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Thread: Gaels return to West Africa

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    Gaels return to West Africa

    Those of you who followed the RR of the first leg, from Hampshire to The Gambia, 'Gael warnings in West Africa', will recall this became two separate strands when I abandoned Drumacoon Lad close to expiry from food poisoning in the desert sands of Aleg, a notorious town East of Nouakchott in Mauritania.

    Desert sands:



    Drumacoon Lad rather ruined my rufty tufty adventure rider stories of bleached skeletons in the desert by making a swift recovery to health by cosseting himself in a Nouakchott hotel.

    So he then had a great ride back through Mauritania and disported himself around Morocco, enchanting all the readers of his strand of this blog (and he is Joyce to my Beckett, I think...).

    Meanwhile I carried on east into Mali, cunningly adopting the local blue clothing and shrinking myself into the local version of a leprechaun:



    Anyway, not to repeat my peregrinations from Mali into the Casamance, including assorted electrickery issues, (which are briefly touched on in the aforementioned ride report), I ended up in The Gambia where I parked the bike securely and returned to the UK for a family wedding.

    Three weeks later I returned...and to her great credit, my wife Kit agreed to join me.

    Now you need to know, dear reader, that whilst Kit has ridden pillion on my various bikes since we first met over 35 years ago, the longest bike trip we have done together is a long weekend in Salcombe during August.

    So you can understand how chuffed I was that she was willing to spend 2 1/2 weeks on the back of my old GS in 30-35C temperatures.

    The departure from Gatwick to Banjul in November:





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    Quote Originally Posted by simondippenhall View Post
    Those of you who followed the RR of the first leg, from Hampshire to The Gambia, 'Gael warnings in West Africa', will recall this became two separate strands when I left Drumacoon Lad close to expiry in the desert sands of Aleg, a notorious town East of Nouakchott in Mauritania.

    Desert sands:



    Drumacoon Lad rather ruined my rusty tufty adventure rider stories of bleached skeletons in the desert by making a swift recovery to health by cosseting himself in a Nouakchott hotel.

    So he then had a great ride back through Mauritania and disported himself around Morocco, enchanting all the readers of his strand of this blog (and he is Joyce to my Beckett, I think...).

    Meanwhile I carried on east into Mali, cunningly adopting the local blue clothing and shrinking myself into the local version of a leprechaun:



    Anyway, not to repeat my peregrinations from Mali into the Casamance, including assorted electrickery issues, (which are briefly touched on in the aforementioned ride report, I ended up in The Gambia where I parked the bike securely and returned to the UK for a family wedding.

    Three weeks later I returned...and to her great credit, my wife Kit agreed to join me.

    Now you need to know, dear reader, that whilst Kit has ridden pillion on my various bikes since we first met over 35 years ago, the longest bike trip we have done is a long weekend in Salcombe during August.

    So you can understand how chuffed I was that she was willing to spend 2 1/2 weeks on the back of my old GS in 30-35C temperatures.

    The departure from Gatwick to Banjul in November:





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    Keep it going Simon. Rumours of my expiry are exaggerated. And Aleg, as we both know, is like a village in Hampshire, apart from the searing temperatures, the bandits, the kidnappings and of course the sand! Can't wait to return. Safe onward trip.

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    I think you're another of those punching above your weight Simon
    Just 'cos you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you !

    Remember, experience only means that you screw-up less often.

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    The Sahara crossing was a lot easier this time, but still looks big and daunting from an aircraft window


    When we arrived at Sukuta Camping near Banjul, I was impressed to see the bike standing outside our room - especially as the guys had pushed it down a sandy lane to get there! First order if business was to reconnect the battery and I was delighted that the bike started in the button. First hurdle cleared!

    I had opted for a decent hut to start the trip:



    With all our gear set out on the bed, we realised a few items would need to be ditched, including tent and some clothes!

    The next morning we set off to Abene, nearby but across the Senegal border in Casamance:



    The border crossing was straightforward and friendly, with the usual multiple stages of police, customs, immigration repeated on both sides. When I introduced Kit as my No 1 wife, one officer enquired if I had several and, when I said No, offered to locate a No2 wife for my return. Whilst I want off to get a passavant, he assured Kit he was only joking (and I believe he is now recovering nicely from his injuries).

    Unusually we met another foreign traveller - 2 Portuguese guys who told us they were headed to Guinea Bissau. I was surprised as I had read it was both very poor and a centre of the narco traffic as there were many unpoliced airfields as a legacy or recent civil war. However they said that the Bijagos archipelago of 88 islands off Bissau was a treasure 'like Mauritius but better's and we should absolutely visit. We stored that gem of information and continued with our border formalities.

    We stayed in Le Petit Baobab at Abene, where I had visited a few weeks earlier - tucked away down a very sandy alley, off a long and a little less sandy piste to the sea.

    Kit was quick to make friends (who had perhaps not met many redheaded tall Scottish women?):


    Near our lodgings there are magnificent fromage trees



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    I realise that there were no photos of the bike in the last post which is probably in breach of the rules so here you are:

    Note the pillion seat - impressed Kit managed to pack everything in so neatly!



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    After a pleasant night at Abene, livened by a walk along the beach amongst the newly returned fishing fleet



    and the gutting of the catch by the women and children before it got packed into cars and trucks


    , and a night serenaded by lively djembe drums, we set off South.

