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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Your Donation and Support

20140120-213938.jpgAs we celebrate the life, achievements, and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It remind us we still have to raised awareness of conservation of our environment and need for sustainable development. This could be achieved by investing on education hence better knowledge, quality life, technologies, polices, etc. You support to our initiative will lead to better future that could be built from positive change.

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Freetown to Monrovia

History is history but I think it can answer some questions and can also determine one’s direction. Sierra Lone and Liberia finish 20th and start 21st century with down side of human; war and brutality. But also emerge with new optimism and hope most notable; First elected female president in Africa. Ellen Johnson Sieleaf.

20140119-170104.jpgAs I cycle to Freetown I was curious to see the remnants of decade long civil war, many have fade away with time and the city is booming. Traffic congestion and over crowded small part of peninsula, lack of roads, running water, electricity, etc. Partly explain that while others were moving forward someone here was moving backward. This will be more vivid in Liberia, electric polls, roads and others showed that once there were infrastructures here.

20140119-170215.jpgOne of the account which bring the stories of what other called ”Senseless War” and it madness close to our imagination is from a former child soldier; Ishmael Beah ‘a long way gone’. In this memoir book Ishmael tell the story from the time when his was just a boy in the village of Mattru Jong (which I had chance to pass through), the time things where normal to the time when he will lose his family and forced to become frontline soldier while he was still 13 years old.

Stories still exist in the rural areas I cycle through, I chart with formal child soldiers who are now in the late 20s, old folks, etc. The most effected were venerable rural areas and poor, the victims were uniformed youth, children and woman. War took long time and the madness reach the peak because partly was fueled with drugs, it was hard to tell from soldiers and rebels as most turned into groups of looters and reapers.

Sierra Leone is beautiful country of many rivers, white sand beach, mountains and forest. This natural beauty added with indomitable spirit of it people. Majority of Sierra Leones are kind, friendly and welcoming just like they have never see or experience other side of human character.

It one of the former British colon which I find to preserve well the link. The name of places are like; Water Loo, Kent, York, Liecester, New England, etc.

20140119-170426.jpgThe answers are often ‘Yes Sir’, ‘No Sir’. And most asked question; What is you mission in Sierra Leone Sir?

I was fascinated with their Krio language; broken English with drop of French words and African languages. ‘How de bodi ?, De bodi is fine…!’ that is the greeting goes.

20140119-170308.jpgThank to my host friend and family, Paul Lamin for trying to teach me without much success.

Most of the things are in the bottom rug of moving up, many young people are in the streets with luck of education and essential skills they still have hard time to make their way into economy with limit opportunities.
I was luck to present to young professionals of Environmental Protection Agency, their questions demonstrate the commitment and enthusiasm. One of the thing I will remember this agency is a treatment of proper meal. I can’t think of other country with such simple food which could also be descried as luck of food and passion to prepare it. Most of the meals are boiled rice, cassava sometime mixed with sweet potatoes and plantain. This is saved with ponded cassava leaves or potatoes leaves with piece of fish, plenty of palm oil and hot paper.

….in the jungle…
Out of Freetown I team up with Matias, Danish dude bound to South Africa. After 50km along the coast we were to see if we could hitch the boat to the other side across the bay or make couple of hundred kilometer detour to the town of Bo then down to Liberia.

20140119-165843.jpgWe arrived at the conspicuous port due to the crowd of people and shakers settlements around. Before we though twice about the ideal we shuffled into open wood boat, I was bit hesitant but Mat’s bike was already on board. All the pushing and jostling was like the boat will leave next minutes. Before I remove my shoes so I could walk the depth of almost chest size to reach the boat, a muscles dude offer to lift me up on his shoulder. I though it was kind of joke but the man was serious, of course it is not a free service. It fun looking at him lifting up huge mama.

Arrived at the boat I was shocked with the number of people and cargo. This shock remain with me for the entire 2 hours and half trip which seem to be like two year of my journey. It took about 3 hours of shouting, jostling and engineering to switch on the small yamaha engine. We venture into immense ocean, I didn’t had courage to watch and enjoy the white sand beaches decorated with tall palms and green mountains on the back ground with dotes of colorful villagers. Roughly there were more than 60 people with cargo on the boat, the wooden fleet was so deep one could touch the water. I sat down barry on my book avoiding to look around the blue ocean scared that I might spot the wave like those I have seen in the other coast which could easily cover all of us.

The boat could only make it to 15km/h, it greet luck that the ocean was calm that day. I was so reveled when I saw land but my jubilation was when I set a feet on it and regain my sense of confident.

Chiefs…
At Shenge village we were taken to paramount chief, we were instructed to sit on thatch shelter join with other old mans. I was surprised when old lady emerge from the house we were asked to stand up. For the first time I met female chief. She didn’t bother us much, guess she didn’t had much energy. She offer us banana and instruct that we shown place to camp. If were not lot of formality and old man hang around I wished to have more personal chart with ”her majesty” How did you become a chief? How is to be a chief in this culture where woman not only can not enjoy the same privilege but still has long way to change their mentality to realize the equality.

