Sunday, 27 April 2014

Election Fever In Bissau and Relaxing Days In Casamance and Gambia...

We left Bissau at the height of election fever. The city was heaving with activity and thankfully peaceful, with a positive mood all around.  A drive day took us to Senegal’s Casamance region, where we spent a week exploring and relaxing: Fishing trips, exploring villages and craft markets on bikes, boat trips to nearby islands, and plenty of live music and dancing.

Relaxing days by the Casamance river, Senegal
Nicky, Steve, Derek, Paula, Adrian Getting Into The Rhythm Of Senegal!
Ali Joins In With The Limbo
The fishing port we visited in northern Casamance was quieter than usual as the previous night’s fishing had been poor. Luckily we got to see the vast quantity of fish that was caught in previous days being salted, dried and smoked to be sent upcountry, an extraordinary sight!

Fish Smoke House And Fish Drying In The Sun (Sascha's Photo)
These Guys Collect The Fish That's Been Dropped As The Huge Catches Are Brought Ashore
Our stay in Abene with Simon was a real highlight of the trip. The Koumpo dance we saw started slowly, as the Koumpo is a forest spirit who needs calling to the village with drumming. Fortunately, the spirit does also have a mobile phone so he knows roughly when and where he will be called! A stilt dancer joined us as the music and dancing built up ahead of the Koumpo’s arrival.

Ash Prepares For A Cameo Appearance
The Stilt Dancer Warming Up For His Performance With The Drummer Calling The Koumpo In From Afar!
The Baby Watched The Ceremony With Bewilderment!

It's very difficult to visualise what the Koumpo is doing under all the leaves; the spike comes out of his head, and remains stationary in the ground as he rotates around it.
The Koumpo Has Arrived!
The Koumpo Whipping Up A Storm In Senegal!
Later, two dark creatures turned up for the next stage of the ceremony. The children ran away in terror too quickly for us to catch them on film!

Koumpo Dance Senegal
This Creature Came On After The Koumpo And Scared The Kids Off In a Frenzy!
Koumpo Dance Senegal
A Hot And Sweaty Performance From This Child-Scaring Creature In Casamance, Senegal
Senegal Tourism Overland
Ladies In Their Colourful Fabrics Singing Along To To The Performance (Photo From Passenger Liz)
The next morning we visited a giant fromagier tree, considered sacred by the locals; it's actually 6 trees fused together. We also visited the local bat colony and met the chief before some relaxing beach time.

Fromagier Tree Senegal
Liz Climbing The Impressive Roots Of The Giant Fromagier Tree (Photo From Liz)
The Kora performance that the talented Gambian Griot, Hami Saho, gave us in the evening was much more subdued than the Koumpo dance the night before. He took time to explain Griot traditions, the history of Kora playing, and the meaning of each song.

Hami Saho Gives A Beautiful Performance Of Kora Music
Gambia Tour Overland
Ben, Ash, Laura, and Adrienne, Learning About The Kora and The Life Of A Griot
A short drive saw us leave Casamance for a few days in the Gambia. We took boat trips to see birdlife on the Gambia river, and had a great evening of music and dancing around Aminah courtesy of the village.

Tendaba Camp Gambia
Lazy Days By The River At Tendaba, Gambia
Dave, Liz, Kim, and Nicky Dance Around Aminah At Night, Gambia
The ferry across the Gambia river at Farafenni was as entertaining as ever; long periods of waiting around for something to happen, entertained by the many people selling colourful fabrics and cheap Viagra, punctuated by sudden frantic bursts of activity as the traffic moved onto the ferry.

Does Anyone Know Why A Drainage Culvert In Gambia Is An Irish Crossing (Photo from passenger Birgit)
Overland Group Africa
Steve, Adrian, Julie, John, and Liz On The Ferry With Aminah Tucked In
Our last full drive day of the trip took us back to Senegal, for a last night of relaxing on the beach before finishing our journey in Dakar.

