OVERLAND TO GHANA
Where the Sahara meets the Atlantic Ocean in Western Sahara
Camping in Western Sahara having driven a mile off road to find a safe secluded spot behind a sand dune.
Sunrise in the Sahara. Each morning, we packed our tents away at sunrise, drove on for 2 hours then had breakfast at 9am.
Sand as far as the eye can see in Mauritania
Dateline: Sunday January 11, 2004 - the day before we left
Starting Position: 56 degrees north, 2 degrees west, nearest city Newcastle, UK. Temperature cold
Current Position: 56 degrees north, 2 degrees west, nearest city Newcastle. Temperature cold
Destination Position: 5 degrees north, 1 degree west, nearest city Accra, Ghana. Estimated temperature 30 degrees celcius.
Most westerley point en route: Nouadhibou, Mauritania: 18 degrees north, 17 degrees west.
Most easterly point en route: Paris, France: 49 degrees north, 3 degrees east.
Note: 1 degree south is 70 miles. 1 degree east or west is 70 miles in Ghana and is 48 miles in Newcastle (it is zero at the North Pole where all of the lines of longitude meet).
Expected departure: Monday January 12 at 9.30am.
Dateline: Monday January 12, 2004
After having aircon serviced, left Newcastle at 11am and immediately got lost in Gateshead. Easy run to Channel Tunnel (weather forecast stormy, so avoided ferries), 5pm train to Calais, quick run down to Formule 1 hotel in Arras, on the way to Paris. Nice dinner in town centre. Sending this e-mail from town square with local policemen wondering if we are spies. Placing satellite transmitter on Landcruiser roof causes some local interest.
Current Position, 3 degrees west, 52 degrees north.
Dateline: Tuesday 13th January, 2004
Current position: 51 degrees north, 3 degrees east, just west of Paris. Driving through France on Tuesday. The weather was stormy through the morning with heavy rain and strong winds. We were delayed for 2 hours by heavy traffic on the clockwise Paris orbital motorway but have not been held up since. From Paris, we made for Tours, Poitiers, then towards San Rochelle and down to Bordeaux. During the afternoon, the rain ceased but the wind grew to gale force, coming straight off the Bay of Biscay, bringing our speed down to 70mph. It remained windy until south of Bordeaux when we saw the first sunshine of the day. We stopped at a motorway picnic area and enjoyed the warmth - about 17 degrees celcius. The days are longer here and we are looking forward to a pleasant evening crossing the Pyrannes as the sun sets, then its a short drive along the Spanish coast road into Bilbao. Looking forward to paella and chips tonight.
Dateline: Wednesday January 14, 2004
Current position: 43 degrees north, 1 degree west
We are at the foothills of the Pyrannes and things are going really well.
Temperature 17 degrees. Nice evening, sun beginning to set. I'm going to watch the mountains. We are in Bilbao, northern Spain in another Formule 1 hotel. Just had dinner. Very good day. Covered 765 miles. Hope to get to Algeceras tomorrow night, right by Gibraltar so we can get the ferry to Morocco onThursday morning.
Dateline: Thursday January 15, 2004
Current position: 32 degrees north, 6 degree west, total distance covered - 3,400km
3.38pm - We've made it to Africa. Currently driving on the motorway from Tangiers to Rabat. From there, its a short drive to Casablanca, then on to Marrakech where we hope to be by nightfall.
We had an interesting morning. We left Estapona on the Costa del Sol at 8am at dawn. A short drive to Algeceras, across the bay from Gibraltar. En route we passed the spot where we decided to ship the double deck bus rather than drive it to Ekumfi-Atakwa in 2000. We bought tickets to Tangiers and were hurried through for the 9am "fast ferry" across the Straights of Gibraltar. We discovered that Detroit is Spanish for Straights. The ferry distance was 40 miles and we expected the trip to take an hour as advertised but discovered that the part on the high seas takes an hour. Crawling out of Algeceras and into Tangiers took another hour.
We were nearly three hours in the queue clearing customs - typical for Africa. There was a stream of police, customs and immigration meaningless beaurocracy together with people selling tea and possibly spanners but maybe that was the opportunist repair man. Eventually, we made it out of the port and found Tangier remarkably laid back to drive through - it could have been Sunderland.