This will be the same formality for every village in Sierra Leone as foreigner we had to report to chief especial when wanted to spend night in the village. Sierra Leone still maintain chiefdom, it said that chiefs are elected but it can be for life time as it mix of tradition and modern democracy. Most of the chiefs they were very nice to use. I find it interest to talk with them, all of those I met got good education, some have lived in America, some saved a good position in the government and now a chief position seem to be retirement. It seem that there is big gap between their people who are majority illiterate living in the isolated villages in the forest, ocean or river side. Most didn’t suffer with these villagers especial in the time of war. The swagger, respect and fair to these leaders I think it can hinder democracy.

20140119-170954.jpgThe road to Liberian border was quite challenge, there are plenty of roads as there isolated small villages. Most of them are like footpath with so many rivers and creeks. Moto cycle is only fast link. The think forest is rolling terrain. It hot and humid which suck water from the body.

20140119-170702.jpgIn the diamond mining area road get better but huge mining trucks constantly steer dust which cause temporary blindness.

In this road I develop worst saddle sour ever for last 2 years, when the blisters bust contracted with sweat I couldn’t seat neither walk. It was quite painful to try to pedal because there were few options.

Tommy George…

20140119-170859.jpgAt one evening in the village of Maselelo contemplating of place to sleep, Mat was feeling the bottles while I was waiting in the edge of the village. I engaged in the conversation with a young boy was standing there watch the river, I asked him about direction and distance. He spoke very clear with good English which is not common in these remote villages. I went on to ask him where he study. I come to find out that the boy who sound quite intelligent was in secondary school but following the death of his father last year he was now out of school unable to finish two years to high school. He is living with his grand mother. Knowing the harshness of this place, I felt the weight of this boy life. What are hopes and chances for this young man in this remote village ? Look around his grand mother thatch house and small field of cassava and ground nuts. The distance from the last village and the distance to next village with rivers to cross, she can not make much profit if luckily she can sell some harvest.

Tommy, 13 years old. His annual school fees is 200, 000 (leones) US $ 46, this is lot of money for people who are leaving under $1 per day. I decide that I will give the boy my food money.Thanks to Mat who decide to share and contribute for 100,000 (leones). This make use run out of cash in the last villages but glad to see the Tommy back to school. Hope I will hear back from him sometime or my friends of in Freetown can help out.

Liberia….

20140119-171221.jpgEven though I was too tired and with additional pain of saddle sour, I find it surprising and fascinating as we arrive at Liberia boarder. It was like arriving int the lost state of America not only because of flag but the immigration police uniform, military and most notable; the language. Till right now I have had time to understand Liberia English, it is half way american accent spiced with jamaican slang.

Who said this country never colonialized? It was America colon with Ameico-Liberia through American Colonization Society from 1820. Indigenous become citizen 1904, possibly that what make it second oldest modern African state after Ethiopia.

A day cycling from the border (137km) through new villages and few war ruins, tarmac road brought us to Monrovia. Arriving in Monrovia a small city/town but dense populated, It was like entering into Hollywood live scene. Broken buildings, houses with tall walls and barber wire on top, military barracks, slum duelers, lot of UN vehicle racing around, etc. All this at small space.

We were luck to find home in the middle of what is said to be among of expensive African cities, they say this is due to lot of aid workers, huge number of UN staffs, mining companies, etc. Thank you so much Kate and Ivan for the help and share your diversity experience from the farms in South Africa to all the way up here.

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End of Sengal-Guinea-Bissau and Guinea-Conakry

Finishing Senegal…

We exchange fare well with Agustin with his wonderful children and extended family who made my stay in Ziguinchor a memorable. The family security dog wouldn’t agree ease with this depart, he chased me for about 2km till he was fetched back with Augustin. I was introduced to Augustin with friends who run organization which support ecological projects; Ecofunds.

20140101-155742.jpgLike most Senegalese, Augustin is ambitious educated in Europe in business and Agro forest economy studies he come back to give back to his community, he set up several firms including travel agency which according to him become quite successful to the point of collaboration with airline company to manage direct flight from France and Dakar to Ziguenchor. His flight were always full put the government running flights into risk for those incidents he lost his business license, at the time I was in Ziguenchor the government was unable to provide flight for couple days. Ziguinchor, is separated from main Senegal landmass by narrow Gambia and Gambia river, this region was more exposed to christian missionaries and less to islamic therefore enjoyed the luxury of education.

I cycle out through the growing city, 15km I arrive at uncrowded border just peasants parking their big sacks of peanuts, I stump out Senegal at the immigration officer siting under the mango tree.

20140101-160117.jpg Senegal come to the end, my first Sub-Sahara country after the cycling in North, Western and North East Africa. It goes with the excitement of seeng cycling in the black Africa but also it reviling harsh reality of this continent. The country have done far better in comparison with others in the region; with minimum resources, straggling democracy brought several reforms through governance which put the system into motion at least with stability. There are good progress and achievements in education field but has yet to copy up with speed of population growth, create suitable environment and jobs.

