donderdag 26 januari 2012

Update from Bamako

After returning from Bandiagara, camping on the piste near Segou, I discovered the open wound on my foot was infected, and worse, this had triggered an allergic reaction in the skin of my hands and feet, called dyshidrosis. It was like every finger had 20 mosquito bites, and it was very itchy and painfull. The next day I could hardly close my hand and found the rash spread to my arms and feet, so I was of to the hospital. After being treated with anti-biotics, anti histamine and some other stuff things are looking better now, but it will take the rest of the week to fully recover.
In the mean time, I met up with some other Belgians here in Bamako, Max & Marjane, who are driving a KTM motorbike and are on the same route southwards as me. I was in contact with Max for months now and was quite surprised to find hilm here in Bamako, as he left Belgium six months ago. This newly wed couple sure take their time and I will be happy to travel together with them when we meet again in Burkina or Nigeria.
Max & Marjane
My other travel partners, Tony and Charlie, will go their own way in the next few days, driving towards Accra, Ghana with Heidi and Jens on their diesel Enfields, to catch a freightship to Namibia, effectively skipping the most dangerous and hard going part of Africa.

maandag 16 januari 2012

donderdag 12 januari 2012

Getting things sorted

'Nigeria closes borders after unrest about fuel prices and Boko Haram attacks'
This news got the overlanders here in a bit of panic, as a group of Australians were already waiting for a week for their Nigerians visa's, to no avail. I got my visa application in the day before, and was not expecting much when I went to the embassy today, but to my surprise, I got the visum in 20 minutes, after I explained I was only transiting Nigeria on my way to Cameroun. Maybe the fact I got my DRC visa already, made them give it to me, but there is no logic to it, like there is no logic in Africa anyway.
My friends, Charlie and Tony, were already planning another route, invalving container shipping their bikes from Ghana to Namibia, but I prefered the road option, and today it seems, the Nigerians are going to let me have my way. One happy Tony!

Yesterday was a succes also, with me and Tom going into town and buying a new chinese BT 125 Super Nr 1 motorbike.

Now we are ready to get going for an adventure through the villages and sights of Mali, at the pace of the locals, eating their food and sleeping where they sleep.
The night before we left the owner of the 'sleeping camel' had a special treat for  us, roasted pig.

maandag 9 januari 2012

Exit Sandland

After spending a few days in busy Nouakchott getting things sorted, it was time for me, Charlie and Tony to get on the road towards Mali. But first we needed to navigate the gridlock traffic of Nouakchott:

The road Eastwards is one of the few tarmaced roads in Mauritania and basicly connects one dusty desert town after another. First there was Aleg, where we stayed in the least dilapitaded hotel we found, eating safe things as bread and cans of sardines, as the street stal food was not trusted. Then it was onto Kiffa, but as we drove out of Aleg, there was no fuel to be found.

They assured us there was fuel in the next town, but as things go, this was ofcourse not true. We had a discussion on what to do, as we could drive on for about 100 km before we ran out, but we certainly wouldn't get to Kiffa. For about an hour we searched and questionned the inhabitants for the precious liquid and in the end the solution came in the form of  Mr Idoumou , the 'grand chef du tourisme' in the south of Mauritania, who rolled the window of his mercedes down and greeted us in perfect English, asking what we needed.

He offered to send a taxi with fuel from Nouakchott, but luckily found some fuel from the army within 20 minutes and we were left with no choise but to pay the 60 euro for 20 litres he had on offer. This fuel just got all of us to Kiffa, where I put 23.9 litres in my 23 litre tank at the one gasstation that had unleaded fuel. The problem here is that everybody drives diesel cars and the are no mopeds, so no need for unleaded.

We stayed at 'Le Phare du Desert' but left the breakfast untouched as the water for the coffee had the same merky taste as the night before, and with  our tanks full we set of to the last stop in this sandy hell, Ayoun El Atrous. Because I couldn't care about looking for another hotel, we just stayed where I stayed last year, again having dinner in the form of bread and sardines,as the chicken we ordered in the plastic flower restaurant was lukewarm and wisely refused.

