop to try again for bread, this time succesfully. Steve gets a nice cold coke for 500 cfa.
The temperature in the truck hits 41°c by lunch time.
We arrive in Abeche and drive straight through. We are stopped as we leave the town at about 3pm and sent back to the surété to register. There go our chances of making it to the border today. However, we are finished by 4pm & even managed to refill the jerry-cans while we wait.
We almost get through the day without sandmatting but at about 5pm we have to stop while going up a hill in deep sand as there is a 4x4 coming the other way & only 1 lane. Everybody gets off and we walk the truck along the sand mats for a few hundred meters.
Bush camp at 13°45.339'N 21°22.632'E, 98128k on clock - 373k today.
Vee Balti for dinner but Steve & Debs cook up the remaining meat from their goat leg.
2 Feb - day 105
Spectacular sunrise. Local family arrive with camel & goats to watch us
We have another sandmatting session before long.
Arrive at 1st police checkpoint in Adre (13°28.531'N 22°11.420'E) at about 11am.
A short while later we drive on through the brightly coloured village market. We arrive at the Chad customs point to be told that they cannot deal with us today.
Adam gets his tent out & we get lunch started. The customs guys change their mlnds.
Steve buys some Pepsi & some sweets.
Money changer pays Steve twice. We try to give it back but he won't take it.
Get seriously stuck in a river bed at 13°27.211'N 22°13.629'E. The drive wheels dig down through the sand and get stuck against a ridge in the rock. We try hacking the rock apart but just dig ourselves deeper. A local truck pulls up so we ask them for help - they tell us it will cost £25 so we send them on their way. We jack up the back, put timber beneath the wheels and off we go. Adam asks the locals whether the river is in Chad or Sudan and they tell us that it is the border.
Shortly after we arrive in El Genina. We pull into the immigration office compound (13°25.911'N 22°25.515'E, 98314k) but the office is shut.
Sausage, mash & beans for dinner. As we have changed time-zones by 2 hours we all go to bed early.
3 Feb - day 106
The cook group start preparing breakfast at 7am, still pre-dawn & 2.5 hours before the immigration office opens. The only breakfast option is porridge so Steve finishes off his Weetabix stash & Debs just has tea.
We spend the whole day waiting around the compound while Richy & Kaz get the passports stamped.
Pasta salad for lunch.
They get the passports stamped for a fee of 5050 dinar each, plus a "security" fee which they negotiate down to 15,000 dinar for the truck.
Just before 6pm we find out that the guy who should stamp the carnet for the truck has gone home and won't be back until 8am tomorrow morning so we will have another night in this delightful compound.
We have a game of rounders and Steve & Debs get out the maze game again.
Dinner tonight is maccaroni cheese, so 3 meals in a row which Steve doesn't like - and it will be porridge again tomorrow morning.
4 Feb - day 107
Pancakes for breakfast.
Sit and wait for Carnet to be signed.
Finally get away just after 11am, 48 hours after arriving at the 1st checkpoint on the Tchad side of the border.
Leave El Genina to the north over the river and then take a right at the T-junction (13°28.343'N 22°27.505'E). The bridge is blocked off at 13°28.519'N 22°29.192'E.
Meet a wide dirt road at 13°28.834'N 22°32.381'E & turn left onto it - we end up in a quarry. We head back to where we joined the wide road and continue along it to the south-west. The road curves round to the east, past another quarry where they confirm we are on the right road.
76 = quarry
77 = t-junction to quarry
80 = quarry on good road
82 = lunch
83 = roadblock
84 = roadblock/village - bear left
88 = hit tarmac, 12°54.604'N 23°29.176'E
Into Zalingie where we stop to buy food. We continue north out of town and hit a tarmac road.
We hit a checkpoint on the way out of town. They tell us that the road is too dangerous at night so they close it at 6pm. We put up our tents - 12°55.795'N 23°30.802'E, 98515k.
5 Feb - Day 108
Another 7.30am start today but as we have shifted 2 hours when we entered Sudan the sun doesn't come up until ten to eight. Breakfast and breaking camp are done in the dark.
The back of the truck soon fills up with dust so we have to roll up the tarps. We all sit in the back, freezing.
At one of the checkpoints we find that Jebel Mara is now a no-go area, so we aren't going to be hiking up it.
We get a armed escort from wp89 (12°57.984'N 24°2.310'E) to wp90 (12°30.277'N 24°17.723'E). A dozen or so guys in a landrover with a heavy machine gun, grenade launcher, mortar, etc.
Lunch 15k from Nyala (wp91 = 12°7.798'N 24.45.759'E).
Bush camp 11°46.308'N 25°30.356'E.
6 Feb - day 109
7.30 am start again. It is still cold, with Lynne & Meghan sitting in their sleeping bags, but not as cold as yesterday.
The track is not really wide enough for us and we brush past the bushes on either side. Clouds of locusts take off, but we are travelling too slowly to leave them behind & they start to land in the truck. At one point they are coming in faster than Steve can throw them out.
We pretty soon get stuck and begin sandmatting. We end up sandmatting all day, 15 sessions in all. By the end of it we are all dead tired and our fingers are raw from carrying the mats.
At one point we puncture one of the tyres. We pull over while it is taken off, repaired and put back on. While the tyre is being sorted out Steve & Debs pump all the diesel from the reserve tanks under their storage space back into the main tanks.
Richy finally pulls over about 7pm, much to everyone's relief, and we bush camp at 11°36.778'N 26°35.084'E', 98961k on the clock. 152 gruelling kilometers in an 11.5 hour day.
Tonight's dinner is mutton in pepper sauce with potatoes, corn & green beans. Vanessa bakes some cinnamon scones and whips up some cream (after 12 minutes of solid whisking).
7 Feb - day 110
Yet another 7.30am start. Sand-matting within 10 minutes. Changing a tyre within the first hour.
Knock sandmats off side
Lunch at 11°56.995'N 27°1.601'E - we made about 70k this morning.
We park up in a village (11°57'N 27°3'E) to buy bread.
Bush camp at 12°25.929'N 27°59.451'E. 99165k, 204k today (168k as the crow flies).
8 Feb - Day 111
Another 7.30am start. Breakfast is at 7am but Steve screws up and starts getting the fire ready at 6am.
We have another heavy sand-matting morning before arrivinq at En Nahud (12°41'N 28°25'E) at about 11.30am. Richy stops to ask for directions - they bring him a bowl of water and we end up filling all the jerry cans.
9 Feb - Day 112
Still on good roads we drive to Kosti where we cross the Nile. From Kosti we drive north into Khartoum where we are staying at the Blue Nile Sailing Club. Here we get our first showers in weeks.
A grour of us wander into town for a burger/shwarma lunch. Almost everything in town is closed though.
Most of group goes out for Rachel's birthday. The minibus driver does not know where we want to go and we drive around for an hour or more. We end up at the Lucky M fast food joint. It is all a bit of a disaster but most of us have fun anyway.
Mini-bus back - argument over price.
Steve & Debs wander down the Blue Nile until it meets the White Nile. We walk halfway across the bridge to get a good view of the waters merging. We also wander into the Mogran park to try and get a bit closer.
We have some lunch in one of the restaurants overlooking the river. We have to haggle with the owner a bit but get two steak dinners and two malt-drink beer substitutes for $10 US.
Drive up to Meroe.
Bush camp just north of pyramids.
12 Feb - Day 115
We break camp at 8am and head a couple of km back down the road to visit the Pyramids at Meroe. It is closed with no-one around when we arrive, but pretty quickly a bunch of locals arrive and set up shop. We pay $2 each to visit for a couple of hours. We take lots of photos of the pyramids, heiroglyphics, etc.
Back at the truck Debs buys some old Sudanese notes & coins. Steve has a short camel ride and then persuades Debs to have a go as well..
On the way back to Khartoum we have a puncture. We have lunch while it is being fixed.
Back in Khartoum Steve & Debs visit the national museum. It is organised chronologically and, despite being small, is well worth the visit.
We get a taxi back into town and have some shwarma. We bump into Andy, Claire & Lucy and then wander back to the truck by 6pm.
We drive off to a cheaper camp site on the outskirts of town but can't find it so we just drive out of town.
Bush camp at 15°23.948'N 32°44.479'E. 100629k on the clock.
Sausage (tinned hot dogs), mash and veg for dinner.
Richy calculates our estimated part I end date as 15th March. Only 31 days to go.
13 Feb - Day 116
Drive back into Khartoum, park up at the Blue Nile sailinq club. Steve & Debs wander over to the market to get some breakfast. Back to the truck for truck guard at 10am, then back to the market to grab some shwarma for lunch. Debs buys four tea glasses, Lynne some herbiscus and Steve two boxes of Nitti cakes.
Aiso staying at the sailing club are a group of trans-African cyclists with their two support trucks from "Africa Tours" of South Africa.
After lunch we head out of Khartoum. We pass quite a few recently crashed vehicals. This is not surprising considering the buses just stop in the middle of the road to pick up passengers.
Bush camp at 14°6.285'N 33°57.290'E. 100931k. Veg curry and rice for dinner, and Vanessa bakes chocolate chip cookies.
Debs & Vanessa tell the group that they are going to need to start using up the stores.
Drive to Gadaref - Debs tries to buy a flag with no success. Gadaref is quite a large town consisting mainly of mud huts.
Leave at around 11am via dirt track through 14°0.030'N 35°23.460'E. Although it is not tarmac the road is good & we reach 80km/h. We stop for lunch about 45km from Gallabat.
We arrive in Gallabat about 2.30pm and start the paperwork. For some reason we need to supply a passport photo to leave the Sudan.
Beers in 1st bar.
Bush camp at 12°47.303'N 36°22.747'E. 101290k on clock.
Wine with Richy & Kaz.
Drive through villages - cries of "you you you".
Spectacular views but slow progress. The road is good but the gradients are steep with lots of hairpins. The maximum altitude we reach is 2289m.
Reach Gondar about 2pm.
Stay at Terara hotel (12°36.638'N 37°28.284'E) in Gondar. We change some money ($100 = 8300 Birr) and then wander into town. Debs buys an Ethiopian children's atlas.
Back at the hotel Steve puts up the tent and has a shower while Debs has the braids taken out of her hair.
Richard has organised a mini-bus tour. Seven of us pile in around 9.20am.
First stop is the Debre Berhan Selassie church. Most Ethiopian churches are round but this one is rectangular. When Sudanese muslems destroyed all the other churches in Gondar, it was protected by swarms of bees. It is surrounded by a wall with 12 towers, one for each apostle. Gondarian 7 pointed cross on roof. Interior is painted on the ceilinh and all the walls. Story of Christ, story of Mary. Picture of Mohammud on a camel being led by the devil. Church built in 1684, paintings 3 years later, no restoration.
Next on to castle. Royal enclosure has several castles.
Emporer Fasilidas built the first when he moved his court here in 1632.
Also Iyasu the Great (1682-1706) built 2nd castle. [see book "The Abysinian" by Rufin]
David 3rd ruled for 5 years - built concert hall & lion cage. Last lion was here in 1991. Abysinnian lions are small with big manes, and go black as they get older. Baths - cow horns for hanging clothes, also steam room.
Six buildings in all. Last is now used as Gondar public library.
On to baths, also constructed by Fasiladas. Once a year it is filled with water from river Caha.
Back into town. Steve picks up the photos & grabs a pastry. We wander over to the market and somehow manage to end up with a couple of local kids as "guides".
When we get back to the hotel the guy who did our laundry wants extra cash, and the driver from our morninq tour wants a tip.
After lunch we head south towards Bahar Dar.
WP 108 = 2310m
Bush camp at 11°53.868'N 37°40.797'E. 101594k.
Locals rip branches from tree & bed down around the coals from our cook fire.
We drive into Bahir Dar & drop off Adam, Vanessa and Kalima, then head out to the Blue Nile Falls.
Our guide takes us over the river on the ferry and then down the other side of the river while everyone else takes the slower route. It is the dry season so the falls are quite small.
When we get back to the truck we find another overlanding truck, from Dragoman, there as well.
We drive back into Bahir Dar and park up at the Ghion Hotel (11°35.873'N 37°23.150'E, 101710k) and sit in the bar for the rest of the day. Steve & Debs get a room because it costs very little more than camping. Over the next two nights we go through 4 rooms to try and get one with enough hot water for a bath.
6.15 breakfast as we are leaving for a boat tour of the Lake Tana monestaries at 7am. Our captain is Johannes. There are 16 of us on the boat, plus the 2 crew. Debs, Lynne & Kay play Rummy on the way out.
The first church we visit is Beta Maryam. It was built in the 14th century, but the paintings were done in the 16th & restored in the 18th.
The next is Beta Giorgis, also 14th century. Tre paintings here were restored recently & the artist painted himself in. It is guarded by monks with bolt-action rifles. They have a tiny museum with crowns, crosses & the book of St.George in goatskin. Debs buys a silver St. Theresa coin for 60 birr. She was also negotiating for a small concertina goatskin book but could not agree a price.
Next up is Narga Selassi. It has a jetty with a stone gateway. The paintinqs show, amongst others, the parting of the red sea - all the egyptian soldiers have muskets. The priests insist on getting into every photo. .
We stop to get bananas but there are none today.
The last monestary is for men only. It is pretty much the same as the others but they do have a wonderful old book.
Debs finally manages to buy a goatskin book.
No need to get up early today as we are not leavig until 3pm.
We wander down to the internet places but there seems to be a clty-wide power cut. Back to the truck where Debs starts patching Steve's trousers and Steve starts chopping up the firewood from the roof. Towards the end one of the locals brings his own saw (which has a better blade) and takes over so Steve buys him a Fanta.
