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Saturday, October 26, 2019

GREGARIOUS GHANA


After 3 nights camped in Chloe’s driveway it is time to tackle another border. GR2 really doesn’t want to leave- she is sluggish. Goodness when did we last get new truck batteries! John charges her up and we are off. 100km of flat, water drenched countryside and we are at the border. And what a pleasure. Easy peasy! Stamped out then stamped in to Ghana. Bonus: they speak English here.

We head along the coast, but rain sets in. Villages are sloshing in water. Will this wet season never end? The main road (so far) is pretty good, but the side roads terrible – all water logged, potholed tracks. So, we decide it is pointless exploring the beaches. At one point we slip down a short track to get to the beach but are stopped in our tracks by low overhanging wires. Whoops! The road sadly deteriorates to pot holes making it slow going. Time to stop, so we decide to head to Ko-Sa Beach Resort – the place that gave us our letter of invitation. It is owned by a Dutch couple – and what a magic surprise, especially after squeezing through a scruffy village and manovering through mudpuddles. The place is right on a lovely strip of beach and is quite magical. A perfect spot to relax. We spend a lovely evening in the restaurant with Lillian from Denmark. A newly minted doctor who is on a short break.

No rain in the night and sunshine in the morning. After a swim – John says the surf had more debris than anywhere else – a mix of plastic bags, bottles, car parts, nappies. Glad I just wandered the beach! Time to head on to the big smoke at Accra, but first a detour out to Elmina (named for the gold mine that was here) There is a road in and another out. Naturally the road we take in is in very bad shape & it goes straight through the massive fishing village on market day. And  the markets are overflowing on to the streets. Very action packed. We park at Elmina Castle and explore. The guide is compulsory so we get the full drama of the disgusting slave trade that happened here for over 200 years. As we exit, we meet some people doing a documentary, and before I know it John becomes a movie star yet again. Boy does he love it!

The plan is to get to Accra today. We want new batteries, a grease & oil change, hopefully tyres and to visit an Embassy. By the end of the day we have new batteries, but it will be dark soon so we head to the beach and stay right beside a restaurant/bar. A surprisingly quiet night – the sound of surf drowns out traffic noise and the music stops early.  A mechanic is due at 7am to do the grease & oil change right here, but a change of plans means at 8.30 we head to the centre of the city to get it done at “kerbside repairs” Which it literally is! Way too many hours later we leave. On to the Nigerian Embassy to check borders (not really very helpful), then the Angolan Embassy to apply for visas. The online stuff looks complicated! And Rosie the consulate is unbelievably helpful and gives us a list of things to collect. Then on to a huge tyre shop – Bonus – they can get our tyres. Feeling very pleased with ourselves we head back to our beach front spot.

Another quiet night and another busy day. Collect our application letter from the Language University that has been translated in to Portuguese, front up at the Embassy, pay the fees at the bank, drop deposit slips back to the Embassy, finally off to collect those tyres! By now it is much later than anticipated and of course the traffic is again all snarled up, so instead of heading north to the lake we return to our beach spot. They wave madly as we arrive.

In the morning we head north. The usual traffic, markets everywhere, kids off to school – all the usual mayhem. Before heading north on quiet roads. We see baboons, lots of tropical bush and acres of banana, pawpaw’s & mango trees that are dripping with fruit.

Then there are the bread sellers…100’s of them. How many loaves can you fit on your head? We arrive before lunch, and what a delightful find. We can camp right beside the lake on green grass. We may well put down roots and stay. After an explore of the village we book a boat trip, but when it is time to leave a storm rolls in with a heavy downpour. Oh well not today! At 7am the next morning we head off up the river. A lovely ride to the dam passing lots of jungle, fishing pirogues & villages. We pay “tourist” prices and the local villagers say “Gimme the money!”  When we had gone to walk across the bridge there was a tourist charge - needless to say we declined. And many of the police at their stops ask “What have you got for me?”. John, always says “a big smile” then laughs and drives off.  

Time to return to Accra to collect our passports. Our visas are ready & we are glad to finally leave Accra behind us. In our various quests we have managed to see a lot of the city. It is Friday, so naturally there is traffic congestion. Actually, I think there is always traffic congestion, as we manage 20km in the first hour. Finally, open road. But there are always new challenges. One of our brand-new tyres blows out - we must have run over some debris on the road…. what a bummer. And then an accident closing the road through a town. We can even see flames! Finally, we crawl down back tracks and make it to Christy’s Guesthouse just as it gets dark. We are in noise range of an Evangelical revival meeting (these are very popular here) – so go to sleep with one blaring and then another at daybreak.

Today, we will tackle Togo.

GHANA - PHOTOS

Elephant's Nest - Chloes house

The lush countryside in Ghana

Who needs a handbag or backpack -a bucket will do

Rainy soggy fishing village

Continuous rain


Ko -Sa Beach Resort

Sunset....bliss

Time to venture back to the real world

Through the markets to Elmina Castle

ElMina

That's what we drove through

The fishing harbour


Inside the castle

Hollywood is calling

Sunrise at the Beach Next Door Resort near Accra

Kerbside repairs

Jamestown - the oldest part of Accra

Government buildings

Every second sign is a Church one (well at least every 4th one)

Flagstaff House - the Leaders pad

Triumphant Arch

Roadside baboons

What a lovely spot to camp

Looking over the village to the river

Our trip



Driving back through the villages - lots of dressmaking shops


Oh dear!!!!!

