A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Kaz76

Senegal

To get to the other end of Gambia and then back into Senegal we need to cross the river by ferry, we arrive at the ferry spot along with what seems like another hundred or so trucks, buses and cars all lined up for many kilometres waiting to board the ferry to cross. It's a pretty lively place with the streets lined with shop after shop doing quite a good trade as are the street sellers who are wandering through the crowds selling Nescafé, thongs, beanies etc. we are fortunate enough to be bumped up the line a bit given we are tourists and need to get to the Senegalese border. Lucky we are bumped up the line as we are still in the queue for five hours, whilst there is lots to keep us occupied especially people watching and watching what comes off the ferry, at one stage there is both a giant herd of donkeys and immediately following a large herd of cattle, 5 hours in 45 degree heat is definitely a different version of fun and a good reminder of African time. For all that wait it's a very short river crossing and only a short drive across into Senegal, this time we get through the border easily and quickly now that our paperwork is sorted.

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An overnight stop about 40km from Dakar, camping at a hotel overlooking the ocean and with a really refreshing and large pool is a nice way to end this leg of the trip from Freetown to Dakar, we head into Dakar using a really modern multi lined highway (you don't see that every day in Africa) where everyone who joined in Freetown and quite a few who have been travelling from Accra also get off, we are joined by a few new passengers travelling the last 4 weeks from Dakar to Marrakech.

We arrive into Dakar on Easter Sunday and even though it is predominantly Muslim they still recognise Easter and also have a long weekend, so when we get there it is awfully quiet, the difference between when we arrive and Tuesday when everything opens again is like being in two different cities, I do manage to celebrate Easter Sunday with a pizza and. Ferrero Rocher, clearly the Easter bunny doesn't travel this far.

Dakar is a bustling modern and clean African city with some really nice coastal views and a good range of both local and international restaurants, it's easy to walk around with the only 'hassle' being local lads coming up and saying they know you from Liberia, Gambia etc or sellers trying to lead you into the market but generally a polite 'no messieur' is enough for them to wander away. Dakar has managed to retain a lot of its colonial architecture but in a modern setting so as you roam around it really feels a bit in African like until you go around the next corner where the street sellers are peddling random household goods or you see yet another little Nescafé cart to get your caffeine fix.

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We stay around the corner from Independence Square, which isn't anything to special just a patch of grassed area in an otherwise fairly concrete city, in fact I didn't even realise that is what it was until I took a guided walk of the city, the guide books make it sound a bit more interesting.

Dakar has a lot of graffiti along it's public walls it's not an offence here and actually seems to be encouraged as a form of art so some of it is really quite well done, particularly along the outside of the jail the graffiti or murals along the walls add a really good splash of colour against a pretty grim building (as you'd expect). The guide we get to take us around the city is an African-American Senegalese woman who took a holiday here back in the late 90s and loved it so much she packed up her life and kids and moved to Senegal, her knowledge of the place is really good and she even took us in to have a look at her home so we could see what a typical middle class Senegalese apartment looks like, for those who are wondering it's really not different to ours except her outdoor pergola area is covered in mosquito netting.

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We visit a lot of the local artisans plying their trade, turning recycled scrap into works of art seems to be big business whether it's converting old soft drink or beer cans into useful items or turning old wood, broken computers into abstract art.

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One of the things that does surprise me about Dakar is the number of fitness fanatics (I only missed the Dakar marathon by a day), along the beach there are hundreds upon hundreds of exercise equipment and as the sun sets the beach is packed with hundreds of Senegalese going about their fitness regime, quite unusual to see this in any part of Africa. The other is the free accommodation provided to teachers which means many end up using their wages to buy lots of property or some even open up their own private schools.

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Just outside the city is the African renaissance monument a 49m high bronze statue to commemorate 50 years of independence it's right up on the hill providing stunning views across Dakar and the Atlantic Ocean, it's apparently the 15th largest in the world, it also is another place for runners to get their hill workout in.

