Well, my feet have just crossed their 65th country. A man yesterday said,
'Man, I've been to 22 and I am quite proud.' He was saying this to mean, as a compliment, to me, that I should be very proud to have come all this way -and that there must have been some very hard times and great sacrifices made.
He was an Israeli that had also recently arrived to Accra from Dakar.
He had come by land as well. Though he didn't stop through Gambia or Bissau, he did majority of the way as I and Helen had. And man, did we laugh. But he understood. He understood what it takes.
'I think you travel the way I like to.' Another thing that he said last night that stays in my mind.
There are different types of ways to get anywhere in the world -different ways to arriving at the same destination. It just so happens I find an irrationally, stupid, difficult, and senseless way to just about anywhere. But I am not alone, that is for sure. And for the third time in West Africa I've had the pleasure of meeting someone that roles the same way.
First, it was Nico, laying on a piece of grass, behind a line of beach, on Karabane island in Cassamance. He was living in his tent! What a surprise to find someone like that. What a laugh we had for a couple weeks until he got malaria -troubles we had as well, disagreements of course, among other things.
And the Spanish sensation, Jose, who's cycling across Africa from Spain and should, now, be in Sierra Leone, recovering from malaria.
And now the third man, whose name I didn't even get, because we had way too many other things to laugh about. Especially the roadways and situations we faced, so similarly, across Guinea!
The way is so full of surprises. And sending my girlfriend into the airport the other night was a horrible situation, that I'm tired of going through. Though, still, too stubborn, to determined, to change it.
And with her recent departure and a sure load of loneliness to come in her wake, I find a nice, volunteer position in the city! At a hostel. Where I can make some friends and stop moving for a while. Yes! And its something I've already done a couple times, YES! What luck, what a fit!
But like I said.
The way has so many surprises. And this time, the hosts are not going to see the need of rest,and willingness to work. I've been fortunate a few times to find a place. But on this occasion, they've missed out. Theyve missed out on some great food, and a very competent, friendly, community kind of lad. The dice have rolled another way. And by surprise, it's actually a Westerner, whose let it roll like that.
A small shock. But hey! Life goes on, and this journey is long.
Relish that road baby! For better or worse! Love is a battlefield.
It is too hard to find time online for this stuff. Between finding electricity and time its becoming a very rare moment where I have the time to do anything but research something along the way online. For example the road we must take from point A to point B, or couchsurfing on a regular basis, or a number of other things.
The past days we spent in San Pedro, after crossing the border into Cote D'ivoire. It's a fantastic place in comparison to other coastal areas we've witnessed from Europe to here.
They have a community, the locals are friendly and not irritating, begging money all the time -or demanding it either.
The coast is full of nice beach, and big waves and small bars and hotels to grab a, not so pricey drink. And there's a school there, which I hope, to get lucky and find a job within for a good while.
Because I really need a break. And after my darling lady leaves back to Berlin, I'm gonna need soe time to reflect on what is, exactly important. This road is a mighty one alright. And in Sub-Sahara always a colourful experience. From broken down cars, and hard headed drivers. Visas with barracades galore. A doctor at the border waiting for you to forget your vaccination card -to fine you. And the odd, good piece of luck. Most of it via couch surfing. A site that has more than once, save dour asses in this part of the world. Relish it Baby!
The ride to Conakry, which lasted 32 hours through approx. 600 km, was mostly spent in a small, station wagon, made by Renault. Only they made it to fit around six. We had a total of ten adults, 3 babies and one infant! That is one hell of a ride when the road is more made for moto-cross, then driving. In fact, there are few parts of the world that would consider it a road. Even Google couldn't calculate what we were up against -and this is the main 'highway' between two capital cities. That's how real shit gets around here! There are so many fucked up things to include; for instance the grieving through a short, but memorable stint of food poisoning. High fever, aching body, pissing ass, all the great things that come with the Ol' dysentry. And our friend Nico, who we had to leave behind as we took off for the mountains of Guinea. Who now has malaria, and can notch that one off of his list of things to accomplish while in Africa. Between the wicked rides and awful pains we did receive great hosts in both Bissau and Conakry, who helped us all through our aches and pains and our journies forward -patient with our delays through the Cote D'ivoire embassy, for example. I am very weak at the moment and the internet is so utterly shit that it plies at my patience more than the mosquitoes on the Island Archipaelego of Bissau; so I really have to just let this Relish thing go on hiatus for a while. I Cannot do the HTML scripts because the keyboard is a different language than the one typing and no one, including the computer can figure how to change the language. I mean this is very little qualm compared to what people are going through out there on a regular basis -some might say to me. Like our host who had some hot shot throw a gun out on him and represent his gangsta ass from NYC. Black man in hip-hop cries out for his homeland, and how he cannot be one without it, then he comes and exploits it like everyone else -in this case, likely diamonds. And not only that but bullies a really nice guy who went through a lot more shit than he could calculate through his life, who had to get out of Sierra Leone a decade before. He couldn't simply move his big, shiny SUV so that the locals could move through -because they got enough problems, see! Nope, he had to get out swing his fists in conjunction with his pistol and demand acknowledgement, like he was in some kind of fucking movie 'You know who I am? You know who your fucking with?' He commands. Um, yea I know. You're the jackass with an ego the size of a watermelon and using a gun to enforce your own insecurities. Just another day in a capital city of West Africa! If it's not the military threatening to jail me because I'm not carrying my passport, it's some guy throwing a knife out to rob me. Honestly, every single cliche is gettin knocked off on this trip. Taste the Rainbow!
