Facts and Figures
February 23rd - March 5th 2009
Burkina Faso Cont.
Not feeling too good today .. And it’s hot, which isn’t helping, I’m also covered in Mozzie bites.
Ian leaves the site today.
We found out that the Hotel has wi-fi internet and there is power around the swimming pool, however, the wi-fi can’t be picked up by the pool, or anywhere else on the site with a decent enough signal, they also charge CFA 1,500 an hour for the use of it. I managed to get a signal sat close to reception but it took the whole battery to download 11 e-mails, I’m not going to even attempt to upload the website.
We took a taxi into the Office of Migration for the VTE and to extend our Burkina Faso visa’s, we were to early, they didn’t open till 15:00, so we went for a wander and found a café for something to eat and a coffee while we waited. 15:00 and the office open we fill out the required reams of paperwork, 30 minutes later and CFA 50,000 we are done, visa’s will be ready in 48 hours (Wednesday).
Back at the site we get some not very good news from Mark and Allison, they had heard about some problems that had/were happening on the way South. The main road from Dolisie to Brazzaville (Congo) had seen 4 overland trucks hijacked and robbed at gun point the week before, and worse news, Cabinda, an Angolan enclave between Congo and DRC, had closed it’s borders to all foreign vehicles which meant we wouldn’t be able to miss troublesome DRC and fly/ferry out of Cabinda into Angola proper, we will need to do some research and see what we can come up with.
Talking with Marc later on, he tells us that the few alternative routes to miss out Dolisie and Brazzaville would not be passable by the time we would be arriving, although staying on the main route, if we could get visa’s arranged and make it to Point Noire in one piece, there may be a way to ship out to further along the coast, Marc will check with someone he knows in Pointe Noire and let us know.
Mark and Allison leave early today.
We have decided that we will probably stay here till the weekend and try to sort our route/options out. Marc’s contact in Pointe Noir thinks that it is ok for foreign vehicles entering Cabinda with a visa obtained from Abuja, Nigeria, which we had planned to do, but we are now concerned about the road conditions through Cameroon two up on a fully loaded GS and also getting to Cabinda and still being refused entry. We think the only safe option we have is a plane out of Nigeria to Namibia.
The reports on the HUBB are still saying Cabinda is out of bounds to foreign vehicles. Trying to find flights on the internet is proving difficult with the slow connection but Marc tells us he gets good reception in the bar so we will give that a try. A good connection but still slow, and we are getting looks from the staff … waiting for the South African Airlines sight to load up the battery goes again!!!!!! So we give up.
Another taxi ride to the Migration Office to pick up the visa’s, although not so straightforward this time, the taxi driver got lost. We kept stopping to ask directions but with no joy. At last we find it, but when I go to pay him the CFA500 each (usual fare, which we later find out is a tourist rip off as the proper fare is only CFA200) he says no …. CFA2000 because we had been driven around town, after much arguing, and basically us chickening out due to the language barrier and the fact that the Migration Office is also part of the Gendarmerie, we paid him CFA1200.
Back at the site we are talking with Marc when in pulls Ian, he has been up North somewhere in search of Elephants and Hippo’s.
Lorraine is suffering in the heat, badly. We think maybe we have bitten off a bit more than we can chew and are seriously considering the option of packing it all in and going home. We have now decided to stay here till Monday and figure things out.
Ian says that he has been talking with Marc about the possibility of shipping out of Ghana on a container ship and is waiting for some quotes to come back before making their minds up, if we are interested and there is room we could hook up with them.
Talking later with Marc and Ian we think maybe we have just hit the wall, we have realised that this is not a holiday but it is our way of life for the next couple of years, having to deal with living out of two aluminium boxes, getting filthy dirty, being hot and everything getting covered in dust. And you can’t give up at the first few obstacles you encounter, that is what this kind of trip is about, surviving and living off your wits.
We both feel a lot better about things now, apart from those bloody mosquito’s.
While we were sat over at the pool the site had been invaded by a truck full of Brits and Canadians on an organised overland expedition, (not a lot of helpful information gleaned from them, they just seemed to want to be with their group and no one else. Whatever!!) … and a bit of inspiration in the form of Rosalynn, a 66 years young lady walking around Africa with a pack on her back.
We borrowed Marc and Clo’s washing machine to Dhobi a few bits of clothes which cheered Lorraine up a bit!
Both feeling better about the trip again and the thought of maybe getting in the container with the two LandRovers, it was a better day, mostly spent by the pool, in the shade!.
Rossalynn tells us that another Dragoman truck full of Brits had just pulled in, the site is looking a bit full now. The people on the second truck were a lot more approachable and talkative, mixing with everyone else. We found out from one of the girls on the second truck that Congo had now closed it’s borders due to an Ibola virus outbreak, so our only way through to the South by road would be via DRC … I need a proper internet connection.