Steve & Debs have lunch in the restaurant - grilled steak for Steve and mixed grill for Debs.
After lunch we wander round with the cameras and get shots of birds & trees. We get some good video of pelicans flying over the lake.
We drive out of Bahir Dar at 3pm. There are only 11 of us (plus the 3 crew) as all the others have gone to Lalibella. Brian will be flying home from Addis Abbaba, so we are now down to 22 passengers in total.
Get a bit lost - should have turned right at 11°32.041'N 37°24.196'E - and have to backtrack.
Another air hose lets go @ 11°26.801'N 37°24.014'E. They run above the repaired muffler which is bent up & is cutting into them when we go over bumps.
2470m alt south of Adet, our highest yet.
Bush camp at 11°13.473'N 37°35.730'E, 2285m alt. 101799k. Lots of locals come to watch us - Sara & Lucy keep them amused.
Most of the group go to bed at 8pm but Steve & Debs, Richard & Lucy stay up until 9!
8am start. We give some tomato soup to one of the locals but he doesn't seem to like it.
The morning is characterised by gorges, valleys, switchbacks & rickety bridges. We drop down to 1686m and then climb back up to 2464m, a 778m climb, all before 10am.
We stop in Mota to buy food. It is 35k from the camp site, but we have driven 59k and lt has taken us over 2 hours.
We reach 2682m in Nedat, a new high point, and then 2714m a bit later.
We meet the crumbling tarmac road at 10°14'N 38°8'E and turn south. Steve is riding in the cab with Richy at this point.
Richy & Steve decide to stop for a quick beer at the Hotel Alem in Dejen. In fact we end up sinking about 20 between 8 of us.
When we reach the north rim of the gorge we are at 2477m. The views are spectacular. As we drop down we realise that we won't have time to get out again before dark so we start looking for somewhere to camp. We find a track leading off the road and follow it but the driver's side drive wheel drops off the road as we go round a bend at 10°6'N 38°14'E (1278m altitude= 1200m below the top). We have a go at getting out by pushing a sandmat under the wheel but it doesn't work. We then lose the light completely so we decide to wait for the morning.
No one is particularly hungry so we just have a liguid dinner - Richy has some vodka and we grab our soft drinks for mixers.
21 Feb - day 124
We have a 6.30 alarm so that we are up in time for the sunrise but it it nothing special.
Paul & Richard put a sandmat & rocks under the other drive wheel & Richy climbs into the cab to see if he can drive us out. He starts the engine but it conks out again - out of fuel. We pump some out of the reserve tank, have some breakfast and try again. We succeed first time, so we pack everything back on the truck & head off. Steve & Debs walk alonq the track a bit to get some video of the truck.
We cross over the Abay (Blue Nile) by a bridge at the bottom of the gorge at 1077m. We are not allowed to take photos. The villaqe at the top of the gorge is at 2500m which makes it about 1400m deep.
We reach a new highest point, 3146m altitude @ 9°48.765'N 38°33.199'E. This is over 2km higher than the bridge in the gorge.
After a while the road improves dramatically, with smooth tarmac & fresh white lines.
We arrive at Debre Libanos about 12.30. Richard & Lucy go in but the rest of us don't bother. Apparently it is all fitted out in stained glass and there is a cave where a hermit lived on his knees for years.
The scenery on the way into Addis Ababa is amazing - wooded hills with great views over the city. Trudging up the side of the road are lots of local women with very wide bundles on their backs.
Richy drops a few of us off in the town as we want to get to the post office. We have a brisk walk down there but although the post office itself is open, the poste restante desk is shut. At least we learn that it is open on Saturday morning.
We start talking to a taxi driver about getting to the Bel Air hotel where we are staying. We agree a price & the driver opens the door at the back, chucks out a couple of locals and ushers us in - we feel terrible.
The Bel Air Hotel (9°1.850'N 38°46.482'E, 102246k on clock) is not bad for a budget place. Steve & Debs decide to get a room as they have hot showers and don't cost much more than campinq.
As the cook group are making curry for dinner Debs decides to make pappadoms & onion bahjees.
After dinner we all sit around in the bar chatting to the staff & a Brit called Gareth. Steve gets pretty drunk.
22 Feb - day 125
8am breakfast. We have left the water heater on all night but the water is still cold. We speak to the management & they move us to another room, this time with a decent showed.
We share a taxi to the post office with Lynne & Sara. There are two more letters for us at Poste Restant, and we send a "happy birthday" postcard to Mum. Steve also takes the opportunity to get photocopies of his passport & some city maps.
Once we finish in the post office we head for the national museum. On the way a local latches on to us and we duck into some souvenier shops to try & shake him. Debs buys some Ethiopian Flags and some old military patches while Steve gets an "Amarric for Beginners" book.
We catch a cab the rest of the way to the museum. When we get there we head straight for the palentology (fossils) section to see Lucy, the 2.5 million year old pre-human. There are also some interesting exhibits on more recent Ethiopian history.
After we finish in the museum we head across the road to Pizza Italiano where we meet up with Sara & Lynne again.
The pizza costs pretty much all of our remaining local cash and the banks are all shut so we wander down to the Hilton hotel. We change some traveller's cheques and then visit the business centre to use the internet. It is very fast but horrendously expensive so we just check our email & send off another bulletin.
By now it is late afternoon so we just jump in a taxi back to the Bel Air hotel where a couple of surprises waiting for us. First we learn that Matt is flying home tonight, which comes as a bit of a shock. Secondly Ben has shaved off his beard & all of his hair - he looks completely different.
Steve & Debs have dinner in the hotel restaurant, a local dish called Kitfo which is spicy minced beef with injera bread.
After dinner we sit around and have a drink. The staff have laid on a coffee ceremony which we can take part in.
We watch while the hostess roasts the beans and grinds them with a pestle & mortar.
At the end of the evening we sit around with Richy & Kaz in their room looking through their photos.
23 Feb - day 126
We have a lie-in this morning & Steve has a nice warm shower. Steve & Debs move their stuff into the seat that Matt had - there is a bit of dissent before people realise we don't want this space in addition to what we already have.
We then hop into a taxi to the tourist information centre, but it is closed on Saturdays & Sundays.
It is then a 10 minute walk to the supermarket to buy wine, but there are no red wine boxes left - buy batteries. Steve picks up some more AAA batteries for the Palm Pilot & MP3 player.
We then walk round to the tourist shops where Debs buys a small Ethiopian flag, a sticker for Justine & a pair of ear-rings to turn into necklaces for our mums.
We get another taxi to the British Council but it is shut as well. We get the taxi driver to take us back to the Bel Air, stopping on the way to pick up some booze
Back at the hotel Debs has a shower & we order hamburgers in the restaurant.
Drive down into the Great Rift Valley - not very spectacular.
Find a bush camp location at 8°5.409'N 38°46.314'E. 102398k. Old man pulls out the thorn bushes for us.
Steve & Debs' 2nd wedding anniversary. Up at 6.15am so Steve can light the fire for breakfast.
We drive down to the hot springs at Wendo Gennet. They pipe the hot water into showers & a swimming pool. The pool is nice but the showers are fantastic, the best we have had since leaving England.
The villages in this area are full of horse-drawn traps and donkey carts.
As we drive through the valley we spot an amazing number of dust devils & twisters, including a couple of huge ones that probably rank as tornados. A small one hits a thatched hut as we go by and we see the straw being ripped of the roof and whirled into the sky.
We pass a fair few trucks on the way, and not all of them make it easy for us to overtake. One one occaision it is so close we clip the other truck with the sandmats.
The town of Dila has good facilities, including an ice-cream parlour, but we cruise on through. After Dila we climb out of the rift valley & the road starts to qet bad. The scenery is very green though with lots of trees and even proper grass.
We reach a maximum altitude of 2580m today - not bad but nowhere near our highest.
As we start to descend we make increasing use of the breaks, which eventually overheat & start pouring out smoke/breakfast.
We bush camp on top of f hill at 5°36.069'N 38°14.225'E, 2056m, 102726km on the clock.
As the cook group gets dinner on (spaghetti carbonara followed by chocolate chip cookies) Steve pulls out the boots we bought in Addis Ababa and starts offering it around to celebrate our 2nd wedding anniversary. Adam decides that this is a good moment to pull out the wine that was left over from the Christmas booze. We have had a couple of bottles of bubbly chilling in wet socks on the roof all day. We share this about a bit as well, but make sure that Debs is able to sink at least a bottle herself.
By the time she comes to bed (we are sleeping on the truck tonight) Debs is thoroughly drunk.
25 Feb - Day 128
Richy calls for another 7.30 start this morning. Debs is on breakfast duty so Steve swaps with Lynne & does the fire.
Steve hands out the empty bottles from last night. The locals take them - one asks for food. When Steve says no he says "I kill you"!
It is another cool morning and as we drive through the hills we enter a managed pine forest. It feels more like Canada or Sweden than Africa.
At one point we drive over the crest of a hill to find a family of baboons lounging on the road. They scarper into the trees as we approach and we don't manage to get any photos.
One of the valleys we pass is full of flat topped Acacia trees and looks like it should have dinosaurs roaming through it.
We see our first camels for a while as the landscape changes back to savanna, punctuated by impressive termite mounds. There is even a vivid pink lake.
There is an opportunity to catch up on the diaries as we stop to change another flat tyre.
We pass a ruined fort in the hills before descending through the town of Mega into the next valley where we record an altitude of 1354m, the lowest since the bottom of the Blue Nile Gorge.
The skys continue to darken until we spot a rainstorm ahead with the road heading straight into it. We stop and take the tarps down - the first time we have driven with them down since Morocco. The rain is intense but doesn't last very long.
We arrive at Moyale around 2pm where we stop briefly for fuel & food. We start the Ethiopian exit procedings at about 3pm, drive across the bridge into Kenya at about 4pm and finish at Kenyan immigrations at 5pm. We don't get very far though as the road is closed because it is too dangerous to travel at night.
Richy walks off to have a word, and pretty soon we are on our way again, trying to stay ahead of the rain and remembering to drive on the left.
We drive along the earth roads but don't manage to keep ahead of the rain.
Bush camp at 3°21.885'N 39°2.339'E, 103110k on the clock. Only 687m altitude so it is hot and humid. There is also the threat of more rain so we have to put the fly sheet on the tent.
Debs, Vanessa & Kalima make corned-beef hash for dinner. Paul burns a pile of thorn bushes and a log from the roof
26 Feb - Day 129
We have a late start today as Richy & Paul have to work on the truck. Breakfast is supposed to be at 8.30 but everyone is up well before that.
As we drive onwards we pass various birds and animals including a huge tortoise and some dik-diks (very small deer).
Steve stands up front talking to Kay about shadows in computer games.
We blow a tyre sowe stop to change it (& have lunch) by a village @ 3°27.517'N 38°31.023'E.
Steve adds a couple more waypoints to GPS.
The scenery changes to Savanna, yellow grass dotted with black rocks that distance & imagination turn into herds of wildebeest.We spot various birds & animals, including Grant's Gazelles, Golden Breasted Starlings and a Kori Bustard.
As the sun starts to go down the terrain changes again to a barren rock filled plain. We are starting to worry about where to bush camp when Richy spots a suitable location (2°46.769'N 38°5.298'E, 103281k) and pulls off the road. We puncture 2 tyres in the process though.
Kay & Michael make sausage, beans & rice for dinner.
Paul digs a pit & builds a huge fire with one of the large logs from the roof, 4 complete magazines and copious quantities of kerosene & diesel. We don't cook on it though.
27 Feb - Day 130
We have another late start today as Richy & Paul have to change the 2 flat tyres. While they are working Steve, Lynne & Ben chop up some of the firewood from the roof. Unfortunately some of the larger logs stubbornly refuse to split.
We get on the road shortly after 9am. The drive to the Marsabit park is uneventful although we do pull up for a lone cyclist who has stopped by the side of the road. It turns out he is just having a rest though so we push on.
The Marsabit park seems to be just a hilly area where shooting is prohibited. We drive around a fairly large caldera though, and arrive at the town about 11am.
Marsabit itself is not very impressive, and we only stop for half an hour (which turns into 2 hours). Steve buys himself a Cadbury's whole-nut bar & we have some chips in a local cafe. There is water available here as well so the jerrys are refilled.
The road climbs up to over 1400m just after Marsabit town, over 800m above the surrounding plains. The tops of the hills around us are an island of green in the desert, with a huge rain cloud (and attendant mini-tornados) in the distance. We stop for lunch on the way back down.
A short while later we stop again as we have another problem with the springs. Steve settles himself in the shade of a tree to read our "new" East Africa guide, and two locals (with rifles) wander over for a chat. The conversation revolves around them wanting our watches & us saying "no".
It turns out that we need a part that we don't have so we have to go back to town. While waiting for the part to be made a bunch of us wander over to the New Sakou Bar & Restaurant where they serve Smirnoff Ice!
Camp in church grounds at 2°19.596'N 37°59.312'E, 103368k on the clock. No swearing please as the elderly priests are trying to sleep.
Sweet & sour chicken / veg curry for dinner. Steve goes down to the hotel for a beer with Richy & Kaz, picking up Kalima & Karyn on the way. After a beer Steve walks back to the church to pick up Debs,who has been doing her QM chores. Debs is tired and would rather go to bed so Steve walks back on his own in the dark, getting a little bit lost and very grateful for Richy's big Maglite.
28 Feb - Day 131
7.30 start this morning. It has rained overnight and everything is slightly damp. The sky is completely overcast, with clouds drifting in front of the hills.