This place is really, very much, still a backwater. The whole country is frozen in time. Yet, there are way too many 4 wheel drive boomin round the city, for the state of its people. A clear and obvious tone. That takes little, to no imagination to assume why -especially considering it is one of the most highly imported countries of Coke from South America in the world (if not the most).
Though we can blame the frozen country on it's many Presidential failures, their high amount of corruption and neglect, the dictator 20 years back, the Coloinal Portuguese, and everything else that holds back a country. The fact of the matter is, this place is as dusty as Kathmandhu and it ain't gettin any better, any time soon.
The city has some charm to it, though. People here, compared to Senegalese or Gambians, they are much kinder, easier going and less evaluating of the 'White Man'. Before Bissau everyone was calling me a Tubab, here, a few of the kids sayin
But more or less, shit's hella mellow compared to the north of here.
After two weeks on the Bijagoz Island Archiapelgo, where one can really, really, very much escape the outside world, you can see some tradition happening, still. Not as much as people claimed, for what we noticed. But a small amount of traditional wears, and a large amount of traditional living. Plenty of huts. They are not going anywhere, anytime soon.
While the beaches we found, a few of them intoxicating, and empty, bare, there is also this mega force of tidal shifts everywhere around the archipalego, that gives one only a small fragment of the day where he can enjoy a swim.
We missed the Hippos, and the turtles on the far off islands, for if you want to do antyhing with great appeal you gotta bring a heavy stack of bills. The saddest part of this sub-continent. Though no one seems to have money, everything, everything is dependent on it. And a lot of it too.
The fish is great. Barracuda around 4 euro. The beers on the main island of Bubaque can be found out of a 'Bazooka' or Tap, come out cold and for 50 cents. And a few of the ex-pats I found highly surprising and very accomodating. Incredible, in fact.
Before Bissau I hadn't made a single friend out of the ex-pat community. All somehow too distant and gritty, greedy a bit and highly judgemental of the Tubab, like their neighbors.
But like I said, in Bissau things seem to roll a bit different. And one of the reasons is, I believe, that the foreign element that arrives here, they came, before as travelers, and stay because they fell in love. Where in Senegal, for example, they went for an enterprising venture, not for the free will of the road.
I am terribly happy that we've lost a few weeks here in Guinea Bissau, even if the virgin beaches of Varela were far from that, though nice enough and baron of anything but buidlings destroyed by erosion.
The more time we spend in Africa, the more I realize I must really find the beauty in things, the way they are, not as I perceive them to be, how I think they SHOULD be. Simply how they are. And step back from my ideals of how to change things, and what we need to do to fix things, but simply enjoy the moment some more and allow that down here, the mind works differently for many reasons, and maybe it should simply be as that.
Leave the romantisizing to all the blog writers out there who make everything seem so much more beautiful than they in fact are. I'll stick to honesty and the harder, more pliable, atoned road. Where life lives and fairytales get smashed.
We're at the border of Guinea Bissau, about to leave Senegal. It took seconds to get our visas, they were half the cost they were told to be. We made it minutes before the office closed. Though it's naturally hot and sweaty, and the traffic is going like crazy in Ziguichor; could this be a change in the tidal force that has been manifesting of late.
Three nights ago, on a lovely, little island called, Karabane, on the Cassamance, it was just one more thing.
