December 20, 2008 GMT
Wow, a lot of countries

My last real blog insert was from Senegal and the hideous events that were the arrests of Peter and myself. Shame really as the impressions I got from Senegal is that it was a really beautiful country. A lot of really nice people, the cool cities of St Louis and Dakar, vibrant night-life and general good feeling. Only for it to be upset by a person who thought it okay to have us arrested in an attempt to extract money and misery from us! B****rd! I hope his balls turn square and fester in every corner. Not that I hold a grudge Tee hee hee!
After Senegal, Peter and I met up with a fellow rider Jean-Marie, on his BMW1200gs. A Frenchman who was pottering about West Africa having a ball. We were honoured to have him join us as I'm sure Peter fancied some intelligent conversation for a change and J-Ms english was excellent which in turn gave us a break from doing more damage to the French Language.

maliflower.JPG

It was amusing to find that as Peter readily admits, his mechanical knowledge isn't great but when J-M disclosed to us over dinner that he still couldn't find where to put in the water for the radiator on his new BMW1200gs. We had to stare at each other in disbelief and have a good chuckle. I'm sure that made Peters blog entry!
So onto the formalities of the border with Mali, crossing the frontier bridge after completing the immigration formalities but failing to get my carnet stamped I had to return and seek the customs post. Slightly annoyed with myself I pushed onto to complete the Malian side and found Peter and J-M waiting for me at the Customs building. Onwards and upwards we went and after a couple of long days found ourselves in Bamako, the capital city.

I had done some work on the bike back in Dakar by fitting a new oil cooler as the temperature wasn't being too good. Readily hitting red as soon as 10 minutes into the days ride but I figured it out to be a combination of ambient temperature, lack of airflow around the engine and me kicking the arse out of it doing 120kms per hour for hours on end! However even after fitting the oil cooler the temp was down but I wasn't convinced I had done the job properly and needed to check it, air lock in the system maybe? Or as mark would put it 'Nut loose behind the steering!' i.e. ME!
So Peter and J-M headed off the next day from the Catholic Mission to Djenne and the Famous mud mosque another 600km ride to the East.

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After checking all's well with the bike, obtaining stickers for myself and Mark I pushed on towards Djenne and stopping off in Sejou for a night. I met up with J-M on his return from Djenne whilst I was sat in a restaurant. I had told one of the local hotel touts I wasn't making a decision for what dive I was going to stay in until my friends were to be informed. I was alone but use this ploy as a breather from the incessant touts. It happens that J-M was returning through the town when one of the touts jumped in front of him, shouting 'Geoffs over here, come quickly, follow me!!' So in curiosity he did. Ha ha, what a surprise!
As usual I managed to fall foul of the law as I asked a local for the road out of town in the direction for Djenne. The mistake I made was to ask a pedestrian...! For he pointed down the road, I happily thanked him and set off only to be stopped by two gleeful coppers for being the wrong way ON A ONE WAY STREET! Of course the pedestrian I asked gave me the correct answer, for a pedestrian! Doh!
The cops then gave me the usual babble and then hit me with the fine 16,000chf! Jeeezzus Chriiist! How much? That's a months wages. I'm not paying that. So I stuck my heels in and refused politely whereas another two cops turned up, then another then finally a cop whom everybody smartly stood to attention, saluted and stared straight at me. They'd obviously been chatting to each other and brought in the 'heavies' to wear me down and it wasn't until bigwig turned up and said 'we got you bang to rights (artistic licence) my son, now pay or jail!' So I paid! Feeling pissed off but relieved to have my bike and paperwork back I quickly hopped onto the steed fired her up and got out of there only to look back and see the cops dividing up the money I'd just paid them! Wonderful!
On to Djenne and the Mud Mosque..........

Posted by geoffshing at 01:46 PM GMT
Mud and Mopti

The route to one of the World Heritage sights, the Mud Mosque at Djenne, was interesting as it incorporates a 'roll on roll off' ferry. I love taking ferries. Dunno why? It must be a boyish thing of anything mechanical that can be incorporated into a trip, then the more the better. The ferries themselves are a strange affair. A simple flat deck, a control/steering tower to one side and hand raised/lowered ramps front and rear. Looking reasonably new and with my interest in engines I sought out the location for the noise of the beating thumping diesel, powering the boat along at a steady 3 knots, to look up from the inside to the water and see what could have been the remains of the previous ferry! Ha, that'll explain the new looks of this one.
Something else I found out, I never saw anybody pay for the ferry services, only me! I was the only white guy on the ferry at the time and being polite I never questioned but kept it in mind for the return trip. But then again, less than two quid for a ferry and the bike being a terrible swimmer I paid up without much fuss making a mental design for a high speed flotation pack for the bike...!

