woensdag 21 maart 2012

Video report

Clips of video from Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria.

Clip of a day out on the KTM 450 of Stefan

maandag 19 maart 2012

Lovely Nigeria

As it turned out, the border at Chikanda, from Niki was indeed very easy, with Thomas and Anita getting a free 'laissez passez' and the officials on the Togo side not seeing that I passed through Togo without one or any Togo visa whatsoever.
 We used our visa cards in the first bank and were surprised the Naira's just flowed out like that, in Parakou,Togo the 4 ATM's refused my visa and mastercard just the day before. The road however turned into a difficult piste just 20 km into Nigeria continuing for about a hundred km, which was very tiring. Apart from a few aggressive immigration officials, we found the Nigerians to be very welcoming and friendly.

Anita, Thomas and Regis

 It also seems a lot cheaper here, eating streetfood at half a euro or less, drinking a cold coke for the same price and even having a litre of fuel for that same 0,5 euro. Diesel unfortenately is twice the price and pretty hard to find too, our convoy needs to drive into about 10 fuel stations to find one with diesel. Because of the badly potholed roads it took us 4 days to reach Abuja, bushcamping every night, preparing our own food while fending off the irritating small flies, that had the habbit to go inside your ears. Once we got to the busy cities of Mokwa and Bida we also experienced the famous Nigerian driving style, on one car I read 'My security is God', another read 'Take care, God is on my side', which sums it up nicely.
 In Bida, we noticed Anita's car was a bit low on the rear and found a big piece of the frame was broken on both sides. In only 2 hours they managed to weld it (very badly), and we were on our way again before noon.

 As it was saturday we decided to bushcamp once more and drive into Abuja early sunday, to find the person which Thomas was in contact with, and who had a 'nice big place where we all could camp'.

Sterilizing water as Regis makes dinner
 The contact proved to be Stefan, a german, who works for a big company here and lives in Abuja with his wife Dagmar and 2 kids. As overlanders and bikers themself, they knew exactly what we needed after 4 days in the bush. I'll just list what these hospitable people offered to us , campsite with swimming pool, internet, free beer, complete kitchen to use, workshop for the car from the company and they will wash our clothes and help with the visa. Never in my life I was welcomed so overwhelming, from our bushcamp in the morning, it was like returning to all the comforts of europe. So, now we will use our time in Abuja to get the visa and plan our route to Cameroun. While we are at it, we may also try for the elusive Angola visa, but our chances are slim. And oh, the welding on Anita's car is allready starting to crack and another piece of the exhaust broke off, seems like her car is in permanent repair, but then again, it is as old as she is.

Togo & Benin

Our last days in Ghana were spent with my motorbike friends in Roots Yard near the border of Togo in the mountainous region of Ho. The day before, Heidi en Jens (Enfield diesels), Tony & Charlie, Max & Marjane and Hubert (Ural sidecar) put their bikes in Tema into a container to be shipped to Walvisbaai, Namibia.
 As a result they where now bikeless and took a tro-tro (minibus) to Roots Yard to meet up with us and Matt, who we met in Bamako and who was celebrating his 30th birhtday. Before me and Anita were leaving for Togo, we decided to visit a waterfall. As we decended without guide ( I took a sneaky picture of the guide's map) and only 15 minutes into the walk, the path narrowed and wasn't clear annymore leading into the cascades. I told Anita to wait, while I took a look at where to go, but although standing on dry rock with my climbing boots, I slipped and fell. I recovered, only to slip again, and again, and again, now on the slippery green wet rocks sliding deeper into the cascades on my belly to arrive in the waterpool at the end with a splash. Luckily I didn't hurt myself too bad and with wet sigarettes and money (camera is waterproof, yes!) we arrived at the waterfall a bit later with the rest of the group.
Slid some 20 meters before ending here!

This wasn't the only mishapp of the day, Anita spotted a cashew tree full of fruits, with the cashew nut in a protective shell under the fruit.

The fruit was edible, she knew, but when she tried to get to the cashew nut by biting the shell, a strong acid burnt her tongue and lip.  As we went back to Roots Yard, a real tropical thunderstorm forced the group of 7 into Anita's car for the ride back.

Matt, Tony, Parisa & Bahar

Next morning we left our friends to take on the rest of Africa. First was Togo, we crossed the easy border and after taking refuge for a 2 hour downpoor which left the car and my bike luggage wet, we arrived in the dark at the Benedict monestary of Dzobegan.

Just as we were in the shower, the bell for diner went, exactly 7u25, everybody was expected in the dining hall. While we were still eating, a servant took the rest of the food that was still on the table and served desert. It was clear that we needed to eat faster and as soon the desert was finished we were summoned to help with the dishes. In the morning we attended the morning mass, after which I left Anita to take on the rough mountain track towards Atakpamé, all in all a fantastic experience.

By now, I noticed the rear tourance tire, that was still on since I left home more than 3 months and 12000 km ago, had a strange bulge on the side, so it was quickly changed for one of the spare tires that I now keep on the roof of the landy (handy, having a girl with a landy). Togo is just a small country and so the border of Benin was soon reached using a bumpy track that at one place was  blocked by a broken down truck, I squeased through while Anita took a detour through the village.

In Benin we made our way to Savé that night to meet up with Thomas, a 21 year old Swiss mechanic, traveling in a 4x4 mercedes van and on his way to Tanzania to work as a 'bush mechanic'. We met with Thomas in Bamako where he already had to work on Anita's clutch.
Drawing a crowd as we come into Benin

 As we arrived at Savé, and got Thomas on the phone, we saw another overlander in a Toyota landcruiser. Regis, a French national, stepped out and asked: 'are you also looking for Thomas?'
The organised chaos in Anita's car

So now we were 4, and after making  bushcamp, we decided to spend one more day in Togo to get to the more safe entry North to Nigeria at Niki .

woensdag 7 maart 2012

Driving South

We quickly made our way south towards the Burkina/Ghana border to leave us enough time to deal with the border customs because we knew that without a carnet, Anita would have a hard time getting the car into Ghana. And that was how it turned out, I got through in 10 minutes with my carnet and getting the car sorted took us the remainding 6 hours of the day, driving to Bolga and back to the border, with some customs officials in the car. She ended up paying 50 euro for an insurance on a bond, basicly the same system as the carnet, but locally. Also they took the official car papers, and sent them to the border where we were exiting the country.
Anita forcing a truck off the road

Then it was on to the main goal in Ghana, the beautifull coast, and although Anita was a bit sick, and me having problems with the extreme heat of North Ghana, we made it down in 2 days. On one realy bad road I got stopped by one of the many police checkpoints, and upon being asked 'how the road was', I replied that it was realy bad. The officer threatened to arrest me if I didn't take it back, he said it was a perfectly fine road and remembering my previous arrests, I quickly and  fully aggreed.
When arriving at 'the green turtle' it turned out exactly as all the guide books described it, a picture perfect beach heaven.

 The temperature was a bit lower here and stayed the same day or night, which made for a realy relaxing 4 day camping experience, diving into the huge waves, having long morning walks or just having a cold beer while reading a book, it was a holiday into a holiday.

 We also met up with Charlie and Tony again, who just happened to be here too, and had a discussion about the shipping of the bikes from Accra to Namibia.

As I'm typing this from Cape Coast, we are by now pretty sure we are going to drive, rather than ship, but as the rainy season is already starting and some visa's are next to unobtainable, it will be a tough challenge, but then again, nothing is easy here in Africa. Nobody I know even attempted it in the rainy season, but I'm sure it has been done before. Are we being naive, ignorent or stupid, time will probably tell.