Monthly Archives: February 2014

Togo and Benin….

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One day and half of cycling brought me to the Togolese frontier. It was quite a busy road from Accra to Sagakope. After crossing the Volta river with it wide green basin there were chains of villages. Near to Togo border life bust out again a dense populated small urban which increase on Togo side.

The formality and order of things end when I cross the rope to Togo. Immigration officers they were quite happy, cheering themselves with liquors. It was fun that they kept on guessing the first Tanzanian president without success and didn’t click on their brain when I mentioned him.

The life on this side was vibrant, beach where lively with music and bars. There where also a smell of, that ‘still forbidden herb’ on the air, it was like entering ‘Togo Libre’. Both Togo and Benin are touristic in the coast, they receive good number of visitors from their two neighbors; Nigeria and Ghana.

The festival of ‘Valentine Day’ which I saw in Accra was in the continuation here. In that red nigh in Accra restaurant where flooded, bars full and extended in the streets. Every one seem to put on new dress. The commercial advertisements demonstrate how whole Memorial Day is commercialized. And here where the fast moving globalization, people trying hard to share the common global values.

Lome start just soon from the border and will finish about 50km before Benin border. It stretch bit more inland. I meet with old friend who was arrived in Lome from inland Burkinafaso. His stories where implying that Togo exist in the coast,inland is almost forgotten.

I was informed that the Benin visa was to be granted at the border just as Togolese. I found out that to be ‘no’ just after few hours of cycling form Lome to the border. Friendly and gentle immigration office said that is not problem, he will send my passport to Cotonou, the capital and I can peak it up when I get there. At small crowded room hot like hell, the new was broken ‘I’ll be fined for not observing Benin immigration laws’. It took me more that 6 hours to be served. I tried to resist but tired officer who she is serving more that 3 people at one time she through my passport aside.

There is influx of foreigners in Benin just like most of other African countries. I queued with; Indians, Pakistanis, Lebanese, Moroccans, Chinese, French, etc. Well, I assume the former ‘Marxist’ country has something to offer to all these souls.

In this region I’m overwhelmed with the prices of visas and tedious process, from Morocco to here is 12 countries, all require paper work and sometime senseless interviews. I think like most had that imagination that Africa exist in the whole as it people ofter called or claim ourselves to be ‘African. But West Africa have challenged this notion; Is that physical description or because of the physical features we share? I think we share more closer ancestors than we are divided.

The division is far too deep, it is an assimilation which is still practiced well till today. Yes, there are certain occasion we share and understand each but that is only small and limited bunch mostly consist literate who are able to see beyond these ill inflicted boundaries.

African leaders after the brutal death of euphoria and optimism accompanied by dream of United States has manage to do little to break through boundaries which was imposed upon the continent. West Africa within 16 countries their citizens at least can move around with less hindrance. Within this ECOWAS bloc there are achievements and more on plan like one currency, etc.

In this recently travel, I feel like even us called ‘Africans’ it is like our existence in this continent is a historical distillation, partly desire of being whole but also projection or fiction which we share with the rest of the world. As I made my way from outside to inside, I think of what this continent, it people mean to the outsiders? What it have contributed to world? There is no argument with the historical facts, that is clear enough. It is still a continent of untapped natural resources and possibly a space of infinite possibility.

In general, I just remembered the stories I was told in Latin America, the understand of North America and fast growing knowledge of Europe to replace the older one. Still the continent is just partly known to outsiders. But how much to it natives?. And Africans I meet; artists, football players, street hawkers in Spain. Well, it all thoughts and observation from the saddle of bicycle.

The Benin immigration with no mercy fined me $105 excluding the visa. Because of their overnight changers and luck of recourses they are overwhelmed with numbers of visa demand. I have to wait for 2 days for my visa before start what seem to be tedious process for Nigeria visa.

20140220-155407.jpgThe most notable thing in cycling in Togo and Benin is the colorful dress. It is common to see multi color in Africa but I think Togolese and Beninois are most colorful dressed African I have seen so far.