    The customary'setting off' photo ( complete with photographer's thumb!):


    The first 400 metres was solo due to the heavy sand, with Kit walking along chatting to a local Senegalese (who by chance had a brother in Edinburgh). Then back in the main road we retraced our steps before taking the main road south to Ziguinchor, the provincial capital.

    The Casamance is beautifully watery


    With an abundance of water lilies and rice paddies



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    Our ride to Ziguinchor was uneventful apart from the fabulously potholed last section of piste into town. We checked in at the amusingly named Hotel Le Flamboyant where, despite an empty street, I found myself closely parked in

    My spare mobile phone, which had a Senegalese SIM card, had disappeared (probably I dropped it somewhere) so I decided to try to buy a cheap local smartphone.

    That was the beginning of a multi-hour and ultimately unsuccessful process as the salesman tried to get the phone to create a WiFi hot spot and then recognise my iPhone.

    Hour 1: standing at the phone counter with the crack team:


    Hour 2: I am invited behind the counter:


    My attempts to do a fire sale of his stock of phones are hindered by an absence of customer!

    We leave him grappling with the technology and say we will call back in the morning and buy the phone if he can get it working. Ziguinchor is a small but characterful town on the Casamance river, and even boats a car ferry to and from Dakar so we go and admire that and buy peanuts in the market.

    An idea has been hatched that we might head on South to Guinea Bissau....The hotel proprietor says we have a good chance of getting a visa at the local consulate.

    So next morning we take a local taxi (for €1 or less) to the consulate which turns out to be a residential house down a sandy back lane


    Expecting a crowd we have done promptly at 9...To find only the cleaning lady, who intimates the Consul is having his breakfast. Eventually he arrives, and goes through our papers.

    Have you a copy of your passport for me? (he asks in French of course, although GB is Portuguese speaking).

    I say 'yes' but realise Kit does not.

    ‘Pas de problème... elle est votre femme', says the consul. Kit not impressed that she is regarded as some form of travelling chattel!

    However 5 minutes later we have our Guinea-Bissau visas and head back to the Flamboyant to put our bags on the bike and ride South!

    But first I must collect the new mobile phone if the technology has been mastered. The salesman looks tired but says it now works and I must go next door to get an Orange SIM. The man there says ‘sorry, the activation unit for SIMs ‘ne marche pas’’.

    At this point the road is calling me, so I decide to head off without a local phone on the basis that I rode down here without one so would continue as I started



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    My short and unsuccessful stint in the mobile phone sales business


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    Looking forward to this, Simon....safe journey!

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    Cheers Barak

    Ziguinchor cathedral, and a choir service seen through one of its (broken) windows



    Unusual local bike


    In the waiting room at the guinea Bissau consulate



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    Before too long we arrive at the frontier with Guinea Bissau. Often there is an art in detecting which is the border post and this was no exception but eventually we were out of Senegal and riding through a no man's land before starting the entry to GB.

    (As a footnote, often whilst the road is tarmac there is a steep descent to a sandy or muddy edge where you need to park up whilst doing the paperwork - we soon learnt its best to do that solo rather than with pillion - the 1150 GS with 2 passengers and our luggage is over 400 kgs weight, I reckon. :-(. )

    This was a bit of a change because Francophone Senegal is easy enough for me as a French speaker whereas my Spanish is only a weak approximation of Portuguese, but eventually we got through the various formalities.

    It was soon evident that Guinea Bissau was a poorer country, with a potholed tarmac and sparser villages occasionally. I reflected on how I would handle a mechanical, with my limited Portuguese or rather Portanol. But experience shows someone will usually turn up and bush mechanics are adept at fixing old machinery if not Hall sensors (so fingers crossed!)

    We are aiming for Bissau, the capital



    And specifically here:




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    Filling up as we leave Senegal


    I find we have a stowaway


    Pillion view of GB


    The bridge looks impressive but the approach on both sides is a dirt track!




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    At the border we were told we could complete our immigration into GB at Sao Domingo about 19km south. We arrived there and had to ask for directions to find where to go...and some miles later an official (but with no uniform) stepped out and after checking our papers told us we had missed a checkpoint a ways back and would need to rectify our paperwork when we got to Bissau city, a prospect which made my heart sink!

    (Without spoiling the plot we never did rectify it and never had a problem).

    Mid afternoon (the hottest time of the day and certainly high 30s we arrived in the Bissau outskirts and started to navigate towards our lodgings.

    I was concerned when our road forward was blocked by armed *♂️ and we had to work our way through backstreets to get to destination. All became clear the next day...


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    Thanks to T4A (Tracks for Africa) the cheap map download I had bought before departure we managed to get to our lodging. Despite being city centre the street was a deeply potholed dirt road, and steeply cambered which made parking interesting.

    The hotel was fine but the receptionist was a shoo-in for Ar@ehole receptionist of the year. However I managed to stay cool and we got to our (thankfully air conditioned) room.

    These photos may give some sense of what civil war and a kleptocracy has done to this cheerful and friendly little country.






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    The next morning we came across loud demonstrations near the hotel and (contrary to all FCO guidance) wandered amongst the friendly crowd. However it is clear that the armed police would bar anyone from approaching the Palais de Justice.

    So we walked the other direction and came upon this extraordinary scene in the street next to our hotel:


    Intrigued by the sight of two vultures staking out a cat we walked up the street and saw why:


    At centre is the remains of the kitten which the vultures were consuming!


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    Great write up, thanks for posting. FF

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