Category Archives: The Second Adventure

Posts from the second African adventure in 2016

The End of West Africa – Togo and Benin

Back in Mali at the Sleeping Camel in Bamako I met Kevin and Heike, who have been on the road for ages, and they came up with an idea. That idea was to avoid a lot of corruption, hassle and tedious waits in cities we didn’t want to go to, just to get visas for places we would then spend less time driving through than it took to get permission to enter in the first place. Why not ship the cars direct to Namibia?

Some people see this as cheating, but we aren’t the sort of people to be interested in doing things just to say we’ve done them and it seemed like a good idea to me. So I set about finding out how this might work and the end result is that Troopy is now in a container with their car, about to be loaded aboard a ship in Lomé, Togo and we are all taking a time out before meeting up again in Namibia in a few weeks time. I’m quite happy about this after my latest experiences with corrupt police and officials, especially given that Nigeria was next on the overland route and it has one of the worst reputations in Africa.

It all started so well at the Togo border with Ghana – a beautiful forested mountain route leading from slightly potholed Ghanaian tarmac across a bridge onto a Togolese sandy track winding through the forest along the contours of a steep valley.

Friendly Togo Border Guard
Friendly Togo Border Guard

All the border officials on both sides were just really friendly – especially the police officer on the Togo side, who had to break off the border formalities to chase off a snake that appeared hanging in the bushes by the barrier. Having left Roots Yard I was well fed and had an enjoyable day driving through Togo, stopping in occasional villages for a snack of barbecued corn or beignets (spicy bean fritters a little like falafel). I had the vague aim of meeting Kevin and Heike somewhere further North as they made their way down from Burkina Faso, and had picked a place to stay in Atakpamé – the Hotel California. This place, attached to a Total garage, turned out to be a bit strange. The kitchen was no longer in operation, so I found food on the streets, and the next morning it turned out I could leave whenever I liked, though checking out proved a challenge. I don’t think they have many guests, and in order to pay I had to drag ‘le patron’ from his bed and push notes into his hand through his bedroom door.

The shipping saga took a turn for the worse about this time, since I’d got a bit accustomed to Ghanaian mobile internet and slack with communicating, and internet of any kind was suddenly non-existent here. In a couple of days of communication blackout, Kevin and Heike concluded they weren’t going to make it to Cotonou on time and that I’d gone off on my own, so slowed down and diverted into Togo. I was not aware of this – and not being able to contact them decided to just head on towards Benin to be ready when they arrived. My second day in Togo was therefore going to be my last, and I headed off down dirt roads towards the border via the Nangbeto dam. The police guarding the dam were also really friendly, spoke English, and offered to give me a tour of the Hydro Electric plant at the dam.

Nangbeto Dam.
Nangbeto Dam.

After that, there was a long and slow, but pleasant drive on rolling dirt tracks with big, deep puddles Southwards through fields and villages along the border with Benin.

Passing a Termite Cathedral
Passing a Termite Cathedral

A pleasant day then turned a little ugly at the border, where the Togolese police officer decided he needed 20,000CFA (£25) to allow me to pass. A 2 hour standoff ensued in which we both played the ‘I’ve got all day’ card, but in the end I crossed into Benin without paying anything.

Togo Border Guards Collecting Personal Fees
Togo Border Guards Collecting Personal Fees

The fact that the Benin customs then overcharged me for the Laissez Passer (with a grin) by 2,000CFA didn’t seem to matter. I rolled into the sandy beach resort of Grand Popo feeling the day had been a success and set up camp under the pines and palms of my own field at the Auberge de Grand Popo…where the WiFi was out or order, but might be fixed tomorrow.

The morning was clear and still, so a paramotor flight was definitely in order and I figured it was about time to use the follow-cam I made back in Chippenham. I had a chat with the guard at the Benin Navy base next door, a little radar station and a compound on the beach, to make sure I wasn’t going to get in trouble or shot at, but they were again really nice and relaxed about things.