We hit the road again, heading south from Marsabit - thls is the 3rd time we have driven along this particular stretch of road.
After a while we stop to help some locals fix their Landrover. Paul the mechanic to the rescue.
It is another good day for wildlife. First we see an ostrich by the side of the road. We stop the truck & it takes off across the tundra - we get a good video clip.
We pass a number of Gazelle, then Vanessa shouts "Zebras". We all laugh and tell her that they are donkeys, but it turns out that Vanessa was right - this is our first zebra sighting. Sorry Ness.
Debs also sees her first Dik-Dik as well.
During a brief stop in Laisamis (1°35'N 37°48'E) to buy bread Debs buys a necklace of brown & white beads.
In the afternoon our wildlife spotting continues with a Silverback Jackel, a Giraffe, Impala & Kudu.
We arrive in Isiolo by 6pm. After a short stop, during which we are accosted by a crazy glue sniffing mute local we move on to the Range Land Hotel (0°17.538'N 37°33.453'E, 103640km).
Steve & Debs get a room as we don't fancy queueing for showers.
Richy announces that Paul will be leaving us tomorrow at Nakuru. He will be having a short break before starting as a driver on a Phoenix Nairobi to Cape Town tour, a week or two ahead of us.
We join him in the bar where we sink a few beers and tuck into sausage, egg & chips. Debs didn't actually order eggs, but got them anyway & we had to pay for them - not to worry as it meant they just didn't get a tip.
6.30am, Steve wakes up in a great mood, partly due to the cholesterol from last night's meal. After liqhtinq the breakfast fire it is back to the room for a hot shower.
As we drive on we get some great views of Mt Kenya before the cloud forms. The foothills look like England, complete with wooley sheep. We get up to 2592m.
The excitement mounts as we approach the equator. We get to under 0°1'N but then turn NW again at Nankuri. Shortly after we stop to get directions & Richy notices we have broken a couple of springs on the drive axle.
Richy drives on a bit to find a good place to replace the strings. We spot some zebras next to the road just before he stops, so Steve & Debs wander off to with the camcorder to stalk them. They are quite wary but we still get some good footage.
It takes us 3.5 hours to change the spring & then we are off again.
[Turn left at 5.316'N 36°39.412'E]
We meet the main road again at 0°1'N 36°29'E - in hindsight the shortcut from Nankuri probably didn't save us any time - and then motor on to Thomson Falls (Nyahururu). The falls are nice but the most memorable thing is the pestering from the souvenier shop owners.
The road leads down into the Great Rift Valley, with fine views from the top, and we finally cross the equator at the bottom (36°13.875'W). Steve & Debs jump out to get a photo, even though it is not where the signs are.
We arrive in Nakuru just before 6pm. The banks are shut & there is a huge queue for the cashpoint at Barclays-so Debs & Richy change with a guy in shop down the road. Meanwhile Steve checks briefly the email.
It is here that Paul leaves the truck. As we drive off we get some video of him walking off down the road with his backpack on.
We drive out of town to bush camp but it is all fenced off fields. We turn off the road but it is still all fenced off. Richy tries to turn the truck around but there is not enough room so we drive on. We meet a car coming the other way - the driver's parents own a farm & we can camp there.
We camp in the farm compound (0°14.517'N 35°52.695'E, 103898km).
We have an early (7am) start planned but find ourselves locked into the compound until the owners unlock the gates.
The road to the border is good so we reach it (at Malaba) just after mid-day. We buy some samosas & Fanta and change a bit ($10) of cash. We have lunch on the outskirts of the town while waiting for the Carnet to be stamped (& changing a tyre).
From Malaba we push on to Jinja where we stop at the Nile River Explorers camp site (0°29.053'N 33°9.808'E, 104316k).
Richy finds out that all our qorilla permits are for the 4th so we have to press on. We drive to Kampala where wc stop outside the Barclays bank for cash but our cards (even Barclays Connect) don't work. We dive into Steers for an (averaqe) burger & (great) chips. Kaz has her ATM card swallowed by the machine.
We leave Kampala on the wronq road - the route we needed is through (0°18.017'N 32°31.863'E), (0°18.413'N 32°31.012'E) and
Richy drives all night, and camps up on top of a hill outside Kabale at 1°14.455'S 30°3.295'E, about 6.30am.
We don't even bother sleeping, just get the fire on for breakfast. We then drive into Kabala where we try to change US travellers cheques to cash dollars, but the best we can get is 77 cents per dollar.
There is a guy hanging around the truck offering custom T-Shirts for $10 each. Steve & Debs put in an order for a couple with the Truck Africa logo, a Scania truck, "2003" and the Rwanda gorillas logo.
We then head for the Rwanda border at 1°25'S 30°1'E - we get there about10am. We park up next to a car that has a Crested Crane examining its reflection in the windscreen. Steve & Debs buy a samosa & change 10 euros. We move on again at around 11.45am.
The truck stops in Kigali, the Rwandan capital where Richy picks up the gorilla permits. Steve & Debs try to change travellers cheques again, still with no success - we duck into a cafe & have chips & a cheese toastie instead.
From Kigali we have a 5 hour drive to Ruhengeri. As it starts to get dark we feel a few spots of rain so we stop the truck & pull the tarps down. Steve jumps off to tie the ropes & the heavens open - he gets soaked through. We drive on through a really impressive thunderstorm.
In preparation for the gorilla trek we swap out our camera film (982-821) for our only remaining 400 ASA roll - mid-roll change is so useful.
We arrive at the Asoferwa hotel, Kinigi - Ruhengeri (1°25.933'S 29°35.902'E, 2316m, 105066k) quite late. After dinner & preparation for the gorrilla trek we get to bed around midnight.
Everyone gets up early and we head over to the park office. We get there shortly after 7am but have to wait until 8 for the guide. They also tell us that we need cars. There is a brief panic but they have a pickup that one group can use & two germans (Grit & Rudy) join our group & they have a 4x4.
Our guide's name is Budahera Anaclet. He used to be a teacher until they re-opened the park and he got the guide job. We also have an armed guard from the army.
We (Steve & Debs, Kaz, Sara and Grit & Rudy) will be visitinq the Sabyinyo gorilla group. We walk for 20 minutes to the edge of the forest, and then trek for another 40 or so to where the gorrillas are (1°24.825'S 29°31.979'E). The trail is very muddy and slippery after last night's storm.
The first gorrillas we see are a baby (1.5 years old) & a Silverback. The baby is playing around but the silverback is dozing.
Anaclet leads us off to see if we can find any other gorillas and we end up chasing them all over the hill. The guides have to hack their way through the bamboo & stinging nettles as there are no paths. The terrain
We watch another baby playing while its mother tries to sleep, and nearby a pre-adult tries to climb a tree. The tree won't support its weight and it crashes to the ground.
As we head back the trai passes through an area about 20m across that is swarming with bitinq red ants.
When we get back to the car park Anaclet has a guest book for us all to siqn. We then head back to the office, stopping on the way for a guided tour of the new lodge which looks very nice, but the rooms start at $65 per night.
Back at our hotel we hit the bar/restaurant with Grit & Rudy - goat & chips with a cold beer. When we run out of Rwandan cash we switch to US dollars & end up quite merry.
We head off from the hotel, stopping to pick up bread in Ruhengeri. We take a different route back to Uganda, crossinq the border at Cyanika (1°20.521'S 29°44.461'E) where we have more forms to çill in and another visa fee.
As we climb into the hills out of Kisoro we pass a truck from Absolute Africa, another overlanding company. Shortly afterwards we have a scenic lunch stop in the hills with the volcanos as a backdrop.
As we climb over the hills we reach 2464m altitude.
[wp 131 = Bunyonyi lake access road]
We arrive at Bunyonyi Overland Camp (1°16.235'S 29°56.396'E, 1991m,105204k) at 4pm. Exodus, yet another overlanding company, are here as well - they are a week into a Kenya to Cape trip and are still clean & fresh.
Richy starts swapping & mending tyres, while Steve pulls some more wood off the roof and chops it up. Steve & Debs transfer some diesel from the reserve tank, and we hand over some laundry to be washed.
One of the girls from the Exodus truck has a brand new camcorder which she is planning to take to the gorilla parks but it has stopped working. Richy volunteers Steve to have a look at it - obvious really considering his extensive experience in this field (?!). We make a bit of progress but eventually have to admit defeat.
Steve orders Sausage & chips from the bar, and Debs has some chips to go with the Thai Red Curry sauce that tonight's cook group make.
After dinner we sit around in the bar & chat to another tourist about life in Amsterdam & climbing Kilimanjaro.
Everything is wet when we get up, including our washing, due to mist from the lake. We head down to Kabale at 9am, giving a lift to a couple of backpackers.
Michael has decided to leave the truck at Kampala as there is a festival in Spain he wants to go to. He was not going to do part II anyway and has seen the Serengeti before.
Kalima organises a whip-round to pay for white water rafting for Richy to show our apprecitation for the effort he put in to get us to the gorillas on time.
We stop in Kabale to pick up our T-Shirts and get some pastry & bread from the bakery. We then have a full day of driving ahead of us to get to Kampala.
Richy stops the truck to get a photo of some cows ! They have huge horns.
Lynne patches the patches on Steve's trousers which are getting more threadbare by the day.
We get some photos of huge Maribou Storks sittinq in the trees.
We stop at the equator (0°0'N 32°2.396'E) for some photos & Richy arranges for us to camp there. The equator runs through a cabbage patch so we can't put the tent exactly on it though.
There ara a bunch of tourist shops & bars there so Steve buys drinks for Michael & Lynne. There is a guy selling chicken on a stick for 1000 Ush & Steve can't resist.
This is a good opportunity to chop more firewood so Steve heads back to the truck where he finds Adam & Ben already hard at it. He rushes back to the bar to get them each a beer. Adam breaks the saw blade & Richy isn't around to get a new one out, but then one of the locals turns up with another saw. Steve calls him up on top of the truck where there is a branch sticking out of one of the logs which will catch low wires. Steve offers to buy him a beer if he saws it off - it seems like a good deal until he realises how hard the wood is.
We have rice & veg for dinner, and Adam has a bottee of Champagne that Steve gets the bar to chill for us.
We have a 7.30am start for the drive into Kampala. Debs, Lynne & Rachel have one last equator photo as no-one seems interested in a group photo.
Debs writes some of the postcards we bought in Addis Ababa while Steve gets up to date on the journal.
We arrive at the Nile River Explorers camp (0°29.053'N 33°9.808'E. 105718km) late afternoon. Everyone hits the bar, and Steve proceeds to get very, very drunk.
Today is white water raftinq day. Steve, Richy, Lynne, Rachel, Justine, Ben & Kalima are up for it, and we are joined by two other people. We put the boats in the water just below the dam & get started wlth the safety briefing.
We have split into two groups, with Steve, Ben, Kalima & another guy called Oliver in one raft with Lee as our guide. The boats are 14ft long and can take a lot more than the five of us.
Lee teaches us to use our paddles (not oars) as a team, and we practice getting back into the boat after a flip. If we manage to keep hold of the boat this is a "short swim" - if we are separated it is a "long swim". However there are 3 safety kayaks with us who will generally come and get us.
The guys in the kayaks spend much of the day clowning around but they really know their stuff. One of them, Paulo, recently came 12th in international competition. Also following us down in a kayak is Ben the photographer with his camcorder.
There are four grade 5 rapids and a number of lesser ones on the river. In total we manage to flip our raft 3 times during the day, but are happy with that as the other boat flips 4 times.
Debs, Kaz & Adam walk down to the river at Bujagali falls to watch us run the grade 5 there. Debs gets some video as Steve's raft gets flipped.
At one point the river widens out almost into a lake and we sit and drifi for a while. The guides produce packets of Nice biscuits and bunches of baby bananas to keep us going.
Kalima throws herself into the river to cool off but Lee tells her that it is not a good idea as there are crocodiles on this stretch of the river. She doesn't really believe him but we haul her back in anyway. Shortly afterwards we pass a baby croc sunning itself on a rock!
Spending all this time on (and in) the water is pretty hard on the sunblock and we have to re-apply regularly, but even so Steve manages to burn his legs.
There are a couple of grade 6 rapids/waterfalls on the river that we have to carry the rafts around, although at the second there are porters waiting to carry them for us.
The last rapid, a grade 5 called "Bad Place" gives us all a bit of beating. This is the only time that Steve gets worried as he keeps getting pulled back under the surface and can't get a breath. However we all eventually pop back up and the safety kayaks round us all up.
We all drag ourselves out of the water and up the steep bank, grateful to have survived the day. The support truck is supposed to be there to meet us with beer & food, but it is late. We stand at the top and watch rafts from Adrift & Equator run the Bad Place - one skirts it but the others all plough straight in and flip. One of the rafts gets stuck in the hole for a good 5 minutes after dumping its passengers.
Eventually the truck turns up, with Kaz and Debs on board. We all get stuck into the beer, salads, bread & chicken. Debs & Kaz have been drinking all day and are pretty merry, while Steve is starting to suffer his hangover from the previous night's excess.
Back at the camp site Steve & Debs have a nap before dinner (spaghetti). Later on we head to the bar to watch the video of the day's rafting. It is really good and we buy a copy on CD.
We have a slow day today, starting with a full English breakfast down at Speke Camp by the river. We then wander back to the truck where Richy, Ben & Adam are changinq the broken springs.
