Sunday, 27 July 2014

Jane's Adventures Between Accra And Freetown

This is a guest post from Jane De Le Vega, a recent passenger of ours from Australia, who had a great time on our overland trip from Accra to Freetown in January 2014.

"Earlier this year I went on the Accra to Freetown trip with OWA, a six week trip from Ghana to Sierra Leone, through Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea, and Liberia. It was a most wonderful trip, and as I sit down to write this feedback I can only think of positives.

Kids were always fascinated by Jane's sketching; some colourful characters visiting our bush camp in Ghana.
The slow and peaceful pace gave us time to soak in the amazing landscapes and cultures we were passing through: I sketch, so a slow pace suits me. The crew had a thorough, extremely well organised and professional approach. This had been obvious from the beginning, from their comprehensive website, and prompt, clear responses to initial questions. 

It became even more apparent once we all arrived in Accra where, on meeting Al our leader, any tiny worries one may have had in relation to safety were put to rest.  Al’s experience and understanding of West Africa - its trials and tribulations, as well as its wonders and wobbles - and his quiet  passion for it all was impressive. Impressive  also was his  calm, cool persona which I liked. I felt very confident. He was the perfect leader. His offsider, Neville, was also perfect.

Sights, sounds and experiences in West Africa always keep you on your toes!

Looking at the photographs on OWA’s website says everything that needs to be said. I am sure that anyone considering travel in West Africa is doing so because they already know it is a diverse, complicated, different and sometimes difficult part of the continent, and they know that a trip there will be fascinating, intrepid and adventurous. A one-off- not tame. That was why I chose the trip, and it came up to all my expectations. Perhaps even better than I had anticipated. 

Good times on the Domes de Fabedougou in Burkina; Jane takes advantage of Valentine's day;
Niansogoni's former troglydyte settlement which we trekked to
I had asked only two questions to OWA before booking, and these may be helpful to others considering the trips.  
The first question (because I am 67 and therefore a fossil) was whether they normally had fossils on their trips, and what generally was the average age? I didn’t want to end up granny-loser-fossil-lonely-no-friends amongst 19 teeny boppers! The answer was that their groups were mostly of mixed ages, the average age being about 40, and always some fossils.  As it turned out, this was the case on my trip and, indeed, there were a few fossils.

Andy with Jane's great birthday card, which he drew
The second question I asked was which nationalities the groups were usually made up of. I  asked this question because I had noted from the website that much feedback was from Australians. Being an Australian myself, when I travel I am naturally more interested to meet people from other countries, and therefore I was hoping the group would be of mixed nationalities. This was  the case. Our group of 20 included people from Ireland, Scotland, Sweden, America, Canada, the UK, and 3 Australians of which I was one. 

West Africa's beaches are a real highlight of our trips: Bureh beach Sierra Leone;
bringing in the catch; and driving along the Ghanaian coast
So it was a wonderful mix, a wonderful trip, and it was a sad moment when we parted in Freetown at the end. After all, we had done a lot together. 

We’d rattled over endless rutted third world roads together, often at only 30 kms an hour, with Africa passing by out the truck windows; we’d sat together in the truck at tricky border posts in midday sun while Al did endless paperwork with the officials; we’d all helped fill the truck water tanks from precious village wells once Al had done the negotiations, many onlookers, tiny sleeping babies strapped to so many backs;  we’d rejoiced together as we washed our bodies and clothes in a beautiful waterfall that we found ourselves camped beside; we’d sat together at night around a fire swapping stories; stomped through fabulous local markets with our cook group in tow, looking for things to turn into dinner for that night; decamped excitedly out of our tents and into basic hotel rooms with showers when available; argued in the dark, over a steaming pot, with someone in the cook group who thought two packets of rice wasn't enough; rushed into markets and bought far too many gorgeous batik african textiles, perhaps thinking that one day, back home, we could look as beautiful as the African women who wore them so gracefully (alas no!); camped in villages at night, surrounded by 100 inquisitive locals, waking the next morning to watch daily African life- women tending babies, the stew in the pot, the grinding of grains, the water carrying, the cows being herded out to their fields.

Curtis on a the few remaining vine bridges in Guinea; chimpanzees at a rehabilitation centre in Sierra Leone, and in the wild in Guinea, close to our camp
We’d visited wildlife sanctuaries, ex-colonial coastal forts, Cote d’Ivoire’s version of the Vatican, and marveled at the quirky, crazy, pink and turquoise corrugated iron shacks in Liberia built by the freed returning slaves from America - New Orleans style!

And finally, things like just walking with a new friend along a remote and very long African beach, and coming at the end to a fishing village, with men scaling their catch beside brightly coloured fishing canoes, all painted various shades of turquoise and blue with crazy red dedications to Jesus on their hulls. Photographs, photographs!

Captivating sights and sounds at the village we stay in to witness an incredible stilt dance, in Cote d'Ivoire
So, together we all shared this really wonderful experience in West Africa. And we couldn't have done it without OWA.

Thank you very much,  OWA. You do a really excellent job.

And to anyone else... YES, DO IT!

Many thanks to Jane for taking the time to write us this great post! Looking forward to seeing you on another trip in the near future Jane!