Ready to Fly at Grand Popo
Ready to Fly at Grand Popo

Take 1: Attempted take-off towards the sea after setting up in zero-wind. Just for a light zephyr from the right to pick up as I ran onto the soft sand. Aborted take-off and face-planted just short of the bit where the beach sloped steeply towards the wet stuff.

Fail 1
Fail 1

Take 2: Take off towards the Naval Base after re-setting wing and fending off enthusiastic local guy. Distraction made me miss that I’d got my left brake line looped through the other risers, locking on a fair amount of brake, which led to a permanent left turn tendency towards the sea. Gained some altitude whilst looping round for a landing and untangling the brakes…decided better to do that on the ground. Big mental note to do my checks properly.

Take 3: Much better – took off cruised along the beach above the surf and took a look at the lagoon. Low flying along beaches has to be one of my favourite things. Very nice flight.

3rd Time Lucky
3rd Time Lucky

Back at the Auberge, the WiFi was not looking like working any time soon so I had to move on down the coast. The next place on iOverlander that was supposed to have WiFi was a little way along near Ouidah.

Entering Ouidah, the skies darkened and we went into a full rainy-season flush cycle just as I caught up with a slow moving police pickup. The short version of this episode is that I was pulled over for something or other he deemed excuse-worthy and told to give him 60,000CFA or he’d impound the car because I couldn’t find my International Drivers Permit. Obviously no receipt, and I didn’t have that much cash so he grumpily took all my remaining money [CFA, plus some US Dollars and £10], helpfully directed me to the cash machine and drove off. I needed cash so went to the bank, and then headed for the beach where I intended to camp. This involved driving through water up to 2ft deep, and when I got there I couldn’t find the place I was looking for. Then I spotted the nice police chap heading my way again, to where I’d foolishly told him I was going to stay. He didn’t see me and went back to the other side of the flood and parked up to wait. At this point I was feeling a little trapped with my newly filled wallet on what seemed to be an island with one 1 way out. Well, I thought I might as well drive along the beach and see how far towards Cotonou it would take me.

Did I mention its the rainy season?
Did I mention its the rainy season?

Actually it was a really nice drive on a sandy beach track under coconut palms for 30km, and I arrived at Chez Rada in time for dinner. Its a beautiful place with a huge seawater pool, run by a lovely Bosnian/German lady for the past few decades. I was able to get connected to the internet (Benin actually has decent 3G), and discovered what Kevin and Heike were up to, which included having their suspension welded back together. I waited for them to get their Benin visa passing the time swimming in the pool, eating nice (though not very African) food and hanging out with the resident and visiting artists for a few more days. In the end it became clear they weren’t going to make it to Benin and I would have to run the gauntlet of the Ouidah police again and head back to Togo. So we switched the shipping from Cotonou to Lome. The trip to Lome was mostly uneventful, apart from a few small ‘extras’ paid on the border, and the heavy rain and wading through dirty water up to Troopy’s eyeballs.

Still a bit wet...
Still a bit wet…

I met up with Kevin and Heike at Chez Alice (another overlander favourite), and spent our last few days in West Africa there before we loaded the cars into a container. Shipping has been the subject of many a horror story, but we had a really nice experience with the agent in Lome, and it all seems to be going smoothly and without surprises of the nasty or expensive kind!

IMG_20160613_093641Thank you for following the adventures so far – after a brief intermission we will be back for more in Namibia!

Ghana – Here Be Vegans

I was not expecting this – there are a lot of vegans in West Africa. I started looking in Burkina Faso, and discovered a busy restaurant serving all-vegan versions of West African dishes. This is no specialist upmarket outlet catering to foreigners or tourists – just good healthy food for local people in Ouagadougou.

Yasmine and her NASA Crew
Yasmine and her NASA Crew

I missed out on visiting a vegan place that is listed in Kumasi on due to the horrendous traffic and poor road conditions approaching the city. Then in Accra, staying at a vegetarian hotel/restaurant we found 2 vegetarian restaurants and a vegan restaurant, and Amanda found 20 vegans to interview in just 1 day. And then a fellow traveller happened to mention a Vegan Lodge,  and I was able to visit Roots Yard Lodge on my way towards Togo.