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As we leave Dakar behind and head further north it gets a lit drier and we even sly our first camels. We stop in Touba a very strict Islam town with no drinking or smoking allowed within its boundaries. We wrap ourselves in several sarongs ensuring us ladies are fully covered from top to toe to visit their mosque, which they've been constantly renovating since 1927 they are now in the process of not only making it more ornate but adding another 2 minuets they are a bit disappointed they can't add any more else they'll have more than Mecca. It's the largest mosque in West Africa and well worth the visit.

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St Louis, a small fishing village on an island in the Senegal river is our last stop in Senegal. St Louis has a bit of 'old world' charm to it with horse and carts roaming the streets, hauling fish, carting locals or taking tourists like us on a tour of the old town. The streets are lined with older men sitting in small groups on the side of the road chatting and watching the world go by, washing hanging from the old crumbling colonial homes and goats, so many goats roaming around the streets and of course the colourful pirogues with the men either casting our their nets or bringing in their catches for the day to be loaded up and taken abroad. It's a great little spot to wander around and a really perfect way to end our time in Senegal and West Africa.
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Posted by Kaz76 12:11 Comments (0)

Fishing villages, dancing and music, lots of it

Cassamance and Gambia

We wave goodbye to Guinea Bissau and head into the Cassamance region of Senegal, it's a breeze exiting out of Guinea Bissau but a bit of problem for us Aussies and Kiwis entering Senegal, it seems whilst I've been travelling the visa rules have changed and we now need a free visa issued from a Senegalese embassy at home, it takes a lot of convincing by our tour leader and her copping a fair amount of criticism for her ability to do her job but eventually they are willing to bend the rules enough to let us in but we need to find an embassy to get the visa as we exit out of Senegal to pop into Gambia then back in again, but for now we can at least enjoy the Cassamance region.

The Cassamance is tropical with the Cassamance river running through it, about 15km after crossing the border we head to its capital Ziguinchor just to stock up on supplies, it's a tough walk in the blistering heat to find a market stocking fresh fruit and vegetables, probably the hardest to find to date, little did we know the servo where the truck was parked had a veritable feast of frozen veggies, canned goods, ice cream and an assortment of everything else you could need, I think 'on the run' at home could learn a lot from them (Tracy just for you!) completely eliminates the need for a seperate supermarket with both the range and prices.

After our stock up we head to Elinkine, a small fishing village right on the estuary. Passing through the village and to our camp we see the fish market where all the fish is brought in and dried, it's quite a sight and quite a smell! Where we camp is right on the water giving us a beach like feel and a great view of the very colourful pirogues bringing in their catch and a really nice sunset to round out our days here, it's a really beautiful and peaceful spot to spend a couple of nights. We head over to the island, Ile de Karabane and just like the locals we all pile in to one pirogue completely overloading it (okay the locals could probably still squeeze quite a few more in), there areno life jackets on board so we stop at a military post nearby who are only too happy to lend us some life jackets. It's short trip across the river to the island where we present our passports and then are free to roam around. There is a small village on the island (and another military compound) which doesn't take much time to walk around, but is interesting with its haphazard sandy streets, the church dating back to the earliest days of Holy Ghost fathers (I tried to find a date in the Bradt guide and this is what it came up with!!) and the remnants of where slaves were formerly held, all surrounded by the idyllic coastline; it's a stunning location and as you leave the village and wander along the beach you can see how lively the island would have been before Ebola scared everyone off, the beach is lined with various bars, shops and restaurants all offering stunning views; only a few still remain open for the very small number of tourists that's are slowly starting to come back.

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We leave the beautiful river behind and head to the coast, to the beachside town (and what seems quite a touristy place) of Cap Skirring. It's only a small town with many cafes, restaurants and tourist shops and a lot of mainly French tourists. We camped here at a 4-5 star resort on the beach overlooking the Atlantic ocean for two nights, in Elinkine I had the start of tonsillitis brewing; by the time we got to Cap Skirring it was here in full earnest so I spent all my time in Cap Skirring sleeping in the luxury of a 4-5 star room that I upgraded to, so I can't say too much about Cap Skirring but I can say the room at La Paillote Village hotel was fantastic as was the mango sorbet that Dawn, one of the people I've been travelling with since Accra was kind enough to donate to me.