Marc and family are leaving today, but before they go we have to measure up to see if we can get all 3 vehicles in the container. With great amusement to the Dragoman crowd, we have Marc’s LandRover at the front with Ian’s tightly behind and the bike behind that, deciding what can be removed, drawing lines in the sand and running around with a measuring tape we conclude that there is enough room, now we just have to wait and see what it is going to cost. We have swapped email addresses and plan to meet up in Ghana around the 20th of March to finalise everything.
Again another lazy day hanging around the campsite, writing up the website and packing what we could, ready for the off tomorrow morning. With the packing done as much as possible, we reckon it should only take 30-45 Minutes to pack the rest away.
We need to get more money before leaving Ouaga, so I had a run into town to the bank only to find (as I thought) that the bank had stopped Lorraine’s card as it wouldn’t give me any beer tokens. Three banks later and I am fuming, so back to the campsite to get my card which also doesn’t work when I get back to the bank (someone’s ears must have been burning at Barclays Bank). After another try I think maybe I am asking for a bit much cash at once and lower the amount, hey presto … money. Still haven’t tried Lorraine’s card again yet, but I think that would have been the problem with hers as well.
Ian is cooking dinner tonight, meat ball and veg. curry, very tasty .. and washed down with a few beers before an early night.
Start Mileage - 8754
Woke up around 06:30, and after a quick coffee we cracked on with the packing up. Two hours later, goodbye’s said and we’re ready to hit the road (30-45 minutes my A**E!!), we’ll get this packing malarkey sorted one day.
About 30 minutes after leaving the site we came to a peage, we had been through a few on the way through Burkina and they either waved us through or there was a lane that all the mopeds used so we did as well, this one though I missed the moped lane and rolled up to the barrier expecting them to let us through. They had other ideas and stopped us saying we had to pay, I argued the toss with them for half an hour as we hadn’t paid before and the signs on the approach were priced for cars and trucks only, a queue of cars behind us getting more and more irate as each minute passed, which I thought would help my case. Eventually I caved and paid up, making sure I got a receipt which I was going to take to the Tresor Public to get my money back and complain (another tactic that didn’t work!!). CFA200 later (about 30p) we are on the way again … it’s all about the principle.
We seem to be having trouble with coffee the further down we get, first in Bobo when we got two fruit juices! and now at a roadside coffee hut. We managed to get two coffee’s in the end but started off with only the one coffee in a glass, then one coffee and a glass of hot milk which the guy then poured into a bowl and finally we got him to put some coffee into it, so I had my coffee in a glass as normal and Lorraine ended up sipping hers from a glass bowl, even though there were other glasses behind the counter … all good fun.
We started looking for somewhere to camp around 14:00, and as we approached Pama we saw some signs for a couple of Safari Lodges, the first one was 13Km’s down a dirt road which didn’t inspire Lorraine much so we carried on to see if the next one was a bit easier. We reached the turn off and it was only 3Km’s of easy dirt road so we went for it and found a really nice place, although expensive to stay in the rooms, they would let us have a double for the price of a single (about £60), so we decided to camp. Backpackers and campers are seen by a lot of places as second rate tourists and treated with disdain, the shower block and toilets we were shown after refusing the offer of a “cheap” room left a lot to be desired i.e. cleanliness and maybe a door or two.
The meal was good and the campsite was quiet and tidy, not bad overall, especially when we found the good toilets in the bar.
Start Mileage - 8968
Pama - Djougou (Benin)
Up early, tent packed and on the road by 09:00 after breakfast. An uneventful 50 minute run to the border which proved to be another stress less crossing both out of Burkina and into Benin. At the police exit point out of Burkina we met up with a group of four Estonian KTM riders and their support truck on their annual trip round Africa. They ship the bikes to and from Ghana and go and play in the dirt for a couple of weeks. While they were waiting for the support truck to get fixed they entertained the gradually expanding crowd with wheelies and other hooliganism … wish I could ride like that :-(
After the border we picked up the Cotonou road marked as “improved” on the map, Lorraine not expecting to have a good time of it, we were surprised it was as good as the main route and we made good time to Djougou. We pulled up at the Motel du Lac, which we had seen on a board further up the road. There weren’t any camping areas, but the French owner said it could be arranged if we wanted to camp. It wasn’t overly expensive for a room, and seeing as we had been in the tent for a week at Ouaga, free, we decided to splash out and have a nice soft bed and en suite facilities .. Great food as well, which we nearly missed .. We had booked dinner for 19:30 but hadn’t realised that the time zone had changed, (the first change as we have been on UK time until now) it was an hour earlier, lucky we didn’t go out.