Fufu and Groundnut Soup - Assase Pa, Accra
Fufu and Groundnut Soup – Assase Pa, Accra

I hope that answers some of those silly questions back home about it being difficult or a luxury to be vegan in Africa? There’s lots of vegans here, and they aren’t just the relatively well-off, but a mixture of all sorts of people. The food is good value, nutritious and tasty, not to mention in large portions…a little too large for some of us! Sometimes even us vegans fall for the stereotypes and propaganda we are faced with at home – but the truth is that even here there’s no excuse  for not making choices that are better for animals, health and for the environment. Actually there are lots of excuses and we’ve heard them all – from evolution to religion, from flavour to nutrition – but excuses and habits are what they are, not real reasons.

Anyway I suppose a catchup is in order since I’ve let Ady and Amanda provide the input lately. So, where was I?  Oh yes – back on the Ghana visa trail on my way to Ouagadougou, which turned out to be an interesting experience – mostly due to finding NASA and chatting to Yasmine, the owner about how healthy, tasty, vegan food is very popular. The ginger juice was a great find as well – just what was needed to combat the raging thirst brought on by wandering around the baking streets.

I also gave Troopy an oil change – by a professional at a garage this time, a guy with a great sense of humour who was recommended by Guillaume, the owner of Pavillon Vert where I was staying. This did however entail riding on the back of a moped through the streets of Ouagadougou holding on to a couple of 5 litre bottles of oil…wearing flip-flops and shorts. I think I have officially gone local.

Snow Chain Demos at a garage in Burkina Faso...?
Snow Chain Demos at a garage in Burkina Faso…?

After picking up my Ghana visa it was time to head South for the border, though not before having 10,000CFA extracted from me by a police checkpoint for the avoidance of serious consequences and delays should I not cooperate with their alternative unreceipted cash option. This sort of thing got worse through Ghana, and much worse in Togo and Benin. Corruption is one thing that is really putting me off coming back to West Africa. Appalling road conditions, clouds of diesel smoke that make overtaking impossible through lack of visibility, suicidal driving, and the general mess that people seem to make to live in once anywhere gets bigger than a hamlet…those are some others.

Mole National Park
Mole National Park

The day I drove from the beautiful wilderness of Mole National Park, through gradually thinning forest, then no forest and sprawling settlements along the road, and into the stinking, dirty, insane world of the Kumasi rush hour – that day was nearly enough to make me pack up and go home. But then I found Lake Bosumtwe, and Cocoa Village, and spirits were restored. I camped in the lane outside the guesthouse and enjoyed the food they made, and in the morning woke to the sounds of the Slovenian guy who is managing the place busy coaching some local kids at volleyball.

Early Morning Volleyball Training, Cocoa Village, Lake Bosumtwe
Early Morning Volleyball Training, Cocoa Village, Lake Bosumtwe

There are definitely 2 sides to humanity – the majority of negative impact through greed or laziness, and then the few dedicated people trying to undo the damage and change things for the better…but the ‘glass half-full’ outlook is under a lot of pressure here!

In Accra I made the rendezvous with Amanda, and met Ady, and we had a cool time seeing Vegan Africa and taking a couple of trips – but you’ve seen the video and read the post already? The main reason for there being quite so many vegans in this part of Africa is the high number of Rastafarians – though that is by no means the only sort of vegan here! I’m looking forward to seeing Amanda’s 365 Vegans interviews to hear the stories of a few of them.

So after that it was time to move on – and by chance I’d been told about Roots Yard Lodge which was towards the border with Togo. What can I say about this place to do it justice? Run by Bob and Jaqueline in Bob’s home village near Lake Volta, it is a Vegetarian/Vegan Restaurant and Lodge – using local produce to make fantastic meals, including making their own tofu.

Local produce, Tasty Food - Roots Yard Lodge
Local produce, Tasty Food – Roots Yard Lodge

But thats just the start. They are working on local projects – organising Re-Forestation, building and managing a skate park for the kids (Roots Rebel Sk8 Park), and this summer they are going to be biking across the UK from coast to coast to raise money to have proper toilets built for the local school. It strikes me that this is the level of Western/African cooperation that actually works – what you find here is absolutely the best of both worlds, because its personal and they care.