Steve changes the blade on the firewood saw which is a lot harder than it sounds as the replacement blades are the wrong size. They have to be cut short with a chisel then a hole punched in. The blades keep splitting when trying to enlarge the whole - in all it takes 14 attempts & snaps 2 blades. After sorting the saw out Steve helps with the springs while Debs does some washing.
While we work the sky clouds over & we feel a few spots of rain. We throw fly sheets on the tents & put the tarps down on the truck to be on the safe side & continue working. A few minutes later the heavens open. Debs jumps on to the truck & Steve legs it to the bar where he borrows a T-shirt from the bar as we were all wearing just shorts. While we wait for the rain to pass we order ourselves sausage & chips.
Steve & Debs buy a Nile river rapids T-shirt & a pair of shorts.
We had planned to do a booze cruise on Lake Victoria in the evening but it didn't happen and the staff weren't around.
While waitinq for dinner (spicey veg and rice) we call home to the UK. The card phone had its number printed on it so we could call and ask our parents to call us back. We were supposed to limit our calls to 10 minutes but there was no-one else waiting.
After dinner we wander over to All Terrain Adventures where Richy & Kaz have gone for a drink. We can't find a bar but then a door opens & we are invited in - it is not a bar but someone's house & we have gatecrashed a dinner party. We feel bad but they make us feel very welcome & when we all head back to the bar at our campsite we buy them drinks.
The bar starts to fill up and gets a bit rowdy, so we head for bed around midnight.
We are back on the road again today, heading back to Kenya. It is a fairly relaxed start but we manage to get off before 9am. We were able to pay our bar tab by visa which was useful as the rafting, video & t-shirt were on it and it came to almost $150.
Richy gets us to the border at Malaba by 11.30am where we haggle with the locals again for Fanta & samosas while Richy & Kaz sort out immigration. We are very lucky & don't have to pay again for Kenyan visas. We are on our way again before 12.30.
We reach 2866m altitude as we drive from Eldoret to Nakuru and it gets very cold & windy.
Bush camp on a track into the forest at 0°0.159'N 35°31.866'E, 2836m altitude, 106073 km on the clock.
Steve & Richy look at the electrics. Debs & Vanessa bake cakes.
11 Mar 2003
The drive down into Nakuru is pretty chilly so we wrap up in our Maroccan blanket. We have a couple of hours in the town but need to truck guard. Steve & Debs grab a sausage roll & meat pie each, go back for our 15 minute truck guard stint then head for an internet to check out the options for climbing Kilimanjaro.
After lunch we drive down to the park where Richy sorts out the entrance fee ($27 each) while the rest of us watch the monkeys. There is a mother & baby that everyone takes photos of. We can take Priscilla into the park, and we don't need a guide.
The drive through the park is a wildlife bonanza. We see our first water buffalo, and thousands of flaminqos lining the shallows.
We also see numerous Water Buck, Thomson's Gazelles, Baboons (but not at Baboon Cliffs), Impalas, Warthogs & Zebras.
We spend quite a watching a group of
Giraffes as well. We spot a pair of Ostriches, but are really looking for Rhino.
Eventually we see a car stopped in the road ahead and then realise that they are watching a White Rhino, so Richy kills the engine and we coast up. We seem to spook the Rhino and it wanders slowly away, but we still get some good video.
On the way out of the park we spot a large backside at a water hole but opinion is divided over whether it is a rhino or a hippo.
As it gets dark we drive down to Naivasha and camp at Fishermans Camp on the lake. (0°49.556'S 36°20.147'E, 1900m, 106305km).
We immediately get stuck into burger/steak & chips, beer and, for Debs, a 12 year old malt.
As we are sitting in the bar finishing our drinks someone rushes into the bar to tell us that there is a hippo grazing by the tents. We rush over to watch and manage to get some sketchy night vision video.
We wake up in the morning to find hairy black & white Colubus monkeys watching us from the trees & four huqe stalks wandering through the camp.
The camp has a chainsaw so we get them to chop up the huqe logs we have had on the roof for months. Ben lays into the sections with the axe and Adam & Steve pack the wood lockers.
We have some lunch, watch MTV and play some pool before wandering over to Elsamere for the afternoon. They serve us afternoon tea and show us a video about Joy Adamson.
When we get back to the camp site we find Paul is there. His new truck is on its way back from Uganda and he is meeting it here. Apparently he was as surprised as us when his taxi pulled up next to Priscilla.
Steve takes Debs for a romantic dinner at the Fish Eagle Restaurant next door. The food is superb, we have a bottle of wine and we are the only people there.
13 Mar - day 144
We have an 8.30am departure for the drive into Nairobi. Paul's truck did not turn up so he comes with us. We stop on the way for a scenic view of the great rift valley. Steve & Debs took their doxy this morning (they forgot last night) without food and are both feeling nauseous - Steve buys some doughnuts which settle us down.
The truck drops most of us off in the Westlands district of Nairobi where there is a modern shopping centre. Steve buys another memory stick for the camcorder, a memory card reader and a computer book. We also pick up some waterproof over-trousers for the Killy climb
There is a Barclays Bank there where we cash some traveller's cheques, and we manage to get on to the Internet although it is very slow.
We get a taxi to the place we are staying, the Nairobi Park Services (Tel 890325, 1°21.325'S 36°45.676'E, 1820m, 106436k). This is the place where most of the overlandinq trucks are based, and in addition to Priscilla there are trucks from Acacia , On The Go Tours and Gorillas Africa.
We sit in the bar anp Steve reads his new book while Debs catches up of her diary.
Steve has a Beef & Guiness Pie and Debs has a ham, cheese, tomato & onion toastie - both are fab.
Lou & Adie are flying home tonight as they have already been to the Serengeti. Sara also announces she will be staying in Nairobi.
Richy & Kaz are very drunk - Debs has video
Steve gets up at 7.30am & does the breakfast fire before heading to the bar & ordering a full English breakfast. Richy wanders in a while later and can't remember anything from last night.
Get a taxi with Richy, Kaz & Ben down the road to a town called Karen where Steve changes some money, then we head back to Westlands. Steve hunts around to find somewhere to transfer our diqital photos to CD. We also get some more cash sent over from the UK.
Steve has no luck with the memory stick reader - the PC recognises the device but the card is in the wrong format.
We head back to the shopping centre to watch a film with Ben ("Catch Me If You Can" with Tom Hanks & Leonardo di Caprio) before getting a cab back to the camp site.
Everyone gets dolled up tonight as we are havinq a group dinner at the
"Carnivore" restaurant. We start off with Vodka, Lime & Honey cocktails before the food arrives. There is lots of meat - beef, pork, chicken, lamb, crocodile, zebra, hartebeest & ostrich, and gazelle meatballs. Steve & Debs get through 2 bottles of Merlot.
After the meal we hit the dance floor and dance into the early hours of the morning
Richy starts the day by changing the clutch and Steve helps him pressurise the new clutch hydrolics. We finally leave for Arusha at 11am.
We cross the border into Tanzania @ 2°32.817'S 36°47.208'E - it is an uneventful crossing. There is a bit of excitement as we drive towards a mountain that everyone thinks it is Kilimanjaro until Steve checks the GPS and the map - it is actually Mt Meru.
We drive around Arusha to a place called Meserani Snake Park (3°24.544'S 36°29.021'E, 1335m, 106769km) where we will be staying. There are overland trucks here from Kamuka, Absolute Africa, Dragoman & Exodus as well as us and two Phoenix trucks - Paul's and our new one which has followed us down.
Debs and some of the others go to look at the snakes while Steve gets the fire started for dinner.
Today is the start of our Serengeti/Ngorogoro excursion, but we have a look around the snake park first. Debs plays with a grass snake.
It is being run by Fun Safaris (www.funsafarisltd.com) in Land Rovers and Land Cruisers. Steve & Debs are in a Toyota with Adam, Vanessa, Karen & Kalima. Our driver is Timmy, so Adam & Steve are "the boys" and the girls are the "Schmoos".
As we drive there we see a Tawny Eagle in a tree, and some Masai boys in black with white masks dancing by the road. A while later we drive past flocks of yellow billed storks sitting in the trees.
To start with there is a lot of banter between the groups over the CBs.
We stop for lunch overlooking Ngorogoro crater. Debs is tucking into her chicken breast when an African eagle swoops down and steals it out of her hands!
On the way down from the hills we spot our first wildebeest but they are a long way off.
When we get down to the plains we see hundreds of Grants & Tompson's gazelles, and a fair few Zebra. We also see some Ostrich & Giraffe.
As far as birdlife is concerned we see a Lappet faced vulture, Cory bustards & Egrets.
We get up quite close to a group of Spotted hyenas. They are fat & ugly.
Debs qets some video of Shawn as we enter into the Serengeti which means "endless plain". We get to see some wildebeest up close, as well as Hartebeest & warthogs.
The convoy pulls off the main road onto a 4x4 track that follows a river where we stop next to a small herd of
Elephants. Timmy points out a Leopard sleeping in a tree nearby, our first big cat. We sit and watch it sleep for a while, along with 10 other 4x4s.
Eventually we get bored & move on for a while until we spot a lioness sleeping in a tree. Nearby a lioness is playing with her cub, while a lion & lioness lie in the grass further down.
It is starting to get dark now & we pass a giraffe silhouetted against the sunset. We all get photos, but we aren't sure what it makes of Karen's red-eye-reduction flash.
We all have rooms in the Seronera Wildlife Lodge. There is just time for a (tepid) shower before heading up to the bar to meet Fish, the tour organiser. We chat to him about climbing Kilimanjaro which he can organise, before heading back over to the campsite for dinner (spag bol).
We wake up to a beautiful sunrise and wander across for a cooked breakfast at 6.30am. We watch Maribou storks wander across the car park & Hyrax on the roofs & rocks.
As soon as we start the game drive we have to stop for a "Zebra crossing". We also see a pair of Jackels & a Hyena, then Impala,Topi
& Water bucks. There are blue cloths hanging around - Timmy explains that these are Tetse fly traps.
We drive down to the river to find a group of Hippos, but have to move on because the other groups have found a Cheetah. We get some wonderful photos & video - it is such a wonderful experience that it brings Debs to tears.
A few hundred metres down the road we find a Lioness sitting by side of road. She wanders around the truck & lies down. There is a huge herd of zebra & wildebeest that can't get to the river because of her, and also two males on opposite sides of the river.
Also in the same place are a Hippo grazing beside river and five or six Black faced or vervet monkeys in a tree.
Back down the road there are thousands of zebra & wildebeest by a river, waiting to get a drink.
We stop by another watering hole where a single wildebeest is drinking - all the others have spooked and run off. We spot a lioness creeping up towards it and Timmy moves the Land Cruiser into position as we grab the cameras. Suddenly the wildebeest takes off and the lioness sprints after it, skidding around the corner. Then the wildebeest disappears and the lioness settles into the qrass - we all think she has caught it but Timmy says "no" and moves us around to a different position.
From our new vantage point we can see that the wildebeest has fallen into the river. It is trying to climb out but can't for some reason. We then notice that a crocodile has it by the leg. Shortly after another croc gets it by the throat, but it is still trying to get out. All the while the lioness is pacing up on the bank. Eventually the wildebeest struggles round a bend in the river and out of sight, with both crocs still hanging on. We can't follow and so we just watch as the lioness gives up and slinks off in disgust.
We all have huge cheesy grins as we hadn't dared hope to see such a spectacle, and Debs had had the camcorder running all the time.
Timmy drives us on a bit further to where a family of African elephants (Tembo) are standing in the shade of a tree - they include a baby only a month or so old.
A little while later we spot an eagle owl in a tree with a load of Guinee Fowl.
We head back to where we saw the hippos earlier but they are not doing much. We hear a strange noise from somewhere in the bushes which Timmy tells us is lions mating.
There is another hippo pool nearby where we watch to see if we can catch a hippo yawning. A couple of them have a bit of a scrap as well.
We move on again hoping for a better view of a leopard. We don't see any leopards but do spot more Giraffes and Ostrich.
After lunch (chicken & fried potato) we head back across the park back towards Ngorogoro. On the way we see some vultures picking on a carcass, a troop of Olive Baboons (includinq a baby on its mother's back) and a big herd of elephants.
Timmy pulls up again near another watering hole where we find a pride of 12 or so lions lying in the shade of a tree. A load of chattering Japanese tourists pull up alongside us which spoils the ambiance a bit.
Moving on we reach the park exit only a few minutes late, just after 4pm. We pull up with a flat tyre a while later but we are old hands at this now and the tyres are much smaller than the ones we are used to dealing with.
On the way up to the crater we spot some Dik Diks and both black back & golden jackals.
We reach the lodge on the rim of the crater and check in. Our room looks out over some trees though, but there are fine views from the restaurant where we have the hot buffet which includes roast warthog. There are some acrobats performing in the lounge.
Back in the room we review the day's video - the tape is bad! The lion chase is all gone. A bad end to a fabulous day.
We get up early to catch the sunrise over the crater and have a cooked breakast before heading down into the crater. The descent road is steep and twisting but Timmy & the LandCruiser handle it with ease.
We spot four lions in the first 10 minutes. We are still looking for leopards as we enter the only forest area in the crater. We don't see any leopards but do find some elephants. There are only bulls in the crater, and we see one that is 60-70 years old with huge tusks.
When we leave the forest we spot some rhinos in the distance - this is the last of the big 5 for the Serengeti/Ngorogoro trip.
We see (and film) more lions, hippos, jackals, hyenas & flamingos before our battery charger dies. This is the second one that has died on us during the trip!
A little while later we return to the hippos to find them rolling & splashing in the water. It is not deep enough to cover them so they need to keep wet & covered in mud.