Start Mileage - 9114
Djougou - Savalou
A late departure today .. 11:15 . Just couldn’t get out of bed, and we were still on UK time (our excuse). After a good cup of coffee we left Motel du Lac and carried on toward Cotonou on the “Improved Road”, still nice and flat although a few potholes are starting to appear here and there. We have noticed the change in scenery since leaving BF, it is a lot greener now and more dense, also, the humidity has gone through the roof, we are sweating buckets.
As we are trundling on minding our own business, I noticed a headlight in my mirrors approaching at speed, it is two youths on a 125 of some description, wringing everything they could get out of it to catch up, as they pull alongside I’m expecting some sort of “Help” to be offered, but they just want to take some photo’s of the bike. The guy on the back is snapping away as the rider overtakes both sides and slows down/speeds up to get every angle and shouting over that they had seen us pass and like the bike very much and want lots of pics. I pull ahead of them and put my indicator on to pull over for a chat, but they carry on going. At the next village we come to there they are on the side of the road flagging us down, we pull over for more pictures, a chat in English and after giving them a couple of stickers we manage to get going, again with the usual gathering of people that appear from who knows where to contend with, but as usual all very friendly.
A bit further along the road, a bit deeper into the jungle we come across a road block, truck tyres have been placed on the road to slow vehicles down, I can see a couple of guys at the road block, I can see they have guns but can’t tell if they are in uniform or not so we approach cautiously. As we get nearer we can see that they aren’t in uniform and are carrying what look like 20 bore single barrel shotguns slung over their shoulders. I can be way out of their range before they are ready to take a shot, so I keep the bike in gear and look for the escape route if needed. They tell us they are the “forest guardians” and ask for money or food, we pretend not to understand but they are persistent. A minute or two later a car approaches from the other direction, and we get a reluctant wave on from the “guardians”. A lucky escape or not? We will never know.
The rest of the run to Savalou was quiet enough, just enjoying the scenery and a chat with a couple of locals who were sat in a buvette we stopped at for a drink.
We arrived at Savalou around 15:00, and after topping up with petrol went back to check out “Auberge de Savalou” which we just passed. It looked like we had a four foot step to bump the bike up into the Auberge, but the guy that owned it waved us round the back, a lot easier, he told us to park under the tree he was pointing at so the bike was in the shade, forgetting about Lorraine on the back I did as directed and got a thump in the back and yelling through the intercom headset as we performed the comedy routine of me ducking to miss the branch but Lorraine not!! After parking the bike, away from the tree, we went inside, first thing on the agenda was a nice cold beer … lovely!! Beers sunk we had a look at the room, clean and tidy with a fan and shower, and only CFA 7,000 per night. The bike gear is beginning to hum a bit now, so after off loading the bike, it’s out of the smelly gear and into the shower. Lorraine is just about to get into the shower and I’m stood under the fan ,au natural cooling off, when there is a knock at the door, I found a pair of shorts and opened the door to one of the staff with two buckets of water, the room may have a shower but it doesn’t have to work, and this one doesn’t, neither do the wash hand basin or toilet flush .. at least we have water so we can de-smell!!
Slightly less smelly now, we go for another beer and to check out the food ,which isn’t too expensive and it is quite tasty. After dinner we go to sit in the soft seats by the TV and I ask the woman behind the bar if they have BBC World News on their satellite channels, she say’s they do .. Woohoo!! We can maybe catch up on a bit of what’s going on in the world as we haven’t had internet for ages. Her version of BBC is not what we expected, instead we get TV5 Monde Afrique, a French African tv channel which was showing a really bad soap that made the original CrossRoads look like a BAFTA contender. Never mind eh! Early to bed then.
After breakfast we go in search of the internet café we are told is in Savalou and eventually find it tucked down a dirt road about a mile from the Auberge, no Wi-Fi or ADSL but they allow us to use our own laptop which is good, although we have been told a lot of Cyber Cafes won’t let you use anything but their equipment we haven’t had any problems yet. Emails checked I thought I would update the website before replying to any or trying Skype. That was a mistake, four hours and the website is still uploading, and not being able to run any other programmes as the connection is again a bad one, some of the bigger files on the site won’t upload at all, I’m starting to get a bit hacked off with it so pull the plug, the website probably won’t work at all now until I can get a decent connection and load it all properly again. We try to Skype and send some emails but without any success, nothing is working now. A waste of 4 hours, but at least it was an air conned room.
A bit annoyed we go back to the Auberge for beers and dinner. After dinner this time I ask the guy if they have BBC World News or at least CNN, this time he finds a couple of English language stations, so we plumb for France24 English which seems to be the only one showing news, albeit mostly gloomy and about how far our money isn’t going to go, thanks Gordon, you're screwing the economy better than any of your predecessors.