Guinea-Bissau…

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Arrived at the boarder post the man on football ti-shirt ask for my passport. Just to make sure who he was I ask if he is immigration officers. The colorful man found me ridiculous, he told his fellows that ‘I think the house is disco!’. Well, I could imagine for him he couldn’t understand how come for his fellow black dude wonder who is who or ask direct question. The office was quite casual with atmosphere of celebration, everybody was running his own initiative from the road to the back of the counter. I was stamped after threatened to be returned to Senegal.

Later I found out Guineans particular these one the former Portuguese colon (or overseas province) fancy a lot with clothes and shoes. Although there is no a lot here, the busiest sport I saw in the markets is second hand clothes sections. Despite the fact that the country is stricken with extreme poverty, the sense of beaut and colors are still precisely. Girls just like Brazilians like to express themselves through dressing. I found out the dress code to be suggestive for the country which is not modern.

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I stop at Sant Domingo, camped at the village with German man who found his second home in the middle of thatch roofed and mad houses. I find it quite ironic consider my understand of German culture with their altruism character, well I can’t generalize!. I camp out for few two days,

20140101-160916.jpgexplore the market day which was tremendously colorful with some products which I have never seen

. Most of this product are of cause food products, about 80 % of daily activities here is to find and prepare food often one meal per day. These food products are all natural most grow themselves in the forest therefore I assume the price is determined by collecting time. Wondering in this market which isn’t very different from the one in the village I grew up, I thought to myself the wealth and and rich of poor man is his food and freedom, these are all natural food. In the developed countries these will be only for rich man.

20140101-161321.jpg Nature determine life here provide all the nutrient by seasons.

It is hot and humid I sat down and watch the market

20140101-160448.jpg, my mind wonder in different conners to put together the situation in front of me. I think this system could be fine 100 years ago or so, today we have grow into different sophistication. The village is growing or has been growing though the population in Guinea Bissau like most part of Africa is quite stretched out populate sparsely (Gunea-Bissau has about 2 millions people in the area of 36,125 km square). With no clean or running water, access to basic health care, function latrines, balanced diets, etc. In my though I find it to be a sot of misery and hard situation to be exposed on. My friends finished the shopping, anyways there is no much to buy; Neals bought new cup for bucket shower and bar soap. I walk away my head occupied with thoughts of what could be done to alleviate the situation. But why? ; a moral question or human responsibility?

It was already 11 am Neals was ready for a beer I guess that is good remedy to sustain life here but it could be to better for me.

I find my remedy to go through this is bicycle, my hunger and un-sastification transformed into physical pain as I pedal through the hills and valley under the sun, endurance and tolerance is secret, motivation and hopes are tranquilizer; combined at the end of the day bring internal calmness and it is 172km; I’m in the Capital, Bissau.

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Along the low laying woodland (main cash nuts trees) and rice valleys it chains of villages. Lot of smiling faces and enthusiastic children who most shout ‘Branco’ ‘white’ at the first sight bit older would call out ‘Pretu’ ‘Black’. More older enjoying their palm wine by the road side which boost their confidence would great out ‘Ami Kuma?’ the creaole language (How are you my friend?) About 40% of people in Guinea Bissau speaks creole which is formulate out of Portuguese. Instead of saying ‘ Coma estas? they will say ‘Kuma? and if they want to be more formal ‘Kuma esta?’ and that how it goes to form a language to link them across their several tribes with separate African languages. It said that is again about 14% can speak official language Portuguese while others speaks various African languages.

Human bond and practice of simple things like compassion is out of question here, out of urban areas folks are so generous and helpful, I find Guinea-Bissau to be very friendly and ease going people. People are very ease to know and liked, they carry certain fascination which attract me.

In the capital I was invited to camp at the home of tax driver, it is small slam not to populated. I pitch my tent on room which has no tenant it has no window like many others. Illegal connected electricity come around 8pm and there were about 4 times black out through out the night, it bit worthless. That is urban, huge part of country electricity is day light dream.

In the morning the compound was quite crowded with young folks of about 15 to 25 years, its canabis and liquor bar. I adjust into my new home and make friends, I was provided with bucket of water from the well in the compound

20140101-161606.jpg. For the toilet I would use bush toilet if there was near by bush, for the show I was too tall so I had to squat. Anyways in this part I find to have less shame or concern for the necked, in the rural areas folks bath in the streams woman wonder around bare chests.

20140101-161746.jpgI spend the day charting these idle young folks who couldn’t figure out what is the heck I’m doing. They are full of dreams and energy but there are less opportunities; creativity is so low and no much of inspiration or motivation. Most wish one day to wake up in America or Europe. It was incredible experience to live within these people I slow start to see what lay beneath the daily life here, there is lot of stress. Fights especial verbal fights for woman break out time to time, these is loud shouting to each without listen to one another. Woman carry more responsibilities, often single parents because they start have children at age of 15-18 they can hardly control their children. People are very curios in the slums, these fightings are big scene, it just like football, they took parts and cheers.

Football is big entertainment, music play a big roll in the daily life. Despite all the hardship this place was lively and full of life.