Further on a lion & lioness are getting amourous but it will probably be another few days before they get around to doing anything about it.
Eventually we run out of time & have to head out of the crater. On the way out we pass a dead Thompson's Gazelle - probably killed in a fight. A little while later we see another Tommy getting frisky.
We are still looking out for leopard, but the best we can do is a distant cheetah before we climb out of the crater and have lunch.
We drive back to Arusha to find that Richy has organised a BBQ for us. After watching the pythons being fed (live chickens) we all sit down to eat. Vanessa & Karyn perform the comic animal impressions that we worked out on the drive back.
Steve talks to Fish about killy again.
Today is going to be a fairly relaxing day. We start with a short camel ride to a Masai village. It is quite interesting & our guide knows quite a few stories. Debs plays pat-a-cake with the kids & everyone takes lots of photos. On the way back Steve & Kalima have a camel "race".
Debs buys a Masai blanket & knife while Steve picks up the cash we sent from the UK from Richy.
In the afternoon Debs goes into Arusha & picks up the poste-restante. Steve waits around fom Fish to finalise the details about Killy.
We all transfer our stuff to the new truck which has been christened "Lola".
In the evening we sit in the bar and chat to a guy called Gavin who will be climbing Killy with us.
A minibus arrives at 7am to pick us us for the Killy climb. We give Karen & Kalima a lift into Arusha where we pick up our guide, Salim Athuman.
We drive on to Macheme villaqe, getting a few excited glimpses of the mountain through the clouds.
We arrive at the park gate (1820m) at 11am. Salim organises porters & we sign in. We pay the park fees with our US dollar traveller's cheques.
Debs buys a walking stick from one of the locals & writes our starting position on it.
Salim has stuff to organise so he sends us on ahead with one of the porters - he tells us to walk slowly but the porter sets a fair pace.
We have a great day climbing through the rain forest with Steve watching for leopard all the time. It was very muddy in places.
Salim (and our lunch) never catch us and we arrive at Macheme camp (3°5.714'S 37°15.976E, 3047m) around 4pm. Soon the other trekkers begin to arrive - a Dutch couple, Pere (Norwegian), Martin (German) and a Korean girl who is struggling a bit. We tuck into some biscuits that Rachel & Gavin have brought along.
Our packed lunches arrive at around 5pm & we dive in as we are starving. Steve asks Salim what went wrong, as we had no guide for the day & no food between 7am when they picked us up in Arusha and 5pm. Salim is unsympathetic and says we walked too fast so we decide to dock him a day's tip.
The rest of the porters arrive and put up the tents. We have brand new 2 man dome tents & there is also a larger tent where they cook & we eat our meals. The food is good, and we are in bed by 8pm.
Salim is leading us today, and we carry our packed lunches with us so no worries there.
The scenery changes to rocky heathland and we stop for lunch at 3713m, about 11.45am.
We arrive at the Shiva Plateau camp (3°4.32'S 37°16.592'E, 3658m) about 1.20pm. It is raining.
Our assistant guide leads us off for a hike up to 4100m at about 4.15pm. When we get back dinner is ready.
We climb up & down all day as we traverse around the mountain, crossinq several valleys. Our highest
point is 4500m+ according to the altimeter & GPS, but Salim doesn't believe us as he thinks it is only 4100m.
We find our lunch waiting for us (all laid out on a picnic blanket) at 4509m (3°3.868' S 37°18.991'E) around 14.45am. It is snowing slightly.
We arrive at Barranko camp (3°5.676'S 37°19.754'E, 4000m) in the early afternoon. Salim points out the huge cliff we have to climb in the morning.
To start the day we have to climb the "breakfast wall". It is a couple of hundred meters tall & vertical in places. We have to hand our walking sticks to each other & scramble up with hands & feet several times.
Lunch is waiting for us, laid out on the picnic blanket again, at 11.40am (3°6.729'S 37°21.254'E, 4064m).
We continue around the mountain on the south circle route, climbing to the Barafu hut (4685m, 3°5.974'S 37°22.685'E) by early afternoon. It is 3°c and snowing.
After an early dinner we go straight to bed in preparation for the summit attempt in the early hours of tomorrow morning.
Our alarm wakes us up at 11pm -there is ice on the tent. We have a quick "breakfast" of coffee & biscuits at 11.30 before starting the climb for the summit at midnight. The sky is fairly clear & it is quite cold. Salim leads off, and our assistant guìde follows behind us. We don't use our torches as we can see by moonlight.
The eather closes in & it starts to snow. The wind picks up as well & it gets very cold. As we climb the altitude starts to tell and we start to get headaches & feel nauseous. There is lightning all around us & we feel very exposed.
We all trudge up the slope in a little train of misery. The summit doesn't appear to be gettinq any closer. First Debs then Gavin are sick, and we all have headaches of feel nauseous (or both). We have to keep our fingers moving to stop them freezing. The "two second blinks" start as we get more & more tired. We have to concentrate on just putting one foot in front of the other and we all start to doubt whether we will make it.
At one point we stop & the guides start discussing the route in Swahili - they are probably just deciding on the best route for the conditions but we all worry that we might be lost. There is also the fear that Salim might decide the conditions are too bad & turn us back.
Just when it seems we will never get to the top Salim tells us that it is 2.30am and we are almost half way up. This gives us a bit more energy & we continue up, one slow step at a time.
Suddenly we can see the top of the ridge ahead. We pick up a bit and finally make it to Stella point & collapse in the shelter of a large rock. Dawn is approachinq and the sky in the east is a riot of red & orange behind black storm clouds, with the stunning Mawenzi peak in front.
We all feel the need to reach the peak by sunrise so we have a glucose tablet for energy & press on. The route here just follows the ridge up & is not very steep, although we are very exposed to the wind. The sky has cleared though & the snow has stopped. The views down into the crater and back over Mawenzi are magnificent & there is a huge glacier to our left. We pass Pere, Martin & the Dutch couple who have reached the summit & are on their way down. Several times we think we are nearly at the peak, only to see another rise behind it.
Finally we see the true peak, with its sign on top, ahead. The trail is wider now & Salim has trouble staying ahead of us. We don't feel tired or cold any more as we climb the last few meters and then we are there, at Uhuru peak at the top of the highest mountain in Africa - 5895m according to the sign. 3°4.584'S 37°2.740'E, 5902m according to GPS.
Debs & Rachel are in tears as we pull out the cameras and start taking photos of each other & the scenery. Debs gets a photo with Shawn the Rhino & poses with Rachel and Adrian's "Mambo" T-shirt.
After a few minutes Salim starts to herd us back down again as the wind is not good for us. We take a last few snaps and reluctantly follow him down. He sets a cracking pace which gets difficult to follow when we start sliding down the shale slope.
Gavin goes off ahead & we lose sight of him. We worry that he is lost but he is waiting for us when we get back to the camp at 10am. We have time for a quick nap before brunch at 11am and we then head off down the Mweke trail to Mweke camp. There are better paths here but it is stillvery hard on the knees.
When we arrive at Mweke camp (3099m, 3°9.381'S 37°22.019'E) we just collapse into the tents.
We have our dinner in the tent as it is raining, and Gavin sorts out our first beer in a week.
We have a late (7.30 am) start this morning. We take our last views of Kibo peak and get some group photos.
It is a fairly easy walk down through the forest and ge reach the park gate by 10.30. We get our summit certificates and buy a guide book & postcard.
We tip (pay) tue guide & porters and get a photo with them. They then drive us down to Moshi. Debs gets the porters (Raphael Fredrick, Dillah & Yahaya the cook) to sign her stick. On the way we stop & buy a T-Shirt for $5 - it shows the route we took on the back.
The minibus parks up at the YMCA in Moshi & we wait for the truck to arrive. We sit in the lounge & watch the BBC news. The war in Iraq has started while we have been up Killy.
The truck arrives & we set off for Dar, stopping on the way to buy chicken & chips at the side of road.
We camp in Pangani River Camp (4°36.742'S, 38°0.439' E) & get our first showers in a week. Kalima & Karen go off with the campsite owner to get some beer, and we have beans on toast for dinner.
Fairly relaxed breakfast & on the road by 8.30am. We try to listen to CDs but the road is bumpy & the CD player has no anti-shock memory. Debs sleeps & Steve catches up on the diary.
We reach the outskirts of Dar Es Salaam at about 2.30pm and see the sea for the first time since Benin.
We park up next to the ferry port. We are offered flights to Zanzibar for the same price as the ferry (£60 return) and most of us decide to fly out tomorrow at 1.30pm. Kalima gets on today's 4pm ferry though, and Gavin gets a taxi to rejoin his truck.
Rachel, Karyn & Steve get a taxi to the Barclays bank to get some cash. The ATM works but they will only change Barclays traveller's cheques.
We buy some sunglasses. We pay over the odds for a pair of fake Oakleys but then pick up two more pairs for 2500 shillings. Debs also buys a pair of flip-flops because she has a nasty blister on the back of her heel.
Steve talks to a guy about getting the battery chargers fixed. We will go see the man tomorrow morning.
Debs guards the truck while the girls go to the supermarket to buy grocery stores & Steve checks the email.
Karyn & Rachel go to get pizzas for us all, and then we drive off to catch the ferry to Mikadi beach (6°49.184'S 39°19.262'E).
Richy has arranged for a taxi to take us over to Dar at 8.30am. We all get straight on the internet until Lucas arrives and Steve goes off with him to try & get the battery chargers fixed. We leave the chargers with System Electronics Ltd (tel 2125376, 074427660) who can fix them for $10 & $15.
Back at the internet place we send out bulletin number 7 and update the web page.
The taxi turns up again at mid-day to take us to the airport. Our flight to Zanzibar is scheduled for 1.30pm but they rush us through & we take off almost an hour only. The plane is a 12 seater single prop job. There are only 8 of us on the plane including the pilot. We fly into a rain storm as we approach Zanzibar & have an instrument landing.
There is a minibus waiting for us at the airport to take us into Stone Town, where we check in to the Jambo Guest House (Tel 223379) before headinq over to the Africa House bar for beers.
Steve gets his hair cut (a bit short for Debs' liking).
In the evening we all head bach to Africa House to watch the sunset. They are playing Frank Sinatra records and it feels like a proper holiday.
After dark we wander over to the Forodani Gardens seafood market for dinner off the stalls. We have mud crab & lobster, followea by ice cream.
After a few more drinks we head back to the hotel and bed.
After breakfast in the hotel we set off on our spice tour. We drive out of Stone Town past David Livingstone's old house to the ruins of the old sultan's harem buildings. There are seven suites for the seven concubines he chose during the week.
On the way out to the spice farms we stop to look at a twisted coconut palm. The first place we go to is the Kizimbani government Spice farm. One of the local boys comes along with us and makes us little baskets out of a leaf. The first thing they show us is a lipstick tree with red furry fruit.
They also show us cardumin ("hiliki", berries on shoots along ground), lantana (not mint), Star fruit (bitter), Cloves ("carafou", king of spices, leaf & berries, only government can sell), mint (they have 3 kinds), arab pepper ("pili pili manga", vine, needs supporter tree, harvest berries when red), Dorian fruit (smells bad, tastes sweet, dangerous if falls on head), coffee, cinnamon (bark & leaves, root smells different like Vics, queen of spices), ylanglan (perfume) & turmaric (looks like carrot, smells like mint,cures yellow fever).
The boy makes rings, bracelets, necklaces & a hairband out of leavesfor the girls, and we see some black faced vervet monkeys playing in the trees.
The next spice farm is a private enterprise called Matausa. It starts to rain on us so the local boys pull off big leaves to use as umbrellas.
These guys show us nutmeg ("Kungumanqa"), mini star-fruit (tastes a bit like goosberry), tiny coconuts (cannot eat - smoke like tobacco), oranqes, curry leaf plants, passion fruit, avocado, vanilla, ginger, pineapple (ananas),casava (like potato) and coconut.
Steve tries to climb a coconut tree but fails miserably.
The local boys here also make us things out of leaves, but on a larger scale. Debs gets a leaf backpack and Steve a hat & tie. Karyn & Debs also get leaf "sunglasses".
On the way out we go past their spice stall where we buy some ginger tea, ylanglang perfume, pilau mix & curry powder. They throw in anonther bag of ylanglang for free.
On the way up to Nungwi we stop at Mangapwani caves (which aren't that impressive & probably weren't used to hide slaves in) and have some lunch.
At Nungwi we check in to the Amaan Bungalows at Kwenda where we meet up with Lynne, Sara, Richard & Lucy. Lynne has just got her PADI diving certification and is really chuffed.
A little while later Andy (who left the truck in Khartoum) turns up. It turns out that he has been here for weeks, getting his dive master certification.
We have a few drinks in the bar opposite the hotel before moving on to a beach bar called Chellos. Steve has a late one & staggers back to the room at about 3am.
Debs is planning a lazy day on the beach today, but Steve has hired a 250cc trail bike for the day. The bike rental chap, Alley Keys, has arranged a driving permit and brought the bike up from Stone Town. He takes Steve over to the football ground to teach him the basics, then catches the minibus back to town.
Debs finds a woman on the beach to braid her hair again.
Richy & Kaz turn up on their bike so Steve & Richy head off on the bikes to find the beach. We ride down a lumpy footpath & Steve "parks" it in a hedge while trying to get around a lump of coral. We eventually get on to the beach near the aquarium but it turns into a dead end. We have to turn around, and it is only about 3m wide between the wall & the sea so Steve struggles.
We head back to join the others for lunch (Burgers). It rains on us again & Richy has fun jumping into the sea from the bar terrace.