The short hop over the river, dash to the town of Djenne and the opening of the market square for the mosque wasn't the best of eye openers. Actually the town is scruffy, unkempt and the only catering for tourists to see the Mosque is the touts, hankering you as soon as you arrive in the town till you finish and leave. Sometimes as the touts can be annoying they can be really distasteful in their services too. I've spent lot of time in countries of other faiths and religions and no matter what my thoughts are about them I still respect their rights to be respected themselves. So when it says on a bloody great sign outside the World Heritage Mud Mosque in Djenne, 'No entry to NON-MUSLIMS' then it means as it says! When touts offer to get me inside for 5-20,000cfa depending on my bargaining skills should I be inclined and then say the money goes towards the mosque, I know damn well it isn't but into his pocket. I'm not religious, more agnostic but if I were of any faith, I certainly wouldn't lie and use it to my advantage to line my own pocket. Shame on them!

mudmosque

Anyhow, after a brief stay at 'Chez Babas' a cheap and cheerful establishment in the centre of town I opted to head off and go to Mopti on the road to Timbuktu. A well travelled tourist trail with being overtaken by local maniac driven 4x4's full of 'whites' and scant regard for sharing the road with a biker and strange quizzing looks from the 'whites' as I waved to them feeling a strange sense of wanting to say 'Hi' when you see fellow foreigners on a far away trip. Their sense of possible aloofness or maybe even jealousy to my way of travelling differentiates us immensely so I can understand their strange looks a little. They flew here, I rode, I feel elated and knackered, they just feel knackered.

Mopti, a town that serves as a land/ river junction. Traders of times gone by barter with traders of modern times for the best prices/services and deals from each other, passers by and tourists alike. Ceaseless trading on land and in the water, families bathing and washing laundry next to the boats loading and unloading cargo from the trip north to Timbuktu. Market stalls full of everything from cheap Chinese 'Joakley' sunglasses, a 14mm spanner I'd broken, to cast off seconds piled high from European clothes charities and my favourite... Mutton street vendors! These used to turn my stomach in disgust, vowing to Peter never to each street meat. I did decide to change my mind and give it a try and the chunks of greasy mutton, cooked for hours and tougher than a pub full of Glaswegian hookers spiced up with some unidentifiable sweet powder and salt. The jaw ache after eating 500cfas worth makes a better alternative than vegetables left soaking with bad water in some café, just waiting to turn my stomach inside out for a few days! Plus there's always some kid I can give the remainder to and make his day.
Staying at Hotel 'Ya Pas de Problem' in Mopti I came across a British couple who were on their honeymoon and a Dutch and Canadian couple on vacation. One of the things about heading to Timbuktu was the fact that I had already been to Kathmandu and would have been the first person I know that's been to both. That dream has been going on for 3 years and was shattered not once, but twice by the British and Dutch couples who's husbands had been to Kathmandu and had just returned from Timbuktu the day before! Bummer but I suppose the closer I got to 'Tim' then the chances are somebody would have been to 'Kat'. Still quite a sense of achievement I was looking forward to
I moved out of the 'Ya Pas de Problem' as I fancied the quiet of Sevare, a small town 12kms away, whom Peter had been telling me about it's quietness and chance to rest after the hustle and bustle of Mopti and the sellers. So off I left and moved into the Hotel 'Maison Des Artes'. A lovely, quiet, peaceful place where I was well received by the owner Kay. A wonderful British lady who provides a refuge for weary travellers to recharge their batteries, have a good natter in english plus she speaks perfect french too and for me to do some maintenance on the bike. It was nice to be told a price and not feel the need to negotiate for what you may or may not get. Kay immediately had my trust as you would with a dear aunt. Her husband, Amadou, a Malian Chasseur d'Animiste was a fountain of enthusiasm for help with the bikes and a greatly respected man in his own right.

maisondesartes

Things were coming together with the boys. Peter was just leaving 'Maison des Artes' to go dogging, Sorry, I meant down to the Dogon Country, Mark was shortly arriving from Senegal to meet me in Sevare and Migos bike was coming together when the parts arrived from Europe. So all I had to do was chill and wait for Mark! Aaaaahhh..!