It was more tough to spend more time in this place with no sense of private or individual space. I met a group of young professionals from various West African countries, they were exited with the initiative. At one evening I give present to them, this is after they had couple of round of beers and wine, they all cigarette smokers, they smoke through out the presentation calmly chewing on peanuts and drinking. At the end one of them a Senegalise, Sele who speaks less than all offered to put me in the cheap hotel in town.

I got Guinea-Conakry visa with no lot of paper work for 30,000 CFA. I ride out of the city, the road from the ocean wonder inland. Guinea Bissau is well linked with roads. The villagers seem to be more remote every single day, disconnected from the modern world. Along side the roads there are good numbers of wells which seem to together with fancy mosques beside thatch roof and mad houses. Most bear the sigh from whoever donate them, Kuwait has more mosques and wells, EU, USAID and MDG (Millennia Development Goals) has more schools, health care (some of them abandoned, in one village I was invited with village health worker who work at his mad house.

20140101-162444.jpgI ask why they abandoned the nice breaks house. He said he is only one left at the village, there is no money to run the clinic which still bare the rusting sight of donor.) There are so many donors vehicles, signs, etc. Of course there is improvement but thinking of their resources, funds, technologies for whatever the time they have been here (MDGs was sign 2002) but still for 2 millions people the system is yet to work! I wonder what will be of another 11 years to eradicate extreme poverty if there is running down now. If we are not making business out of it then we should re-thing the strategies.

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On the second day which was x-mass day there was no real sign of celebration out here, it was till the evening when I come across military barrie at Ganamberi village on my way searching for Cantanhez National Park. The solders seemed to be happy the senior who introduces himself as ‘Comondante’ he wasn’t just tips but quite buzzed. He said that I should stamp excite before I continue because that was border post, argument with his colleagues break out. Apparently there was no respect for ‘comondante’, anyways I will still be in Guinea Bissau. Comandante win he said we’ll have to find the immigration officer. That was mission, I wonder into village houses with him after refusing to give him my passport. On the way we become friends, he tell me the stories of his proudly military work, children who he doesn’t know the number exactly or where they are. We stop a lot for greetings which is quite important here In one instance we stop at the house he introduce me as tourist. This was christian family though majority are muslims include comandante there is no great distinctions they all practice their local believes which are more stronger. Five littles of palm wine was brought out and served I sip and rotate the jug. I do not real like the palm wine, in most cases it is 0% hygiene because the make are ofter drunk. I kept on not to offends my new friends whose by no with alcohol they were more excited and the leave of intimacy was high. They learned my dislike of palm wine. I was given a special drink made for x-mass; it mix of condensed milk, cash-nuts and local liquor, the closest comparison is Amarula, it definite changed things!

As I was told the stories of village, what I should do and I shouldn’t the food was borough hug plate of rice (I have ate so much rice in west Africa than I have eat in my life time). I think they drunk 10 liters of palm wine before we continue. Immigration office, an old man sit in front of his big compound he order his bag. The old bag contain ink and stamp, he stump my passport and sign I could remind inside the country or leave. It was dark by now but comandante is trying to lead me to the park but he was too drunk which he would never accept. I proposed to camp at the barrie instead. Seat around campfire I listen the story of drunk solders. Guinea-Bissau since it independent (1970’s) have never had a democratic elected president who save office for full time, it is a military play ground country. The last president he was assassinated because he try to disarm the army. Recent arm business is cocaine trafficking, facilitate shipment from Latin America to Europe with stop over in the Guinea-Bissau Islands.

The direction I was given in the morning didn’t bring me to the park but instead to the few mad houses with bitten up flag which is slight different from Guinea-Bissau, I was in Guinea-Conakry.

Guinea Conakry….
In this village/post there is another ‘comandante’, his voice and face tells the years of drinking and smoking. Apart of his worn out military uniforms he has no any recognizable military swagger, I though this is his retirement post. He was gentle and friendly, he had a look on my passport and said I can continue but will have to find my way to whatever I go. He gave me a bottle of mineral water.

There were single part wondering into woods, I stick on the man path, it pass through solitary villages, crossing many streams and rivers with no bridges. This means unloading the bike or sometimes walk into stream if it is not too deep. Other places bear chests woman washing in the river would help me to lift the bike most are real strong and muscle.

This part linked two countries is wild ‘a wild Africa’ with no much wild animals. It tall trees forest. The cultural is quite intact, I couldn’t see the cars just motorcycle, people, young to old board these motorbikes bump and dusty for 100km to get to the town. The main link to the modern world is radios, partly news and the rest is music.

In Guinea-Conakry people are linked with French in the rural areas most will be able to help someone out with basic words while most are fluent in urban areas. I spend the night at Debis village done only 60km cycle 40km and walk the rest. Camp at compound of one extended family, the old man of the family lead me to the stream to shower with other bunch of man coming back from the farms. I hang out with the young lister to their stories and dreams. Most (boys) would be married with their father soon, on 18-22 years old their likely to be married to 14-16 years old girls. When I ask them how many children they wold have, they say as much as god will give them. When I ask for more precise answers the estimation is from 6 +, and how they will sustain them ? That is god’s willing. Girls would say they want to be married when they are 25 yrs above but there is nothing to do in the village and it is too hard to refuse their father’s decisions. They also prefer less children (4-). In Both Guinea I saw many young girls with children on their backs.

