|Januar 25, 2012:|
Arrival in Accra / Kokrobite, after more than 5.600km we have now reached the end of our tour. Today we got a summary of the different roads we have experienced so far in Western Africa: Roads with little traffic, with a lot of traffic, good asphalt, bad asphalt with many potholes, corrugated roads, dirt roads and for the last kilometers even once more a sandy road. For some riders of our group this was quite challenging and very, very heavy, it took us more than two hours for the last 10km but we reached the finish line as a group! All in all only three persons, Michiel, Jakob and me, made it "EFI" (I did every f***g inch). And now it's time to celebrate with champagne, finger food, a bath in the ocean and an African dance- and drum performance just for us... :-)
|They are still cutting down the rain forest||It takes quite some time until our lunchtruck is refueled|
|Some very funny roundabout in a small village
we came through ;-)
|Shortly prior to the end of our Western Africa tour:|
We finally reached the Atlantic Ocean again
|23. Januar 2012:|
We are now heading strictly south and with every kilometer we are riding it's getting more and more humid. There is not enough breeze to keep us dry and the road is getting quite challenging: A hundred short but tough climbs and descents of 8-10% prevent me to get into any comfortable rythm of cycling, for some people of our group this is to heavy and more and more riders arrive at the camp in the lunchtruck.
|Tropical rain forest in the southern part of Ghana||2 Cedis entrance fee to the "biggest tree of Western Africa",|
but haven't I seen even bigger ones on our tour??
|Our own cooking during a restday: "Monster snails in
garlic sauce". They have been tougher than my saddle,
|On a road like this you have to be very careful|
not to be pushed of the road by cars or trucks...
|Januar 18, 2012:|
Help, our bushcamp is threatened by fire! After todays tour we have once more a "real" bushcamp. It's a very hot day and there is nearly no shadow in our camp. In the near distance we can spot several small bushfires. At around 2 pm the wind is getting momentum and we are now just in the lane of one of those fires. I had to replace my tent and bring it to a safer location together with my bag and my bike. Ashes are blown around, our camp is emerged in smoke and after the fire died down I notice a hole in my tent. Better a hole in the tent than a burned down tent... ;-) Our camp is covered with ashes and the smell of burned wood and smoke hangs for hours over our campground. I thought, at least this would keep the mosquitos away, but I guess those bloody creatures are used to those kind of fires.
|Antique mosque in it's typical appearance||She liked my Rotwild-Bike, she just wanted to hold it... ;-)|
|A bushfire is approaching our campground,
I already moved my tent to a safer place
|It's burning and smoke for many hours,|
we could see numerous fires till midnight
|January 16, 2012:|
Restday in the Mole National Park. We had quite some good tailwind for the last two days riding towards the Mole N.P., the wind was really getting momentum, the Hamatan season is arriving. On good asphalt I had for a while a cruising speed of 45km/h, but the asphalt didn't last for very long. The last 80km into Mole was on a cruel corrugated washboard road, shaking all my bones. Sometimes you had the choice between washboard and deep loose sand on the shoulder, but there wasn't always a choice...
Our campground in the Mole National Park was quiet and peaceful. Warthogs had been strolling around our tents in search for food, from our lookout point we could spot elephants at the waterhole, antelopes and gazelles. But it was not all that peaceful when a "criminal gang" attacked us and tried to steal whatsoever there was available. I was just servicing my bike when I saw that they tried to break into my tent just some 10 meters away. So I rushed to my tent to protect my belongings and in the meantime they went over my bag with bike repair stuff and run away with some plastic bags: I'm talking about "Baboons", monkeys which are fast and fearless.
|The old Mosque of Larabanga||Warthogs are peacefully walking around in our campground|
|Help, the Baboons are coming!!||Small Village near the Mole N.P.|
|January 12, 2012:|
Togo is one of the smallest country on our tour and we crossed it within four days. From 1884 until the first World War Togoland was a German protectorate and you can find prove of that even nowadays everywhere. There are still some of the old street plates, you can visit a German cemetery and at the border there is a sign saying "Zoll". It's now getting more and more hilly and tropical, we are riding through café and cacao fields and for the first time we are collecting quite a few meters climbing. In my personal opinion Togo is one of the most beautiful countries in West Africa..
|What a pity! There was no beer in this
German beer delivery van... ;-)
|Signpost in Togo. If only all the signposts in Africa were|
as detailed and exact!
|On the way to the border to Ghana||This nail was just to strong. My flat tire no 3...|
|January 04, 2012:|
After six days on the road we once again have a restday, this time in Abomey. Our bushcamp of yesterday was near a village called Tchetty, the news of our arrival spread around very fast and the boys and girls (and even adults) of the village rushed towards our place as if we were people from Mars. Most probably we are something like "Big Brother" or "Reality TV" for them. It's amazing, for hours they just stand there and watch curiously what we are doing. It's the same while we are touring: all the people wafe their hands and shout "bon arrivé" or "bonjour", "bonsoir", "ça va?" and the kids are running from the fields or huts towards us and the bravest ones try to give us a "give-me-five" :-)
|News of our bushcamp has spread around like a bushfire.