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I saw off my friend who already have got his visa for Nigeria. In this fare well is when the reality of cycling in Nigeria reveal. ‘I’m real going to cycle to Lagos?’ he asked. Beninies can’t understand why would someone go to Nigeria just live apart cycling to Nigeria. My friend Russlan from Ukraine he have been unrest since the change of the protester in his native country changed. He decide that he will fly from Lagos to back home and joined the movements.

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Ivory Coast to Ghana …and Tanzania elephant crisis…

Malaria slowly left the body though in fatigue but was glad to be out of that horrible fiver.

Ivory Coast is well linked with roads this make the cycling far ease compared to dust bumping roads. Around Man area it elevated region with hills and valleys. From lush green forest to palm fringe of the coast Ivory Coast land is fertile and well exploited. The palm plantations crown the hills and roll as far as eyes can see. There is good numbers of pineapple plantations as well as bananas. . Cocoa was what made the economy of Côte d’Ivoire boom in the ’80. Went down with political crisis and now is come back. Cocoa and fertile land have not only brought hay days in Ivory Coast but also lamenting ones. This have encourage long time regional immigrations from countries such us Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, etc. The immigration took political turn cause instability in Ivory Coast what also become regional crisis overlapping as the tribes inter-related beyond the political boundaries. In this forest is where the Liberia rebels start and spread the wind all the way to Sierra Leone.

Cycling in this region, in this remote and dance forest. I understand how any guerrilla war might take decades.

The other cost Ivorians are paying is environmental degradation, one of the rain forest in the north with almost 100 years old tress was and is still taken down for the need of small scale cocoa plantation.

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It is like Ivory Coast was about to follow the suit of East Asia courtiers to use its land for production such as palm oil to bust it domestic product. The evidence of this can be seen in the development of infrastructure and particular in the city of Abidjan. But seem like political crisis mad it miss the turn, there is still efforts to catch up.

Ghana…

20140214-125640.jpgTwo days of cycling on the relatively flat coast and low land of Ivory Coast I arrived in Ghana. Among the first African country to part with British empire and join the Pan-Africanism dream rising from the hills of Ethiopia, championed by it last emperor Haile Selassie. Lead by it legendary Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana went on even to adopt the rainbow colors of red, green and golden but instead of Jewish star it set it own ‘Black Star’. The early success of Ghana set inspiration for many other African countries which soon after couple of decades dream of self ruling become true and then back the dreams land; like the one of Congo DR. Well, history with it weight seem to be treasured here and against all odds Ghana is still striving to show example for other African states.

Upon arrived in the Ghanian boarder I was assisted with immigration offices, immaculate dress and well speaking. This was surprise for me, this kind of fuss sometime happen where there is some foreigners and tourism but not in the middle of forest. It first boarder since I cross from Spain where official give some deamn for their work to assist and be responsible without ask for money. In general, I found out later the system here is trying hard to catch up with 21st speed. It went on to produce people such as Kofi Annan, and lot of other self driven Ghanians I meet.

The four days cycling to Accra have been battling with mid day heat and humidity, some times with broken roads where Chinese are busy making new ones. Even though I wanted to take it ease as I’m recover from Malaria, I find myself doing 100+km per day. At last I find out I am not strong as the body assume. The last two days to before Accra were of such exhaustion. But in the expensive towns overpriced with mining (oil and gas mining) workers, the option was better to move on.

Despite the effort of Ghana trying with good governance is still trapped in the extreme poverty. In the villages I slept most houses has no toilets, the public one is out order, over used and still in use. The laboratory for disease to people who have no running water. In the small urban which are floated with young immigrants, few skilled while more are not. Food is bit high, in several occasion I had to wonder lot in litters and dust towns of shakers to find food. When I find ponded cassava served with source of smoked fish, the hygiene on preparation and serving doesn’t arose uptight. Good food in Accra which is partly fast food is $4- $6. May be the gap is wide here or the plan to alleviate the situation of majority is too ambitious and doesn’t catch up with population growth speed.

In general Ghanaians are friendly, kind and welcoming. It ease to mingle with people here, always there is good answer even for dumb question. When I ask for direction folks with give such a efforts to show directs or ask others to make sure I’m assisted. It was so difficult to find cheap in the city hotel. After wonder for hours some dude the decide to take their motor bikes and lead me around. Cheep hotel/guest houses are for few hours.