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In that night there was accident, the thatch roof caught fire and the entire mad house burnt down. Though people have less here it was big loss, there was cries and moaning.

20140101-163249.jpgAt Boke town the dust and bumping come to the end, the road is paved but now with all the dust I have running noise and dry throat. The drivers here know two important things; accelerate and honking. No mater how I try to stay calm the honking drive me crazy especial when I’m climbing and the shoulder is occupied by grains or cloths and no where to go.

Boke to Conakry it is rolling hills of cool morning and 32 celsius hot and humid afternoons. In Guinea Conakry with about 10 millions people of what could be among the wealth country in West Africa due to it potentials and natural resources, the system is working bit better compared to other Guinea. In both countries, the rural folks with their small towns are quite gentle and friendly. This is among of remain Africa of imagination in teams of people and culture.

Twenty Fourteen…
In the hectic and busy suburb of Conakry were majority conduct their rural life though they live in urban with slightly likeness of other modern urban areas. I watched very minimum celebration of the turning of the year. Thanks to Charles Ibsen (2011 TDA ride) for providing comfort of home. The news from Sierra Lione embassy is that the consulate is on the leave for unknown time.

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Senegal and Gambia

Seneguli

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Senegal, some claim the name meant ‘the pirogue’ but not clear from which language is driven. In any case Senegalese can be associate with water and boats, with long coast of Atlantic and many deltas even those who came from main land learn and master water quick. It is hardly to pass two days without having meal with no fish. Fishing industry employ may people but also these huge pirogue become the means to find new opportunities across the ocean when fish become scarcity. Stop at one fishing neighborhood as I cycle through Dakar, I chart with folks, mostly about my curiosity of these young people throwing their life into ocean for one hope of better life in the other shower. Surprisingly people didn’t seem to find it a big deal at all. I was told that it is only option for may as there is no more opportunity here. The elders and religious leaders would conduct prayers and offer blessing as the young mens set off on open fleet to immense ocean. Now it is business whereby people own sever fleets and charge hug sum of money.

Farewell, cycling days for Mandela…

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On 6th the day I had to cycle out of Dakar before I left my comfortable bed (Thanks to Nathalie and Helene for such amazing help). My new cell phone a donation by Tigo Tanzania beep indicated new message. In that morning I had several messages from friends announcing the depart of Mandela. I was shocked with news though wasn’t surprise, I’m not happy either sad because I think it was near his time to depart. I have write about Mandela in the previous blogs as the roll he played to me as an inspiration since I was a boy in the village. May have been said but I think even himself he would prefer actions.

As I was cycling in Senegal for two days with national flags half a poll as tribute to Mandela, I ponder the roll of this individual to may Africans. Though Senegal is far even with boundary of language didn’t seem to stop the legend of this man. And for the farewell I told myself I will cycle for Mandela in these days.

I cycle out of Dakar though traffic congested and extreme polluted urban Dakar. Along side the chains of villages the end of hot day brought me at another urban of M’bour. Watch sun down at Atlantic coast and enthusiastic football players. Very notable Senegal evening activity is football/soccer playing, young till mid ages have unbeatable spirits of footballing. Ball is played everywhere, in the dust, sand or tarmac or concrete fields. At schools seem like they play anytime wherever opportunity present itself. Boys and even girls dress sportily often with jersey bearing names of famous players, Mess is common one. Also in Senegal is where I see people with personal motivation for physical exercise; running, push-ups, weight lifting (reciling is popular here) and last but not on the list is walking.

Next day after breakfast of omelet sandwich with condensed milk by roadside, my common Senegal breakfast and sometime lunch I pedal gently climb from the ocean to mainland. On the busy road leading to Mali with no shoulder fifty kilometer of head wind end at Fatik where I turn right toward the Soloum delta. Sharing the road with horse, donkey and bull chariots and running children I arrived at ferry cross to Foundiougne. The ferry was broken so was replaced with emergence military floatia supported by two boots on the side. In every cross the engines needed some repair which took a while, solder wonder around and mingle, seemed to enjoy the social life. Waiting for about three hours watching this show I decide to choose pirogue instead. Five minutes the pirogue drop me on the other side, I managed to find accommodation at lovey Baobab camping site.

If I had education…
In the evening I had a chart with Amadu (31), a father of three children. Amadu came to talk with me when he saw me reading a book, he told me he couldn’t go to normal school because his father send him to learn Quran. He spend his childhood and pre-adult in this school which are established by religious leaders who are known as ‘Marabour’. The payment for school is for children to wonder around begging for thing; food is common but money is preferable. Amadu left to look for a opportunities to support his family while other remain to be servants. Though he is ambitious he end up working as gardener because lot of opportunities require certain training.

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I have seen so many children in the streets with a port begging. It quite disturbing situation to see these young people who are not receive adequate education to confront their environment. Mean while the religion situation of Senegal is quite complex, the muslims which is main religion here are most belong to certain establishment of local leaders. I often see pictures of these leaders in the car,houses,neckless, etc. Some of these leaders become rich and powerful with great numbers of followers in this case they also have huge influence in politics. It seem like there is mix of African animalistic with Islamic here, most of people were a charm or put several of them in their door, business places, in the vehicles, etc . These charms are blessed by religious leader. There lot of belief in bad spirits (vudoo), people associate decease their have with vudoo.