Posted by geoffshing at 01:49 PM GMT
Reunion and Aprehension

Meeting up with Mark at the 'Maison des Artes' was a cool thing. He writes his own blog (www.ridefar.typepad.com) a great writer about his trip, meetings and reunions with fellow riders, the whole catching up with stories, experiences and thoughts of the whole biker mentality. A shameless plug for him but deservedly so.

mark


It is funny because there's many different types of biker in my mind, those who love the image look, the power thrill, the coolness in being the lone wolf, surviving alone whether accepting life's fate or marking out your own. There's also other types of person who looks into the technology part of the whole experience, what can they do to the bike, how much will it take, the type of machinery, v-twin, single, carburettor or injection, old style or new ideas, even frames. “I've spent more money than you” or “I've spent bugger all!” a motley collection of people we've come to meet and it's great to catch up with mark and his views. I felt relieved as to be able to speak to someone whom I'd spent a time with and we had something in common. Our lives, nothing similar and totally different backgrounds but his saying goes 'beer drinkers with a motorcycle problem!'
I've a lot of time for Mark and getting to like him more everyday, he's so cool and chilled out he's almost horizontal to the point of frustration but it only frustrates me cos what I've been brought up to be, more military minded in thinking but I'm getting used to it now. He likes nothing more than to be able to bang away on his laptop writing for some article or the blog. I'm convinced he's rewriting Tolstoy, Hardy or Sterne as he spends so much time but he's happy. So I leave him be.
We headed north back towards the Sahara and the noticeable change in the scenery, not too much but any greenery we'd seen before was diminishing en route to Douentza, 200kms north of Sevare, the town, well..... strip of road that serves as a collection point and junction for the turn off to Timbuktu is a sad affair but we were well received by the locals, taking on board food and fuel and drawing a crowd as usual. Staying in Douentza for the evening and making use of the internet café, which I believe was the towns radio station too. We prepared for the next days assault on the road to Timbuktu.
The road itself prior to this point had been a good piece of asphalt and we'd not really come up against a difficult road in quite some time. Mostly asphalt, if not sometimes badly pot-holed and even when the road disappeared it was because of roadworks and we were back on it pretty quickly. But this was something else, 220+kms of piste all the way to Timbuktu from Douentza. The night before we were listening avidly to Peter, a South African cartographer who'd just been on the road and listening to his every word on corrugations, sand traps, bellowing dust from other traffic and so on. So as you'd expect, the next day we were apprehensive, at least I was! How's the bike going to cope? How am I going to cope? What if we crash in the middle of nowhere? Breakdowns, etc, etc,
So we loaded up with extra food and water and off we went...........

Posted by geoffshing at 04:09 PM GMT
The road to Timbuktu and the road inside

The day started early with final checks and locating the road, a dirt track and certainly not obvious as the road to the fabled city. I almost expected something bigger, more used, signposted even! But it was flat or it appeared so at the start but one thing certain, it was daunting and exciting. The scenery initially was breathtaking with the rock formations in the distance too much to ride straight past but to photograph as well as could be, the sun was shining and the weather wasn't too hot to be uncomfortable.