Planned to sort Nigerian visa here in Accra but turn down because I don’t permanent residence permit but advised to apply in the last country before Nigeria. In this case is Benin, seem like will be sort of show. Mean while it was such a pleasure to catch up with two friends come here for conference; Howard and Ragnvald. Thank you guys for the treat!

…and the Tanzania elephant crisis…

Though some thinkers stressed the possibilities of natural limitations, explained about the need to conserve natural resource and develop sustainably as early as the time of industrial development in the north. Till this day it have been hard for us to understand what this mean or bothering to do much. The history of nature and wild life conservation is very young. In the 1870s the yellow stone national park among earliest national park was founded, the wind took African rich biodiversity in the 1950s. The pioneer of these efforts ofcourse they were hunters who realize the diminishing of the creatures they knew nothing about more than how they died when shorted.

Yes, it is not long since we knew that there is NO human race is less human. Still we haven’t full abolish that mentality neither forget the price paid for this kind of changers.

In the 1980s Tanzania was home of second biggest number of elephant. Today is epicenter of massacre and trafficking. It said that Tanzania is loosing 30 elephant per day, nearly 11,000 per year! The elephants which numbered 70,000 five years ago to day they are scarcely 13,000. That to say about elephant what about dwindling number of poor Rhino.

The great explanation of crisis is poverty and wealth. Again it said 350 millions of Chinese middle class consume 70% of poaching ivory not to say about other endanger wild animals.

Chinese are not to take all the blames, there lot of cultures to change even in Africa. There is wide practiced spot hunting though this is done with only those who are well off and very rich. It said that the royal British guards need 1 black bear for the each hat they were, they have to replace these hats almost every year. How may black bears ? Britain is hosting giant wild life protection conference with about 50 heads of state. Some of my friends wondered what will Tanzania president will say due to his failure to protect elephants which hit critical point during his ruling. Now you can figure out. In Tanzania the poaching hit the deep roots of corruption, the trade is such profitable and lucrative that it swallowed every one. Now it in politics and life threatening venture.

20140214-125752.jpgTo day we know and understand the complexity behave of these wild animals especial elephants. I believe that like all creature of nature, they have no less right to life than us. They are vital to the ecosystem which support our life.

Although this situation is controversial and complex as it may seem but I think we have been in the more hard one than this; stoping slavery, racial prejudice, etc I believe it possible to save the wild life. We need massive participation and campaigns, more effective ones, more than those one in the conference rooms. Asia need more awareness and long term education, our royalties have to stop hypocrisy and take honest position to save the wild animals. We need to make sport hunting a barbaric act. The success and survive of these wild animal is in the hand of each one of us, we need to act according to out position and ability.

I have talked about my affiliation with wild animals and nature where I was luckily born amongst. It is my drive to take this cycling challenge. It hard and bitter to understand the interconnection of problem and see what happen but still it doesn’t take away the hopes.