Overland Tour Senegal
Derek By The Coast On Our Last Night Before Arriving Into Dakar
Cows Casually Strolling Along The Beach In Senegal (Photo From Di)
We had some excellent French food on our last night and a sample of the local nightlife. There's lots to see in and around Dakar, and many of the group headed to Ile de Goree on the last morning of the trip. 

For Aminah and Al the epic overland journey was not quite over. A 7,000 km + journey lay ahead in Mauritania, Western Sahara, Morocco, and Europe......long days cruising across the Sahara, listing to lilting desert be continued.....

Trans Africa Overland
Al, Alice, And Aminah En Route Through Western Sahara Heading For Morocco

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Sierra Leone Into Guinea-Bissau And The Fouta Djalon Highlands...

A few visa applications, time on the beaches for some R&R, and we headed off to Guinea, a real contrast after several weeks in English speaking countries. A windy drive through the mountains brought us into the Fouta Djalon for a relaxed week of trekking and waterfalls.

West Africa Tour
Cooling Off On Our Drive Up To The Highlands, And Al Buys A Beautiful Piece From A Local Sculptor (Liz and John)
4x4 Adventure Tour Africa
The GPS Struggles To Know What Road We Are On So Settles For 'Potholes'! (Photo From Liz)
West Africa Overland Truck Tour
BBQ Dinner At Our Sunset Bushcamp In The Guinean Highlands (Laura)
We spent a couple of nights in a small village, tucked away on top of an escarpment, with stunning views of the surrounding gorges and waterfalls. We went trekking each day, sampled the local food, enjoying relaxing evenings with beautiful sunsets, and chuckled at the great turns of phrase of our colourful host!

Fouta Djalon, Guinea, Africa
Exploring The Beautiful Fouta Djalon With Our Local Guide - Vine Climbing's Always a Highlight!
Derek Cooling Off In The Waterfalls And Al Taking In The Views
Africa Overland Hiking Tour
Passengers Exploring The Surrounding Escarpments, Waterfalls, and Canyons In The Fouta Djalon Highlands!
Hiking Tour Fouta Djalon Guinea
Steve Climbing The Vines, With Ben, Kim, and Simon Below
This set of waterfalls make a huge drop from the escarpment to the plains below, a stunning sight, and a welcome relief for the chance for a refreshing swim after an hour or so walking through the forest to get there.

Guinea Waterfalls West Africa
Kim After A Dusty Drive As We Arrived At The Waterfalls (Photos From Liz and Laura)
John At The Waterfalls, Still Flowing In The Dry Season (Photo From John)
The road from Labe to Guinea Bissau is gradually being improved by a Chinese company, but is still a dusty, bumpy few days of old school overlanding; crossing rivers, swimming in streams, with some great bush camps under starry night skies!
West Africa Off Road Overland
A Real Overland Adventure As We Drive Through The Highlands Between Guinea and Guinea-Bissau (Liz And Laura)
West Africa Roads
The Road Between Guinea and Guinea Bissau Is Being Improved...But For The Moment Remains Bumpy And Dusty!
Into Guinea-Bissau and we reached Saltinho Falls, a lovely spot for a relaxed morning taking a swim and watching the fishermen hard at work. We then headed west to one of the worlds most relaxed capital cities, Bissau, for some great food, club nights, and wanders around the port and fading colonial-era buildings. Election fever was in full swing, but in a very hopeful and friendly fashion. Elections are due any day now!
Overland Group Travel West Africa
Steve, Liz, Ali, Lindsay, and Andre Wash Away The Dust! (Photo From Liz)
Sculptures In West Africa
Some Great Sculptures For Sale En Route In Guinea Bissau (Photo From John)
Camping In Africa
Ash Cuts His Birthday Cake At A Bush Camp In Guinea Bissau (Photo From Laura)

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Through Liberia, Sierra Leone And Into Freetown...

After visiting the wild chimps and vine bridges in Guinea, we had a chance encounter with Steve and Sita from Belgium! We knew they were in the region, and luckily through the power of social media we managed to cross paths just before we headed south on bumpy jungle roads to Liberia. Steven and Sita and their truck Izzie are on a big journey down to South Africa...great to meet you guys!