timrocks

The locals with their loaded donkeys weren't too pleased when Mark and I started taking photographs with one saying in french he wanted 100cfa to allow us to take pictures. We weren't even taking pictures of him, he chanced his arm and was ignored as a result. It did make me wonder however, he had 20 or so loaded donkeys going to some undisclosed place and as far as I could see there weren't anywhere on the map less than 100kms away, some life!
The road did offer us plenty of camera opportunities and when we came across our first sand pit the time was taken to ride through it on video. The bikes hitting the sand with enough speed to keep the front wheel from digging in but the back wheel snaking about nearly unseating both riders!
Both our riding styles are different, mine is quite aggressive which suited the corrugations where speed allows you to almost glide over the vibrations but having to be wary and look as far forward as possible to avoid hitting the sand traps unexpectedly. Marks riding style is more cautious, looking after his bike more and wary of the chances for a spill, he prefers 'waddling' through sand thinking of the risk and rewards to riding faster and the possibility of damaging the bike. Not a bad idea as we were in the middle of nowhere at the time.
There were other traffic, mainly 4x4's and their tourist passengers and going at a rapid rate of knots, their drivers, knowledgeable of the road of which they'll have travelled hundreds of times before, having the luxury of 4 wheels and the stability they provide being able to travel at 60+mph! I did see a pick up truck in the opposite direction, on a side track which must have been doing 90+mph! The passengers must have been good tippers or terrified!
I stopped occasionally for Mark to catch up, ensure he was fine and then set off again at my usual quick pace, enjoying the workout my arms and body was taking after the long hours of the road. After what appeared to be 10 hours of good work (it was only 6) and the final destination was so close yet denied by a ferry crossing. I almost wanted to ride into the town like a rally rider at the end of the race, triumphant, the crowds cheering, cameras pointed avidly taking pictures and reporters waiting for my every breathless word, but it was not to be. I rode along a peninsular to the ferry port, a motley collection of reed built huts and a bunch of undressed children, their eyes lighting up at the sight of a bedraggled rider and his machine, hot and pinging from temperature loss as the engine was cut off. I knew I had time to wait for Mark to join me and enquired for the ferry, 45 minutes or so came an answer from a local stall holder dressed in a tracksuit and Manchester United football shirt. Occasionally asking if I wanted Coca-Cola, desperate for the business. It was warm and uninviting, coming from a dirty container so I politely declined. My stomach was in 'rag-order' (military speak for not good!) and I felt more like throwing up, dehydration kicking in so I settled for more water from my Camelbac and waited for Mark with a child or two holding my hand seeking attention and a Tuareg or two seeking cigarettes. .
Mark arrived all hot and sweaty and so did the ferry. The same roll on/ roll off type as before and we boarded for the 45 minute trip down river to the town. Our entry to Timbuktu was punctuated with photo opportunities for seeing the 'Centre ville, Tombouctu' sign was an opportunity not to miss and the sight of the Saharan dunes encroaching on the town gave it a real sense of being on the edge of nowhere. The Sahara is another challenge in my eyes. To be able to cross it whether by bike or even camel is something that allures me and is an adventure in itself, one day Geoff, one day.

The town itself is a bit of a disappointment. I didn't expect Shangri-La but something a little better than a dusty outpost seemingly forgotten save for the tourists and the Tuareg traders. I suspect again it's another subsidised town where people are paid to live there and keep it alive but I was here and going to make the best of it. So I spent the next 3 days exploring the market and meeting up with some pretty cool people. Mick, a Scottish postman from Aberdeen on a trip by buses and public transport around West Africa. An older guy, 50's with a big bushy beard looking rather like father Christmas, a kind and gentle fellow. He told Mark and I a story he's heard about a guy, who throughout West Africa was having some strange adventures on his own with a motorcycle. This guy was 6 foot tall, big build and has been robbed in Mauritania, arrested in Senegal and was having some crazy times. Mark and I looked at each other hearing this and realised IT WAS ME!! He'd come across people on our route and had been picking up stories on the way, obviously with some exaggeration. By this stage I was 7' tall, an ex high ranking officer in the army, massively built, etc, etc.... HA HA HA, I did laugh! It was good to put the stories right and was nice to catch up with a Scotsman as I do love the place.

