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Rob en Dafne de Jong

Ride-on West Africa 1

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Date: March 1998

Intermezzo - December 1997

Shipping our sidecar from Florida to Africa seemed a very difficult and expensive job, while going back to Europe was cheap and a piece-of-cake to organise. We used HUAL's RoRo-service, which turned out to be very satisfactory and not too expensive. Upon arrival in Amsterdam a special spot in a workplace was cleared and our dear sidecar pushed inside to keep her away from the rain that was falling.

We had decided to ride down to Morocco and wanted to leave as soon as possible, using the time we were waiting for our sidecar to arrive to try to get support and publicity. OAL (East Atlantic Line (Rotterdam) then invited us to join one of their freightliners that was due to head from Rotterdam to Guinee Bissau in West-Africa (thanx also to Genchart shipping agency) and our next adventure was soon to start.

Lieve vrienden (Dutch),

So many things have happened after we left Rotterdam by freightliner that we have to be kind of brief in our descriptions.

The first part of our sea-journey we pass in between two storms North and West of us. The sea is very rough (nobody can go outside as waves are raging over the ship's deck and nature puts us to the test. Captain Marco is never troubled though and on we go through the Gulf of Biscay. We are glad that our sidecar is properly strapped down on the deck. We sprayed the engine with grease and covered the sidecar with a tarp so we did not have to worry that the salty water would harm her.

Upon reaching the coast of Africa the weather changes dramatically in a positive way. We enjoy a couple of lovely days and one day especially, when over 50 dolphins play around the ship. It's a beautiful sight we will cherish the rest of our life.

In fact, while the huge engines in the machine room worked hard and steadily, we feel like becoming part of the ship and her crew. Rob used to sail the European rivers as well as on sea-freighters and tells me romantic but harsh stories about those times and it all ads to the feeling of being a traveller, sailing on a freighter from Rotterdam to Guinee Bissau in West Africa.

West Africa

Riding in Africa is not very hard. The roads are pretty good but the mayor problem is the police and the customs. They try to get money from you for almost anything and in Guinee-Conakry Dafne was arrested, being accused of hitting a custom officer (she still wants to go back to really do it) who was playing a game with our papers. After two days we where free again but it has cost us almost US$200.

At another police check post they first tried to confiscate our camera and then made our passports disappear, which we finally could buy back for US$20,- per passport. The further south we went the more aggressive the people became in trying to sell you anything or push themselves as being your guide on the market. In Mali (Bamako) we finally ended up in a couple of fights to get them off our backs. It is all very exciting and a very good exercise for the fists but you can imagine that we did not enjoy being engaged in things like this at all.

Wildlife is almost non-existing in West Africa but the people (woman) are so colourful that it is a pleasure to see them walking around. Most of the men are looking like hobo's and behave very badly. In Senegal we were invited by a Moslem man to meet his family and that was a very special day. A good Moslem prays 5 times a day and goes to a Mosque to do so. His wife and the daughters stay at home to do their prayers and so we (for the first time) witnessed the wife of our Moslem-host in her house to do her praying.

Riding around in Islamic countries is for Dafne not always easy. Some Moslem men refuse to shake her hand because they are not allowed to touch married women. But there are also Moslem man who don't care at all and would like to touch her everywhere, after they undressed her with their eyes.

To be able to spend some time without spectators we camp a lot in the bush, which is very safe and quiet. After a day on the road these are the best moments, because every time we stop we are surrounded by at least 50 kids who are asking for money or presents and grown ups that all have a story about their dreams which we should finance. So to ride is actually often more relaxing than to rest, unless you make yourself invisible.

We are now in Bamako-Mali, where we visited the Foster Child of one of the newspapers we write for. The Foster Parents Plan organisation (or Plan International) here took us along many of their projects and we were welcomed in the Amadou's village.

First we are spoken to in the native language Banbara, by the head of the village. The old man can not speak directly to us; he speaks to the second man in charge, who answers every sentence with an agreeable "yeeh". Then the second man repeats the message to the third man, who speaks to the fourth etc., who translates the message into French. Of course our answers go the same way back.


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de Jong's Home

Travel Stories, English:

January 2002,
Ride on 2002...
October 2001,
Ride on Home
July 2001,
Russia and
April 2001,
Jan 2001,
Dec 2000,
Oct 2000, L.A
to Fresno via
Sep 2000,
New Zealand
July 2000,
Australia part 2
April 2000 India
and Australia,
part 1
Dec 1999,
to Kathmandu
Nov 1999,
Shoeshine boy
of Gondar

Sept 1999,
Uganda to
May 1999,
Zimbabwe to
Dec 1998,
South Africa
and Namibia
Sept 1998,
Swaziland &

June 1998,
S. Africa 1
April 1998,
W.Africa 2
March 1998,
W. Africa 1

Travel Stories, In het Nederlands:

July 2001,
Rusland en
April 2001,
Jan 2001,


Luckily enough they like a joke so we can show them that we were ordinary people. The contact is very warm and intense. One man wants Dafne to become his second wife (men can marry four wives here) and we get a goat and a chicken as presents, which we are not to refuse because that could easily harm the relation between the village and Plan International. We ask the organisation to sell the goat and put the money in one of the improvement-projects, but the chicken rides back to the hostel in the centre of Bamako with us on top of our sidecar. It's not too fat but makes a nice barbecue nevertheless.

We plan to travel a little more in Mali (see the famous mosque in Djenne) and than will go south to Burkina Faso and Ghana. In Ghana we hope to have access to the Internet again so that we can read your mail. We will also decide there how to get to South Africa. The road over land is very much troubled (Nigeria, Angola) and most probably still blocked in French Congo. We hope you are all well and will keep you informed.

Greetings and a smile,
Rob and Dafne de Jong,
Ride-on World Tour



Story and photos copyright © Rob and Dafne de Jong 1998-2002.
All Rights Reserved.


Editors note: We accept no responsibility for any of the above information in any way whatsoever. You are reminded to do your own research. Any commentary is strictly a personal opinion of the person supplying the information and is not to be construed as an endorsement of any kind.

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