We spent 40 minutes driving out to the country roads. Morocco is surprisingly lush. The first part of the journey was along the coast with sand dunes between us and the sea. It could have been South Beach, Blyth but for the camels. It already seems very African in character with oxen pulling carts, sheep everywhere, crowds of people at village markets and people selling everything you might need at the roadside.
Landcruiser is going well, no problems at all. There is so little traffic on the motorway, Mark is using the cruise control at 70mph. We're not going too fast because we think we don't have third party insurance in Morocco and we're not really sure how to buy it. Its our present topic of debate.
We expect to be in Morocco for 3 or 4 days - its a very long country.
Weather is progressively warming, almost 20 degrees. We expect a significant rise in temperatures in the next 2 days. Overcast at the moment. New airconditioning compressor works well thankfully.
10pm - We made it into Marrakesh tonight. Good progress through Rabat and Casablanca on incredibly quiet Morrocan motorways. The road to Marrakech was two lane over mountains with more trucks than you could shake a stick at.
As darkness fell, it became difficult to pass them. Also, many police stops in towns and villages. Morocco is on high terrorist alert - we are let straight through but if the car in front is suspect, we have to wait.
So, the customs delay this morning was compounded by slow progress during the evening so it was after 8 when we checked into a splendid marble hotel.
Just had something Moroccan for dinner, probably best kept to myself.
The police are everywhere in Morocco. Every bridge has a policemen, every slip road has police motorcyclists and there is a posse at each toll booth - tolls are very cheap but serve to keep the motorways empty - like Birmingham really. We've been surprised at how green the country is.
Tomorrow, we leave the main population centres and head down the coast towards Western Sahara and we expect to be camping from here till Bamako just south of Timbuktu.
Dateline: Friday January 16, 2004
Current position: 29 degrees north, 10 degrees west. Distance travelled4020km.
Had a good breakfast, filled water tanks for the first time at the hotel, did a mini vehicle service, then left Marrakech for Agadir on the coast.
Drove through the western end of the Atlas Mountains, through spectacular passes of height 4000ft between 10,000ft snow capped peaks.
Good road with some slow trucks which were easy to pass. Did a few passes of the same spot while Mark filmed. At one stage, Mark moved 30ft (10m) away from the road and I lost him, returned and found him - the terrain makes it difficult to locate someone when you lose sight of them.
Then on to the Agadir bypass and straight (detroit) down the coast road towards Laayoun.
Part of our purpose is to evaluate the route which we hoped to drive the double deck bus. So far, the only real obstacle is a low bridge which would have taken the top 30cm off the bus. We would probably have found a way round it.
All of the roads have all been well surfaced and gradients have been reasonable, although a couple of longer hills would have had the bus down to a crawl with the possible loss of the gear selector actuators.
During the afternoon, we made good progress heading south west. After Agadir, Morocco changed character and we are now truly in the Sahara desert, albeit on the coast.
By 5-30pm, we had passed Tan Tan and the road ran right by the coast where we decided to pitch our tents for the evening while it was still light. It was difficult to do this because a Sahara evening wind blew up. However, as luck would have it, a passing Bedouin Arab walked by and helped us. I have to say a Bedouin Arab is much more use than a boy scout in such circumstances. Mark prepared dinner of lobster bisque, spaghetti and sauce with Mars Bars for sweet. I got the generator working and ran our 500watt lamp which lit up half the Sahara.
Dateline: Saturday January 17, 2004
Another good day with 800km covered which means we have ccovered 4,800km since Monday.
We are right on the Tropic of Cancer at 23 degrees 27 minutes north of the Equator. The Tropics define the zone where the sun is right overhead in summer.
The days are much longer than they were in Newcastle and the temperature is about 24 degrees during the day falling to about 7 during quite cold nights. We have insulated sleeping bags so we keep really warm in our tents.
We rose at 5-30am, decamped and drove off at 6.00 this morning. We encountered our first technical hitch when the main beam lights failed before dawn. Later, we checked the fuse and relay both of which are functioning correctly so we will solve it by a process of elimination. Its not a show stopper but its a bit irritating because Landcruisers have magnificent main beams.