After lunch Steve takes Debs out for a ride on the back of the bike. We only go for 10-15 minutes before it starts raining & we turn back. In the village Steve take a turn too wide & bashes his leg into bollard & we fall off. Luckily we were only going slowly & only Steve's pride is hurt.
After a quick dip.in the sea Steve goes out for another ride. Debs changes some cash at the internet place but only gets 980 shillings to the dollar.
We have dinner (steak/seafood pizza) in the Blue Sea restaurant and wait for the bike guy to collect the bike. He is due at 8pm but doesn't show. We all head over to Chollos at 10pm, but only have 1 drink then head back for bed.
It is raining heavily this morning. We have to jump around huge puddles of water. The bike man has still not shown up so we leave the key with Sara & a message at reception.
We catch the mini-bus to Stone Town. It costs us 4000 each & is a leaking, clapped out heap of junk. The rain is pouring around the edges of the windows & Debs gets soaked.
Back in Stone Town we sit in Africa House and watch the rain pour down. We order lunch, write our diaries & the girls chat about how many clothes & shoes they need.
Steve changes some money at a place called Queens [$100 = 103700 TZS, 20740 ($20) for Rach &16000 (£10) for Karyn)]
We get a minibus to the airport to find that our flight does not exist. There is apparently never a Sunday evening flight, so how we managed to buy a ticket & get it confirmed we are not sure. We arrange to fly out first thing tomorrow morning instead.
The minibus takes us back to the Jambo guest house. They are not charging us - presumably the airline is paying. We search the Internet for the phone number of Mikadi beach so that Richy can let them know he won't be there tonight.
Steve & Debs go into town to the Maharaja Indian Restaurant, now renamed "Le Splces Rendez-vous". The food is good, although Debs asks them to make her prawn curry hotter. They also bring her a bowl of raw red chillie paste which makes her eyes water. We pay on Visa although there is a 10% surcharge.
Back at the hotel the girls are still up watching TV. We check our email & watch the start of "The Firm" before getting too tired & going to bed.
We have set the alarm for 4.30 as the minibus is picking us up at 5am for our flight at 6.30. The flight does exist this time, although there is a bit of a problem - we are told to pay airport tax even though it was included in the ticket prlce - we end up paying for half of us.
The aircraft is a Jetstream 41 with 26 seats, and even a stewardess. There is no drinks trolly though as we only spend 11 mins 22 seconds in the air.
The next issue is that the minibus is not there to meet us, probably because we came in through international rather than domestic arrivals. We pile into a couple of taxis instead.
Steve picks up the battery chargers, both fixed [System Electronics, Jamhuri St, Dar-es-Salaam, PO Box 1396], whileDebs surfs the internet looking for cheap flights.
When Richy gets back with the truck & all the others we learn that there has been a problem with the part 2 kitty payments. A lot of people paid with US dollar traveller's chegues, and have now been told that these will not be accepted. Unfortunately they have already signed the cheques which makes them useless.
The new cook groups have been organised as well. There are 14 of us now so we are going to have 7 cook groups of 2 people, with no accountant, quartermasters or firestarters. Steve & Debs are Friday's cooks.
On the way out of town Steve buys a pair of garish red & orange sunglasses to complement his Grandpéré shirt. We fill up with diesel and head off west. Richy has organised an eskie full of beer & ice as well.
Debs buys two carved wooden elephant candlesticks for 3000 shillings and we pick up a couple of armed police for 100k or so as there have been incidents of banditry in the past.
It starts to rain a bit so Adam changes the CD and we sing along to Toto - "Rain in Africa".
We drive through a game reserve but it is getting dark. We spot zebras, giffafes & even elephants though.
Eventually we find a camp site at (7°23.830'S 36°59.874'E, 535m).
The day starts with a bump at we have problems with the gas & water on the truck. Adam & Sarah manage to get breakfast sorted anyway, and we get back on the road.
Coming over the crest of a hill we have to stop for a real mess on the road ahead. An articulated lorry has jack-knifed & a smaller truck has run off the road. Everyone is driving off the road to get around until another lorry gets stuck and the road is blocked completely. We park up & get the kettle on while we wait. Eventually they get a tow cable & Richy pulls them out and we can move on.
Steve plugs the MP3 player into the AUX input on the stereo and we have another sing along. Karyn is in full on kareoke mood.
Richy pulls us off the road to bush camp but we get stuck in the mud. Everybody off the truck & we do our first sand (mud) matting in Lola. We abandon the bush camping idea and drive of to the next town where we camp in the church grounds (8°54.549'S 33°26.649'E). Adam & Sarah are cooking maccaroni cheese for dinner so Steve has egg & chips in the restaurant - a bargain at 1000 shillings.
We head for the border today, after a quick stop in Mbeya for groceries. Steve & Debs try to change some shillings for Malawi kwacha but no-one has any.
Steve starts patching his trousers but is not doing a very good job so Debs takes over.
It gets quite cold when we are on the move so we put the tarps down.
We reach the Malawi border (9°35'S 33°46'E) and troupe through immigrations. The immigration official is pretty heavy handed with the passport stamp.
On to Chitimba beach resort (forgot to get a GPS fix).
Debs speaks to one of the locals who takes us to see the local witch doctor.
Steve sends one of the locals off for bread & eggs so breakfast is sorted for tomorrow morning.
Steve & Debs buy a Boa board table for mwk 1250 (about £8). It takes us about 3 hours in total to pick one and negotiate a good price.
Adam, Richy, Ben and Justine are playing cricket so we join in until we lose the tennis ball in the undergrowth. After that we play touch-rugby on the beach. It is a bit of a shambles and there is much debate over the rules.
Next up in the day's activities is beach volleyball. While we are playing another truck turns up so we challenge them to a match, which we lose.
Steve & Debs serve scrambled eggs on toast for breakfast, then we pack up the tents & pay our bar tab (1260 mwk for 18 beers, 3 soft drinks & 180 on food).
We drive on to Mzuzu where we stop to do some grocery shopping. There is a good supermarket here where we are able to buy cheese & sausages. Kalima jumps off the truck to visit a friend - she will catch us up at the beach.
We stop again at a wood carvinq market on the side of the road. Debs buys 2 woman & child carvings and a pendant.
The next stop is Kande beach resort (11°57.107'S 34°7.311'E) where we will be staying for the next three nights.
Steve & Debs cook bangers, mash & beans. It is Steve's first attempt at a charcoal fire & we under-estimate how long it will take to boil the spuds but it all works out in the end. By the time we have finished & washed up it is 9pm & we have been going for 5 hours so we go straight to bed.
We didn't get much sleep last night - it rained heavily all night & we were frequently woken by thunder.
It is still raining in the morning so we play darts in the bar after breakfast.
Debs tries to check the camcorder batteries but the camcorder is completely dead.
After lunch Steve, Sarah, Rachel, Adam & Vanessa go horse riding. It is actually more like a pony trek with us all walking along behind each other, occaisionally breaking into a trot. Things get a bit more interesting when we get to the beach though, and we have to contend with the horses stumbling & bolting. When we get back to Kande beach we take the saddles off and ride bareback down into the surf. It is very rough though and we can't get the horses to swim.
Lynne cooks up a wonderful beef stew for dinner, after which we play some more darts. We don't have a late one though & are in bed by 9pm.
It is Steve's birthday today. Debs produces a Kande Beach T-shirt that - everyone has signed. Steve wears it all day.
It is a much nicer morning than yesterday with scattered clouds & no rain. Today's cook group are also having trouble with the charcoal and can't get the water boiled for breakfast - in the end they get it sorted with the help of the electric fan.
Steve sits in the sun & sunbathes before lunch but ends up burning his legs.
In the evening we walk down to the local village. They feed us & then the children do some dancing for us. We all join in.
When we get back to the campsite Vanessa produces a birthday cake, and Debs has another surprise - an Owari board carved with a lion chasing a wildebeest into a crocodile.
We spend all morning driving south- the trip is uneventful and most of us sleep for most of it. Steve picks up "Casino Royale" from the library & starts reading.
Richy pulls us into Steps Camp site, Senga Bay, Salima (13°42.950'S 34°37.735'E) at around lunchtime.
The afternoon is spent sunbathing and/or relaxing. Debs lies on a big rock to work on her tan, while Steve sits in the shade on the truck & finishes his book.
In the evening Steve & Debs, Richy & Kaz go to the hotel restaurant for a "birthday" dinner. The food is good (indonesian chicken soup, smoked salmon, New York style burgers, chicken curry, spicy prawns, tropical fruit salad & ice cream) and we wash it down with a bottle of Cab Merlot and a bottle of Sauv Blanc. We can pay on Visa which is helpful as we are getting very short on cash.
Steve & Debs go for a walk on the beach by moonlight after everyone has gone to bed.
The camp security guard is chasing Baboons around the camp when we wake up. We have breakfast and are on the road by 8.30am. We reach Blantyre by lunchtime and park up at a place called Doogles (15°47.107' 35°0.339'E, 510491km).
Steve & Debs wander into town and manage to get some cash on a Visa card. We also check out grocery prices as we won't be able to shop again until Bulawayo in 5 days time.
Back at Doogles we have dinner in the bar (Steak burger for Steve, veg tortilla for Debs) and then an early night.
Debs and a few of the others go to visit a local paper factory. On the way back Debs picks up the groceries for our cookinq on Friday.
Back at Doogles Steve struggles with a really bad internet connection.
In the afternoon Debs goes on a tour of the Carlsberg brewery while Steve sits in the bar and watches the news. In the UK Gordon Brown delivers his Budget speach & in Iraq US troops roll into the centre of Bagdad.
We drlve into Mozambique today, but only to get to Zimbabwe. We stop in a town called Moatize where cheap fuel is available at a place (16°7.463'S 33°43.894'E) tucked away behind the railway station. Richy has changed a load of cash into Mozambique "metacash" but it turns out to be cheaper to pay in US $. Nearby there is the hulk of a train that obviously didn't stop in time at the end of the line.
We cross the Zambezi river at Tete (16°9'S 33°36'E) where we had planned to stay for the night, but push of for the border instead.
We bush camp (16°51.627'S 33°11.532'E, 510838km) about 30-40km from the border. This is our first bush camp since the 10th March, a month ago and the day we left Ethiopia.
Steve & Debs cook scrambled eggs again for breakfast but there aren't too many takers. Richy has called for an 8am start but we are away by 7.40.
We reach the Zimbabwe border at Niamapanda by mid morning and begin immigration procedings. The Brits have to pay US $55 for visas, the Australians & Americans $30 and ths Kiwis nothing. The visa is a full page job which is a problem as several of us are running short of space in our passports - Steve has to have his stuck to the "children" page. After immiqration, customs search our bags & the truck.
As we approach Harare we start to see familiar signs of western civilisation such as a Spar supermarket, golf courses and houses with swimming pools & tennis courts.
Out past the airport we arrive at "Backpackers & Overlanders" where we will be staying. Steve & Debs get started making a chillie for dinner.
Richie drives us to the airport and drops us off while he goes off to buy booze. The Internet access at the airport is down so we find ourselves with an hour to kill. Debs buys a wire Gekko for 1750 zwd and we go up to the restaurant for meat pies.
We drive out of Harare, passinq massive queues for petrol, and head down to Gweru. We will be staying at a place called Antelope Park. (19°30.465'S 29°43.180'E), [www.antelopepark.co.zw]
As we sit around in the evening an impala wanders through the camp. We watch as it walks up to a cat & they start to wash each other.
Lasagne for dinner.
Debs is up at the crack of dawn as she is so excited about the lion walk. She feeds the Impala a bottle of milk.
At 6.30 am we set off on our lion walk with Bruiser & Cubby two 1 year old lions. Our guides are Jeremy, Mark& Bobby. After about 40 minutes we pick up another couple of lions, Ndula & Nala. It is a fanastic experience and we get tons of contact, as well as lott of photos & video. One of the lions creeps up behind Jess, jumps up & gives her a hug - we take photos of the scratches that result. We wander back down the track holding their tails.
At 9am Debs goes for an elephant ride. She ride Tombi but Amai, the other elephant goes along for the walk.
When they get back it is time for the elephants to go for a swim, with us on their backs ! Steve & Adam go out at 10.30 - it is a wonderful experience although the water is very cold.
There is a night adder in the entrance to the ladies toilets, but it slithers away before we can get the camcorder from the truck.
At 3pm we get to play with the 3 lion cubs, Milo, Marcus, Mickey. They were all born on 7 Dec 2002. They are quite playful & Debs picks up a few scratches.
Richy draws some text on Lola & Debs paints it, impressing the owner with her signwritinq skills.
In the evening we have a buffet dinner in the restaurant - beef, chicken, rice, baked potatoes & veg.
We are up early for the drive to Bulawayo. We are staying at a place called Packer's Rest near the of town (20°9.801'S 28°35.593'E). Steve & Debs get beds in a little room off the dormatory.
At 10am we pile into a couple of vehicles for a game drive in the Matobo National Park. Steve takes the GPS along to get position fixes when appropriate. Our driver's name is Grant. We see a few Cape giraffes & Zebra amongst the impressive granite rock formations. We also spot a family of hippos (wp 143).
We stop at a game viewing platform (wp 144) but there is no game in view. We do see a brightly coloured lizard though.
Our main objective is rhino, so we park the cars (wp145) and walk along the river. Our guide points out rhino spoor & droppings and tells us about useful plants such as the toothbrush tree & soap nettle. Debs takes a photo of Shawn in a rhino footprint. We don't find any rhino so we head back to the game viewing platform for lunch.
