Follow and share the facebook page and make sure you keep up with the album ‘cos it’s gonna be a beauty…
Follow and share the facebook page and make sure you keep up with the album ‘cos it’s gonna be a beauty…
It has been the most incredible journey of both of our lives. There have been challenges; the heat, the hills, the dust and the desert.
We set this blog to publish as our flight takes off out of Africa. I guess it’s a bit of a symbolic posting. It’s a goodbye blog.
We want to share a few photos we had been saving for the right moment. Some of these faces you may have seen in previous postings, some are new, but all showed us pure kindness, warmth and generosity. For that reason we wanted to devote a blog to the theme of generosity. These are the faces we will not forget as we leave African soil.
Mama: It had been a long day of cycling. We had never slept in a village before. She welcomed us with warmth, fed us and even gave us a crash course in Wolof. It was to be the first of many village camping experiences.
Cheick shared a roadside pot of tea with us one hot Malian lunchtime. He had lost a bull and hadn’t had the best of days. But he dismissed his misfortune and instead welcomed us to the village, occasionally leaving us to make bull-related phone calls.
Pete: We met on the ferry to France. He was our adopted dad for the first leg of our trip. He encouraged us, kept our spirits up when our bums were burning and shared some very useful bike-touring wisdom with us. He was our first friend of the trip.
Tentatively we peeked through the bushes at a group of party-goers, only to be snapped up by the father of the bride who insisted that we join the festivities. We shared goats milk and attempted to learn a few words of Fula. It was the perfect half hour.
With a contagious smile he opened his home to us. Boubacar Kone is an artist, a philosopher, a businessman, but most of all he’s everyone’s friend. Bouba had polio as a child and now runs ‘Handicape Production’, a small shop selling his artisan work.
Ba Fousseyni: What can we say? Fousseyni, our Malian uncle and good friend. He fed us, offered us a home and became a very wonderful friend to have around.
Sodio Boureïma: It was getting close to 50 degrees in the midday sun and we had been cycling on ‘corrugated iron’ sand piste for a long time… visibly exhausted we were heckled from the road and invited to rest. We napped at his side and when we awoke, waiting next to us was a pot of tea and a bowl of mangos.
Jaliba Kuyateh: We had heard about him, turned up at his house on a whim and ended up sharing almost a week with him and his family. Generous and wise, he showed us a truly different side to The Gambia.
Mama Lamlih: Baking us fresh bread every morning, preparing us a special couscous dinner (it wasn’t even ‘couscous friday’), she was the heart of the fantastic Lamlih family and made sure we felt at home as we entered the desert.
Souleymane and Chekoroba: We met in Bamako, their home city. They agreed to teach Mikaela a couple of Bamana songs. A couple of songs turned into a true friendship, based on wonderful descriptive song translations from Chekoroba, the beautiful songwriting of Souleymane (which we ended up recording) and of course, Chekoroba’s mother’s ‘giniberri’ (ginger juice)..! We felt part of a family.
Chekoroba- Photograph by Florant Lalet
There is a Moorish proverb that puts it more simply,
To travel is to know the true value of mankind.
Beach time did not really work out as hoped. One day of splashing in the sea and snoozing in the sun before my belly started another war. But it turned out the beach was a cool place for recovery, which is in a way a sort of relaxation…
On our way east from the beach the scenery was stunning, lush green bush and tall palm trees stretching high into the clear blue. We passed through the bright fishing village of Dixcove where vivid rags and flags flapped wildly in the wind as the boat owners took a rest from the heat of the midday sun.
The beach at Green Turtle Lodge on the west coast of Ghana
Mikaela gets extra sick at the beach and instead of beach-bumming ends up sleeping in the shade…
Imran enjoying a little beach rest!
The colourful fishing village of Dixcove close to the Cote d’Ivoire border
Because we stayed longer on the beach than planned we now find ourselves rushing to Cotonou. With only a few days before our flight leaves from Benin we are facing a race through Togo and the prospect of barely seeing Benin. But it’s been an amazing journey and we can’t really grumble. Instead of feeling disappointed we have decided to see it as a good excuse to return and do it all again.
Mikaela wearing her new helmet after the old one fell to a serious crushing accident (luckily NOT with her head in it!)
The old colonial buildings of Cape Coast’s historic streets
Cape Coast bay
We weren’t sure of what this sign actually meant?
Here in the south of Ghana it’s all about Jesus. The music, the schools, the t-shirt slogans… and, most entertainingly, the business names. Here are some favourites…
‘Jesus Cares Carpentry Shop’
‘Seek Ye First (Mat 6:33) Supermarket’
‘No Jesus No Life Supermarket’
‘Prince of Peace Cosmetics’
‘Only Jesus Can Do Fashion’
‘God’s Signature No Eraser Enterprises (What Is Written Is Written)’
‘Patience to All Car Wash’
‘Let There Be Light Electicals’
‘Christ In You Barbering Shop’
‘Lion of Judea Metal Works’
‘Dr. Jesus Fast Food’
‘Relax Jesus Is In Control Unit Transfer’
‘Virgin Kids Junior High School’
‘The Blood of Jesus Fitting Shop’
‘Peculiar Child Academy (We Are Different)’- Okay so the last two aren’t religious, but we couldn’t leave them out.