So in the end I went out of Ghana on a high, though I wish I had stayed longer, but after a lovely couple of days, many excellent meals and a little paramotor flight, I headed for the Togo border.

Not a lot of wildlife, no dragons, but indeed…here be vegans.

A Day Out at the Beach – Ghana

Being Vegan in Ghana is a nice experience. You get to hear new and strange stuff about veganism, what people think it means, you meet people who think you’re weird, or worst, a fanatic. 

So let me introduce myself. My name is Ady Namaran Coulibaly. I am vegan, editor for Health Africa Magazine (the only Bilingual Vegetarian Magazine in Africa) and also the campaign manager for Meatless Monday Ghana. I had the opportunity to get in touch with Amanda who told me about her project (356 Vegans) and learnt that she was coming to Ghana for the first time, to interview vegans as part of her project, which I find really inspiring. She’s put so much passion and zeal into this; it’s hard not to want to support her. This project is special and I am excited to be a part of it. We agreed that I pick her at the airport.

After a heavy downfall on Saturday night, Sunday morning was really cool. I left home at 7:30am to fetch my friend Amanda from the Kotoka International Airport in Accra. I got there a little late, spotted her and we hugged and exchanged pleasantries. Then we got a cab to the hotel and met with Jonathan. Jonathan lives an exciting life (I actually wish I was in his shoes), travelling around in his Jeep (called Troopy), and experiencing being vegan in different countries.

We wanted to have a day out somewhere, and we thought it would be nice to spend time at the Kokrobite beach in Accra, which is about an hour’s drive from central Accra. We boarded Troopy (I couldn’t wait to have a ride since I saw it on and off we went. The drive was peaceful, except for some drivers ignoring the street lights. It was a Sunday, and as most Ghanaians are religious and always go to church on Sunday mornings, there was little traffic on the road at that time of the morning.

We got to the beach and stood by some fishing boats, just admiring the scenery.

Kokrobite Beach

...outside Big Millys
Kokrobite Beach – Outside Big Milly’s Backyard

There were lots of white people; something Jonathan said was unusual in other countries like Mali, Burkina Faso etc, probably due to terrorism reported in the media. We stayed around for a while, taking pictures with Amanda, who was busy taking pictures of a dog. I think she’s got a soft spot for cats and dogs.

The sea was really cool and chilled; we could not resist the temptation to swim in it. After sometime we had some drinks and talked about how nice the place was and other stuff.

By the time we had made up our minds up to leave the place, the clouds had turned dark and it seemed like there was going to be some heavy showers. And oh! Barely five minutes after we had driven off, the rain started falling very heavily. Within twenty minutes the roads were flooded.

It got a lot deeper and fast flowing...
It got a lot deeper and fast flowing…

Several vehicles were parked by the street, obviously because the owners preferred not to take the risk of driving through the rain. Such heavy rain in Accra usually causes a lot of damage. The gutters are small and open; as such people just use them as refuse dumps and throw in all sorts of items, especially plastics. When it rains, the water can’t pass through so it just comes on the road, and carries away cars and other items. This is a recurring phenomenon, but all the same, the Mayor of Accra won the award for ‘Best Mayor in Africa’ just last year.

We got to a point of the road where we would have gotten stuck, but for Troopy the Jeep. We were able to drive through volumes of rain and made our way back to the hotel, and to Asaase Pa around 4pm to have lunch. Asaase Pa is a Twi word that means ‘Good Earth’, and this restaurant is the first Vegan restaurant in Ghana, and was set up 18yrs ago. According to the owner, Brother Kwasi Adu, it was difficult getting clients because the concept of veganism was a new one but gradually he was able to create awareness about its benefits. Lots of people patronise vegan food now, thanks to his efforts. He was very friendly.

Amanda ordered ‘Zinger’, Jonathan got some ‘Royal Ginger’ and I got some pineapple juice. Zinger is made from a mixture of Hibiscus and ginger. Burkinabes and Ivorians call it bissap while Ghanaians call it sobolo. 