Our final stop in the Cassamance is Abene, a tiny village in the north of the Cassamance, we stay at the Little Baobab, a camp run by an Englishman who several years ago travelled through the Cassamance, met a lovely local lady and decided to settle in Abene. Whilst there isn't much to the village itself the stay at Little Baobab and Simon's home is a highlight, on our first evening we are welcomed with some local dancing, with the guys drumming, women dancing and singing along with some of the local lads, this is all joined by the evil spirit kompo which looked like a weird dancing, spinning, haystack; Samaya a gorilla and Mabaly the bird spirit join the dancing, its highly infectious and a lot of fun. After dinner some of the local lads play the djembe (drums) for us and there is more dancing, the locals showing us how it's done and dragging us up to show how it's not done!

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Our second day in Abene takes us on a short drive to the fishing village of Kafountine, to be honest as much as I loved Elinkine the smell of the fish being dried out I thought was enough to turn me off all future fishing villages, but the flies, the drying fish smell, the colourful fishing pirogues, women hard at work pounding or cleaning in the shoreline, men busy with their nets or dragging their pirogues back up the sand dunes made for an interesting visit that just overloaded the senses, so much to see, hear and smell, it was another of my highlights of this trip so far. Just off from the fish market and still along the coast is a collection of crumbling, deserted buildings still with a lot of their pastel colour artwork in tact, this adds a different dimension yet again and I'm fascinated by what is left of these buildings and why they have been just abandoned in such a busy and picturesque spot.

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The evening brings us back to Abene where Simon has arranged to have a local band come and play for us, it's another great evening of drumming and dancing and a perfect way to end our time in the Cassamance.

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Our time in Senegal isn't finished yet but before we travel to the northern part of Senegal we take a very small peek at what Gambia has to offer us, we only spend 3 days there which is a shame as it turns out to be a very welcoming country with the people really keen to meet you, have a chat and just welcome you to their country.

Entering into Gambia us Aussies have a bit of an issue, usually any countries part of the commonwealth including Australia are granted free entry, but according to the list they have Australia is now part of eastern or western Europe and therefore doesn't fall into one of the exempt countries, it doesn't help to point to the map that is right near the list clearly showing Australia isn't part of Europe, the list says it is, so therefore we must pay the 70usd to enter.

With my new shiny visa in hand, we head to Brikama and the Marakissa River Camp, where the lovely lady there is only to happy to whip us up a buffet style lunch with little notice, it's a beautiful spot right in the river where we see a crocodile just sunning himself but the real highlight is the birds, so many different species of birds, I'm no big bird watcher but seeing so many different types in such a small area gave the place and a really peaceful and tranquil feel.

I'm glad I enjoyed the peace as we headed back into Brikama and the Konte Kundah music school, as we step off the truck we are greeted by women hollering, dancing and hugging us, it is quite the welcome! Once we are inside the complex it is more dancing and a local band playing, it's very loud but a lot of fun, more so as you can see this is more for the locals to enjoy themselves as opposed to putting a performance on for us, they seem to get a huge kick out of 'out dancing each other' and we are mere spectators getting to watch and be caught up by their enthusiasm.

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The school is run by a local family who have a long tradition and heritage in the Kora (a musical instrument made from a calabash covered with cow skin, it sort of resembles a harp but sounds more like a guitar with a gentle almost blues like feel) and have now set up a school to teach it to both locals and those wanting to learn from overseas. One of the brothers, Charlie, in the family has moved to the UK and introduced the music there through his band, with the Kora itself still being handmade by his family members here in Gambia. A local band plays some of their music for us before we sit down to a shared meal of rice and fish that we eat with our hand as per the local way, after dinner us the highlight of the evening and the main reason for a quick trip into Gambia, Charlie and his family play the Kira and sing for us, with the power out and them performing solely for us, it is truly an intimate and memorable experience.