Today, we have been making progress down the coast of Western Sahara which was governed by Spain until 25 years ago when they pulled out after the death of King Carlos. It is now disputed territory and is claimed by Morocco. There is a group of displaced nomadic people called the Polisario who also claim it. As a result, the southern border with Mauritania has been mined and we have to negotiate the minefield tomorrow or Monday. Its not too bad as long as you follow the tracks, known in the Sahara as the piste (like skiing).
A benefit of Western Sahara is the price of fuel. Diesel costs 15p per litre so we have filled out additional fuel tanks for the first time. We are close to out furthest point west.
Its been real Sahara scenery today with towering sand dunes and we have seen several mirages - its true, you are convinced it is an oasis. A highlight of the day was listening to Manchester United lose on BBC World Service, although Norwich City's late equaliser at Rotherham put a damper on things .
We have been stopped several times by the police who always want to know our jobs, our parents' names and how many children we have. They are really friendly. Because we are English, one took his old typewriter out of its box, blew the dust off, found an old roll of paper and began to type our details at policeman speed which cost us 40 minutes.
Conversation is in French which is Morocco & Western Sahara's second language.
A feature of the coastline is the number of wrecked ships on the beach. We must have seen 12. I guess the owners are poor so they are badly maintained.
Tonight, we are camped about a km away from the road behind a sand dune where no-one can see us. Its a beautiful spot and was dramatic as the sun went down an hour ago. Leek and potatoe soup, beaf stew and rice for dinner with orange juice and Nutella for sweet.
Dateline: Sunday January 18, 2004
Current position: 29 degrees north, 10 degrees west. Distance travelled4020km.
As it is Sunday, we slept in till 7-30, decamped and headed south for Mauritania, a distance of 300km. We saw our first large sand dunes.
Last night, we switched off the lights and saw the stars with no light pollution. Only the light of Venus spoilt it. As soon as Venus set, we could see amazing things, including the Milky Way running right across the sky. I didn't realise how full of stars the sky is.
This morning, whilst Mark drove, I entered the coordinates of recently documented waypoints from Nouadhibou to Nouakchott into the computer, then transferred them to the GPS system. Tell you something, this really brushes up your computing skills, especially as all the data entry is whilst being driven over sometimes bumpy roads with the sun obscuring the computer screen.
Getting out of Western Sahara and into Mauritania took time. From the border onwards, there was no road and we have teamed up with 2 other vehicles, one from Belgium and one from France. Between us, we have hired a local guide, Mohammed (arn't they all) who is terrific.
During the afternoon, we have been driving through the desert sands, up and down sand dunes 60 ft high. This is a real challenge requiring tyre pressures to be lowered, engage low ratio, lock all the differentials and gun it. You then plough up a dune, often nearly sideways, then accelerate down. Mark has some wonderful film of the sun going down. We are about to dine with Mohammed and our new found European friends, having pitched tents in the lee of a dune.
We are at 20 degrees north, 16 degrees south. Covered 400 kilometers today which is good considering the border delay and the driving conditions.
Tomorrow, we may make the 250 kilometers, including 60 kilometers on the beach to Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania, then its a 1200 mile dash for Ouagadougou, then down into Ghana.
We are encouraged today because this is the off road part of the journey which some have reported as beong difficult, whereas with the Landcruiser, its the ultimate off-road adventure. Also, we now see no reason why we won't make it all the way. Kwesi says my subjects in Ekumfi Atakwa are anticipating our arrival. Can't wait to see Kwesi and them.
Oh yes, we have answered the main question. There is no way we would have got the bus this far. I just can't see a London double decker drifting over the crest of a 60ft dune. By now, it would have been the most famous of the vehicle wrecks we see from time to time. And yes, we got through the minefield unscathed.
Dateline: Monday January 19, 2004
Current position: 18 degrees north, 16 degrees west. Distance travelled 5400km.
We made it into Nouakchott tonight and after three nights of camping in the Sahara, we have checked into Mauritania's best hotel, which is like a dilapidated Travelodge. I cannot describe the enjoyment of a hot bath after three days camping in the desert. Today's been the ultimate off-road adventure. Its been straight through the Sahara, over 60ft dunes with only our guide to show us where to drive. We have some spectacular pictures and film.