Friday, October 18, 2019

MALI (DANGEROUS!) & COTE D'IVOIRE


Yay!!! The border crossing from Senegal to Mali is totally easy. No unpleasant people, no money required and all accomplished relatively quickly. Just how they should always be. And so, we are here in Mali, but it is much later than expected and the sun is setting fast. We have an unbelievably scruffy border town to traverse to get to the Kenieba Motel, and there is very little street lighting, lots of potholes, trucks & shanties. We have to stop & ask directions until we find it down a dirty side street. Open gates, huge parking area, people everywhere – a party is in progress. No choice but to go in as it is now pitch black.  But all ends well, the party finishes, Tv’s turn down and we have a peaceful night for free.

We plan to get to Bamako tonight as we want to get to an overlander’s hotspot – The Sleeping Camel. But it is slow going with large sections of broken seal to carefully manoeuvre around and crashed or broken-down trucks and buses everywhere. The countryside had changed – there are huge escarpments & lush bush dotted with thatched villages. Mali is definitely one step poorer than Senegal. By late afternoon we are nearly in the big smoke. A storm rolls in producing massive puddles. I suggest the bypass of Kati (just before Bamako) and what a mistake. An appalling section of road. Oh well, at least it is Sunday night so the traffic through the city isn’t too bad. We find our way across town, across the massive Niger river & eventually to The Sleeping Camel. We had pictured camping inside a big enclosure with hopefully a few other overlanders. Sadly (for us) they have just relocated premises – have a great area with restaurant & pool, but no room for us inside. We have to park on the street – outside their razor wire edged walls with double security door entrance! There is a Polish 4x4 that has squeezed inside so we can chat to them, but the rest of the crowd seem to be UN people (Interesting fact – there are apparently 120,000 UN people on the ground in Mali – that is huge)

In the morning we taxi in to the city. First to visit the Congo Embassy to try to get visas – yes, we can, but at Aus$520, we decide to try elsewhere. Find an ATM that will actually spit out cash before taxing back to GR2. We decide to head out. For us Mali is really just a convenient route – we cannot explore the amazing mudbrick mosques further north, or go visit the fabled Timbuctoo – definitely off-limits at the moment. We find a spot at the Hotel Piedmont in Bougouni where we meet a group of people from World Bank. They are checking their “loan” money to Mali is spent wisely. Naturally they do not expect the loan to be repaid.

Another long driving day to reach the border. There is lots of cropping – cotton, corn, root vegetables & chillies. At Sikasso we meet another main road so traffic (mainly overloaded trucks) increases. We reach the border at 3pm and it is quiet and stress-free. Yay! Hello Cote d’Ivoire. We still have a few more hours of daylight so decide to carry on, but broken roads & a storm rolling in means that it is hard to see much by the time we reach Ouangolodouoa. Fortunately, we locate a hotel with a slushy carpark & settle there for the night.

Lots of road works today making it slow going. The villages look more substantial (compared to Mali) & there are crops everywhere. Corn, rice, root vegetables, millet, bananas, pawpaw’s, And there is a big Military presence – we are stopped 8 times. We stop to watch the local guys at their looms set under the trees. The cloth is very heavy & used as wraps. On through the city of Bouake where the streets are heaving with people & markets and eventually to the city of Yamoussoukro. Here the roads are 6 lanes wide & we can see the dome of the Notre Dame rising high in the sky. We head there first to catch it before it closes for the day – but we are too late. It is one hugely expensive white elephant in a poor country. Our book says it cost between US$400-600 million to build. Time to hunt down a place to stay – and we try a few, winding along wide boulevards that are totally broken up. Carparks are too small, or prices too high, so we end up outside Hotel Concord on the street. A surprisingly quiet night.

We decide not to wait for the cathedral to open but to hit the road. And what a road – smooth motorway practically all the way to Abidjan. Awesome! Of course, there are police to flag us down – most are friendly. Only one tries to fine us for speeding, claiming we are doing 74km/hr in a 60 area. All the signs say 120km/hr!

Now we are in the massive sprawling city of Abidjan – over 4.5mill people live here. Many in shanties clinging to the hillsides. The city is crammed on to a string of islands and once off the main road the traffic crawls along very slowly. Our first mission is to find a tyre shop recommended to us – well they prove unhelpful, second mission – a Sim. In the process we find a great supermarket to stock up with food, and finally a Sim. Lastly, we head to the Embassy of the Republic of Congo and yes, we can get visas today – expensive (but not quite as bad as in Bamako) By 4.30pm we head out of the city to the coastal area of Grand Bassam. We are heading to Chloe’s place – The Elephants Nest where Overlanders are welcome. Chloe is away until Saturday so we will stay put for a day, doing chores. Then after chatting we will cross to Ghana. Fingers crossed please!

Will take the opportunity to post this blog while we have Wifi.


MALI & COTE D'IVOIRE - PHOTOS

Love the local transport

The good & the bad in one road



Life on the street

I can' take you both for a ride...oh maybe I can

Finally in to town

Street shrinkage

Just an everyday load

And on in to Bamako

Crossing the mighty Niger River

See how much you can fit up there!

Driving through Bouake - now in Cote d'Ivoire


Weavers

And their wares

Wide boulevards & towering cathedral in Yamoussoukro

That expensive Cathedral

And the wide side streets

And yay a motorway

Snacks anyone

Villages are getting bigger & better

And so in to Adidjan