Overland Tour Guinea West Africa
Aminah And Izzie The Mercedes Sisters! Meeting Steve and Sita From Belgium En Route In Guinea
First stop in Liberia: Kpatwee falls, a very special spot, a bit out of the way, but a great place to spend a relaxed afternoon in the shade of big trees, swim under the waterfalls, and walk up the trail to more falls higher up.

Overland Liberia Tour
Liberian Man Washing His Tractor In Kpatawee Falls......As You Do!
A Great BBQ Feast At Kpatawee Falls, Liberia
Overland Tours West Africa
The Enormous Tree At Kpatawee Falls, Liberia, Dwarfing Aminah!
West Africa Truck Tours
Andy Draws Jane A Great Birthday Card
Next we saw something we hadn't seen in weeks: the ocean! Time to enjoy the Liberian coast and the beautiful golden sand beaches and the famous local hospitality. 

Some of us paid a visit to an island inhabited by a group of chimpanzees known as 'Monkey Island'. These chimps were rescued from a research lab run by the New York Blood Centre in Monrovia after being abandoned during Liberia’s troubles. They were released on this island and are fed daily by a devoted carer. 

You can see a short video and learn about the history of these chimps here:

West Africa Chimpanzees
This Poor Chimp Carried A 'Seat' Around With Him Wherever He Went, Much To The Amusement Of Others!
West Africa Overland Group
Kim, Curtis, Paul, And Derek On A Boat Trip In Liberia
Further along the coast we spent some time on the beaches around Robertspsort, a great spot to unwind amongst the crumbling remnants of former grandeur. We celebrated Martin’s birthday here with plenty of time to relax on the beach the following day!
Beaches In West Africa
Martin, John, Andy, Julie, And Simon Strolling Along One Of Liberias Beautiful Beaches
Saying goodbye to Liberia and heading west to Sierra Leone, the road was just as bad as we remembered, if a little drier this time around. We spent a couple of nights in a village, enjoying the local food, hospitality, fishing trips and swimming in waterholes.
Travel Through West Africa
Roads Through The Jungle, Broken Down Trucks, And Curtis Catching Dinner
Overland West Africa
A Warm Welcome In Eastern Sierra Leone, One Of The Friendliest Villages We've Ever Stayed In!
Our drive to Tiwai Island was disrupted by a missing bridge which was being dismantled and replaced. Fortunately it was hastily put back together for us! Tiwai Island is known for its pygmy hippos, but they are notoriously difficult to see, so we settled instead for a pleasant time on the river watching plenty of primates and birds rummage around this beautiful setting.

Sierra Leone Overland Tour
Aminah Crossing A Makeshift Bridge En Route To Tiwai Island....Nervous Moments!
Sierra Leone Tourism
Morning Awakes At Tiwai Island As The Group Get Ready For A Boat Trip
Tiwai Island Overland Trip
A Warm Welcome For The Group And Aminah At Tiwai Island, Sierra Leone
Our last night of the trip was spent relaxing at Bureh Beach on the Freetown Peninsula, taking a well deserved chance to relax and recharge. Some of the group headed off to visit Banana Island.
Trips In West Africa
There's No Denying The Beauty Of Freetowns Beaches!
Africa Overland Tour
Windows: Gary, Paul, Curtis, Nicky And Simon
Standing: John, Kelly, Kim, Lisa, Jackie, Martin, Al, Juliette, Jane, Julie, Claire, Derek, Andre, And Andy
Crouching: Laura And Nev
A drive into Freetown’s busy traffic and markets bought us back to reality as we said goodbye to some and welcomed others to the group for our next trip up to Dakar.
Sierra Leone Travel
Driving Aminah Into Downtown Freetown, Always A Hectic Affair When Going Through The Market
Sierra Leone Money
The Farewell Group Meal Produced A Large Amount Of Cash!