The only obstacles were the occasional camel trains. In fact, at one rest point, our French convoy companions asked a passing Berber tribesman if he was interested in buying their Mitsubishi Shogun. The tribesman shook his head (which we think means no) but pointed to our Landcruiser and offered us five of his finest camels for it. We declined because I told Mark he would have to ride the cross one - or rather the very cross one, Mark says they are all cross.
In fact, the Landcruiser has been the star of the day. On a few occasions, the two Mitsubishi's got stuck in the sand whilst we just powered up. The trick is to stop well before the bottom of a dune, select low ratio, lock the diffs and gun it. Its like steering a ship. Movements of the wheel have little effect, the front wheels act as rudders as about 10 inches depth of sand is pushed out of the way. On several occasions we just went back down to take our Bedouin guide to an embedded Mitsubishi so he could show them an alternative route.
We covered 250km through the dunes and then 100km on earth roads which are awful because of the phenomenon of washboarding. Earth roads develop ridges at 30cm centres running across the road. This causes the vehicle to vibrate massively.
The Landcruiser has not even developed a rattle, although our teeth have. We were expecting to drive the last 60km along the beach but a road has been built into Nouakchott which we followed.
We had serious doubts about whether we would make it here - 250km without roads is tricky. There is no way the bus would have made it. For the first time tonight, our thoughts are turning to arriving in Ghana.
Dateline: Tuesday January 20, 2004
Current position: 18 degrees north, 16 degrees west..
We are still in Nouakchott, Mauritania tonight, Tuesday. We decided to obtain our Burkina Faso visas at the French Embassy here rather than in Bamako because they take 24 hours here and 48 hours in Bamako.
We will collect our passports at 9-30 in the morning and recommence our journey, now heading west towards Aleg and Kiffa, both in Mauritania along the Route d' Espoir (the Road of Hope). Tomorrow, we expect to cover 700km heading east on a decent road before turning right onto an earth road to head south towards Nioro just over the Mali border. We have used today to obtain West
Africa car insurance and local currency (that's the Mauritanian ougiya - we obtained 270 to the US dollar in the souk (the local market) whereas the banks offer 240).
We nearly had a swim in the hotel pool, the temperature is in the high 20's, but there are some serious swimming bugs with large pincers already in the deep end.
Dateline: Wedensday January 21, 2004
Current position: 17 degrees north, 11 degrees west.
Another good day. We have covered 400 miles heading mainly east along Le Route d'Espoir (The Road of Hope) after collecting our passports with Burkina Faso visas in Nouakchott this morning. This means we are now in the Sahel, a region comprising patches of desert, mountains and grasslands running along the south of the Sahara.
Darkness fell at 6-30 and we are camped in an area of grassland. The temperature has been around 30 degrees all day and now its a balmy 20 with crickets chirrupin all around.
Beautiful sky again.
Le Route d'Espoire was much better than the guide books had led us to believe. It has been surfaced all the way and the part over the mountains has just been completed. Very little traffic all day, except in the towns where we have been driving around carts pulled by donkeys. In fact, donkey carts are the principal means of local transport. We assess the prosperity of each village by how many donkeys pull each cart. A "one donkey town" is at the bottom of the pile. "Twins" are quite nice and "Triples" are the places to be. We even saw one "Triple" with a spare walking alongside but not attached to the cart. People here are tall and elegantly dressed. The men wear light blue robes and the women wear multi-coloured flowing dresses.
Some women wear burkas - it seems fundamental Islam is gaining in influence which does not seem to be a step forward.
The only obstacles to 70mph progress today were getting the passports, about 15 stops at police checkpoints (only one asked for a gift) and camels, goats and cows wandering onto the roads.
We did find time to practice bunker shots in the sand dunes but would you believe it, I forgot to bring my sand wedge. Nonetheless, Mark has shots of my swing and I have acted as assistant cameraman filming Mark's swing.
Dateline: Thursday January 22, 2004
Current position: 14 degrees north, 11 degrees west
Total distance travelled from Newcastle 6,700km
Distance to go 2,100km (estimated)
Its just after 8pm Thursday night, Mark & I have just finished dinner of chunky soup, pickled onions and a Mars Bar (each). We are now in Mali and have set camp for the night about half a mile from the road.