The kids from the village are running towards us...
|...they form a circle around us|
and watch for hours what we are doing.
|A water station in one of the villages||This boy was really tough! He followed me for at least 20 min|
and I couldn't outrun him, neither uphill nor downhill
|January 02, 2012:|
For the last four days we have been heading south. The air is getting more humid and the vegetation changed, it's been getting more green. We can see hardly any cattle any more and the donkey- and oxen wagons are gone as well. We see a lot of fields now and mopeds and mopelettes replace the bicycles. Benin is much more touristic and a richer country than Mali or Burkina Faso. Not for a long time and the dirtroads will all be asphalted, you can see the preparations to that everywhere. But they are still around, the small dirtroad, linking the villages, and we have been riding in clouds of red dust...
|Tata Sombas, houses made of clay and built like a fortress.
You can visit them for a small amount of money...
|Thats not a lost tire from a truck, it's the "Roundabout"|
of a crossing near Tanéka-Koko
|Tanéka-Koko, according to the 'Lonely Planet' a "MUST",
in my opinion it's a setup for tourists...
|The flowers are the basis of a very fine soft drink|
|December 28, 2011:|
In the meantime we arrived in Benin and have a rest day in Tanguieta, a small and sleepy village. Our "hotel" here is pretty nice, we could set up our tents in the shade of some trees, there is a bar with cold drinks and the showers are working. What else do we need! Even my telephone number from Burkina Farko is still working, I wonder how long it will stay like this. By the way, the mobile phone network in this part of Africa is really excellent, you have a good reception all along the roads and in every small village. Quite often the villages don't have yet electricity, but the local people can recharge their mobile phones for some small money with the aid of a solar station. Cards to increase the amount of money of your prepaid SIM-card are sold every where, the smallest amount being 50 CFAs, which is approximately 8 Eurocents.
|A solar station for charging the mobile phones||Beside the round huts more and more square houses are|
to be found in Southeast Burkina
|Not an unusal sight in this part of Africa. A pitty you can't
see how many passengers are inside of the car!
|Everything is carried on the head|
|December 26, 2011:|
Christmas in Africa was quite an unique experience! We selected for our bushcamp a very small village which hasn't yet been visited by any white people before, as we have been told by the elders. In the afternoon we showed the kids how to play baseball, they learned the rules within two hours and didn't stop playing until the night did set in. thereafter we had a Christmas meal together with all the inhabitants of the village which was quite nice! After dinner the women started to make a circle and dance to the rhythm of clapping hands and some African songs. The dancing was done with just the light of the stars and our flashlights, the moon was not out yet. I'll never forget this very special night...
|Dancing in the night under the light of the stars||Even with a small child on the back... :-)|
|Christmas: not so nice for chicken and goats||The wood on the side of the road is for sale|
|December 23, 2011:|
We are now in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, so half of the journey already lays behind us. 2900 km are on the speedometer of the bike, now it's two rest days here at the OK hotel. Hotel means we do camp in the parking lot, but have the luxury of a toilet and shower. Well, the "toilets" in the bush camp are much cleaner... ;-)
Today we had been invited by "Self Help Africa" (the Charity organization which I support here on my website) to attend one of their projects. This was totally interesting: Half the village, ie about 80 men and women waited on benches and chairs until we arrived. When we were there they all stod up, applauded us and we were greeted by the mayor of the district and the three elders. After the "trunk" to indicate that we came in peace, some of the villagers, both men and women, introduced us to the projects of SHA and told us about the influence those had on their lives. Questions were highly appreciated! We were shown the breeding animals, the certified seed as now produced in the village, and we learned how much good can be achieved with modest means. Finally, we received as a gift two live chickens and a "hat". The gratitude in the faces of those poor people about the help that they get from our donations will probably remain in my memory forever!!