Where the phosphorescence sparkle the shoreline at night, like nowhere I've ever seen and at Point St. George the dolphins play, leaping out of the water like perfect half moon shields of dark skin; the island where we were lucky enough to arrive for a big wedding and joined in, on some traditional dance. A man dressed as a tree, waving big sticks, of leaves around -and me grabbing it to join in. I danced like the darker half of my soul was trying to escape and it was incredible.
We finally met another traveler, Nico, from Italy. And we merried around like pranksters the first night well after the traditonal dance.
On this island someone came into my room and tooka 100 euro tip from my backpack. One fifth of the money I had left, all the money I had in the world. And the guy meant to watch the guesthouse comes by the second night
'Hey, Steve, I watch your place, why dont you give me 3 euro?'
Not likely. But yea, thats before I realized anything was gone. And unfortunatley I was ages away at this Pt. St. George, when I came to realise. Real good job he did watchin!! Prolly him that did it.
In any event we walked 8 km into the grand forest, very green from the wet season, rice paddocks everywhere, and women carrying things of all kinds on their heads. We walked to this point. Hoping to see Manatees. But the manatees never came. Instead we were ushered into a guesthouse by a Frenchman of nothing more than capitalistic swine oozing from his mouth, with a sharing scent of Pastis.
I never agreed with this 'arrogance' that French get around Europe, before I travelled into Africa. Now its three of these guys that have crossed my path, that I'd like to wipe the muddy filth of the rice paddocks, from off of my crocs and onto their faces. Each one of them.
Its not a community house you are creating. Its not an eco friendly house of leanring and sharing, its a proper business and the more money the people give the happier the propriotor. This is what we get here 80 percent of the time. Everyone, everyone including most of the Europeans Ive come to know over here are out for my few bucks. I cannot be a transient here, I cannot be anything but a white man. A 'TOOBAB' they call me everywhere, gathering aorund, parading to ask for money, water and footballs. To take me here and there and everywhere. To rip a few extra off the top for the bus ride, or the car ride or whatever. And right beside the local. Because TOOBAB has his/her own price.
We are objects, marked bills with big pockets full of Bens. And that is it.
And Im sick.
Im sick of all the heavily aggressive, Senegalese, few of them smiling at all, grinning and kissing their teeth and me and hissing at me and laughing and pointing at me. Its making me equally aggressive and I am struggling to smile at all. This is not what I came to find.
We come as foreign, curious, peeps, with the hope for some kind fo traditional view. And we are made a fool, every single day. I cant help say that it is not my fault what happened to people here in the very distant and not so distant past. The world is trying to reach for equality aren't we?
I really hope that Guinea Bissau can help bring back some optomism but things are gettin pretty bleak.
Relish your road, or cry tryin'
If it's not the mad, chaotic honking of all the passing buses and cars, trying to flag me down, to get me in their rides.
If it's not the Bush taxi workers, trying to pull me into the side door of their mini-buses
If it's not the 18 people crammed into one of these things, that are bobbing up and down with us like kids in a blow-up castle, only the framing is metal and the seats are broken and we're adults -except the couple babies being breast fed from time to time.
If it's not the atrocious, aching pains, that come after eating, at least once a day, because of these stupid, over-priced Malaria pills I have to take.
If it's not for the lack of toilet facilities around, at the time that this particular thing takes place.
If it's not the four or five times a day, I have to wake up because of the arsenal of African army mosquitoes, with assault stingers, blitzing me through the night, because locals are oblivious to the existence of mosquito nets.
If it's not the reoccurring mass of overpriced accommodations, under-garmented, simply because of the tourists that agree to pay for them!
If it's not lads that keep bombarding me with the same damn, two friggin questions, over and over again,
'Where you from?' 'What's your name?'
Then, ensuing to try to guide me, to a food stall, or a bush taxi, because I'm a stupid tourist who can't take care of himself, and am happy to give out 'gifts' to every Jack that can show me the bloody obvious track!<
If it's none of this, then it's the computer time that ends, without warning, and erases all the work I've put in, because they can't simply end a session without dumping the whole system!
Relish it Baby! Or Die Cryin!
Unlike the first leg of our journey through Senegal, this part from Dakar was rather smooth concerning the hitch-hikin. Solid lifts!
It was tough getting out of the city of course, but a mini-bus got us going, and then from Mbour managed to walk out of the city, and start hitching towards The Gambia.
Outside of Mbour, a Belgian man picks us up after I flail my arms around like a monkey when he drives past without stopping. The lad stops about five hundred meters up the road, so I run like a maniac to reach him.
'Koalack is very far. I am only going twenty kilometers or so, but I can give you a ride up the road a bit? But Koalack is very far.'