Again, we have had an excellent day. We decamped at 6-30 this morning and have driven nearly 400 miles, arriving here at 6pm. We have to stop before darkness falls so we can check that the site is suitable.
We have seen some African animals today - 3 squirrels and a small monkey. Where are the Wildebeast striding magnificently over the plains of the Serengety?
Today has been about the state of the roads. We completed the run east on Le Rue d'Espoir, turned right and headed south for Mali. We were pleasantly surprised to find that a road which was designated as "piste" on the map had been recently surfaced with asphalt so we completed the first 160 miles at 70mph, through grasslands with rocky outcrops.
We entered Mali at Noiro and then commenced 100km on the worst road imaginable. It had been constructed as an earth road many years ago but has fallen into disrepair. Every 100 yards or so, the earth had been washed away and we had to cross a crater the length of a bus and up to five feet deep. It was barely passable even with the Landcruiser and the 100km took nearly five hours. This was followed by a recently constructed earth road which was in better shape but which had developed corrugations (called washboarding). Its like driving with four punctures. It kept our speed down to 50mph but exhausted us - the noise and vibration is very tiring. Earth roads are constructed by stripping away the topsoil then placing and rolling about 2ft thickness of laterite and compacting it with a roller. Laterite is soil found in the tropics. It is clay with the binding materials having been washed out by tropical rain.
Earth roads are cheap and good to use if they are graded and rolled regularly. Mali can't afford to do this. Its GDP is $US250 per capita and it is one of the worlds 10 poorest countries. By contrast, the UK's GDP is $US22,000 and even Ghana's is $US700. The villages have been wonderful.
We have passed from lands occupied by nomadic peoples with tents (like us really) to recognisable West African peoples. The women, all dressed immaculately, carry water and produce to marked on their head. The men still wear robes and also wrap black scarfs round their head to keep out the sand - we are still on the southern fringe of the Sahara.
We are feeling more relaxed than for a long time because we really have broken the back of the journey. 250km from here to Bamako, capital of Mali, then a quick dash on good roads to Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso where we will rest for a day or so while our Ghana visas are sorted, then its a day's journey to Ekumfi-Atakwa. With the expected delay in Ouagadougou (they shorten it to "wagga") we expect to roll into Ekumfi-Atakwa on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Dateline: Friday January 23, 2004
Current position: 12 degrees north, 5 degrees west
Destination position: 5 degrees north, on the meridien
Total distance travelled from Newcastle:7330km (our GPS system keeps a log of every kilometre)
Its Friday evening near the Mali/Burkina Faso border and we have had another good day covering just over 400 miles.
We drove into Bamako, capital of Mali to exchange currency and to find diesel.
It is a typical heaving African metropolis with the streets a mass of colour, noise, confusion and congestion. Walking to the bank, I was approached by unofficial foreign exchange touts who offered a better rate so I obtained the local currency from them.
In all of the former French West African colonies, they use a currency called the CFA (pronounced see-fa) with 1000 to the pound.
We crossed the half mile wide Niger River whilst leaving town heading east.
We drove through the Mali cotton fields. Its harvest time so it was terriffic to see the white cotton stored in the fields ready for transport. We came to a junction where we turned right and had we turned left, we would have been in Timbuktu by now. After that, the main impediment to progress has been nothing more exotic than speed bumps in the villages.
We then passed water melon fields but unfortunately they are not ripe yet. We had to pick out way through all the small towns between bicycles, mopeds, goats, donkeys, cows and children coming home from school, all immacutely dressed in school uniform (the children that is, not the goats, donkeys etc.)
So how near are we? Tomorrow, we have a day's drive into Ouagadougou. We need to obtain Ghana visas there so won't be able to get them until Monday morning. Normally, they take up to 48 hours, but Kwesi has had a word in high places and the visas will be issued on Monday. So, we will enjoy rest & recouperation on Sunday. This means we might just make it to Kwesi's University (he is the Vice Chancellor at Ghana's principal Engineering/Medicine University) in Kumasi on Monday where we can rest ready for a short trip to Ekumfi-Atakwa on Tuesday.
We have about 900 more miles to run and are feeling very "gruntled" about the whole business.