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Us Aussies and the New Zealanders (the 'Senegalese Six') leave the group briefly, and take a trip to Fajara just outside the capital Banjul to visit the Senegal embassy to try and sort our visa situation out. It turns out to not be free but only about 6 Aussie bucks, requires us to go and get passport photos and photocopies of our passport done and then completely a ridiculously long form. Once all this hooha is done he tells us it will be ready at 3pm (5-6hours), but we manage to convince him to have them done by 1pm so that we can make our imaginary pirogue ride. With time on our hands whilst we wait for the beauracratic nonsense to occur we take the opportunity to head into Banjul, passing through Serrekunda, Gambia's largest town which was completely chaotic with the usual street sellers sprawled about amongst the pedestrian and vehicle traffic. Banjul itself wasn't anything remarkable, a fairly quiet capital compared to some other African cities.

With visas in hand we rejoin the group for our last stop in Gambia, Tendaba where we camp next toThe Gambia river, for a bit of the birdwatching the area is known for. Given the heat most take the opportunity to just relax and chill out for the couple of nights we are here before heading back into Senegal.

Posted by Kaz76 01:50 Comments (0)

Icecream

Guinea Bissau

Excitement all round as we hit our last town in Guinea, Koundara before crossing into Guinea-Bissau; the Total petrol station has a small soft serve ice cream machine out the front, what a good way for us to get rid of our last guinea francs and enjoy a very rare treat. It isn't very thick and is melting as fast as we can eat it and it's hard to discern what flavour it really is, but lots of them get smashed down very, very quickly. It's the small things.

It's not only popular with us overlanders the locals are lining up as well to enjoy this tasty cold treat, it's actually how we found it by seeing an old man enjoying one and he pointed in the general direction, then we see a young girl and asked her where did she get it, unfortunately she could see how desperate we were for that treat in our eyes and in genuine fear of us taking the ice cream out of her hands she ran away before being able to tell us where to find it....but luckily other locals were more helpful.

Entering into Guinea-Bissau we notice immediately the increase in both donkeys and push bikes, donkeys pulling carts we haven't seen at all so far. It also sees the return of the cashew nut trees but unfortunately they aren't in season yet so no juicy fruit for us, but what they do add is giving Guiena-Bissau quite a fresh and pleasing smell driving through, a nice change from some of what we've experienced.

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It seems quite populated with lots of villages one after the other so we struggle on our first day in the country to find a good spot to camp for the night so end up asking a local village about an hour from Gabu if we can camp on their soccer field, they are happy to help us out and invite us into the actual village to camp in some rooms that the Spanish had started building (we think maybe for volunteers) and use the latrines they had built as well, latrines that had quite obviously never been used - the trade off was for us to be completely swamped by everyone in the village who completely surrounded us and gave us no room until they finally saw that we were trying to head for bed. In the morning they were less overwhelming and happy to stand back a bit watching us set up breakfast and then get everything ready to leave, they gave us a really warm send off as we left. It was definitely an interesting but good way to start off our short time in Guinea-Bissau.

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It's been hot the whole time I've been travelling generally over 36 and up to around 40, but Guinea-Bissau is treating us with some really hot days in the mid to high 40s, so an overnight camp at Saltinho Falls is very much welcome by all of us. The falls themselves aren't impressive but the river it flows into is quite cool and very very welcome after the bushcamp and to escape the heat, a whole afternoon is spent just relaxing in the river. The hotel we are able to camp at, Pousada Do Saltinho, isn't anything to rave about but they have made some attempts to 'resort it up' with comfortable loungers sprawled out overlooking the falls/river it's just a shame the same view includes the main highway. As a camping spot it is pretty nice with mist rising off the river in the early morning before a bright red sun slowly rises to start off another very hot day.

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Our final main stop in Guinea-Bissau is the capital Bissau, a great place to spend a couple of days, it's a pretty relaxed quiet African capital city easy and interesting to just meander around. The old part of town is interesting to walk through with the Portuguese influence evident in the colourful architecture of the buildings, whilst the bustling port breathes a lot of life into the place with all the trucks and cargo vessels and the usual African foot traffic and market stall sellers. To top it all off Bissau has some really nice places to eat and we are spoilt with some really nice barracuda and king prawns as well as espresso and pastries.