‘Stomach Has No Holiday Food Shop’
Cycling in West Africa can sometimes challenge some strong stereotypes,
The bicycle is the poor man’s way to travel.
The bicycle is just a donkey. It’s no good.
The bicycle is not for a woman*.
For me, the last has had true resonance. Some of the comments, responses and hecklers have been worth remembering, some not! Here are a few of my favourites…
‘Hey bicycle sister!‘
‘You are a terrible husband. Look at your poor wife. She is so tired.’ (Multiple men have exclaimed this to Imran in horror).
‘Well now you will never have children‘, (Bassekou Kouyaté’s mother, Yakaré. She now requires evidence should I ever have any children).
‘Strong woman. Strong, strong woman.‘
‘So you cycled here all the way from England? And your wife, she flew to meet you?‘
(Yelled out of a truck window by a grinning driver as I cycled up a steep hill in Ghana)… ‘Hey achey, achey! You ache because you are a woman!‘
(Shouted by many beautifully rotund Ghanaian mothers) ‘Eat sister, eat to bicycle!!!!‘, (hand gesture of food to mouth as I cycle past).
On entering a shop accompanied by two other male cyclists, (male shopkeeper to me), ‘you’re tired, sit here now‘. I respond (rather sharply) ‘I am not tired thank you I will stand‘. Thirty minutes later I am forced to request his floor for a nap, he smiles understandingly.
(In response to our journey), ‘I prefer the Mercedes.‘ (My friend Fatu, wife of Gambian musician Jaliba Kuyateh and a formidable female force, though no cyclist!).
*Note: In Burkina Faso many women cycle.
With only a few weeks left til our flight home, it has become very difficult keep friends, family, chocolate and the dreams of bangers and mash from the back of our minds. Especially after a very steep hill when our bellies grumble with hunger…
But we’ve been making the most of the final leg of our journey. In Bobo-Dioulasso, our fantastic host Boubacar (AKA Baba AKA Colonel) proudly showed us around his fantastic city. Wherever we went, he got sidetracked by his many friends who, like us, were affected by his contagious smile.
Boubacar is one of the most inspiring and hard-working people we have befriended, his limitless hospitality and generosity made our good-byes difficult.
Since then we’ve covered some serious ground.
After many months in several West African countries, we had got used to crossing borders to only initially notice subtle differences; the police wearing different uniforms, slightly sweeter tea… But coming into Ghana was like jumping to another world.
The arid, monotonous and dry semi-desert of the Sahel has given way to lush trees, green green grass and tall bushes. The long straight flat roads have turned into hill after hill. And of course, the rain!
Because the road we are using is quite a busy one, its side is littered with crumbs of exploded lorry tyres. These harmless-looking pieces of rubber lie quite innocently on the road, but in fact contain deadly shreds of wire which go straight through our tyres.
We often get asked, and ask ourselves, why are we cycling? A car would be much easier. But everyday that question is answered by the people we meet. Lannis’ family for instance welcomed us onto their farm, gave us lunch, water and a cool place to rest.
We took a few days off the bikes at Mole game reserve, where we befriended baboons, elephants, warthogs and many other animals. We took the cheapest accommodation (camping), but after the encounters with curious gibbons and warthogs became too many, we decided to sneak into the dorm…
Now we’ve covered some kilometers but Mikaela’s tummy is sulking and she is struggling to eat enough… Making the already difficult hills insurmountable!
Time is no longer on our side so we’ve both decided that the most sensible decision is to take a few buses to a secluded beach and try to reawaken her appetite with the freshest of fresh fish and coconuts just plucked from the palm trees…
In Ghana it now rains daily, usually as we attempt to cycle our last 10-20km of the day.
The blue sky fades away and an eerie wind sweeps over the lush green bush of Ghana’s dense forests. The sky turns dark with angry clouds and then the rain falls.
In its first few minutes the rain steals away our road and a river of muddy water floods the path ahead. Visibility is zero and we push the bikes to some kind of shelter. In a moment it all feels rather like a British summer style picnic-panic-run; madly covering our bags and throwing an ugly raincoat on.
After a while the heaviest drops have left and by now we are ready to jump on the bikes again. But then we notice the sky ahead is darker,
‘The storms all go south to the coast, just like you actually…’
Thirty minutes of pedalling pass us by and sure enough, we have caught up with the monster again. He growls at us and beats his thundery chest. He punches at the sky above with deadly forks of lightening. Time to make another swift exit...