While we are having lunch one of the guides heads off to look for fresh rhino spoor (tracks). He finds some and we set off after we have eaten to track them down. We find a female white rhino (1700-1800kg) & with an 8 month old calf. They also have a warthog hanging out with them They don't seem overly worried by us so we can get quite close. We manage to get some photos of Shawn with his relatives in the background.
As we head out of the park we spot Klipspringer, wildebeest (wp147) & giraffe (wp148) before reaching the park gate (wp149).
We drive back towards Bulawayo before stopping in the Bambata hill car park (wp150, 1344m). It is quite a hike up to the top of the hill (wp151, 1485m) but the views are worth it. A short way below the top is a cave (wp152) with some old cave paintings in it. They were painted by 5' tall sand bushmen with large buttocks who were chased out by the Matebele. They are trying to get the paintings carbon dated, but some are estimated to be 10,000 years old. The floor of the cave is made of ash from all the fires over the years.
Debs repacks the bags in the morning and we also learn that the overnight train from Bulawayo to Victoria Falls is fully booked. Steve & Debs head into town with Kaz and buy some new trousers for Steve. We pick up steak pies & chips on the way back.
We spend the afternoon at the Chipangali Wildlife Trust (20°15.143'S 28°46.874'E) [www.chipangali.co.zw]. All the animals here are orphans or injured & would not survive in the wild. They have caracals, servals, jackals, lions, spotted hyenas, Iion cubs, leopards, cheetahs, rhino, baboons, vervet monkeys, wildcats, banded mongeese, owls, eagles & crocodiles. We watch them feeding the lions, leopards & cheetahs. Debs buys some postcards & a sticker.
Back in Bulawayo we have dinner at "The Cattleman" with Richy, Kaz, Richard & Lucy. Steve has steak & Debs has ribs.
It is Lynne-La's birthday today. She has presents and is very excited.
We set off for Victoria Falls at 8am. Richard & Lucy stay behind and will catch us up there later in the week.
On the way we get caught in a police speed trap. It is at the bottom of a hill and we are doing 88 in an 80 limit. We get a 1500 zim $ fine.
We drive straight through to the falls without stopping for lunch. We do stop to take photos of an "elephants crossing" sign though. We arrive at Vic Falls at about 1.30pm.
Our camp site is a place called Shoestrings (17°55.582'S 25°50.118'E, 957m). Paul & the other Phoenix truck are here but leave half an hour later.
In the evening we head out to Mama Africas for Lynne's birthday dinner. They have a live band playing african music and old "favourites" like "Country road" & "Save all your kisses for me". Steve has an Mbuni (ostrich) steak, while Debs goes for the chicken curry.
For the morning's entertainment we watch Justine, Lynne, Kaz & Richy bungee off the bridge. It is a 111m drop and Richy goes with a chest harness & a running jump.
In the afternoon Debs has a manicure at the Kingdom hotel spa. Lynne has a massage at the same time and we have a drink in the poolside bar afterwards.
On the way back we wander around the open air curio market. One of the stalls has a wonderful chess board but we can't afford it. We do manage to swap Graham (Richard's old watch) for a carved wooden rhino.
In the evening Debs cooks up a fantastic roast dinner, with a little help from Steve. We have ice cream for dessert as well.
After dinner Debs & Justine put in an order for some "Truck Africa 2002/2003" T-shirts.
Today is our big adrenalin day. We are picked up and taken over to a gorqe in Zambia.
We start off with an abseil and then move on to the "flyinq fox". This is cable across the gorge and we slide down it in a harness. We do superman impressions, as well as pretending to run, swim or ride a bicycle in mid air.
Our last activity before lunch is "rap jumping" which is just abseiling face down. Going over the edge the first time is really scary but after that it is fantastic. Steve & Kalima are hooked.
After lunch we try the infamous gorge swing. For reasons we cannot work out this is way more terrifying than bunjee jumping. There is a cable across the gorge, with a 54m (165ft) rope attached at the middle. The other end of the rope is attached to our harness, and we just step off the edge of the cliff. We plummet down until the slack in the rope is taken up and then swing across the bottom of the gorge at 140km/h (90mph). There are three ways to drop off the edge - step off forwards, step off backwards & "death drop". For the death drop you stand on the edge with your back to the gorge and lean back until Fred (the instructor) lets go of you.
At the end of the gorge swing you are lowered to the ground & have to walk out of the gorge. From the bottom of the abseil/rap-jump is an even longer walk. Over the day Steve does 3 gorge swings, 1 abseil & 5 rap-jumps and so walks out 9 times. This seems like a lot but the record is 14 !
When we are dropped back at the camp site at the end of the day our new T-shirts are waiting for us. On the back is a map of Africa with our route marked out as a trail of paw prints. On the front we have the Truck Africa logo and the text "2002/2003, Dover to Cape Town, 36700km".
After dinner we all sit around and watch the video "American Pie II".
The gorge swing videos from yesterday are delivered & everyone sits and watches them. The video is really well done.
At around lunch time we walk down to the falls. We take plenty of photos and get soaked to the skin by the spray. On the way out Debs buys a little laminated map.
We hurry back to the camp site where we have a 3pm pickup for our Zambezi booze cruise. There is a free bar and a BBG and we all (Steve & Debs, Richy & Kaz, Richard & Lucy) get very drunk.
Debs is feeling very delicate this morning as we drive to the Botswana border (17°48.920'S 25°15.735'E). The crossing is quick & painless.
We camp at the Chobe Lodge hotel (17°48.506'S 25°8.697'E) at Kasane. Their email is broken so we buy a phone card & call Joel in the UK. He is not in so we leave a message to say "Happy Birthday".
We have an early (6am) start for a game drive in Chobe National Park. Our driver's name is Reggie.
Fairly soon we come across a pride of lions. There are about 11 of them, all females or cubs. One of the females has a radio collar on & the cubs are in a playful mood.
We drive down to the river to find a family of hippos.
As we leave the river front we are on the look-out for leopard. We spot impala, sable antelope (very rare), kudu, saddle-billed stork & a southern african giraffe. We don't spot any leopards although we find some fresh tracks.
On the way out of the park we spot elephants, crocodiles & buffalo.
At lunch time Steve & Debs wander over to the pool bar for burgers. Debs writes some postcards & Steve catches up on the diary.
At 3pm we all head down to the jetty for a 3 hour river cruise. Pretty soon we spot a herd of elephants drinking at the river bank. As we watch they wade into the river & swim across. During the course of the cruise we also see baboons, buffalo, antelope & crocodiles.
When we get back Steve & Debs wander down the road with Richy & Kaz for dinner at the next hotel. We have a fantastic meal - it is expensive but we can pay with our credit card.
Back at the camp site Debs calls her mum in the UK before bed.
We are driving to Maun today. Debs posts the postcards from the hotel before we leave. As we drive through Kasane we stop to get diesel, & Steve gets some more cash from the Barclays Bank cashpoint. A little distance out of town we have to stop for some elephants to cross the road.
We spend most of the day driving. We pass through a disease control post where we have to disinfect all our shoes.
At lunch time Steve takes off his shirt and asks Debs if he has a bite on his back - she counts over 30. It seems that something (probably an ant) had got caught in his shirt or something.
As we drive on after lunch we pass a number of ostriches and a huge concrete or stone aardvark.
We arrive in Maun late in the afternoon, and our first priority is to buy groceries. After that we drive out of town a short way to Sitatunga camp (20°4.510'S 23°21.308'E). They have a Kudu stew ready for us and there is a guy there from Delta Rains to tell us about the Okavango Delta excursions.
The Delta Rains truck arrives at 8am to take us out to the Okavango Delta. They take us down a long (and very bumpy) dirt track to their concession area, NG32. We pass through a fence designed to prevent the spread of Foot & Mouth and teste fly - it is1200km long and goes all around the southern & western edges of the delta. As we drive we see giraffes, baboons and zebra.
We transfer into our Mokoro boats (19°39.091'S 23°25.794'E). These are dug-out canoes that are poled along. There are two of us plus a poler in each boat. Our poler, who is also one of the guides, is Edwin. He has been doing this for 7 years. There is also one extra Mokoro to take our food and tents.
As we drift down the streams we see lots of butterflies and dragonflies. There is also a green water snake.
We expected the delta to be a bug infested swamp and to be spending most of our time in the boats. Unfortunately the rains are late this year. The ground is dry scrubland with scattered forest, and the rivers are reduced to small streams.
After a couple of hours we pull up and make camp (19°38.330'S 23°25.193'E). We have some lunch and then have a couple of hours to kill. We try a game of Bao but we must have the rules wrong because we find that it is possible to win on the first turn.
The guides teach us a different game that uses the bao board, called "quene". It has simpler rules but is more fun.
At 4pm we head out on a game walk. We see lion tracks (but no lions), a bull elephant, honey badgers, black-back jackals, vervet monkeys, impalas & a family of giraffe.
Dinner is rice with tinned veg in sweet & sour sauce but it tastes great all the same. Most of us will be sleeping in our tents, but Sarah & Kalima make supports for their mossy nets out of a couple of sticks and sleep out.
24 April - day 186
We start the day at 6.30am for a dawn game walk. We see hyena, kudu, jackals, giraffe, impala & elephants. We also come across an orb-web spider in it's huge web and Debs takes photos of a termite tube "forest".
Back at the camp site we sit around and wait for the heat of the day to pass. We have spagetti on toast for lunch. The women polers are sitting around making baskets & bracelets. Debs makes herself bracelet and Ben starts on a basket.
At 4pm we have a short boat ride then walk to a small lake where there is a group of hippos.
When we get back the women have their craft wares out for sale. Nobody is buying so Debs buys a small model mokoro out of sympathy.
Today starts with another 6.30am game walk, but this time we see no game. We trudge back to the camp for breakfast and then break camp.
At about 9.30 we all pile back into the Mokoros and head back to meet the truck. At one point we pass some baboons, the first time we have seen an animal (other than insects, birds or snakes) from the boats. The truck is waiting for us with cold beers & soft drinks.
One of the guys from the other group had impaled his foot on a stick & we plan to drop him off at the medical centre in Maun. On the way he almost collapses while we are on a toilet stop & Steve has to help him back to the truck. When we reach Maun, Steve & Debs jump off as well to buy groceries for tonight's meal.
Back at Sititunga camp everyone else is getting ready for their flight over the delta, and Richard & Lucy have found a puff adder in the trees behind their tent.
Steve & Debs cook up jacket potatoes & chillie for dinner, ready for the others when they get back from their flight.
As we have another early start tomorrow we just pay our bar bill (58 pula) and go to bed.
Yet another 5.30am alarm for a 6.30 departure this morning as we have an 800 km drive to Windhoek.
We turn off the tarmac onto a gravel road for a 215km stretch (according to the map), but still manage 80 km/h. The road forks at 20°33'S 22°50'E with no indication which way to go - we go right which turns out to be correct. We reach tarmac again after only 100k or so - the map is obviously out of date.
When we stop for lunch Debs fills a bottle with Kalahari sand. We don't see any dunes though.
We reach the border into Namibia at Mamuno (22°16.869'S 20°0.348'E) by 1pm. The border crossing takes aboot 40 minutes in total.
A few hours later we reach Windhoek. We are staying at Cardboard Box Backpackers (22°33.739'S 17°4.546'E).
Steve & Debs walk into town with Richard & Lucy to get some cash. The cashpoints work fine but all the forex places are shut, although the Kalahari Sands Hotel can change US dollars. They won't change Botswana Pula though, so Lucy tries to use the cashpoint outside. A couple of locals try to help until the hotel staff run them off - apparently we were being set up for a mugging. The hotel calls us a taxi to be on the safe side.
We ask the taxi driver to take us to the Chinese on Robert Mugabe St but he starts to take us out of town to a different one. We notice that we are going in the wrong direction but the meter is already running. He gets us to the right place, the China Grand, eventually and we negotiate a more reasonable fare (30 N$).
The next few cook groops have to shop for groceries so Steve & Debs wander into town & poke around the souvenier stalls & Debs buys an emerald.
We drive up towards Grootfontain & camp at the Hoba meteorite (19°35.575'S 17°55.966'E, 1500m). It weighs 50 tons, is 3m long & 1m thick and is 80,000 years old. It is 82% iron and 16% nickel. Steve & Debs lie on it & watch the stars.
As we drive out we stop for photo of a signpost sayinq "Grootfontain" both ways. We stop in Grootfontain for diesel & ice before heading up to Etosha.
We drive into the park, passing impala & giraffes, and park up at the Namutoni camp site (18°48.297'S 16°56.497'E).
Everyone wanders over to the watering hole where we find springbok, kudu, wildebeest, banded mongoose, elephant and warthog.
At 3.30 we head out in Lola for a game drive. We see jackal, gemsbok (oryx), cory bustard and giraffe. At the Chudop water hole there are impala, oryx, zebra, wildebeest, giraffe (drinking), hyena, jackal & kudu. At Konachas elephant & giraffe. Groot Okevi waterhole has elephant and Klein Okevi we see zebra & giraffe.
We head back to camp and race up the tower in the old fort to try and catch the sunset but we are too slow.
After dinner (veqgie slop) we all wander over to the floodlit water hole. There is not much to see so Steve goes to bed but Debs stays up until 11pm.
There are jackals everywhere in the camp going through through the bins.
We start the day at 6am with a game drive. The sun is a gorgeous red as it rises. At the Twee Palms water hole we see some lions. At Aroe there are jackal, springbok, kudu & cory bustard. We drive on past vultures & maribou storks to the Kalkheuwel water hole which has zebra, kudu, oryx & impala.