The sun was getting ready to go down and we'd surely end up in Koalack around 10 p.m. Again, arriving in the city at night, again breaking our balls trying to find a place to sleep the night for less than a million pesos.
The man had his hectares of land, where he'd built a house and some land to grow food, water systems. He was livin completely African without electricity or running water! After years and years of bush piloting around West Africa, he'd decided he found the place he was ready to tie himself down to -after, and especially the third kid arrived. Why not built a piece of land and set up for the family! Only it ain't so easy, farming when you're not really a farmer!
When he invited us to stay with him I answered excitedly,
'Wowo, really great. We would be happy to stay with you, please -as I looked back at Helen.
'Oh yes, on yes, it would be great,' she said from the back.
'Last thing I wanna do is show up in Kaolack tonight and look for a hotel that's shit and overpriced.'
'My place isn't so great either, hey. Its no Hotel.'
'It's a shitload better than what we'd get in Kaolack, that's a guarantee!'
A couple sips of rum turned into two bottles and the two of us throwing arguments back and forth about rubbish, politics, government, western society; all night long fully jibberish, while Helen struggled to sleep through all of our jovial banter!
And in the morning we're picked up quick time, then again after walking out of Kaolack, and a third time by a big lorry truck into Gambia and to the ferry for Banjul! It couldn't have been smoother. The only issue -and of course there is going to be an issue, this is Africa!- came in all the border chaos. First, my vaccination card was lost in the Senegalese customs office, and then, in the late night without any lights to see any signs or anything else, we managed to miss the immigration and stamp to enter The Gambia, all together!
Today, at the police station, and the embassy, and immigration office... none of it has been fun or optimistic. A fucking dumb move missin that stamp.
RELISH IT BABY! Or cry tryin
After a while we finally get goin with rides towards Dakar but instead of heading straight there we hit up this spot,Lompoul, which is halfway; where desert, and lush green, both meet the beach.
The place was impossible to hitch to, once turning off the nqtionql road.
Only taxis, kids asking us for money and hours of frustration.
Finally caught a lift. Hundred people in -and on- the car.
With the two kids cryin on the roof, where the driver of the fine automobile put them! :y girl is ready to trip. And top it off he's fully extorted us on the fee, to arrive at Lompoul.
We arrive after dark, after his car overheats, and after there is nearly a small civil war between people in the car and the driver, because of the crying children on the roof. We are trying to walk away shakin our heads; frustrated, in the middle of nowhere, pitch black, pop-up village, people everywhere, yelling, arguing; one guy trying to pull us back into the car.
We finally get to Lompoul, only greeted by some peeps with homestays and the price is naturally, extortion -but at least its countryside and going to local hands (not Fench colonial fucks like in St. Louis or arsehole taxi toutes).
Had to haggle down to half the price and it was still ten euro for a shit room and a small amount of food. I'm gettin little for my money in these parts. Everyone is hustlin!
But the silver lining comes when we get to the beach -despite everything being closed because of Tabaski holiday- and walk towards Dakar a few kilometers, with 20 cent mangoes and a bag of rice.
Full, white, empty beach; forest, beautifully high and thick and long behind it.
And us, with the odd chariot and horse carrying a couple dudez and some rice to a small village. I thought from looking at a map, naturally, after noticing that there was nothing between Lompoul and Fas Boue, but beach. Lets walk it!
Great idea, but there is no water or food and its a fuckin far, long and hot 30 km.
It was a beautiful walk but we didn't make the whole thing, too ;any ele;ents against us.
The night, about halfway, after Helen sussed a village with nothing to buy, no water, but the ground water we were a bit worried about, and their little agricultural hub which was breath taking, but a dead end. We set up the tent.
In the tent 3 a.m, Im waken up by a scratching sound on the tent.
I open my eyes,
'HOLY FUCK' as I leap into the back end of our one man.
Helen jumps back too after that, staring at me -frightened to death,
'What what what.'
'Its a fucking tarantual, jeezus fuck its a damn tarantula , OH GOD Mama Africa, not already!'
I peak my head to the upper part of our little tube shaped tent, at the transparent screen; long, dark, hairy legs are standing on the metal, bridge bar of the tent,
'Oh geezus,' I shrug and whimper, then flick the tent with a book, like a little bitch.
The thing fucks off to the ground.
I then, remember we are on a beach, absolutely full of big -and small- tunnels into the sand, from hermit crabs. A few of the bigger ones around our tent.
