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Published: April 2nd 2013
Lunch in a kite after 10 mile downwinder. 25 knots bliss!
Thank you to those who have left us messages either on the blog or via firstname.lastname@example.org
. It sounds a bit cliched, but it is great to hear about everything, even if it is snow or night shifts! We honestly derive no pleasure at all, none, from hearing about the ongoing winter in England.....!
We have just passed the 50 day point and are celebrating our 3 month wedding anniversary overlooking the river Gambia. Ironically, the "campement de lion" menu tonight has served up Jo's nightmare meal of really bony fish, onions and rice, but she has been entertained by a baby monkey, so things are not too bad..... I have started the tropical medicine textbooks in an attempt to not look like a complete idiot, and have, to put it mildly, instilled a certain paranoia into Jo after regailing her with my new found knowledge on tropical worms and other parasites.
Since the last blog entry we have crossed a few borders, and even though I am penning this in a national park on the senegal-guinea border, I don't think we will have email access again until Freetown...... For those of you
Tea in the desert
Jo befriends yet another old man after some navigational errors from the navigator...
who hate reading blogs along the lines of " we are having a brilliant time and everything is brilliant", you will be delighted to know that we have well and truly hit the heat, humidity and insects of Africa, even though it is only march, and all the locals deny there being any heat, humidity or insects.....how we miss those English winter days now.... We crossed into Mauritania with no problems, limited requests for "something for me" from the border guards, and all limbs intact from the 6 km minefield of no mans land. The northern part of Mauritania is the only place on the whole trip to Sierra Leone that is currently "advised against all travel" by the foreign and commonwealth office, so we didn't linger, and found ourselves in Nouakchott, the capital by nightfall. To be honest, the Mauritanians seemed pretty squared away regarding the Islamic terrorist threat, with numerous police checkpoints and the reassurance that " if they come to Mauritania, we will be ready for them" as well as jokes about " les barbes" ( the beards.....). We were not convinced that all of the police could read our fiches, but they were delighted with Jo's
admin and waved us on our way, once they had confirmed that the form did in fact have our details on it….
Nouakchott has an amazing fishing port with two kilometres of beach lined with pirogues, workshops, donkeys, carts and a massive market but they luckily decided to build the city 6 km inland in what might be the dustiest spot in the Sahara. We felt very safe though, even to the extent that we took rubes on a little night voyage of discovery to explore the appropriately underrated restaurant scene.
We are beginning to meet the weird and wonderful selection of white travellers who find themselves mid Sahara in march, and they do not disappoint: the Italians in Mauritania to organise a football tournament for children, the Belgium guy with one arm cycling the Sahara, not to mention the Belfast kiters….
"To avoid malaria, sleep with a pig" ( they are bitten preferentially). Jo has traditionally been my "pig", taking one for the team on the bite front. However, I received the first 40 bites of the trip to the 10 square centimetres of arm that fell asleep touching the
net, and was delighted that we had started the antimalarials earlier that day.....
So with fond memories of Mauritania we entered senegal the next day..... A tiny bit of background regarding our biggest headache pre trip: carnet or not? The carnet is the " passport" for the car, required by "carnet countries", issued by the RAC for approx £1000, with the tempting carrot of reclaiming about £400 if you bring the car back. Given that we have no intention of bringing the car back, after much deliberation with various online forums and the RAC, we decided not to get the carnet..... What we didn't realise, despite the information freely available on the world wide web, was the " no cars older than eight years can enter senegal policy" ( the Chinese built the roads and want the Senegalese to buy their cars). This raised a tiny problem for us in the absence of a carnet, and a vehicle registered in 1997. A slightly amusing good cop - bad cop situation developed with the chief of customs finding our Masanga trip very interesting, and worthwhile, not to mention our excellent chat, in French, on my intentions to learn
No mans land legend!
the guitar and our mutual love of the Spanish football league. With a smile, he reassured us that we would find a solution.....but after lunch. Meanwhile, his colleague sidled out, stating that we were unlikely to be able to enter senegal, but that he, and he alone, would speak to the chief, and that we could reward him for his efforts. Needless to say, after lunch, a 3 day transit visa became a 6 day visa after some phenomenal flattery from Jo which involved giving the chief our unopened bottle of coke, spraying it all over his office and desk, cleaning it up with loo roll, then pouring him a glass from the remains..... the 10euro fee was slashed to 10 USD after we declared that we had no euros and he wrote a small essay in Jo's passport to allow our smooth exit from senegal. So the £600 "no carnet" fund remained untapped..... Arriving in the well known over landers retreat of the Zebrabar in St Louis, we regaled our Swiss German hosts with our border exploits to be told that the guards normally charge 150 to 250 USD for the privilege of a transit visa...…
The chief of the Senegalese border police, our coke splattered friend, 100% guaranteed us, absolutely no issue, vraiment beaucoup, that the Guinea border would be similar, that we would not need to go to dakar to get the official visa, and that we could get a transit visa at the border... 600km later, we found ourselves sat in front of the chief of immigration for guinea, who laughed us out of his office, saying "do you think I could enter England with no visa" ( apparently the answer is no) which necessitated an about turn. So our three day transit visa, which was extended to six days, was re issued as we re entered senegal. Cue a cheeky 1000km detour to dakar to get the visa...... Rubes is earning her keep. For the hardened travellers reading this who are thinking " of course you need a visa, I can't believe you didn't get one", don't say a word. However, every cloud, and all that, and Dakar has been great thanks to use of a wonderful, fully equipped flat ( thank you, Alison) so tomorrow we return to the Guinea border, armed with a hand written letter by the chief
inspector of police from the Guinea embassy (another case of severe Jo flattery) whose brother is the chief of immigration....what could possibly go wrong?!
At some point we will make it to Sierra Leone and Masanga, feeling ready to start working….
If you are still reading this, well done (!), please leave us a message! Love from the new pig. And Jo X
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