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Bissau brings our short time in the small country of Guinea-Bissau to an end as we leave it behind and head into the Cassamance region of Senegal.

Posted by Kaz76 02:51 Comments (0)

Good ole Guinea again

We head back into Guinea, coming in from the Sierra Leone side instead of Cote d'ivorie, it's a lot more drive days on the truck and a lot longer in Guinea this time around as we are here to enjoy the highland scenery in the area known as the Fouta Djalon. The Fouta Djalon region covers a lot of the western part of Guinea and the scenery is stunning with expansive plateaus, hundreds of rivers, sheer cliffs and either cultivated or jungle filled valleys, its sparsely populated until we get through the centre part of it, where it is populated it seems a high percentage of Muslims and farming definitely seems to be a main source of income.

But we need to kill some kms first before we get anywhere near the Fouta Djalon, so after leaving Freetown and crossing the border into Guinea we head to Coyah which is about 100km from the capital Conakry. Coyah is just a convenient base for us so that we can head into Conakry to get our Guinea Bissau visas for later in the trip, getting the visas is easy, getting into Conakry is a lesson in patience, the 100km drive on reasonable (for here) roads takes a good 3 hours, its jam packed with traffic, especially mini vans and motorbikes that have no hesitation in cutting across our huge truck with a split second to spare, clearly they trust that no one will hit them. The sides of the road are packed with the usual African markets and street sellers risking their lives walking in and out of the traffic trying to sell their wares, maps of the region and the world seem to be a big thing the are trying to push the day we are there. Where there isn't markets lining the streets it's rubbish, piles and piles of it, stacked high, occasionally being burnt but mainly just polluting everything. It's definitely not my favourite African city, too much chaos and it's exhausting.

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With Guinea Bissau visas in hand, we get out on the red dusty and bumpy tracks for our slow drive through Guinea. We bushcamp on route to the town of Kindia and as is normal a few locals wander through to see what we are up to, one brave lad invites himself to dinner and when we ask him why he isn't drinking his cuppa he responds with he wants to take it home to his mum, so we end up packaging it up into an empty milk bottle for him and he seems quite pleased, he obviously enjoyed our food as he sneaks but in the morning for breakfast.

Kindia itself is the gateway to the Fouta Djalon with a bustling market specialising in the local cloth of the region and just outside of it are the Les Chutes de la Voile de la mariee (aka bridal veils falls) where we can get a bit of a wash in after our dusty bushcamp the night before. Our first stop in the Fouta Djalon proper is Tiemele it's a long drive to get there given the state of the roads which makes it exhausting but the scenery along the way takes some of that away as does a few stops for swimming inlocal rivers where we join the locals who either washing their clothes or washing themselves and are more than happy to have a group of Portobhe (white people) sharing the river.

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Tiemele is a pretty small town, there isn't much too it other than some red dusty roads, a school, the obligatory mosque and some local sellers, the day we are there is market day which adds quite a bit of life to the town, it is also the day where the electricity stops and we use up all the water within a couple of hours being there. What Tiemele does offer is a chance to enjoy the Fouta Djalon with some easy walks taking in the scenery. A few of us were keen to climb the mountain overlooking town and we were given two guides which turned into five guides to take us and we all confirmed in French before we set off we wanted to go the mountain but it ended up an aimless wander just outside the village with them getting lost at one point and us having to scramble through various jungle to try and find a path for them. Not quite the climb we had in mind but gave us a chance to stretch our legs. With a different guide in the afternoon we managed to get a bit out of town to explore some grottos or cave systems which were really interesting with all the narrow passageways and tunnels.

