Since my last update a lot has been going on so I apologise in advance for how long this post is likely to be. I know its been a while since Christmas, when I last posted, however there are a couple of good reasons why I haven’t posted anything.
Firstly to avoid any unwanted attention whilst we traveled through Mauritania and Mali (Both of which contain FCO no go areas) we did not want to publicly publish any details of where we were or where we were going exactly. This is also the reason many of my posts were not put up for a couple of weeks. Now we are out of these countries though we no longer have an issue with this and so updates should come a little more often.
The second reason is for the past couple of weeks I have suffered from a kidney stone followed up with a major case of gut rot and head cold. So despite having left Mali nearly a week ago I hadn’t really felt like writing anything until now, finally feeling human again.
Illness actually brought a change of plans when we left St Louis after Christmas. Instead of heading across the country as planned we first took a detour south, making a stop in Dakar. Unfortunately this was because Jo took a turn for the worse and had to be taken to the hospital there, before she then flew back home to Finland.
From St Louis to Bamako, in Mali we had 5 days on the road. From Dakar to Kayes, in Mali, the roads were not that bad but from there we could not travel on the main road that went to Bamako as it passed through the FCO no go area. Instead we had to travel on a more direct but much less defined road. The early parts of it were particularly interesting as the road that we were trying to follow didn’t really seem to exist. After a particularly slow afternoon things progressed a bit better the next day when we picked up another piece of road. We still weren’t traveling at a particularly fast pace but this allowed us to get a good look at the villages that we passed through.
These ranged in size from the small to the tiny but what they all had in common was the smiles on the locals faces and how happy they seemed to be to see us. This included the children especially who would run out form the centre of their villages to get a proper look at the truck as we passed by.
The last village we passed through before hitting better roads again was on new years eve. We ended up stopping in the early evening in a quarry, where we were free to make as much noise as we liked without disturbing anyone.
From what I can remember it was a great night, though I still have no recollection of the midnight countdown which it has been confirmed I was there for. Dave similarly was there and has no recollection of the countdown however on New Years day he was adamant that this meant that he either was not there or it hadn’t happened!
New Years day was unsurprisingly a slow one, though after a late breakfast of fried spam together with a personal supply of Doritos and Coke I didn’t feel too bad for it. We didn’t set off from the quarry until early afternoon but Steve managed to find us a river for everyone to take a dip in and wake up properly.
In Bamako, our home for the 10 days we ended up staying in the city was the Sleeping Camel, a hostel run by an ex-overlander Matt. The reason for such a long visit was to try and get our Nigerian Visas, which in the end we actually failed to get there due to it being just after the New Year and then the strikes which recently broke out in Nigeria.
Despite all this time there I didn’t get to see that much of the city as it was here that I suffered with my kidney stone. This was as painful as it sounds and Nancy, who accompanied me to the Hospital said it was the worst pain that she had seen anyone suffer on her overland trips.
Fortunately after some painkillers that had little effect on the pain my doctor that I saw relented and gave me a shot of Morphine. This had a much more immediate effect but together with the other drugs left me flying high for the rest of the day before crashing in the evening.
I averaged about 9 litres of water a day over the next few days, which helped flush the stone through rapidly. I could tell it was moving purely by the fact that every so often the pain would have progressed to a new spot. Fortunately the stone (Christened as Bernie by the others on the truck) did pass before Nala left Bamako as otherwise I would have had to wait there as I was not going to be allowed to travel on the truck.
From Bamako we headed through Burkina Faso, stopping in Ouagadougou for the day to look about and pick up some of the passengers who had decided to go and visit some towns in the FCO no go area in Mali. From there we have traveled down to Ghana.
Despite there having been a few long driving days we have also had the chance to see some local wildlife. In Burkina Faso we visited a sacred Hippo lake and went on an early morning boat (powered by several fishermen and their push sticks) trip where we got the chance to get fairly close to the hippos. That same day we also visited a sacred crocodile lake and saw a couple of them eat on some chickens.
Here in Ghana we stopped al Mole national park where everyone went on a guided walk, with the hope of seeing an elephant. Only three people were lucky enough to see one, although as the elephant was very used to humans they were able to get within 25 metres of it.
Most recently, yesterday morning, we visited a monkey sanctuary based around a village. Here it has been made unlawful to harm the monkeys and we took a walk around the jungle before going into the village where the monkeys were hanging out in the trees on its outskirts.
We were given the chance to feed the monkeys peanuts, which were taken quite happily straight from our hands, and they sat in among us whilst they ate them rather than scurrying back into the trees as I had expected.
Right now we are in Kumasi and only have a few days until we reach Accra. Here we will be saying goodbye to Geoff, Eti and Jacquie whose trip will be ending. We will however be welcoming back the OK’s who will be joining us again until we reach Nigeria and six new passengers who’ll be joining us at least as far as Capetown.