The funniest thing is seeing heavy loaded military caravan who are common in Casance region with big charm in the their cars. Machine guns, lunchers, etc can’t go beyond big charm, which I assume cost more!

Corruptioniess…

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From Foundiougne I pedal the bumping and dust twenty five kilometers before join half tarmac, half pot holes and and half sand road to Toubacouta village. I spend night here with young Senegalise and French who work for Oceania, the NGO which doing amazing work of mangrove habitat restoration. We discus deeply the challenge of conservation and need of sustainable development. Walking back from almost clandestine bar, under the clear lighted sky with moon and stars after big bottles of Gazeli beer (63 mil miter!) we agreed that there is huge need of green evolution whereby the new economy will be ‘Green Economy’ which will possibly encompass all social classes.

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In the next morning I rod to Kerang border post, after smooth exit in Senegal, I was received with arrogant custom offices at Gambia side. Despite the fact that there bunch of them hanging around they wanted me to unpack my bike and bring all bags inside just to be told ‘OK pack up, No problem’. This is for us who appeared to be ‘shoes string budget travelers’ and peasants for those with car and looks like they can give something officers give them personal service.

There were no one answer for Gambia visa for Tanzania, embassy at Dakar said I need visa. I call the border post where visa is cheaper than at consulate and they said no problem. But at arrive seem like no one has clue, after passing the passport around to several officers . I was told that I need clearance latter signed by Gambia president. What a privilege? but at the other hand means this is mission impossible and if possible the price will be high in terms of money or waiting days and communication. The options was go back to Dakar and took boat to southern Senegal or detour 200km and try free transit of about 20km across Gambia to Senegal. I gambler with transit I worn marginal after defeat the attempt of getting 1000 CFA from me as payment for stump.

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This is the same thing happened in the entree to Senegal. I have seen corruption mostly in African countries but this one here in west Africa is almost normality. Officials often give quite suggestive service or reception, unusual enthusiasm or passiveness of law and orders claim ‘No problem’ which means you can pay me for facilitate this. In other cases they will make scenarios to buy time then people especial foreigners they have to pay for the time if need quick and fast. For the case of Gambia is like information is belong to single person who then will exploit this opportunity. It is likely that they got this position from relative or so.

I think corruption is like decease which haven’t named scientifically yet, consume individual sense of worthiness, character, proffesinalism, etc. Then it move to others, corrupted police and other officials appeared to be quite ill people corrupting from poor peasants and people who they were to assist.

This system kill everything, for Africa where personal act as individual who receive education is so important people with corruptioniss burry the last hope. Though I didn’t see much of Gambia but the stories and atmosphere of corruption from top bottom in the leadership reflect the progress of the country. As the continent Africa facing big challenge of eradication poverty and bring about quality life, corruption remain a deep mud which slowing down everything else.

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I made it to Ziguinchor now, the town of Casamance delta. Already sorted with Guinea Bissau visa which seat record as fastest visa in this trip, less that 10 minutes with requirement of photo and 20,000CFA. Enjoying home comfort from Augustin, a businessman and community development activist. Augustin, invite me at his village where he run a camping and small hotel in the beach (www.casamance-ecoparc.com)

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Nouakchott to Dakar

The boundary…
The capital of Islamic Republic of Mouritania, Nouakchott it is bourder between two distinctive Africa, these two Africa seem to exist with minimum tension but never the less go along. Established after independent, nothing of particular in this city apart of primitive system fighting again modern system; extreme poverty with middle class, bitten up donkeys with bitten up vehicles and few new and expensive one, Illiteracy with half way to or literacy. In the middle of this there is good numbers of international organizations, foreigners, embassies, etc who I assume do their best to deliver this community into bright future. At certain point I wonder if this country didn’t had natural resources on demand could probably left alone just like venus or mars.

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It is conservative and religious community, at least in front of each in certain things but behind the scene it normal humans with his lust, greed and beauty. In my arrive I wish to live the city as soon as possible but I end staying for 14 days, I find lot of fascinations solitude and simplicity. It remind me a good story of ‘100 years of solitude’.

On my lazy days in Nouakchott, I will sit in front of cafe in the evening watch busy bustling life. In one scene there were a white man enjoying his shisha pipe, looked quite relax feeling the circulation of the smoke. This enjoyment didn’t last few minutes before interruptions; hawkers enthusiastically they will demonstrate their merchandise, after several honest refusing effort with no success he turn to like the show. Cripple of different sort will pass by to demonstrate their physical disability but hardly took him out of his relaxation. Woman with young babies in their backs makes him deep on his pocket to give away his coins.