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Continuing our long slow drive through the Fouta djalon region we come to the definite highlight of the region, Doucki or Hassan Doucki, Hassan is an enthusiastic, funny and warm Muslim guy that has set up accommodation and hikes for tourists in the Fouta Djalon region, he personally greets us all and gives us a suite of traditional huts to sleep in then tells us about his different treks which range from easy walks to hardcore. His hardcore walk he calls 'Chutes and Ladders' a fall day walk covering a range of terrain, I decide to tackle this along with three others in the group. It's a full day walk which takes us 600m down into the valley by way of loose rock, well worn paths, thick bushes, crossing rivers and waterfalls surrounded by jagged mountains, green vistas and lots of lovely fresh spring water. Once we are down in the valley it's time to climb back up, our first climb is alongside a waterfall, we essentially climb to the top, the locals have created ladders made of vine and sticks they have couple together of varying lengths and steepness, we navigate our way through nine of these ladders (lianas) to get to the top of the waterfall, once there it's a further steep climb up loose rock to reach the top again, the climb is defiantly hard work after the four hour walk down in the baking heat but it's more than manageable with a few downwards bits to freshen up in the rivers, we manage the walk in a comfortable 7 hours which we are told is pretty good. Hassan said he thinks it is one of the best walks in West Africa - the four of us would definitely agree with him.

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Labe provides a final proper stop and town in the Fouta Djalon area, I head out on a motorbike about 40km out to see the biggest waterfall in the region, Chutes de Sala, given its the dry season it's not cascading or thundering down like we've seen in pictures but there is enough water to give us a sense of how impressive it would be at full flow with all the water cutting through the gorge, it's also a nice spot at this time of year for us to be able to have a swim in its pretty chilly waters. The ride to the waterfall was probably more of the highlight, I thought the roads we had been travelling on were pretty bad but these were even worse and riding over them on the back of a motor bike driven by someone who clearly wanted to be first in the group was definitely an experience and may have caused the heart to skip a beat or two!

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(photo credit Ann Hume)

We say goodbye to the stunning Fouta Djalon region ( which has been a real highlight for me) after Labe and it's one last bushacamp amongst the cotton trees before moving into Guinea Bissau.

Posted by Kaz76 10:11 Comments (0)

Sierra Leone

We leave the beautiful beach of Robertsport behind and cross over into Sierra Leone where it's slow travelling as the roads get even worse, short distances take a full day of driving to undertake.

Our first stop in Sierra Leone should have been pretty uneventful, bush camping in the middle of nowhere between the towns of Zimmi and Kenema, but as tends to happen in Africa it may feel like there is nothing or no one around, someone always pops out of the darkness, in this instance a visit to the chief in the nearest village and half a dozen beers ensures we have a peaceful nights rest.

The town of Kenema is our first 'real' town in Sierra Leone which we reach after passing through Gola Rainforest, Kenema is a diamond town with just about every trader it feels selling not only general trade but also diamonds, all the shop signs have a flashy picture of a diamond on it. The town itself has a western/cowboy feel to it, it feels like swinging wooden doors of a saloon and a few horses out front wouldn't be entirely out of place here. For us it's a break from the long drive and a chance to exchange some cash with any random in the market, it's seems pretty much all the people in the market have a little dodgy room out back where they'll happily change your dollars or euros into Leone's, it's also our first introduction to the heavy Lebanese culture that we soon learn is quite spread throughout Sierra Leone, for us that means lots of hommus, pita bread and schwarma.

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We spend a few days at Tiwai Island, staying in the small village of Kambama. Tiwai Island is only 12 square kilometres but is home to a significant number of primate species, it is also home of the rare pigmy hippo, which no one seems to have seen and alas we were no more fortunate. We spend the days here walking through the dense forest, watching monkeys playing in the trees, enjoying the different sounds of the rainforest, it's a really peaceful spot offering lots of interesting walks and canoe rides down the river and a very peaceful place to camp overlooking the river.

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The villagers of Kambama are excellent hosts, enthusiastically welcoming us and inviting us into the village and sharing their way of life with us. Many of the young toddlers haven't seen a white personal before so when they see us they scream in absolute terror, the parents try and fix this by just dumping the kid in our arms making them even more terrified, they must eventually get over it as the majority of kids are like most African kids just curious and wanting us to give them some much needed attention. One little kid constantly wants us to hold him, we soon realise though it's not because he particularly likes us but he enjoys the reflection of himself in our sunnies!