|In the meantime we all have a somewhat hoarse throat
from the red sand and dust
|Roundabout in Ouagadougou, I really don't know where|
to go now
|We are coming in peace...||The women are sitting on the ground to the right of the picture|
|Our gifts: A hat and two live chicken that of course we
might NOT refuse
|Smiling faces here and there, we have been overwhelmed|
by the hospitality of those "poor" people! :-)
|December 18, 2011:|
We are now in the middle of Africa. Signs along the road warn us: "beware of elephants crossing". Up to the small city of Leo we have been cycling on a brand new aspalted road, but in the meantime we are back to "red roads" as the local people call them. Today we have another restday, this time in the Nazinga Game Ressort. Time for washing the jerseys and trousers, but it's not possible to get them back to their original colour: to strong is the RED of the dust from the roads and the earth of the countryside. It's also time for a gamedrive by bike. We have been warned by some hunters who told us "don't go there by bike, the elephants are dangerous". Well, so far I haven't seen an elephant at all, maybe they are just hiding in the bushes? ;-)
|Market in the small city of Leo||African markets are not very clean|
|The local food doesn't look to bad||Hope it's not waiting for us! ;-)|
|December 14, 2011:|
Rest day in Bobo Dioulasso. Time is passing by ever so fast, we have already done some 2.000 km. Yesterday we visited the cascades of Banfora and we had a lot of fun splashing around in the water. That was so much better than having our usual bushcamp-shower with our waterbottles. Today our tents are sitting in the garden of a nice small Hotel and quite contrary to the stores on the countryside you can get here in town everything, even cold beer at the bar.
|The "Pics du Sindou" are beautiful rock formations||Cattle is the wealth of the people in this part of Africa|
|On the route between Sindou and Banfora||Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries in the world,|
as you can see here in this store...
|December 11, 2011:|
Boarder crossing into Burkina Faso was quite easy: Collect and hand over the passports, wait for 30 minutes until everything is copied into the big book et voilŕ: your exit stamp! Of course, on the other side you it's the same procedure all over for your entry stamp. And then we are back again on red dirt-roads, which deliver such a lot of fun to us cyclists, it's surfing around potholes with flow. Amazing how fast the landscape is changing, hilly roads lined by green trees are coming up and after 110 km we put up our bushcamp right in the middle of a small village named Koloko beneath goats, chicken, dogs and cattle. What a joy for the inhabitants and for us as well. Richard, our lunch-truck driver and bike mechanic makes some hard rubber-balls out of old tubes and shows to the boys of the village how to play American baseball. Thanks heaven there are no glass-windows in the huts! ;-)
For the evening we are invited to join the village for the independence celebration of Burkina Faso (11.12.) with live music and a dancing. We are treated as special guest and VIPs and so we are served a big bowl of ricewhatsoever with fish-heads, fish-tails and meat hanging on small pieces of broken bones and we also got some lukewarm homemade beer which was still bubbling in a 10 liter canister. Uagh!!! To be polite we had to eat and drink quite a big portion of that stuff, nothing for weak nerves! Another highlight was the dancing: the funnier the moves the more applause from our hosts, I had tears in my eyes from laughing. The coming night of course was pretty short, after some 4 hours the Muezzin woke us up with his "Allah u akbar". Yes, it was a village with a small mosque beside the huts, but I didn't see anybody pray towards Mecca.
|Red dirtroad in Burkina Faso...||...cycling here is really fun!|
|Our bushcamp in the middle of a small village||This one is not for a weak stomage|
|December 10, 2011:|
The last three days we spent cycling on the Trans-Saharian Highway and Trans-Sahelian Highway. Both routes are in pristine condition, no wonder because they are brand new. Just a small stretch of about 10 km is still under construction under the supervision of some Chinese ingenieurs. I didn't know so far that those are also engaged in this part of Africa!? The three days gave us a perfect possibility for some training for some harder days to come. The landscape here is slightly hilly, it's always 1 km "climbing" with 2-4% and then it's going down again. It's only a pity, that there is just one kind of wind direction in this part of Africa: HEADWIND. That makes riding a bit harder...
Today was once more time for a tire change, from fast roadgoing Schwalbe Marathon back to profiled wide Conti X-King, because we are expecting really rough terrain for the next days. I'll keep you informed! :-)
|Works on the Trans-Sahelian Highway under the supervision
of the Chinese
|Bushfires are quite a common sight here...|
|Riding on the Trans-Saharian Highway||One of the numerous Coke stops. In nearly every village|
you may find "cold" Coke, Fanta, Tonic water...
|December 05, 2011:|
Arrival in Bamako, we have now two rest days lying ahead of us. The last 250 km we cycled on a completely new asphalt road with no potholes at all. And there even was nearly no traffic on the road, just some express buses, small and noisy motorcycles and private cars. We really made good progress on that road, but cycling there was also somewhat boring. Coming closer to Bamako the traffic really got quite strong, a lot of small motorcycles, taxis, minibuses and bicycles made cycling not so easy any more. Bamako is one of the fastest growing cities of Africa with a population of over 2 million.