Ordering Fufu and Zinger
Ordering Fufu and Zinger

Amanda wanted to try a local Ghanaian food, fufu. I suggested she tried it with groundnut soup which is my favorite. Finally, Jonathan and Amanda had fufu with groundnut soup and I had brown rice with groundnut soup. The food was good.

Fufu and Groundnut Soup -Very Filling!
Fufu and Groundnut Soup -Very Filling!

After we had eaten, Brother Kwesi Adu introduced some vegans to Amanda, and although initially she had planned to start the interviews for 365 vegans the next day, she started right away. I was third to be interviewed, and really had fun during the interview. Can’t wait to see it on 365 Vegans Youtube Channel!!

My day was just perfect. Thank you Amanda and Jonathan for the great time, for what you are doing out of your passion for veganism and your vegan journeys which are inspiring. Looking forward to spending more time with you guys!

Mali and the Pitfalls of Mangoes

This episode starts in one hot, dusty hotel car park about to cross a border, and ends in another hot hotel car park having just crossed a border. On both occasions, the option of sleeping in Troopy in the car park lost out to an air-conditioned room!

At the Oasis hotel in Tambacounda, back in Senegal, they take advantage of the lack of local camping spots to charge a pretty hefty price to let you camp out in their large, dusty car park. Others have been given the option of paying even more to use the small swimming pool, but today that wasn’t even allowed without booking a room. In comparison, a nice traditional style round hut room with aircon and no mosquitoes was a bargain. I can’t say the same for the food…which took a lot of explaining for an unexciting result…the curse of the pretentious hotel struck again and I was left with a basic salad. Breakfast was worse…instant coffee and bread. We cater much more imaginatively and with quality ingredients in Troopy!

Anyway, I started early and was driving through the already busy streets of Tamba towards the Niokolo-Koba National Park just after dawn. I stopped at the first checkpoint…and ended up giving a young fireman from St Louis a lift to work – 290km down the road in Kedougou. We had a good chat, learned a lot, and exchanged contact details when I dropped him off, though I don’t think he was at all impressed by my being vegan and having these crazy ideas that are not included in his religious code. His uniform and beret seemed to have the extra benefit of a free pass through any tolls and checkpoints!

The Good Road to the Mali Border
The Good Road to the Mali Border

After that, the border was a relatively short drive on a good road, though approaching it I passed through a sprawling conurbation of straw, stick and plastic which seemed out of place and scale, until I spotted the Arcelor Mittal Exploration checkpoint at one end of it. This is Gold Rush territory.

The border itself was probably the quickest and easiest I’ve done and 15 minutes after rolling up I was in Mali. Part 1 of and epic day was completed, and I only had about 120km to go to get to Cool Camp – a place I had heard of through ‘the Hubb’ whilst reading up about border crossings into Mali. One problem I had had was working out which of the rather entertaining routes was which, since my collection of maps couldn’t agree whether or where the roads or tracks went. But I had half a day left, so when my chosen route began to turn into a rough track I just went with the flow. Then it turned into several very rough tracks going in all directions, and shortly afterwards into single-track motorbike trails through the forest. This was fun. Then it turned into a very rocky, narrow track climbing the escarpment to my right and I knew exactly which of the possible routes I was on.

The Road Less Travelled
The Road Less Travelled

This is the old Route Nationale 24…not the nice new tarmac which seems to share its name. It hadn’t been clear from my brief research whether this route was still passable on 4 wheels, and it was soon very clear that large sections of it are used solely by locals on motorbikes. The route meanders through the forest between and through villages, and I was relying on Open Street Map to guide me…figuring that someone must have been this way to record the track? No?

A more open section allowed for photo taking!
A more open section allowed for photo taking!

Sections of what was once a track have been washed out by successive rainy seasons, and the bikes have not seen fit to make the random detours wide enough for a car. Some places are just rock steps and even the bikes unload goods and passengers to climb or descend. I wasn’t half way before I was thinking that I’d had quite enough of this sort of fun, and just wanted to jump in the promised cool, clear water of the Bafing River.

