Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Onward March...

“Surely must be something CAN be done”

Once upon a time there was a most stunningly gorgeous English gentleman sitting at the bar who in the space of one short week changed my life and attitude forever….Throw in one Dutch, Chinese man and an Australian Sheila and you’ve got a boiling cauldron of nationalities with one single goal to reach South Africa in one pot!! I honestly can’t recall the last time I was this excited. Before they came, the very thought of the journey ahead was enough to make me sick. I couldn’t bear the idea of it, knowing far too well what kind of stress and havoc it would hold. .But now I’ve been re-energized and once again I'm full off happiness and bouncing off the…roads?! I can see the progress of our trip already and we are on a roll! The slow pace we were going at before took away the gratifying feeling of progress and accomplishment. I was losing interest fast but then Ben, Kerry, Alex, Kees (pronounced Case) and his dog, Bindhe showed up and altered everything for the better.
For those of you who have been faithful followers, you’ve probably noticed my lack of participation on the blog. A great deal of my silence has been due to the level of my satisfaction with the trip in the last year. I never felt capable of writing anything positive about my travels in Africa. I’m not going to lie; the past year has been extremely hard on me mentally, emotionally and physically. It constantly seemed as though the bad was out weighing the good. I believe that every person is responsible for his or her own happiness but sometimes I found it hard to adhere to. Although it was extremely tough, those experiences made me grow and taught me so much. The only thing I wish is that I could’ve made Grady, Clayton and Sky’s trips more worthwhile.
As you already know, Bre and Ammon are still stuck in Ghana waiting to sort out her passport. For the rest of us, we have been enjoying ourselves immensely and are so happy to be on the move again. It’s been so long since I felt the wind in my hair, watched the scenery fly by and crossed so many borders. The trip is back! We have taken on a new steed but continue the quest with motivation and enthusiasm. The dynamics have altered drastically but I can sense plenty of new and remarkable adventures headed our way. Already I have noticed the difference between travelling in a private vehicle and on local transportation. Yes, unfortunately by going so fast down to South Africa there will be less interaction with locals and less feel for each country. On the other hand, we no longer have to; 1) Carry our backpacks for ridiculous amounts of time in search of hotels, bus stations or simply being too stubborn to let ourselves get ripped off 2) Wasting countless hours waiting for buses, trains and taxis to give us a fair price or to arrive 3) Squeezing all of us and our luggage into overly crowded, hot, stuffy mini buses 4) (Sky you’re going to like this one) NO MORE screaming and fighting with dishonest drivers for hours on end! This is a trip to benefit from and see Africa first hand with family and friends.
After stocking up the trucks with food in Accra, we drove straight from Ghana into Togo, arriving early in the night. The roads were good if not speckled with potholes. As soon as the smooth pavement ended the downpour started. The rain came splashing down, transforming the vibrant red dirt into pools of chocolaty cream. The approaching storms were gorgeous. The clouds hung low in a threatening swirl of madness over the thick, green vegetation. A distinct strip of sky appeared between earth and storm almost like an advancing tidal wave. There was thunder booming and lightning streaking the sky.
The next morning we got up and drove on to Benin where we found a most luxurious campsite with the ocean view directly outside of our tent flap. The grounds were spotted with palm trees and all around the swimming pool were little bamboo parasols. We took advantage of the pool while we had it. It was so peaceful, quiet and beautiful that we would’ve liked to stay forever but the two day visa wouldn’t permit that. We passed through Benin quickly and moved on to Nigeria, my 57th country. We are all getting along great and have lots of fun each night chatting, setting up tents and cooking our meals over a fire. The seven of us are like a big international family of mish-mash fun. There’s never an end to the teasing, mocking of each others accents, phrases and joking all the time! Poor Kees is having a hard time deciphering all of our different accents.