This is country which declare slavery to be illegal as recently as 1970’s but ironical there is lot of sense of freedom than can be imagined. Slavery is like cast though legal abolished some slaves accept to be slaves as life fate some took their freedom but can’t stop enjoying the link of family and security linked to the master family. Some masters are addicted to this exploitations, in several cases I will see folks drive in front of shop/store and honk and ask for their needs while sitting in their cars. I some cases the shopkeepers will leave me or with other customers to deliver service to the man on the vehicle. Police and military especial of arabs descendent will do the same as I pass by with bike, they will wave and call me to follow them under the tree shade. Being so tired under the burning sun I can’t find my sense of obedience neither respect to the authority some will let me go some will run to me charging like buffalo.Though most claim to enjoy the sense of freedom I think in this kind of system the price is paid with ranks, the low your the more you pay.

Spirit renewed…
I didn’t realize how the immense Sahara swallowed my spirit and energy until I was back on the saddle again. Cycle out of Nouakchott with the landscape coved by grasses and trees which kept grew dense as I pedal south, this gave me a feelings like I was startling once again with new energy. Father south I pedal along dense wetland of Senegal delta inside Dawdling National Park. This place is full of life, so many birds, time to time warthogs will run in front of me with their erected tails. I end up laughing watching these short fat creatures with wart running for a while before realize they can reach very far and decided to hit the bush. There are so many warthogs that I though it could be better to change the name of the park and call it ‘ warthog national park!’ That was my suggestion to park conservator MR. Zein who host me for the night at park’s headquoter.

There are few fishing villages, people show minimum curiosity to a man on the bike, when I shop for a chat they will address me formal because I speak French with them.

I cycle the long bridge across might Senegal River with child excitement of another achievement, it is the bridge to familia environment, it is bridge to the familia Africa. At the small border post of Diama, the office after check my passport instruct me to wait, when the queue finished he wanted me to pay 20 Euros. This irritated and unwelcome officer said it formality but the tone was betraying him. I took a time to explain to him that this visa took me a while to get and already cost me 50 Euros, there were no information that I have to pay extra to be registered into his books. He said for his authority he will no let me in the country, I can try to go through Rosso a 70 or 100km north west. I sense that this man is trying to use the remoteness to get money from me, i suggest making calling to the authority in Dakar. I call my friend who use this border ofter to ask if he has to pay for this fees, the answer was NO. I went back to officer agree to pay with receipt. He said no receipt, I can pay 10 Euros and leave peaceful. I told him that is impossible but I can agree with him that he refuse to let me in the country, he turn to be more hungry and throw me my ready stumped passport. No smile no welcome to Senegal!

20131201-203050.jpgI pedal 35km of humid through the nice no traffic tarmac road along villagers and acacia trees. Children waving enthusiastically, shouting ‘Cadeau, Cadeau!’ but break into big laugh when they can close pointing to my cycling short.

I arrive in the islands of Saint Louis go though it central market which is typical black Africa urban areas. I wonder a bit into the islands, cross it bridges which cross from suburbs to old town and then to fishing slums. I was told that there is no toilets in the clusters of slums, folks use baskets and pore the west into the charnels and ocean. The evening view from slams with it bustling fishing activities, colorful pirogues, children playing football, mosque calls and drum betting; leave this place so lively and unique total out of it misery.

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It is here in Saint Louis I lost my iphone, the tools which have been use for almost two years now for maps and other useful apps. The phone fall from my pocket in the lonely restaurant, I walk outside come back within two minutes the phone was gone. The waitress who remove the glass I was using claim never see me with phone though I was in this place for more that two hours and use it.

West Africa has got music…
A day of cycling from Saint Louis brought me to Kebemer, I turn right to Lompol village where there was music festival ‘Festival du Sahel’. I join other four friends and we board jeep truck drive through deep sand and acacia to to deliver us into golden sand dunes. There were nomads tents to retire in if one is tired from the music. The festival had musicians, bands and family crew from different western Africa countries and one from Brazil.

The festival was opened around 9pm, the open was quite dramatic and breathtaking. Under stars in the half illuminated night with gently breeze brook deep chanting and echo flute. The flute was joined by drums from different corner of calm and tentative crowed. These different set of drums grew strong and closer, a sort of light house or watch tower light illuminated the man and woman into Sahara/Sahelian costumes with drums and other music instrument while doing the kind of trace dancing, total absorbed with the bits and rhythm.

The atmosphere was that one which transcend words, the rhythm seem to produce chemical equal to some kind of drugs travel very quick into neves and veins.
Senegalese know how to use their drums their body particular woman who’s some part of their body doesn’t seem to be connected to the rest. Music seem to play big roll of daily life of people here, it very rare to board local transportation which has no music system. Any part seem to be not part without local music which make people go bit crazy. It is like when drums are bitting stimulate and awaken the brain of people.

PRCM Forum….
I am very grateful to FIBA (Foundation International Pour la Park National de Bandarge) and PRCM (Regional Program of Coastal and Marine Conservation of West Africa)

20131202-172951.jpg for giving me invaluable opportunity to address the participant and stakeholder of their seventh forum. Shared the podium with influential folks in the realm of environment high studies, political and governance. Young with no neck tie and suite I was bit unconfident not mention intimidated by nearly four hundred listeners.