When I finally got there, the experience did not disappoint. It was definitely worth the hours of slow, hot forest, and I just jumped straight in before even setting up camp or changing.

One of the locals asked Casper why I was holding my too big, he said.
One of the locals asked Casper why I was holding my nose…is too big, he said.

I had also instantly decided to stay another night rather than pushing on for Bamako on my visa hunt. Casper, who runs what is now my favourite overlanders-oasis in Africa, is a fantastic host and does a lot of work to help improve the lives of people in the area as well. Anyone finding themselves within a hundred miles should take a couple of days to relax and share tales here, though you might feel like staying a lot longer as he did! The establishment survives mostly on growing bananas these days as tourists have been scared off from Mali in general and this beautifully wild corner of the country sees little passing traffic. That just adds to its real charm. Oh yes, and he only charges a quarter of the price per night they asked me to park in that car park in Tamba a day’s drive away.

5 mangoes a day..?
5 mangoes a day..?

I camped in the shade of (though not under) the mango trees – “eat as many as you like” – and watched clear waters of the river glide past. In the end, though, I still had a mission to get a visa so had to leave and head to Bamako.

The forest thins out; the roads get busier and busier with black-smoke belching trucks and the dust and heat take over. The  dirty, potholed urban sprawl of the approach does however suddenly give way to a wooded hillside descent into the city, tree-lined streets and a crossing of the Niger on a long bridge, surrounded by swarms of motorbikes. And so to The Sleeping Camel…base for the latest visa-acquisition expeditions. The Camel is a hidden oasis, and Troopy was the 3rd British overland vehicle in the compound when I arrived – that makes the other 2 the first 2 I’ve seen on this whole expedition so far! Various other visitors to Mali make the Camel a home from home in their time here, and are made to feel very safe and welcome by their hosts.

However, the mango trees are pretty huge here, and you really have to camp under them. Mangoes themselves seem to choose the middle of the night to conclude their business with the tree and make the swift transition to the ground, or intervening rooftent/windscreen/head, which can be alarming at best. Since mangoes in these parts can be the size of melons, it did make me wonder whether the history of physics would have been different were  Mr Newton to have been sitting under a mango tree…even though the pits are wrapped in a tasty (usually)soft layer of fruit.

Outside the camp, if one manages to disconnect from the glaring tumour of the growing, poisonous city destroying the surroundings and sucking in resources down the tendril roads and their metastasised towns, it has a certain charm. The air is so hot it burns your face as you travel around in a broken Mercedes, stinging your eyes and filling your lungs with sand-blast-force. Everything is broken, and yet held together and functioning by what seems the pure character of the Malian people.  In fact, nothing is wasted. We were on a Troopy-mirror-hunt when we detoured to visit an area on the hills to the North of the city…at the base of the old river cliff the streets are a mass of old, broken cars being disassembled and the parts cleaned and traded. The carcasses are broken up and the sheet metal reworked into packing cases on the lower slopes. Further up, all sorts of metal utensils are created, and on the upper slopes the remaining scrap is melted and moulded in tiny foundries dug into the sandy rock.

Recycling Bamako Style
Recycling Bamako Style

The heat and smell and sound is some crazy sort of music. If you disconnect from the natural world, it has a kind of beauty of its own.

Of course, I still failed to get a visa for Ghana, though had more luck after waiting in an empty Nigerian embassy for a few hours (they are moving to a new building somewhere else it seems…that will be fun for someone else soon…they won’t tell anoyone!). It was hard to leave the Camel, to leave friends, but the visa quest continues. I stayed in a very basic hotel in Sikasso, where the cook was only too happy to make me a nice salad and a tasty fresh vegetable soup whilst I watched the football. The journey through the forest continued at dawn, crossing another border while the border guards washed with water heated over a wood fire. Then on to Ouagadougou…I wonder if the place will live up to its most excellent name?