Now to the question why I don't send more often pictures and reports: First of all there are not to many Cyber-Cafés around and if you manage to find one, well just have a look at the photos below.
|Cyber-Café, Internet, Fax, from the outside...||...and the same location from the inside|
|The new road to Bamako||No, those are not bottles of Single Malt Whisky, it's a|
petrol station for small motorcycles.
|December 02, 2011:|
Again the landscape is changing: Dirt road and leftovers from an asphalt road are interchanging and make riding a joy! For the first time we climb small mountains, but we still make very fast progress. More and more burnt soil is to be found to the left and right of the road. For the night we put up our bushcamp near to a small village. Of course we are the attraction No 1 and very soon we are surrounded by numerous curious children and adults. For breakfast we are surprised by a basket full of delicious homemade deepfried "pieces". So much hospitality from people who them selfs don't have a lot for a living!!
|The landscape is changing: burnt soil to the left and
right of the road
|Two bikers in Africa ;-)|
|The village where we did put up our bushcamp||One of the girls of the village. Isn't she nice?|
|December 01, 2011:|
What an extreme day! The landscape was extremely beautiful, the people living there were extremely friendly and curious, extreme was also the heat and dehydration, and the last 20 km were extremely difficult and exhausting because of the deep sand. It's been a day with 82 km of 4w-tracks and single-trails, which was still marked as a road in our map. Highlight of the day were the waterfalls of Gouina, which are also known as the "Niagara Falls of Mali". They are so beautiful, untouched by civilization and impressive albeit the river is at that time of the year quite low on water. Thereafter we went on trails from village to village, of course the trails always run quite through the middle of any village, consisting of 20 to 30 huts and 100-200 inhabitants, 80% of those were children. We had to shake hands with nearly everybody and especially the children were crazy to position them for a photo. Of course we also got water from a water pump for our water bottles, must have been clean water as nobody was ill afterwards... :-)
|That's me ;-)||Can you really call this a road?|
|The waterfalls of Gouina...||Two of the villages had a water pump with apparently clean water.|
At least we did drink it and nobody was ill afterwards...
|November 29, 2011:|
Rest day in Kayes. Kayes is called "the melting pot of Africa", it's the hottest town of Africa where people live all year round. Ok, now it's winter time, but you don't feel too much of it, it's still hot, very very hot! We did put out our tents in the "garden" of a nice hotel and we also do have a room for a shower, what a luxury on this tour!!! You even can get ice-cold beer at the bar... :-)
Rest day means mostly washing you clothes, set up you bike, search for an Internet café to post your reports and to regenerate. The next six days will be really heavy: Stages of up to 140 km on dirt roads are awaiting us and bush camps with no luxury. It's not for Sissies, but I guess we wanted it that way! ;-)
|A Millipede is visiting us during lunch||This sight is typical in this part of Africa|
|November 27, 2011:|
Today we crossed the border into Mali. It's not so easy to find the proper place where you will get the "most important" stamp for your passport: Somewhere in the village is an ugly room with a desk and a very official officer behind it... but at least, after two hours, we could cross the border, unlike the hundreds of trucks waiting to the left and right of the street.
Here is our daily schedule which already changed into some kind of a routine: At 6 am it's "kickerkieeee" WAKE UP even if it's still dark. Now it's time to pack the bag, tear down the tent, have a look at the bike (tires!), fill the water bottles... At 7 am the sun is rising and it's time for breakfast: Café or tea, muesli, baguette with jam, jelly and peanut butter and occasionally some egs. Shortly prior to 8 the "race" starts, even if it's officially not a race. After 60 to 80 km we will get a highly deserved lunch break and between 1 and 4 pm we will reach the finish line of the day. A warm soup is awaiting us as well as treated drinking water (but it's luke warm, baeh!) Now it's time to have a shower with one bottle of untreated water, to prepare the bike for the next day, put up the tent, write the report for the Internet and around 6 pm we will get dinner. Around 7 pm it's getting dark, now the night belongs to the stars and strange sounds of Africa: Hyenas, donkeys, monkeys and many unknown noises.