timsignsatdown


One thing that dawned on me whilst in Timbuktu was the way my life had become up to this point, the actions I had done and some that I'd not done. Here I am listening to a guy who'd heard all about me, having never met me but the stories he'd heard and the mental picture he'd thought up and then, out of the blue we met in a dusty bar on the edge of town. Did I dash the ideas in his head with the truth of just being a normal person or was it better for him to continue with the picture he'd built? Embellished by the retelling of stories as Chinese whispers always does. I ended up thinking back to my past life prior to the trip and it hit me, I had made some grave errors in judgement and I couldn't shake the thoughts out of my head and realised as to why I wasn't enjoying the experience of the journey as it was troubling me and had only just surfaced. It was to bother me for some time till I took action and resolved the matter, come to a decision. So my quest for answers became the priority and I wasn't to rest till It was resolved. It perturbed my that here I was hearing about myself and was vainly thinking about myself in the light of others.
So my departure from Timbuktu, the fabled city but only in name became a hurried affair, my head full of thoughts and scenarios, emails to write and answers to receive. I attacked the route back to Douentza with a fervour, a man on a mission, one goal in mind, riding recklessly through the piste, the sand traps, the corrugations, not stopping to rest but looking forward to an answer. Needing it, demanding it, never looking at the speedo but knowing it's high, 60kph,70, 90, 100+, way too high for a loaded bike, something's gotta give and it did. I crashed out 50kms from the end of the piste, hitting a long sand trap going way too fast! The sudden rush of panic trying to dump as much speed as possible but it was too late, I was committed and there's no way off slowing down enough to control what is an inevitable crash! After slewing and snaking the back end of the bike, it's weighted arse having a life of it's own, twisting and protesting it finally gave up. Like a horse that spent it's life being whipped ceaselessly, uncared for by it's owner but demanded of more and more each time, it threw me off in spectacular style in a thorn bush and dumped itself on the ground. Shrieking and kicking before calming for a moment then dying. The horse gave up, my demands too great.
Sounds cool but I'm not writing a 'Western' here, In reality I'd messed up, rode the sand too quickly and as Mark would put it 'STFFC' 'Speed to fast for conditions' and obviously the dumb riders ability too! I miscalculated the throttle, opened and closed it at the wrong time, my mind not on the road, mistiming badly and jammed the front wheel into a pile of sand which sucked all the bikes forward energy and propelling me over the handlebars!
I was an idiot and I knew it. I could have seriously damaged the bike badly and more importantly myself. I laid for an instant, jacket and leg studded with thorns, the sound of cracking of breaking twigs, adrenaline and shock kicking in and waited for the pain. The chances of a leg or limb giving out, broken should I try to stand filled me with dread. I did a mental check of myself and stood up. The relief of everything as it should be gave me joy, so much I jumped up and down to check. Not the best way of a diagnosis but it worked. Quickly righting the bike made more difficult by the soft sand it was embedded in I looked over to the right and saw a tourist truck deviating from it's course towards me. They'd seen the crash and I felt foolish. Coming to my aid, cameras ready, the tourists all chattering away at what exciting thing they'd just seen stopped 50' to my front. Approaching the truck and gabbled away that I was fine, thanking them for stopping and jumped back on the bike, “Sorry, can't stop.... in a race!, bye!” I felt dumb, wanting to be away as soon as I could, hoping the bike would start and no obvious damage seen I set off at a more ginger pace looking for a quiet corner to lick my wounds and feel silly.
I got to my destination, the bike and I fine, sent off my email and felt a sudden numbness. What had I just done? I looked at the watch and realised, what had taken me over 6 hours to get to Timbuktu had been done in 3 hours 20! Wow! The risks I had given myself and the trouble I could have placed on Mark should I have injured myself or the bike. An irresponsible action for I could have sent the email the next day or that evening. I should ride more carefully in future and be more considerate to my riding partner.

Posted by geoffshing at 04:17 PM GMT
December 21, 2008 GMT
Dead bikes and Sheep dick!

For the trip back from 'Tim' and Douentza I was looking forward to heading back South on the bearing that would lead us eventually to South Africa. Off the piste that had so nearly cost me and Bully a downturn I rode a more attentive ride toward the bike. The gearbox wasn't feeling as crisp as it had, it felt clunky and stiff as if protesting the changes I asked of it. Full of false neutrals and hated going into first gear, like a friend that had been neglected and quickly wanted again, not wanting to open up to the usual rapport and banter but remained subdued and sullen, I felt sorry, guilty even. It'll work out I'm sure... I hope! Where the hell am I going to get another gearbox from in West Africa?
Mark and I went back down to Sevare, the only route available to us from the North, staying again at 'Maison Des Artes' and full of knowledge that Migo has repaired his bike and was hot footing it towards us. Still with problems of an overheating rear brake and no lights! I was keen to meet up with him again to assist in any help I could. I was prepared to ride back towards Segou, a few hundred kms away but he ended up only in Djenne so I decided to ride down there again and see if I could help. Mark had work to do and stayed in Sevare. It's a nice quiet place so who could blame him.
Migo had done really well whilst on his own in Senegal, the damage to his bike of a busted pump was a daunting task for anyone to deal with and I'm sure would have been a trip stopper for lesser men but he endeavoured to complete the job and I have admiration for him. I'd have been tempted to get drunk, burn the thing and gone home!