So next morning I was in good spirits to leave for the border with Mali, and after 130 km we checked out of SandLand dodging the bribe attempt at the customs office and repeating it one the Mali side, as they too asked for money to put the stamp in the passport. Cheap it was not going to be as we had to get the 'ecowas' insurance for 2 months and a pretty expensive 'laissez passer' which had to be stamped by the police, and guess what, they also wanted our money. When Charlie insisted on a receipt,  we got into an arguement as they were claiming they had no receipts because it was sunday. In the end we payed up and drove to our first stop in black africa at Diema.

In Diema we paid a visit to Pam and her Village Ventures programme and it was nice seeing she was doing well. She build a couple of new houses and was busy with some other projects too.The village of Diema is very lucky with such a dedicated lady.

We spend the night in her new luxerious hut and in the morning I was anxious to get to Bamako where I would meet up with my Belgian friend Tom. For months now, we had the plan to buy a moped in Bamako and drive around Mali for a couple of weeks going from small village to village, and expierencing the real Africa. So early morning I was on my way to meet him, driving very slowly, cause my motorcycle chain was about to break.

The day before I noticed one link of the chain was damaged, but the bike was still driveble. At a steady pace of 70 km/u I purred toward the capital to arrive just past noon. My friend was waiting for me at 'the sleeping camel' as promised and I was glad I was able to keep my promise of getting there in time after 4 weeks and 6800 km of driving. Moreso, he had all the presents with him that I told him to take. He managed to check in with Brussels Airlines with my back tyre, 4 litres of motorcycle oil and loads of other stuff.

My friend Tom

It felt like a late christmas and now we are here in Bamako, sorting out what little bike we can buy for him. It's probably going to be a Chinese one, I'll post a picture soon.

dinsdag 3 januari 2012

Enter Sand Land

Charlie looking for beer. There was none


We spend the last day of the year at the free camperpark in  Dakhla, which sits at a beautiful sandy bay and is just perfect for kitesurfing, atv riding or strolls at the beach. That day, there was a perfect mix of  young and older people and after Tony & Charlie improvised a delicious fish and chicken bbq, we had a great night at the fireplace together with Joep & Angelique, who arrived in their red minivan, and a truly international mix of mostly surfers. Luckily for us, there was plenty of alcohol, because we were unable to find some.

New Year at Dakhla
Next morning I broke up camp, but I didn't succeed in waking the other 2. Tony Gahegan was in some sort of a coma, probably induced by drinking too many of the strange brew with suggarcubes some hippie frenchmen fed him. This guy all fed us a alcohol soaked suggarcube to put on our tongue, but as the taste was realy awful and it actualy burned your tongue, most of us just spit it out. Not so Tony, he loved the stuff.
So off I went, to the border of Mauritania, I would see the guys in a few days surely, and it's nice to be on the road alone.

The Moroccon side went easy and quick and I passed a group of about 10 Italians on BMW's into the no man's land. I passed here last year so I thought I knew what to expect, but as there are about 20 different tracks and I had taken a different track from last time, it all went wrong. This time there was nothing but sand. It went alright till the 3rd sandpit, then the bold rear tire spinned out, but luckily the sand made for a soft landing. I wasn't able to get the bike up by myself and this could be a problem in the future, as this surely isn't the last spill.
This is were I stayed that night on my way to Nouakchott. I didn't want to go to Nouadhibou (or as charlie call's it:"No Idea Boo" which is a better name for it) as it is a sandy shithole, like most places in Mauritania actually.
Mum said I could sleep in one of the rooms, which all 5 where filled with mats, pillows, garbage and children, lots of children. I stopped counting at 7, there were probably more. So she cleaned out a room, and I was set for the night. Next day remained the 400 km to Nouakchott while strong crosswinds swept the sand over the road and into my helmet, it was truly a hard time on the bike, and by the minute I loved Mauritania more and more.
Brutal crosswinds towards Nouakchott

 So now I am at auberge Menata ,where I met Richard Meek on his little Yamaha Serow and the Spanish couple we already saw in Dakhla. Next days is bike maintenance and visa's before we set course to Mali via the 'route de l'espoir' or how it is now called: the 'route de Al Qaida'