Along with one of the other girls I'm travelling with we are offered to help the local ladies prepare our lunch, chopping and boiling cassava and preparing a sauce that is made using various fish heads and other fish bits to give it a fishy flavour, it doesn't sound too arduous but not having any of the usual cooking items we are used to it's a lot harder for us and keeps the local ladies very entertained watching us struggling with tasks that they consider really basic, something as simple as slicing a piece of casava on the palm of your hand (why bother with a chopping board when you have two perfectly good hands) with an exceedingly sharp knife causes our natural instincts to kick in and we struggle to chop on our palm like they do, they patiently keep showing us but I prefer to keep both my hands. Of course no cooking session is complete without them taking us down to pump water and try rather pathetically to carry it on our heads.
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Surrounding Tiwai island are about a dozen villages and I head out on a 4-5hour hike to see two of them besides Kamamba, we hike through dense forest filled with monkeys and birds, coffee, cocoa, banana, plantain, cassava, cashew nut and rice paddies, during the dry season it seems there is an abundance of food to be had but come the wet season they subsist on a diet mainly of manyok (a sweetish root vegetable, not quite a potato or sweet potato, somewhere in between).

At each village we have to go and visit the chief with our guide translating why we are here, again we are welcomed warmly and given time to sit and rest with the chief before having a look around the village. Given we can't speak the local language and they can't speak English, it's a bit awkward with us perched on their best chairs surrounded by the villagers and with the chief just broadly smiling at us but we find just a few smiles and the occasional wave seems to make everyone pleased. At the second village it's a female chief, which is the first I've seen, here they also give us a gift of black toumba, which are a plant pod that houses a seed surrounded by a sweet almost sherbet like powder that you suck as well as a refreshing coconut, the juice is very welcomed after 3hours walking in the heat and then the flesh inside is really fresh and sweet.

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One of the 'things to do' so we are told is to attend a libation ceremony, apparently it's popular with tourists who have struggled to get pregnant (or their partners have), whatever is done at this mystical ceremony magically takes care of the problem for them, it takes a lot of explaining by Lauren and I that we don't want to participate in one of these ceremonies, it doesn't help that our tour leader jokingly tells the guide how much we want too, a lot of bad French and charades by us finally gets us out of the situation.

I really enjoyed our time in Tiwai but unfortunately it was time to say goodbye and continue making our way to Freetown. It's long drive days through to Freetown, we do a short overnight stop in Bo, where we slept on the tennis court of a hotel that also doubles up as a nightclub which gave us the worst sleep of the trip but probably the most laughter the day after (no one knows the song itself but it was played over and over at ear splitting volume and just had the chorus 'I love you, I love you, I love you') and another afternoon and overnight stop at Bureh beach on the Freetown peninsula, a pristine beach that was much welcomed relaxation time after the night in Bo before we finally arrived at Freetown.

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Freetown is the end point for the first leg of our overloading trip a few of the guys we've been travelling with leave at this point and quite a few others join us for the second leg to Dakar, so it's a chance for those of us who have travelled from Accra to have some downtime away from the majority of the group and just relax and do our own thing.

For me I enjoy having a wander through Freetown which seems to be nestled in a valley, surrounding the city are hills where the majority of houses seem to have been built up, on the other side runs the ocean. At the lower parts of the hill before getting into the city proper is where all the slums seem to be, is a bit of a contrasting view, between some of the nicer places higher on the hill and the sprawl and chaos of the slums amongst dirty rivers and rubbish down below. The city itself compared to other African cities is relatively quite, not too chaotic and easy to walk around without much hassle, towards the centre is a large cotton tree which offers a great respite from the heat today but in the past is the spot where slaves were traded. Along the beach there are some really nice restaurants with beautiful sea breezes and fantastic views, it's a good city to have a bit of downtime before starting out on the next leg of the trip which takes us back into Guinea, then to Guinea Bissau, The Gambia and Senegal.

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Posted by Kaz76 09:33 Comments (0)

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