Migoktm

Migo is a computer guy, his trade comes from his head in a methodical way, a typical German as we Brits may see it and his European traits show through quite quickly. A thinker, enjoying his own company and not used to the brashness of people like myself. A runner, recently trained for a marathon and enjoys his morning yoga sessions, a good guy, I have a lot of time for him. He's more of a technical rider, thinking through his actions, always planning his next few moves and enjoying the ride, especially through towns and cities of which I also love. I enjoy riding with Migo and although our two bikes are vastly different in power and speed I enjoy his pace and manoeuvring on the road. It shows when we three ride together. Mark, the experienced traveller, slower and steadfast but the experience shows, Migo, the technical rider, thoughtful of the next moves, sharp eyed and sharp thinking. Myself........ neither of the above, lacking in patience and skill, enjoying things I'm not quite fully understanding, not as effective as a firearm or calculating as a knife but more of a club!

So we all met up again in Sevare and moved onto the next calling, Burkina Faso. Meeting up for dinner and discussing the best routes etc we agreed to meet up the following day and head towards the border taking in some of the Dogon Country en route.

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The Dogon Country in the South of Mali is a big tourist attraction for not really having changed in thousands of years, the people not having changed and refuse to do so but I was a bit full of tourism and decided not to join the guys on a little side trip to one of the villages but to move further towards the border having found my own little mission to do whilst there. Not only check out the border formalities for us but I'd come across a Dogon Mayor, staying at the Maison des Artes and during our conversation he mentioned he had a busted Yamaha XT660 Tenere with electrical problems. Being armed with an electrical tester and not being too dumb about bikes I offered to take a look as it was in a town called Koro. The last town before the border with Burkina.
So again we split up and I headed to Koro. Firstly with the boys riding through some of the most beautiful scenery I have come across yet, the guys getting video of me chasing the local shoolkids well into Dogon country, splitting up where they went to a village called Ende for their night of 'traditional tourism'. No lights and warm beer in my eyes, so I set off seeking out the bike garage with a letter of introduction in my hand. Quickly finding the town I asked around for the place and was guided and shown the garage, formalities made and letter shown I took a look at the bike. A sorry looking, piece of motorcycling history looking very sad indeed! The problem, I was shown was a blown CDI unit and a very expensive bit of kit to replace! Even for me! Even if it was obtainable and certainly not in Mali, the bike was too far gone to repair and I had to resign it to it's fate of a lonely death in the back of his garage. I tried for days after to get an email address for Kay, to tell her there was nothing I could do but couldn't.

Teneredead

My night in Koro after checking out the border formalities was a quiet affair with only the task of finding somewhere or even something to eat being the hardest task. The Auberge I was staying in was a dump so I opted to sleep outside in the carpark with the tent inner serving as a mosquito net. I opted to eat at a mutton vendor again and was annoyed as to the lack of meat he gave me when I requested 500cfas worth, I politely asked him for some more, protesting at his poor servings. He looked at me then mentally agreed, went back to the 'hotplate' and started cutting away at a weird looking piece of flesh, not the usual joint of mutton I was accustomed to but darker, rounder and proffered up a half dozen pieces and dumped them on my paper portion of meat.
After taking a look inquisitively I figured out, well I think I did, as to what the hell it was........ Circular, like sausage slices and fleshy, whiter then most but the distinctive 'hole' in the middle gave the game away! Sheep Dick! It was obviously a food source as to the way it was cooked with everything else so I figured 'what the hell!' and scoffed a fairly sized chunk! The locals looking at me, not trying to feel too paranoid I swallowed rather quickly and would have paid a tenner for a glug of beer at that moment! I've eaten a few things in my time, snake, rat, dog even but that's the first time I've eaten sheep dick, thinking about the lack of food in these parts and the need to make use of everything the animal can provide but I'm sorry, still a squirmish European but I did try.
I'd gone off eating any more after that and offered the remains to anyone else watching me, I needn't have asked twice as the rest was snatched from my hands and devoured by a man who had a hell of a smile on his face and thanked me profusely! Each to their own I suppose! I did growl at the vendor for taking the p**s and the whole scenario left a funny taste in my mouth, Boom! Boom! (Here all week, try the veal!)
The following day I met up with the boys and we hit the border. My previous days recce ended up a farce as we missed the customs post and had to ride back 30 kms for the carnet stamps. The ride into Burkina was a long one with a 'no-mans' land of miles and miles .............