|Typical hut. Often 10 to 20 of those huts are sourrounded by
a wooden fence and form a small village
|In one of the numerous shops where you can get cooled|
Cola, Fanta, Water... they don't have electricity but ice
in the fridge
|Bike and donkeys are the usual means of transportation||Not an unusual sight along an African highway,|
today we also saw a dead donkey on the street,
flat like a stamp
|November 26, 2011:|
Arrival in Goudiry. Today we did, for the very first time, come under a massive attack: At our lunch spot a swarm of wasps occupied our food and water supply. Sausage, cheese, baguettes, tomatoes, bananas and even the water tank were covered by a thick black cloud of wasps. So we made a fire and produced a big cloud of fumes, but it didn't help to much. After being bitten a couple of times I gave up and decided just to continue on the road. It didn't matter to much because it was one of the easier days: 120 km on asphalt. What's strange is the huge amount of burnt cars and trucks beside the road...
|Our supply vans on a small ferry across the
|Biking through a small village|
|Termites are around everywhere...||One of the numerous trucks or cars aside the road|
that caught fire and melted down
|November 23, 2011:|
After the first 450 km through Senegal and Gambia it's now a rest day in Georgetown/Gambia. Gambia is the smallest country in Africa, 300km long but just 35 km wide, just as wide as canons of the British canon-boats on the river Gambia could reach. The road from the border to Georgetown was in perfect shape, smooth asphalt through a green environment made riding a joy despite of the heat! Georgetown was once a center of the slavery, it was the starting point of their shipping to Goré/Dakar. We visited the old Fort today as well as the local hospital and the high-school.
Oh how nice would it be if to have a swim in the river but crocodiles and Hippos prevent me from doing so...
|On the road to Georgetown||Friendly people and smiling children everywhere|
|Monkeys are everywhere in our ressort||A boot on the river Gambia|
|November 19, 2011:|
THREE - TWO - ONE ...and wushhhh, the Tour has begun. Ok, it was not so much of a wushh, the first 20 km were on sandy roads, which means corrugated portions interchange with light, deep sand. From 25 km/h to zero within 5 meters! But is aphalt really so much better? Have a look at the photos below. Actually the potholes are even deeper as they appear on the picture below. Of course there are also "good" roads, but then you are forced by the traffic to use the side lanes and do a slalom around 1000s of shattered pieces of glass.
|Dirt road: Light, deep sand interchanging with corrugated
tracks pull the strength out of your legs!
|Asphalt: The potholes are really deep and|
filled with sand. Is that so much better?
|November 18, 2011:|
Hurrah, our supply truck made it in time!
18:30h mandatory briefing: The "Race" is by now officially downgraded to a "Tour & Expedition", but what the hell means 'officially' in Africa... ;-) The reason for the downgrading: It's too dangerous to race on those bad roads in conjunction with the "African style" traffic. Furthermore half of the Tour had to be changed due to terroristic threat and is therefore unscouted. This portions will be "Terra Incognita" for us.
|Our supply vehicle: A 25 years old fire truck...||...and the alarm horn is still working like new! ;-)|
|November 16, 2011:|
Today was my transfer to the 'Lac Rose', which got its name from a pink shimmer that colours its waves during certain times of the day. The reason for that spectacle is its high content of salt in the water, which is 10 times of the salt concentration in the Atlantic. Lac Rose is the starting point of our race which will go off on November 19.
In the afternoon I made a first testride of my bike and the SPOT2 (the satellite-tracker): Everything works fine, so it's just our supply truck that's missing. But there are rumours that the truck is already approaching the border of Senegal! :-)
|12 miles out of Dakar||Lac Rose|
|November 14, 2011:|
I'm on my way to Dakar. It's not yet assured that the race will start in time. If our supply truck comes in late it would mean for us participants: Longer stages! But we do have 3.450 miles to make good on this...
|November 11, 2011:|
We are worried about our supply vehicle that is currently on a transfer trip from the Netherlands to Dakar:
300km south of Barcelona the truck came to a forced stop. Transfer box damage! A not fully tightened oil drain plug came loose due to vibration, and without oil even the very best gears won't last long. A replacement transfer box is organized and brought in from the Netherlands by a 1.700km drive. After 2 days the car is finally back on the road, but it's still a distance of about 5,000 km to the starting point in Dakar. Will our more than 25 year old fire truck make it in time? It's only one week to go until the start of the race in Dakar...
|October 30, 2011:|
Only two weeks to go until my flight to Dakar/Senegal.
My preparations are nearly complete now: My body is full of vaccinations against yellow fever, hepatitis A + B, tetanus, diphtheria, polio and encephalitis, my Passport is full of VISA, I had to fill out twelve application forms, attach twelve photos and wait for six weeks while my passport made it's round through the different Embassies, my legs feel fine after 6.000 miles on my bike and many hours of workout in the Gym... LET THE RACE BEGIN AT LAST!
|My activities in 2010 and 2011:|
|last update: 13-Mrz-12||http://www.timbuktu-race.de/||Gerhard Kießling