And for the next hour or two I'm jolted up in panic every time one of those little fuckers hits the tent. Helen didn't sleep a wink after my first catapault out of dreamland.
In the morning, after our handful of rice we had for food left and the very little water we had left there was still 3 hours of walkin to do under heavy sun. A truck comes by with some locals in the back. We are so happy,
'Combien?' He says.
I look at Helen with a grin of sheer laughter, frustration, anger and hilarity. He gets us for 5 euros where one of the locals would pay a fifth of that if anything, at all. As he drives a few sacks of coal to transport.
The hightlight, above all else is when we arrive at Fas Boue, a shithole of a town, and gotta figure out how we're gonna hitch hike to Dakar -the last 80 km.
We find a copy shop, in all the crumbling shanties. The dude inside gives us a laptop; and while we try to upload googlemaps -a half hour to find our route to dakar - he brings us two Sprite, on him.
In every dirty turn there is surely a great piece of hospitality and understanding, anywhere you go. Some prey on the vulnerability, others will hold out their hand and offer help, up from the edge of the cliff, before your fingers give out.
Relish it Baby!
6 months ago I left Berlin to take my ass into West Africa with my lovely lady, Helen. Well, we're nearly there!!!We enter the disputed zone of Western Sahara and our first lift out of a big freight that took us a couple hundred kilometres, was a car fulla locals drivin us a few km to the port of Laayounne-so we can ask round about Canary Islands (shut down 2 years before because of lack of interest). The dude drivin, he says something about Merckel -German Chansellor- because of my girl Helen (a German) and how she's a great politician. I laugh and try to make a joke about the situation goin on with Armenia at the moment and say she needs to give Erdogan a massive smack across the dome piece and he says: 'Erdogan is good man, he is Muslim, very good , very good Erdogan.' Helen and I look at each other simutaneously, sigh and start noddin our heads to avoid a big fight. As long as your a Muslim, your great. Thats it. That simple. Sure buddy. Our next lift is a hell of a lot smoother and takes us (500 km in less than 4 hours). Three young guys on their way to Dakhla, pick us up and drive like a spaceship, unstoppable. Even payin for our hotel when we arrive late in the city. Lovin this life. Relish it yo! Every day is a new turn.
When you leave your guesthouse remember to check for all of your stuff. If you hid all your money under the table, remember that shit or else your ass is gonna be on a bus for 10 hours back and forth, to Rabat and back, like this fucking idiot!!!!
And trust me, trying to figure out if its there or stolen or whatever with the hard headed lugsin the tourism industry here, is not an easy thing.
Pride is a large sonfabich, aggression is vivid and anything that may indicate that you are accusing someone of being a theif -because of how many there are, in these parts lol- leads to a fucking situation of high stress.
The rides to Marrakesh, from Rabat, after the ball ache of exiting Rabat... for the most part, great. Except one hella aggressive, proud Islamist that knew few words in any language -including his own- aside from Allah, God, Dio: oh yea, good to be back in Muslim territory.
But really the hitch-hiking so far has been a really uplifting experience with some very well versed people in French, English, Italian, German and of course Arabic.
And, a lot of the rides are coming from well educated people, most of them, lived or living in Europe.
It's been a very cool experience to be able to communicate with the society of locals that has tested their limitations and reached out for more, and then brought it back -and hopefully shared the knowledge for a brighter, more open minded near future.
I am reminded quite a bit of Albania. People have to leave their country to grow, to grab enough cash to buy a car for instance, and then they bring back exterior cultures, in large waves, creating diversity. And though there are still plenty of shiesty fucks around the tourist areas; on the streets and in the countryside one can see a country that is tired of being held back by government -and compromised by the shiesters.
The roads are already on their way with toll motorway and straight, fresh open lanes. Traffic? Nah man. And though the toll is not ideal, the fact that these roads are fast makes it possible to work in Rabat and head home to Casablanca or Tanger, without losing a full day of travel time. Progression! Diversity!
Avoid the hotel owners and bus ticket sellers, and vendors of shit... and life is an incredible thing round these parts. Breathe. Accept. And Be Patient. Be Proactive.
I gotta say, this time around in Morocco, after years in Europe I see a completely different face and I like it very much.
Especially on the road less travelled -of course being accepted in this fashion, as well, by the local hand and offering to homestay or break bread or have a tea, whatever it is. This is the chance to find hang time with the dope ass commoner. And I'm lovin the outer ring, away from tourism. Because in the circle of tourism, it's simply aches and pains and dollar signs. An ugly time spent, anywhere.
Relish your road Yo! and Buen Camino