donderdag 23 januari 2014

Beach time

Fishermen on Tokeh beach
Last week has been spend relaxing on the beaches of the Freetown peninsula. After Laka beach, were Jason put up with us for free for 4 days, we stopped at Nr2 river beach and Tokeh. But the most amazing place surely is Bureh beach, where the boys of the 'Bureh Beach Surf Club' welcomed us and Gary finally got back on his board again.

The pink fruit is called apples and taste like apples too

 I made a good deal with the owner of the next door hotel 'Rakis Beach Side Resort' to let me use the bathroom and showers and I am parked in a quiet spot almost right on the beach. There is no hassle from anyone and the place is secure, so at night I sleep with all the doors open, looking at the stars and hoping for a breeze. Dough even if there is a breeze, the temperatures doesn't drop below 27°c. Days usually get a steady 32°c, but it's the humidity that gets to you, both Gary and I are struggeling with a bit of a cold, coughing with a runny nose and a headache, weird. I'm planning on one more weekend and on monday it's back to work, well, back on the road, for the 3 month trip back home.

woensdag 15 januari 2014

Sierra Leone

So there I was in Conacky parked next to a Total gas station near the Sierra Leonian embassy. From 9 in the morning I sat in the embassy, and when I filled in the application they said I would need a hotel reservation. So within 30 minutes I came back with a reservation I printed myself and they were pleased with that, however the visa would be isued in 72 hours. As I didn't fancy spending 3 days next to a dump, I pushed a bit to get it the same day. After explaning that I'm sleeping in my car on the street and an elebarate private interview with the ambassador they told me to come back in the afternoon. It was walking back at 3 the same afternoon that I spotted a motorbike with a surfboard strapped to it, that could only be one guy, Garry. I know Garry from a tread on the HUBB and met him already  in Morocco, so it was nice to see him again. He was going to put his tent at the gasstation as I went to pick up the visa and laisser passer, which for Sierra Leone is also printed at the embassy. Next day we drove up to the border in good spirits, but when we were finaly in, it was 4 hours later and both of us were at boiling point, especially the last hour long discussion about our 'carte brune' insurance not being valid was too much. I ended up bribing and paying my way into Sierra Leone, but at least we were on perfect asfalt roads. After a mechanical hickup (the gear change lever came loose), we found a perfect spot by a river to camp.

The next day we drove straight through Freetown in search of the famous beaches and there I was, at my final destination and on the perfect location. We ended up at Jason's 'Hard Rock' hotel in Laka beach, and I must say, it comes very close to what I envisioned when I dreamed about driving a van to Freetown 6 months ago. Just look at the picture....
Broken down just over the border

Garry and me

vrijdag 10 januari 2014


Driving into Guinea prooved more difficult than I imagined. At the main border the gerdarmerie immediately wanted money for a stamp. I refused, and while the guy shouted to the others 'if he doesn't pay, he doesn't come in', I went to see the customs for the laisser-passez. There a second surprise awaited me, as they believed I was going to sell my car in Guinea, they wanted me to put up a bond, which I would receive back when leaving the country. So how much would this be I asked: 1000 euro! I thanked him and made my way back into Mali, being lucky to have a mutiple entry visa.
For a moment I realy thought of just going back to Bamako and call this whole trip off, but then I noticed a small border post on the map, very close to the main one, it would invalve 150 km offroad and I thought it was worth a chance. That night I slept in the bush in Mali and the next day it took me another 6 hours to get to the small border over very bad piste, and I was amazed how well the van holds up on this kind of road. Within 1,5 hours I crossed the border with a free laisser-passer and without paying any officials, result. This piste followed the Niger river and by the evening I came upon one of the most scenic camping spots I ever been on. Right on the banks of the river, with an 180° view of the river's birdlife and with the rumble of the nearby village just hearable as the wind carried it towards me. I stayed for 2 days while Syncro discovered the surroundings.
The next day I drove to Kan Kan, hoping to get some money out of an ATM and find some fuel. Both were utterly impossible. So I changed some money on the black market and calculated I had enough fuel for another days drive. The town reminded me very much of the hot cities in central Africa with their crowded markets and street food on every corner. I quite like Guinea, and am glad to have gotten in, I was even more pleased when I found some very good menthol sigarettes for 0,15 euro per packet.
Because of the gasoline shortage, I decided to go straight towards Conakry, thinking there must be fuel on the main road towards the capital, right? No, not only was the road in very bad condition from Kouroussa up to Mamou, even in Mamou no fuelstation had any gasoline. 20 liters were bought on the black market and only in Kindia I found a working gas station.

I had to get to Conakry to get my Sierra Leone visa, and I knew it wasn't a pleasant city, but my God, this is one of the worst ones so far. First the road was under construction (by the Chinese of course), and the congestion starts 30 km out of the centre. Then I'm pulled of the road at a checkpoint and were the checkpoint have been very friendly so far, now this one 'boss' finds something wrong. It's the dog. Where is the dog passport? I tried reasoning but he insisted he would drive with me to the 'direction generale' of customs in town to sort it out. Somewhere along this drive I manage to bribe him and get him out of the car. Syncro owes me now one watch and 9 euro's. By then it's late afternoon, over 40 degrees, and I am completely stuck in traffic. For 1,5 hours I see the GPS is stuck on 'destination: 11km', then the traffic free's up but at every crossroads with police I'm pulled off the road so they can check all the papers while demanding some gifts. I decide to camp at a Total gas station, near the Sierra Leone embassy and that is where I am now. It's a lovely place as you can see on the pictures, there's burning garbage, pigs, flies and muskietos, luckily the people are friendly and helpfull.