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Asante Tigo Tanzania

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As I was writing the Chile to Kili project with great assistance from Jessica Mc Manus she was skeptic about my ambitious dream. I remained confident that everyone will be accepting of what I am talking about because it is obvious; We are the ones who are destroying our environment so it is our obligation to reconstruct and conserve our home land. On the other hand there is great need for education, with me as an example. I think we as human’s who share the world as a home we can assist each other to reach a certain level of quality and mutuality.
Due to different circumstances we emerged from history, in this case some fall short of motivation and inspiration. Along the way we end up losing certain qualities; Self-worth, Courage, etc.
I learned about these things mostly during my personal journey, in life; personal realization and confronting daily obstacles and challenges. I found out I wasn’t alone. Alas I am not alone! There are millions like me.
So this was the case, a case worthy not to think twice of, to cycle the world, confronting the unknown; mountains and its unconquered characters. Lush green forests with it rivers and untold life threatening parasites. Deserts with its immense stomach ready to swallow all those souls who venture to test her impassion.
Most thought that I was insane, and I was unable to argue with them. My bicycle and I were ready to start what I called a project. With my ticket to South America and a little stripe of money to start the journey that was made possible form $1 donations, soon I was joined by friends who had the spirit for adventure.
My enthusiasm fluctuated when I failed to convince people, companies, and institution’s to contribute to my cause. I’m glad that my spirit remained intact; I was motivated enough with those few and the skeptics who supported my idea and me. This fired another personal quest; what is wrong with humans? Is it so hard to work collectively to find solutions to distance problems? What if there were mass deaths? Due to hunger combined with malaria and AIDS and children mortality.
At one point I was told that my cause is like an elephant, it is too bulky to eat. So we need time, right?
In short, to raise $ 100,000 remains a solemnly challenge. I remember half way through this journey when things turned more darker; I was left alone and advised to abandon the mission. Little resistance brought new supporters with fresh energy.
Today, I’m energized with the news that Tigo Tanzania, a Telecommunication company donated $10,000 to the Chile to Kili project. Over the 2 years of this project the biggest donation had been $1 000. For a company operating in a developing country like Tanzania where there are so many urgent needs like education, environment conservation, and inspiration for the young people. I imagine it was a difficult choice they had to make. For me this is clear sign that, it is not only possible to raise the remaining $80,000 but is possible to achieve the required level of education, and solve the environmental challenges we have while improving the life of people who live within and keep on developing sustainably.
I would like to thank and appreciate the company management and Tigo Tanzania. Your support on this social cause will help the initiative to reach its intended goal but also set an example. I hope this will be a message to other companies. I would also like to thank the individuals who put their personal efforts and resources to make this donation possible. A Special thanks to Annabel Ross, you have been the change!

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Monrovia to Abidjan and the days of worse Malaria

The road leading inland Liberia is is smooth tarmac but quite old enough to tell the story of one successful place. The city limit is at the slum known as ‘red light’. Here rural arrivers either come to find work or refugee they set up their own shelters. At the stretch of about 1km is market place, no one is paying a hid to anything or anyone, this cause terrible congestion, noise, pollution, etc.

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The road climb into green hills, half way the climb the grey cloud brook and let strong shower, it fall so quick that it was still frozen. As I kept on pedaling celebrating this rere moment I could see the small ice cubes melting so quick when they hit backed soil. In the top of the hills is long stretch of biggest rubble plantation in the world, fist contract date 1926 Firestone rent over 1 million acres for 99 years with payment of 6 cents per acres. 2005 new contract, 35 years for 50 cents per acres.

This part of the country was more effected with war, there a plenty of ruin houses. In villages we camped, we were confronted with the same stories of horror and haunting memory of war for the adult, at certain point I start changing subjects when it was going into that direction.

Further north the road get worse, chases breaking pot holes with only a mark that there were tarmac once. Chinese are busy reconstructing new road.

At Ganta were we arrived at lunch time, we find Lebanese restaurant with air condition. It was like entering another planet, this comfort was expensive. Plate of rice and chicken $8 (USD) where outside same dish probably not well spiced is that $2. We stuck in the restaurant and neither well not muscles will allow us to cycle out of the village, we needed a break. I was the same next day so I let Matias continue, it was a sign of Malaria as I come to learn later. I caught up with Matias next day.

The road to the Ivory Coast boarder is dust road, thanks it just upgraded recently from footpath to gravel road unless other wise the distance of 100km even with bike would take about 3 days. It just deep valleys leading down from Nimba Mountains.

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At Liberia border I spend more time than wanted, chatting with immigration officials who are looking to establish friends, drunk one who wanted to show their knowledge of the world and those one who wanted to show how power full their. At the other side of the bridge Ivory Coast boarded post it was smooth crossing, just stump and go!

I find Matias out side small village guest house, we spent the nigh in the small rooms which turn to be ovens and mosquitos holes.

Trapped into vicious cycle…
It was love morning awaken with thousands callings of forest birds, the close canopy forest was covered with thick morning mist. I pedal slowly try to watch for familia birds, there were couple of them. The road goes through deep forest of chanting and distance noise of people, the weather is still good but soon it will be unbearable hot. There good number of people matching to both directions, with machetes on their hands, woman with bundle of firewood in the head and baby on their back, some carry huge yams, some sort of dead animal. As other part of West Africa most of activities here are to find food. The road goes though the villages the same like those one I have seen in Guinea, Sierra Leone, etc. No one will tell me again that this people are poor because their are lazy.