With Nigeria’s bad reputation for corrupt officials constantly demanding bribes, bandits high jacking and the like, we were expecting the worst. We have not yet run into any major problems, only minor difficulties. The border was easy to get through which we were surprised about. The border guard took a lot of pride in his stamping job and asked us where we wanted it placed to save space. (Can you believe that, Skii?!) He did ask for a little something though so Ben promptly went out to his truck and fetched some Afritrex stickers and roll out sunglasses. That solved the problem quite easily. There were road blocks every 500 metres after we crossed into Nigeria. That was quite annoying having to pull over again and again only to answer the same questions. “Where are you going?” “Can I see your papers?” “Can I have your passport details” “Where are you coming from?” etc. Ben, Kerry and I were leading in the Land Rover so we had to go through all of the checks first, answer the questions and deal with the police and their big AK47s. Where as Kees and his crew got to sit back and relax while we handled everything, haha. It’s amusing how everybody stares at the dominating, black, horned ram head on the front of his big truck as it goes by. They were missing out on all of the fun, hah ya right. Ben is very direct and formal. “Hello sir, how are you? What would you like to see?” He takes care of everything very nicely. We’ve had the odd government official ask for gifts, souvenirs and even malaria pills to which Ben responds, “I have only pills which PREVENT Malaria and I need those for myself. They do not CURE malaria.” “I’m sorry; I don’t have any gifts for you. I’m running a charity to help African children and farmers so I have none to give away.” We have successfully not paid any bribes. Other than that, everyone has been very friendly and welcoming with handshakes and big, white smiles! Ben apparently is my husband now but don’t you worry, Bre we’ll be getting a divorce AS SOON as you come! I have already been asked where my children are and the guards got after Ben, lol.
One of the things we miss from Ghana is all of the food and drinks available from sellers on the roads. It’s not quite as much fun without simply being able to stick your head out the window and shout, “Water, water, water”, “Bread, bread, bread” or “Avocado, apple, orange!” and watch people come running with bowls of goods on their heads. It makes life so much easier when your shops have legs. Swarms of people line the roads, stirring up dust while motorbikes weave through traffic from all directions. Driving through the chaos of a big city, I call over to the other vehicle on the walkie-talkie. “I am SO glad we aren’t walking through one of those tro-tro stations trying to find our way!”
Mom’s voice crackled over the radio, “I was just thinking the same thing. Think of poor Bre and Ammon having to arrive in Lagos….”
“YIKES! Never again! Nope. NOT happening!!” I said with firmness.
The cities remind me a lot of Sierra Leone and Liberia with their lively, crowded streets and small, tin roofed shacks all crammed together. The scenery is also much like those countries but a hillier version. Nigeria’s open countryside is absolutely stunning. The roads have been perfectly sealed so far and are substantially lined with tropical forest. “Brilliant!” as Ben would put it.
We are currently cruising in the Land Rover, surrounded by nothing but jungle. As I type, the music is blaring, our throats are cracking from too much singing and the scenery is whizzing by in a blur of green. I’m listening to Michael Buble because it’s the closest thing to Frank Sinatra I could get my hands on. The “Beast” is on our tail; Dad is behind the wheel and is doing a great job of driving it! I am pleased with how smooth our journey has gone so far. We are now moving onward to Abuja with high spirits and nothing but clear road ahead…..


P.S. Bre and Ammon we all miss you and can’t wait to meet back up and make this rambunctious group complete! You are going to LOVE it. Talk about an upgrade into paradise!!


At 1:13 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Savannah,
It ws nice to hear your voice again, and to hear the life back in it!!!! Your comments confirmed what I was feeling from the group in general, but didn't want to be negative so didn't ask. I'm glad you are back to enjoying it, and not drudging through the daily grind. You husband sounds absolutely chrming, and capable, please tell him I said hello to him, and the rest of the new crew.

Please give your Mom a hug, and let her know Bill S's Dad passed away. Everyone keeps dying.... Tish's brother died suddenly also, it gets to a point where you strt to laugh, just to keep it from burrying you.
Bear Hugs to you all
The Bear

At 12:59 PM , Blogger Tiuku said...

<<< But now I’ve been re-energized and once again I'm full off happiness and bouncing off the…roads?! >>>

Good to hear! The story of your family on the road has been very exciting. I have lived every moment with you! Reading about your struggles in West Africa was stressing even having read them over the computer. It makes me wonder: why do you travel?


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