At Okerfontein there are zebra, wildebeest, giraffe & warthog but the stars are 3 lions, one of which looks drunk. The Goas waterhole has topi & impala.
We arrive at Halali camp (19°2.188'S 16°28.183'E) by lunch time. Steve & Debs walk up the hill & over to the water hole. There are strange rock formations on the hill and a family of zebras at the water hole.
At 3.30pm we go for another game drive. We head out to to Etosha lookout in the salt-pan, then on to the Nuamses water hole where we spot more oryx. As we drive on we see red hartebeest and (possibly) meercats. We drive round a bend to find a herd of elephants on the road.
We stop at the Goas waterhole to watch the sunset then race back to camp before tbe gates close. Steve & Debs have dinner in the restaurant (canteen) before heading over to the floodlit waterhole, but there is nothing there.
Steve drops the Palmpilot and breaks it.
Another 6am game drive to start the day. We see hartebeest, hyenas, ostriches, springboks, lions & zebra. At the Gemsbokvlakte water hole we see oryx, jackals, wildebeest, springbok and zebra.
We will be camping tonight at Okaukuejo (19°10.927'S 15°55.017'E). There are zebra & springbok at the waterhole when we arrive. Debs writes & posts some postcards.
At 3.30pm we head out for another game drive. We see plenty of game and the strange upside down trees.
After dinner we walk back to the water hole. Under the floodlights we see a black rhino come for a drink and an owl hunting. A bit later we watch the bats chasing insects by the lights. Debs and a few of the others sit up until 11pm and see five more rhino and an elephant.
We have another 6am start for the drive out of the park. We see the common wildlife, and have a fleeting glimpse of a lion, but still no leopard.
After a short stop in Outjo for grocery shopping we drive on to the Otjitotongwe Cheetah Preservation Park (19°35.503'S 15°4.048'E), arriving by lunch time.
We sit by the pool and watch Ben & Kaz do some amateur synchronised swimming. Debs, Rachel & Justine get in as well to try and make a whirlpool.
At 3.30pm we go up to the house to meet the cheetahs. We get to stroke them and we have our photos taken with them. They then feed them and we get more photos of them chomping on chunks of meat. The little cub grabs one of Kalima's shoes and makes off with it.
Back at the bar we have a beer & Debs buys a "cheetah park" metal cup for N35. We then all pile back into the ute to go and feed the untamed cheetahs in the big enclosure. We watch while Mario chucks hunks of meat in the air while fending off the cheetahs with a flimsy branch. One group of cheetahs have killed, and half eaten, a warthog. Mario (cautiously) steals the carcass to feed some of the smaller cats later on. He removes the head first though and Ben boils it up later to remove the tusks as a souvenier.
Steve & Debs do breakfast ready for a 7.30am start. We pick up some more ice at Kamanjab as we drive north. We stop at one point by a squished puff adder on the road, which Kalima removes with the dust-pan and brush. In Opuwo we see our first Himba women, wearing only a loin cloth and with elaborately braided hair.
The road deteriorates into a rough track and we are lucky to average 20 km/h for the last 100k. We bush camp (17°2.994'S 13°13.905'E) and Steve & Debs make a curry with chicken.
We have a late (8am) start for the short drive to the falls. On the way we pase a grave with a "sculpture" of buffalo skulls.
We arrive at Epupa Falls (17°0.151'S 13°14.714'E) on Cunene river by 8.20am. We scramble across the rocks to look down the gorge at the falls.
Apart from that we have a lazy day, reading or playing bakgammon & quene.
We have a corned beef & smash packet dinner which is really nice, and then head straight for bed.
We have a 7.30am start for our Himba village visit. Our guide, John, tells us we must not walk between the holy fire & the chief's hut. He explains that the women colour their skin with ochre mixed with butter. They apply this every 2-3 days, and also apply perfume twice a day which is probably just as well as they are not allowed to wash.
The village, which does not have a name, has 3 old men, 4 young men, 8 women and loads of kids. There is one house for each woman. John shows us a wooden "Himba pillow" which only married men are allowed to use.
We watch them milkinq the cows
and meet the old man of the village.
Adam & Kaz play with a baby boy called "Nigo", and Debs has her photo taken with one of the girls, "Kyatandwa". She also gets a photo with a group of the village women.
After the village we visit a Himba graveyard. They use cattle skulls for decoration and the body is wrapped in ox hide but John explains that they don't eat the meat from these cattle.
Back at the camp Debs & Lynne visit the souvenier stall.
Steve & Debs wade across to the island to get some video of the falls.
Debs visits the souvenier stall again and gets her pot for N30.
Ben goes for a swim and has a spot of bother so we don't leave until about 6pm. We drive in the dark for a while and bush camp at 17°2.955'S 13°13.913'E, only 70m from our camp of 2 nights ago. We have jacket spuds for dinner.
We have a 7.15am start for the drive south. We are back at Opuwo shortly after mid-day where we stock up on beer & ice before heading on.
We bush camp in a rock garden at 19°3.612'S 13°44.761'E, 840m. Potato bake for dinner.
6 May - day 198
We are on the road by 8am and by 9am arrive at Blinkwater falls (19°8.390'S 13°49.133'E). The springs are not hot but not too cold either. We sit around & write our diaries.
As we drive on we pass springbok, jackal, ostrich & elephant by theside of the road.
We bush camp at 20°15.897'S 13°42.952'E. Dinner is pasta so Steve does himself tinned weiners & beans but the beans turn out to be inedible.
We arrive at ths Skeleton Coast park gates (20°19'S 13°39'E) just after 7am, but it doesn't open until 7.30 so we sit around and wait.
As we drive towards the coast the mist closes in and it gets very cold. Rather than putting the side tarps down everyone climbs into their sleeping bags.
We finally see the Atlantic Ocean again for the first time since January. There is not much to look at although we do see a shipwreck.
We have lunch near the seal colony at Cape Cross and then (almost) everybody goes to see the seals - the smell is awful so we don't stay long.
We drive on to Swakopmund where we will be staying at the Gruner Krans hotel (22°40.766'S 14°31.715'E). Steve & Debs get a room (215) with a tv & bath.
We have dinner in the restaurant attached to the hotel. Steve has a blueberry steak while Debs goes for the "lion" (vennison) bellybuster.
Everyone says goodbye to Rachel this morning as she is leaving the truck to catch up with Paul in Cape Town. There are lots of tears.
At 9.30am we (Steve & Debs, Kalima, Lynne, Ben) are picked-up for the morning's sandboarding. It is a lot of fun. Steve tries a run lying down (top speed on these runs is 80km/h) & wipes out big style, pulling a muscle in his back. Riding sand on a snowboard is quite different to snow but we all start to get the hang of it. They have a couple of jumps set up so Steve has a go and manages to land OK.
After lunch & beers they take us back into town. Several of the group are doing tandem sky-dives in the afternoon but it is quite pricey. Steve & Debs go grocery shopping and then get on the Internet. We send a "happy birthday" email to Dave and start on the next bulletin.
At 7pm they show the day's sandboarding video in the private bar.
Steve & Debs are up at 7am to get breakfast ready, before the 9.30 sandboarding pick-up. Steve's back is very stiff after yesterday's big crash and he is on anti-inflamatories. Apart from Steve, Debs, Kalima & Ben there are only 4 Slovenians out today. It is quite misty and so the sand is wet and slow. Ben tries stand-up boarding and gets on quite well.
In the afternoon Steve & Debs go grocery shopping again and also visit the tannery. Back at the hotel Steve buys a "Namibia sandboarding" T-shirt.
For dinner Debs cooks steak & egg sandwhiches, and Steve gets chips from Beryl's takeaway for everybody.
Today is our last sandboarding day. Only Steve, Debs & Ben go out today. The weather is much better than yesterday with glorious blue skys - Steve gets sunburnt riding without a shirt or hat. Beth, the instructor, is hungover and spends most of the morning sunbathing. Jazz, her dog, also seems quite subdued today.
We get back quite late and head for thz bistro for lunch as it is the only place open. After lunch Steve gets back on the 'Net while Debs has a bath.
In the evening we sit in the bar and learn to play "generals", a local dice game, while waiting for the editing of the sandboarding video. They have put together a video of just us from the first two days, although only Steve & Debs buy a copy. They also transfer all our digital stills from memory sticks to CD.
Steve takes Debs out for a chinese m meal. A set meal for 2 is only N100 (£10) and our bottle of wine is good value too.
We have an 8.30am start for the drive down to Sesriem. On the way south we pass oryx & camels, and "race" a springbok that is caught between the road and and a fence - at 70km/h ! The scenery is fantastic with dunes, hills & gorges.
We arrive at Sesriem (24°29.190'S 15°47.949'E) at 3pm and book a dawn drive to Sosusvlie. We have a lazy afternoon playing games & eating ice cream.
At sunset we drive round to the canyon to get some photos.
After spagbol for dinner we sleep out under the stars, as we have a 5am start tomorrow and don't want to be messing with the tent.
Everyone wakes up at 5am and we drive off for sunrise at Dune 45. It is very impressive, though obviously not the highest. We drive on to Sosusvlei, onto a 4x4 track. Lola gets stuck in the sand & we have to sandmat back out to the parking area.
The 4x4 concession operators want N80 per head to drive us up to Sosusvlei so most of us don't bother. We sit in the truck & write our diaries instead.
After lunch we head south again, heading for Luderitz. We bush camp at 25°55.253'S 16°47.414'E and have chicken stir-fry for dinner.
Richy calls for a 7.30am start for the drive to Luderitz. We pass wild horses, ostriches & oryx before entering the restricted diamond area. After a brief stop to transfer diesel from the reserve tank we drive in to Luderitz where the next few cook groups do a bit of grocery shopping.
We do a tour of the Kolmannskuppe ghost town. It used to be a base for diamond mining, but has now been largely over-run by the dunes.
After lunch we continue south towards the Fish River Canyon. We bush camp at 26°50.150'S 17°48.352'E.
Today we finish the drive to Fish River Canyon, and arrive at the Hobas camp site ( 27°37.214'S 17°42.888'E) near the canyon. We have a lazy afternoon then drive to the canyon rim for a sunset dinner of beefburgers & fried potatoes.
We start the day with a 45 minute drive to the Ai-Ais hot (65°) springs. After lounging in the pool for a while we drive down to the Orange river. We camp at Felix Unite River Adventures (28°41.294'S 17°33.483'E) and have another lazy afternoon.
Richard & Lucy make bangers 'n' mash for dinner.
Debs makes pancakes for breakfast as we start another lazy day. At one point a furry scorpian wanders through the camp. It's sting can be very painful but the camp owner lets it crawl across his hand before he flicks it into a bucket & relocates it outside the camp.
Steve & Debs make jacket spuds with sausage & beans for dinner. Steve does a charcoal fire so hot it melts the tin foil, & sets light to tea towels & oven gloves.
As night falls an amazing full moon rises above the horizon.
We set off early and arrive at the Namibia exit controls by 7.30am. Before long we are through to South African immigration which is computerised &very efficient. Their customs service is very thorough with a complete truck search & a sniffer dog.
We stop in the town of Springbok where we get cash (from an ATM) & do some grocery shopping.
Our overnight camp is at Citrusdal Baths (32°44'S 19°2'E). They feed hot springs directly into jacusi-style bath tubs.
As we are only a hundred or so km from Cape Town we start late (9.30am) start for the drive to Stellenbosh. We are staying at the Stumble Inn (33°56.360'S 18°51.272'E), and Steve & Debs consign the tent to history & get a double room.
We have a pub lunch at "The Terrace" - a mexican pizza for Debs and steak & eggs for Steve. We spend the afternoon uploading photos to the Internet and then go for dinner at Mexican Kitchen - Fajitas, yum!
Today is our wine tour. Our guide, Grant, tells us all about Simon van der Stel who set up the Cape wine industry. The first cape wine was produced in 1659 !
First stop is Delaire (www.delairewinery.co.za) where Grant explains how the wine is made. We taste some wines & buy a souvenier dripstop.
The second stop Boschendal where we have another tasting & pick up some lables as souveniers.
We stop for lunch at the Cafe "Le Gare" in Franschhoek - Steve has fish'n'chips while Debs goes for a jacket spud.
After lunch we head for our third stop, Fairview. This has agoat tower out front and the have a wine called "Goats do roam". In addition to the wine tasting they also offer cheese tasting. In the hills behind Fairview is the monument to the Africaans language.
Our fourth & last stop is Simonsig which is still family owned. As we arrive they are doing a demonstration of "sabrage" - taking the top off a champagne bottle with a sword.
For dinner Vanessa makes fajita, after which we head into town with Ben (it is his birthday) and Justine ty the cinema to see X-Men 2.
20 May - day 212 ?
After loading our stuff onto the truck we stroll back in to town for a cooked breakfast. At 9am we drive off down the coast to Simon's Town to see their colony of African (Jackass) penguins.
From there we drive down to Cape Point (38°21'S 18°29'E) where we take the funicular up to the lighthouse. We then walk to Cape Hope, picking up stones along the way to threaten the baboons with. We get a photo taken with the Cape Hope sign, but we are sure that the lattitude/longitude on it is wrong.
We finally drive into Cape Town mid-afternoon and park outside our final destination, Ashanti Lodge (33°55.980'S 18°24.726'E, 518728k). Steve & Debs get a room with a bath in the guest house down the road, and we unload all of our gear from Lola.
Our final group dinner is at the Nelson's Eye charcoal grill nearby. Steve gets quite drunk & falls asleep on the table.