There are deforestation and damage on water shade, with place where there is no meet protein is so valuable that no one dare to skin the animals scaring to loose the precious food. In this case most of wild animals are just good meet as one enjoy goat or ship other pace else.

Recently West Africa made me think about the philosophy of conservation, I come to conclusion that the recent one we have it can hardly work in the place where a life of human is on such a stake like here even if they will die tomorrow because of their distraction. In the more observations it is like the extreme poverty here it is the cycle with interaction to may other aspects; instability, environmental degradation, health, education, etc. In what I have seen I can’t see any way out without well design sustainable and combined efforts to alleviate this situation.

I have seen some project here which give evidence and hope that there is possibility. The EU projects on Education, Food production, and Health. The challenge is, they are in small scale and I’m not sure about their sustainability. Liberia has many 4X4 of United State Agency International for Development (USAID), there are plenty of sign boards and headline in he news. This made me think it is true that there were lot of funds coming in poor country but now with just little research on the subject it seem it is like sort of game.

It said that in the year 2002 USAID for Sub-Sharian was $3 per person. Taking out U.S consultation, food and other emergency aid, administration cost and debt relief. The aid per African is total of 6 cents.
No matter how wrong or accurate the date may be for me putting together what I know; the wealth of the wealth and poor of poor. I’m less convinced that we can not reduction or eradicate of extreme poverty which is not only the treat to our environment but also the global welfare. It total incomparable how may have been spent of fighting terror and how may on fighting poverty.

The Malaria days….
I have enjoyed a childhood life with no much suffering of dangerous and scaring malaria because of growing up in the highlands. Apart of the Amazonia malaria which bust out in U.S which wasn’t bad compare to the one I have now because I remember I was able to be in the television talk while I was sick.

Since Monrovia I start notice some minor changes in my body but I though that was due to difficult roads and weather. My thermal rest (mattress) start making huge babbles which make it impossible to blew. So the day I start feeling the pain in the back born, shoulders and neck I thought is because of sleeping on the ground. The next thing was chill cold come from the spine cord and made my body shiver, before I put it together I got acute headache. Laying in the tent I felt like the world was coming to the end, I straggle to put on cloths, I couldn’t think clear what should I do. For the whole night temperature went up and high so was to remove layers and put them back. The dominant thoughs was about death. It fun because I rarely think about death and now the thoughs were resisting to leave me.

The next morning the fiver decrease and the only wish was to remain in laying dawn. But I had to find out how may pills of malaron I should take. I’m not used with medications and with my numbed brain i though I will die if I over dose. So I took a walk to the village dispensary, 3 hours of walk. I don’t how I did it but thank to village guide who loudly keep on telling me stories which I don’t remember. He was always saying we were there.

The dispensary was partly supported with EU, is saving several villages. It is not best place to be especial when one has though of dying. Local make jokes with hospital here, they say is the place when you go inn you don’t come out alive. The nurse find my French accent interesting but she had no clue how may tablet I should take, she advice to take one after 12hrs. But because I was too sick I encourage myself to take 2 tablet.

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The village food didn’t encourage up tight; boiled cassava and boiled meet with skin which still has some hair. I decide to take the taxi to the town, the mini bus or taxi took whole day with several changing on the way. At one point we had to go back to the village because of the threat from armed robbers. The dark fall while I was in the road, it was like malaria ghost has come back. With no layers I shiver for hour.

At Yamoussukro I rush to find hotel, i needed worm place and something to eat. Wondering around I was feeling so bad that I was waiting for the time to faint. I find hotel but I had no enough CFA (local currency) and they will not accept dollars. I handle in my passport, ipad and my USD. The night was like the night in the tent. Now with internet access i got advice for malarons, thank you so much to those who send me advices and wishers in Facebook. All were useful and part of quick recovery. After two days the fiver calm down but the more safe place to be was Abidjan. I’m now in Abidjan, thank you Daniel with your family for amazing help.

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