Dateline: Saturday January 24, 2004
Current position 12 degrees north, 1 degree west (i.e. we have been travelling west all day)
Total distance travelled 8,900km.
We arrived into Ouagadougou (pronounced Wagga - doo - goo with the emphasis on the doo), capital of Burkina Faso Saturday evening and have checked into an African style hotel.
We have a "bungalow" which is a round mud-walled hut with wooden roof. It has all mod cons, including a room each, aircon, shower and power points.
Ouagadougou is another massive heaving African capital. Burkina Faso is the 5th poorest country in the world so Ouagadougou is very poor. There are very few cars: bicycles and mopeds are the standard mode of transport.
The city is a mass of bikes, often travelling 5 abreast. The whole place is noisy, dusty, smokey (from the 2-stroke mopeds) and alive with people and African shops lining the streets, i.e. corrugated iron huts selling anything as long as it is brightly coloured. They still sell Omo.
We travelled through the Burkina Faso rice fields today after spending an hour clearing formalities at the border with Mali. The Carnet de Passage proved its worth yet again in smoothing the path for temporarily importing the Landcruiser. We had to stop at 2 police posts when leaving Mali and a further 2 upon arrival in Burkina. We have lost count of how many police stations we have been ushered into. Africa seems obsessed with having to tell policemen who you are, what you do, your parents' names and where you have been and are going.
The good news is we now have an easy run down to Ekumfi-Atakwa. We will probably not make it on Monday because we need to obtain our visas first, then clear frontier formalities at Ghana. Kwesi has come up trumps yet again and has arranged with his counterpart, the Vice Chancellor at the University of Tamali in Northern Ghana for us to spend a night at the VC's residence there if we need to. Also, I am making arrangements to ship the car back at the weekend and am expecting to fly home over the weekend.
One of the things we really have been advised we must not do is sell the Landcruiser in Africa because customs get very upset about it. Therefore, it came as something as a surprise when the customs officer offered us 20,000 euros for it.
We really are in West Africa now. The temperature is 30 degrees during the day dropping to 20 degrees at night. It is humid and insects are everywhere. In fact, as I type, several of them are playing a game of Russian Roulette by landing on the keyboard. I've already had three. They really should learn predictive text.
Dateline: Sunday January 25, 2004
We are still in Ouagadougou and have spent the day washing our clothes, sitting around the pool sipping Coka Colas, a quick swim and just now, we drove out of town to do some filming - Mark likes the late evening sun -
Africa goes mellow in the evenings with the low sun. We passed one moped with such a large parcel on the handlebars that the rider couldn't see over it, but he did have his light on. Another was taking his settee and a chair along. Also, we have made our plans for tomorrow. Oh yes, and we have finally worked out why the main beams don't work - the relay melted in Western Sahara. Because of the need to obtain visas, it is unlikely that we will reach Ekumfi-Atakwa until Tuesday. The total distance remaining is about 900km (600 miles).
It is looking likely that we will arrive at between noon and 3pm on Tuesday.
For the sake of all the children at Whitley Lodge First School who we know are following our progress, we will do everything to arrive before 3pm (you would not believe how many e-mails we have received from 8 year olds which has been terrific - I know the name of every cat in Whitley Bay).
Another 30 degrees day here. I understand that it's not quite so warm in the UK.
Dateline: Monday January 26, 2004
We are pleased to report that we arrived in Ghana 5 minutes ago at
10 to 4 on Monday afternoon.
Current position: 5 degrees 20.538 minutes north, 0 degrees 54.907 minutes west
Temperature 37 degrees celcius
Total distance from Newcastle 8,946.87km
Dateline: Tuesday January 27, 2004
Present position: pampered.
Total distance covered from Newcastle: 8,740km
Its after midnight on Monday and this e-mail is late because we arrived at The Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology in Kumasi at midnight to find the Vice Chancellor had prepared a substantial supper for us, which was wonderful after covering 550 miles from Ouagadougou today.
The roads through Ghana have been excellent except for the last 100 miles when a mixture of broken asphalt, heavy traffic and smoke from burning fields made driving hazardous. The Vice Chancellor (Kwesi to many of us, my former PhD student) now lives in a beautiful mansion formerly occupied by Ghana's first president, Kwame Nkrumah, after whom the University has recently been named.