burkinaborder

Posted by geoffshing at 11:02 AM GMT
December 25, 2008 GMT
Burkina and beyond

The entry to Burkina Faso was a strange one, a 'no-mans' land of 30+kms where we took the time to make a little video for Migos blog, the three of us riding together towards the camera. We also rode past three strange tourist buses, pink in colour, a Swedish group touring West Africa. They'd stopped and what seemed to be camped for the night in the no-mans land! We enquired as to their well being, for they could have been broken down. But all was well.
From the border we headed south, stopping to eat and after ordering lunch we got the surprise of lot's of plates of food! I mean, three each! When we chose our meals they, the staff told us the choice was chicken, fish, haricot vert, rice and some sort of cabbage and sweet potato. We, thinking they were all together and part of the same ordered something like, “Chicken with rice, haricot vert and cabbage please!” Only to find out they were all a meal on their own!! We needn't have worried about the price as when the bill came it was less than a couple of beers in Mali! Cheap as chips! What we didn't eat I gave to a street kid plus a few pennies, he was chuffed to bits at his haul for the day!
We were heading for Ouagadougou, the capital, known as 'Wagga'. A great sounding place and surprisingly a good city with modern amenities, even casinos. After spending time in the north it was nice to find some neon lighting for a change. Migo and I headed off, leaving Mark to do some writing again.
The onward route we knew was taking us towards the National park of Nazinga. An elephant reserve the boys had told me about. So when we arrived at the gate, paid entry and travel 35kms INTO the park on dodgy piste! I already had some problems with the bike for when I fitted the oil cooler back in Dakar it had recently sprung a leak and and was pissing oil all over my leg! Not at a huge rate but certainly enough for me to be concerned, a lot. Having to top up oil every 30kms or so didn't bode well in my eyes! I had realised the problem, a bleed vale I'd not loctited and it required the whole thing removing before repairing.
bikeoilleak
Making it to the reserve and seeing our first wild elephant, we were quite impressed with the park. The facilities not being the best but certainly lots of elephants, bathing in the watering hole and with a big bull elephant wandering through the camp, ripping off branches and eating what it sodding well liked! I was impressed with the proximity that could be gotten with the animals. I was soon to find out just how close we could get....!
elephanttrunks

After a couple of days chilling out at the camp, searching for the electrical problem on Migos bike and renewing the rear brake fluid, Mark joined us we headed off again for Ghana. The 35kms to the camp in the park was to be a long day out, for Mark and Migo wanted to attempt a new route to the West which wasn't to be. So we set off on the route back the way we came.
Heading out of the park Mark happened to have a spill, not a great spill but one that deserved a photograph anyhow.
markspill


Once we'd chilled out, had a cigarette and come to righting ourselves we got an almighty crashing from the grasses to the sides of the road and here comes a bloody elephant, all trumpeting, ears flapping and definatly pissed off at us!! We quickly jumped on the bikes, mine stalled, I think I shat myself and then shot off sharpish! Migo and myself in one direction, Mark in the opposite! After stopping in what was a couple of hundred metres or so Migo and I burst out laughing, for want of anything better to do, the blood pumping wildly at such a close shave we'd just experienced and waited for Mark to turn around and catch us up, always watching and listening for elephants, nerves on edge, rogue or otherwise!
Mark caught us up, getting a good trumpeting as he went past the offended elephant which I'm sure increased the revs on the bike a touch! I was thinking of how on earth would you explain that one to his mother? “Sorry....... raging elephant, motorbike, Africa........ oops!” We certainly got more than we bargained for!
After the elephant incident we visited Mole National Park across the border in Ghana. Another country, another stamp.
ghanaborder

Posted by geoffshing at 11:41 AM GMT
 



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