I was led to believe that the Pavillon Vert would allow camping in the grounds with use of a room for facilities. But it is very hot, and the hotel is empty so there was not much bargaining on this point from either side and I settled in to a reasonably priced airconditioned room with no mosquitoes. Sadly due to water shortages in Burkina Faso, there is also no water for most of the day. Time though for a cold beer and to watch mangoes fall on the cat…

Senegal and People

I’d never make a photo-journalist. I guess I just don’t have the guts to get my expensive camera out and point it at people trying to subsist by selling their few shrivelled aubergines or tomatoes along with a pile of fly-covered dried fish in an empty village market.

I was looking for some answers before I left home – how come the chilled January supermarket shelves are piled high with shiny, identical, plastic-wrapped and labelled vegetables from Senegal, when I had read blogs about it being difficult to be vegetarian in Senegal because vegetables are too expensive?

Fresh Vegetables from Senegal
Fresh Vegetables from Senegal

But when I was just out shopping for something to eat in the village next to the lovely hotel-camp on the beach, with swimming pool and bar, I had put that to the back of my mind. Then, I was just wary that they were trying to overcharge me for the last of their tomatoes, aware that the asking prices per kilo were about the same as they are in Sainsburys. And these tomatoes wouldn’t make the ‘basics’ line by a long way…though most of them were still pretty firm and not mouldy, if yellow and green.

Fresh Vegetables for Tourists
Fresh Vegetables for Tourists

I don’t know if they were charging me more…probably a little…but then why shouldn’t we pay what we can afford? Well. I guess when we are in the UK and buying from a huge multinational with buying power that is putting British producers to the wall, we might think about what it is doing to the Senegalese by raising the overall price of vegetables and taking all the best produce by airfreight to London, Chippenham, or Derby, or every other medium sized town in Britain.

I showed my photos of ‘produced in Senegal’ vegetables to a guy who runs a small hotel/encampement here – Senegalese, not one of the ex-pat owners of the bigger places. He was very surprised to see the variety of vegetables produced here and on sale in the UK. Of course, now is mango season, and further South you can see nothing but mountains of mangoes for sale by the road, or small bags of cashews. In mango season, you can eat as many mangoes as you like, but the all year round range of nutritious vegetables we’re so used to at home are reserved for the privileged few.

Senegal has been about people and conversations.  I don’t intend to propose answers to the world’s problems as I don’t have them, but have been trying to talk to people about what sort of world they would like to see way in the future. Its like this journey – I have an idea of where I need to be months ahead, and every now and then have to make a decision that is a better option for getting there. There’s no right or wrong way and some take longer than others, but there are pretty obvious ways that are better and those that are worse.

Sometimes it takes longer by car...4 hours wait for a 10 minute crossing...
Sometimes it takes longer by car…4 hours wait for a 10 minute crossing…

I wanted to go down the coast and see Gambia, Sierra Leone and Liberia. I was enjoying travelling with some really nice people. But I was faced with a choice – the border with Gambia was being a pain, and up ahead there were reports that the borders of Liberia and Guinea were closed because of…well, who knows but Ebola cases were still persisting. It was possible to carry on through or round Gambia, and maybe get through Liberia into Cote d’Ivoire – but then it might not have been. I have an appointment in Ghana to meet up with Amanda, and the most likely way to get there in time seemed to be heading back to Dakar and get a visa for Mali and to bypass the troublesome though beautiful coast. So here I am at Lac Rose on an unaccounted for Bank Holiday waiting for another day for the embassies to open. Planning doesn’t always work, but I’ll carry on making the best guess and trying to get more information!

My future world? I would like to see a world where each individual has the best quality of life possible – which should be pretty good given our level of science, technology and knowledge. I would like everyone to be able to experience the beauty of the natural world and live in plenty of space, or close to others as they wish. I would like all species still alive to have a fair chance to carry on existing, and maybe new ones to find a place. Now – how do we get there?

I hope I’ll get to Ghana, it’ll be cool to meet up with Amanda and see how the 365 Vegans project is going. But I also have a more urgent need to be in Luanda on 22nd July, since Agne is expecting a lift to Victoria Falls! They should both be possible…the route plan says so anyway…but after a period of looking around its getting more important to move in the right direction!

So Senegal has been a different sort of adventure – about meeting people of all sorts and sharing experiences and ideas. Without naming you all, thank you and bonne route, wherever you are going!