- loading all our baggage directly onto the roof and hoping it wouldn't collapse onto us
- literally rolling our car into Jesse's compound
- Chris and Zach joining Mansa Koulibaly's band for the night
- having our car belt break again after going 25 km out of Bamako and getting stuck for the day. And eating Cheetos to cheer us up
- serving as apprentice cobbler while Clara bought everything the market had to offer
- sneaking into a hotel after no one would let us put four people in a room (Peace Corps volunteers are as cheap as they come)
- walking on top of giant water pipes from a rock formation to the waterfalls
- Happy Hour with other PCVs in Ouagadougou
- playing soccer at the stadium in Banfora
- catching the Festival au Desert and hearing amazing touareg musicians
- Pendjari National Park, where we saw lions eating breakfast and a group of elephants waved at us with their trunks
- flying the Grey Goose into a bus
- hyperventilating when they put a snake around my neck at the python temple
|Yeah, it was kind of like that. (Photo credit: Chris Austin)|
- getting schooled by Lebanese car importers in pool
- spending two hours motoing all over Lome with Clara in search of grilled fish and plantains. Then finally eating it!
- running berserk all over a playground that serves as a restaurant at night and still finding sand in my pockets
- ramen! pancakes! sausages!
- going to Accra mall to see the Hunger Games movie, and then being so disappointed when it wasn't showing that day
- visiting Cape Coast castle, a departure point for millions of slaves during the 1700 and 1800s
- surfing in Busua
- using benedictions and blessings to get out of police checkpoints
- almost seeing P Squared at a club
- eating so much loco (fried plantains) at Allocodrome, basically the capital of loco
- being bosses at a club and drinking champagne
- cold cut champions!
- selling the Grey Goose
It was an amazing trip and I still can't believe it happened. There were times during it where we thought we might not make it. We fought (sometimes literally) car trouble, visa delays, corrupt cops, labyrinths of border crossings, horrible roads and conmen sock sellers. It even rained once. Luckily our two years in Guinea had trained us well and we were able to talk, "MacGyver", and wait our way out of most situations.
For anyone thinking of an overland West Africa trip, I highly recommend it. Besides visas, lodging and food is very affordable if you like camping and eating local dishes. There are so many different things to see: mountains to beaches to historical sights to giant night clubs. Here is some advice I can offer to those of you contemplating this grand adventure (also check our our trip's blog, where we are supposed to be putting information about all the logistics of driving through borders).
- Do your research ahead of time. I realize there's not much info out there, but it we had known that Ghana required drivers to wear closed toed shoes, it would have saved us a lot of time.
- Allow 3-4 days to get visas. Someone is always out of the office or there is a holiday or they don't have the stamp they need to do visas. As a note, most embassies require you to drop off passports in the morning and pick them up in the evening. Or just get them ahead of time if you're in your country of residence and save yourself all the hassle.
- DUCT TAPE. And lots of it.
- Spend the extra money on a better car. The headaches it will save you is worth it. Or import your own. Cars in West Africa are three to four times the price you would pay in Europe or America and you can ship a car for about $1000 plus customs fees. Of course then you have to deal with the bureaucracy that is francophone customs officials.
- Have at least three copies of the Lonely Planet guidebook with you.
- Find Peace Corps volunteers to tell you all the backstreet places to go.
- Always have snack with you, preferably cold cuts.
- Never, never take Senegal Airlines.
***Next up - Cape Verde: Where is everyone?***