Incidentally, for recipients in the North East, Coomassie Street in Blyth is a misspelling of Kumasi and is so named because a general from Blyth was involved in the Ashanti war in 1870 in what is now Ghana. We are having breakfast with Kwesi and his wife Abba before leaving for Ekumfi Atakwa where we intend to link children in the village school with children at Whitley Lodge School using this satellite modem.
Also, I hope to drive our double deck London bus and fill our water containers with water from our borehole. Also, looking forward to inspecting the John Knapton Library.
Mark will be starting his filming looking at the impact of our efforts in the village over the last 10 years and we hope to discuss this with a section of the village community. Also, we need to make arrangements to ship our Landcruiser home.
Our ETA in Ekumfi Atakwa tomorrow is 1pm and I will send an e-mail earlier than that as an update, followed by one immediately we arrive so stay tuned.
Meanwhile, I'm off to bed in the Vice Chancellor's guest house.
Dateline: Tuesday 27th January 2004
Its half past ten on Tuesday morning and we have left for Ekumfi-Atakwa but have stopped at a garage to have a bracket welded onto the exhaust: the pot holes of Ghana broke it last night. Should be going at mid-day and intoEkumfi-Atakwa by 2-30pm.
We are 200km from our final destination. Arrived Ekumfi-Atakwa 3-30pm. Decided that tomorrow, we will make arrangements for the Landcruiser to be shipped back, probably taking it to Tema Harbour on Friday, possibly getting a Friday night flight, but maybe Saturday or even Sunday, depending on the progress of Mark's filming. Went to Hut d'Eric, local western style burger bar for an Ericburger dinner.
Dateline: Wednesday 28th January 2004-02-22
Were woken at 5am by cockerals, goats, people singing and general hubbub in Ekumfi-Atakwa. Spent the morning driving to Accra's port, Tema Harbour to make arrangements with the shipping company to ship the Landcruiser back in a container to Felixstowe. Sorted everthing out and drove back to Ekumfi-Atakwa. Mark did some filming during the late afternoon. Went to the Biriwa Beach Hotel for a dinner of lobster and chips - one of our usual Ghanaian treats.
Dateline: Thursday January 29, 2004
We are still in Ekumfi-Atakwa and are preparing to fly out of Accra Friday night arriving Newcastle 9-30 Saturday morning via Amsterdam. We have made arrangements to ship the Landcruiser back through Tema Harbour to Felixstowe in a container.
Tomorrow, Friday, we will drive it to Tema, leave it with the shipping agent and be driven to the Airport. It will be loaded on a container ship due out on Sunday, expected in Felixstowe in 18 days.
This morning, we had a meeting of elders in Ekumfi-Atakwa. They have asked me if I can help with two projects. Firstly, they would like to trade in the double decker London bus for a smaller bus which will be able to bring children from all 45 local schools to the library. It will be cheaper to run than the double decker and will cope better with the roads. They need £3,000 to add to the £10,000 which they will raise from the double decker.
Also, they have started to build a market in the village but don't have funds to finish it - this is normal in Ghana. I would like to help them finish it. It will bring significant prosperity here. It will need afurther £7,000.
If you would like to help with either or both of these projects, donations would be gratefully received. I have a mechanism for transferring funds here through Barclays Bank. If you want to help, it would be best if you could send a cheque made out to Raidio Ghana (note the spelling of Raidio) to my address below. As well as personal donations, if there is a company who would like to be principle sponsor of either the bus or the market, this also would be excellent. All of the funds received go straight to the project (which is very unusual for African aid).
Dateline: Friday 30th January 2004-02-22
Filming at the village school and generally around the village during the morning. Left for Tema harbour at 11am. Arrived at 1pm, handed landcruiser over to shipping agent. One last look at it, then we were taken to the Shangri-La Hotel near the Airport where we had lunch, then spent the afternoon reflecting on the adventure over drinks by the pool, before departing for the overnight KLM flight home. Usual Friday night chaos at Accra's Kotoko Airport. The KLM queue stretched 50metres outside the terminal. Nice flight home. I slept the entire journey, including takeoff. 3 hours wait in Amsterdam, 1hr flight to Newcastle. Bumping down on Newcastle's runway was one of life's waypoints.