20131202-171625.jpgIn the few minutes begin of my speech I could just hear myself but soon I was taken with the words I uttered and there was the end of the talk. I wasn’t sure what to expect so I thanks and wanted to get out of the stage but I had to hold on a bit due to the clapping, I was more thankful not only for clapping but that the message was received.

The forum was of particular interest to me from the opening speech of Senegal prime minister, she emphasize on the need to protect the environment and natural resources as alternative to many challenges include food insecurity. She also explain the need of eduction in the field of environment and sustainable development as important tool especial for the youth.

Although I have never imagine spending so much time into these fancy hotels with air condition rooms, for the duration of five days I participate into may presentations tireless. As for me I have been talking and writing but also take on this challenge to demonstrate the need of action towards conservation/sustainability, education and participation of youth, it feel lonely and distance mission at certain point. But being here listen and see what are actions have been taken with stakeholders from different conners; artisan fisherman organization, woman organizations, donors, academics, governments, etc. Offered lot of courage, reenforce the hope and effluence my optimism.

It was also opportunity to learn new challenges, the development of conservation/sustainability philosophy and general understand of stakeholders especial those who are main effects such as fisherman, woman, etc.

The biggest achievement I saw in this forum is launching of a book which will be used with school children to learn about the science and other aspect of their coastal and marine environment. I think this is something luck in most developing countries as for my case I never learn formal about my surrounding environment.

20131201-203143.jpgNow in Dakar will round up with meetings and get back on the road, I finally modified my route instead of heading to Mali where situation is unpredictable. I will stick with the loop of coast. This will give me chance to fulfill invitations to places like Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Sierra-Lionne, etc.

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Mauritania

The last days in Western Sahara soon after Dakhla started to become tense. The heat increased the the wind slow down, the desert grew lonely and calm but I felt manifestation of its extreme energy.

20131112-153016.jpgBut nature creat balance event not only to the universe but even with oneself. Hundred kilometers before the frontier with Mauritania it is rocky and dunes over huge expanse of land, it is breathtaking vistas.

The small border village is dust and polluted with garbage. I sort camp in the nearby but due to extensive military activities I was fetched out with man on the robes great military swagger. On my effort try to get information why I shouldn’t camp the situation was intervened with young policeman who present great proffesinalism with more civil tone. He told me that it is too dangerous to camp because of snakes and scorpions. I was taken to only hotel if ever fit in the description, I choose my tent over the room. Camped at concert compound full lighted, roaring of big diesel generator with movement of late sleepers , even after a day of 150km I manage to fall a sleep after midnight and awoken early with new day activities

Next day the young policeman show up to ask how did I sleep, he was so friendly and naive avoiding to ruin his big smile I told him all was good. He said it is very nice place and safe that why he brought me there. He helped me with what seemed to be endless exiting procedures.

About 5km of what supposed to be ‘No man’s land’ now inhabited with people who are deported from Morocco after being caught in their attempt to cross ocean to Europe. Here they run work of dismantling stollen vehicle which litter the desert. Mauritania border post emerge with it two it green flags doted with young moon and start. It also militaristic though here are more lose rather hang out than being on duty but still like to bull people.

Straggled with head wind I reached Nouadhibour, a peninsula city. Cycle down along the long peninsula with it beach was quite nice. Arriving on the city it was less pleasant. It is crowded place with garbage pollution, smoke and dust from old vehicles. As other cities of Mauritania, it is very democratic, every body use the road as he is pleased though donkey riders receive bit more priority; Poor donkeys pulling the loaded cart with riders on top sometimes engaging to deep cell phone conversation, drive against the traffic, just among others more privilege.

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The uniqueness of this country is not only the ‘unquestioned democracy’,

20131112-153457.jpgCycle farther south Sahara loose it sharpness as well as it harshness. Now there are little grasses persisting but they remain as dots because long and hundred of sand dunes decorate the landscape. Herds of camels wonder up and down the dunes to find grasses while watched with the man on oversized robe and turban.

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I had a chance to visit Banc de Arguing National Park, with guiding from Antonia a man who have worked here for 15 years. I learn a greet deal of conservation efforts and challengers. The park has minimum human activities such as fishing with only sail boats and animals keeping, the system which have been there since the creation of the park. The old estuaries and the evidence that there were many rivers run down into atlantic thousands years ago, still exist. Now bust quite a number of birds population. From Pelicans, Flamingos, Herons, to small Sand Paper. Also there are archeological sites showing the remain of shells pilled by fishers 2000 years ago, this explain the movement of people and distribution of activities in the adaptation of desertification and climate change.

It is fascinating to watch the fishing boat elegantly cut through the wave with masculine black shining skin men again the crystal clear ocean. The golden dunes are separated with Atlantic Ocean with white sand beach, here clearly Sahara meet the Atlantic this offer magnificent view especial in the morning and evening of sun rise and down. The night sky is so clear and in this altitude the young moon lined up with venus offer the same image which is in the Mauritania flag.

Thanks to Azeddine Ould Daddah for great help, Hotel Halima for the luxury and comfortable room (http://www.hotel-halima.com/). Antonio Araujo and many more other for the invaluable help and support.

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Meanwhile waiting for Senegal visa.

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