Ebola stricken Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea

Filed in Ron Rutland by on September 15, 2014 • views: 1937


The disappointment of having to fly over the Ebola stricken Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, was quite quickly forgotten as the stretch from Guinea Bissau to Dakar here in Senegal has proven to be an absolute highlight of the entire expedition to date…the Casamance and Saloum wetlands of southern Senegal, as well as the entire stretch across the Gambia, must be one of the most beautiful regions of our continent…sadly I’m no David Attenborough so a lot of the detail was lost on me, but if you have any interest in birding, this region should be a ‘must visit’!

And once again, the incredible kindness and hospitality of so many people, meant that it was another 2 weeks of complete contrasts…from sweaty, damp camping to an unforgettable eco lodge to absolute luxury…again a reminder to never take things for granted, and to always expect the unexpected!

Ending: Sat 13 Sept 2014
Starting point: Bissau, Guinea Bissau (country 38)
Ending point: Dakar, Senegal (country 40), via The Gambia
Approx. Km’s covered: 650km

Some selected highlights:

1. As mentioned in the introduction, experiencing such an incredible bit of Africa…what a diverse and colourful continent it is!

2. Meeting David and the rest of the team at the Footsteps Eco-Lodge in Gambia, and enjoying a wonderfully relaxing day off at this very special (and award winning!) piece of paradise.

3. And just when I thought comforts where a thing of the past, I meet Helga of the Sheraton Gambia, and enjoy another night of absolute bliss-fullness along the beautiful Gambian coastline…and one of the most memorable sunsets yet of this trip.

4. Being advised by the Senegal border officials to pop into Fathala Game Reserve on my way past and say hello to some fellow South Africans – which ended up in a braai, cold beers, great company and much laughter in the middle of a very beautiful reserve.

5. Bumbling around the old part of Bissau City…a place of great character.

6. Once again meeting so many interesting locals, and people from around the world, in both the towns and throughout the countryside of these fascinating countries.

7. Despite the very warm temperatures, the flat and generally quiet and good roads meant great cycling conditions.

8. Some more very memorable remote border and river crossings.

9. Enjoying some epic tropical thunderstorms…makes one really appreciate the raw power of nature.

10. Reaching Dakar…the most westerly point, and 3rd ‘compass point’ (after Cape Town in the south, and Djibouti City in the east) of Lettie’s Ride…’just’ Newcastle in the UK on 3rd Oct 2015, when the Springboks continue their journey to Rugby World Cup glory against the Scots, and the most northerly point of the expedition remains.

11. The Fat Kid’s first newspaper front page – must have been a slow week at the Gambian mirror!

Some challenges:

1. Surviving the final 40km or so into Dakar…nothing will ever match the death defying roads of Nigeria, but nonetheless, traffic once again proves to be the Fat kid’s biggest stress!

2. Saying goodbye to so many new friends.

3. Watching the Springboks lose 2 games on the trot…with only a year and 1 week to go to the start of the Rugby World Cup I have full confidence in Heyneke Meyer and the Bok brain’s trust who are a lot cleverer than me, but I feel we’re in desperate need of establishing some kind of winning habit…especially against the Aussies and the All Blacks (who will very possibly be our quarter and semi final opponents respectively)…it’s a long way to cycle, and nothing will blur the very vivid picture I have in my mind of JDV lifting the Web Ellis Trophy at Twickenham on 31 Oct 2015 that helps keep me pedaling in tough times, but it would do my blood pressure a lot of good if we didn’t wait until then to start winning!

4. Surviving the crush of the Banjul Ferry crossing…great fun, but it’s not for the feint of heart!

5. Quite incredibly it’s taken almost 50 border crossings for it to happen, but dealing with my first outright corrupt immigration officer was certainly a challenge…but glad to report that the Fat Kid’s stubbornness and zero-tolerance policy of even entering negotiations of any kind resulted in an eventual win for the Fat Kid – and Gambia, you should be ashamed by the way!

6. No English spell check on this PC!

African #HumanSpirit moment of the week:

1. The ‘why stress about what you can’t control’ African mentality…from people chilling on the side of the road next to their broken down bus, to the complete acceptance of the situation by my fellow passengers on our boat that broke down in the middle of a river crossing, I didn’t once see anyone looking even remotely concerned or stressed.

Particular thanks to (as always, in no particular order, and apologies for the inevitable omissions):

1. Marilize of the Westin in Cape Town for once again connecting me with her friends and colleagues throughout the continent ensuring a much needed night of luxury from time to time!

2. David and the whole team at Footsteps Eco Lodge in the Gambia for the generous and very warm hospitality.

3. Helga and her team at the Sheraton Gambia for the same…the Fat Kid was very spoilt this week!

4. My fellow South Africans running the Fathala Reserve in southern Senegal for the friendship, braai, beers and hospitality.

5. Dave Alcock for all your help in Abidjan…and once again Francois and Patricia for the same.

6. Matt Fitzsimons for the book recommendation…”Mimi and Toutou go forth” kept me great company in my tent!

7. Charlie Walker, who is on his own incredible bike adventure, for acting as unofficial ‘advance party’ for the Fat Kid for the Dakar to Morocco leg which he is a couple of weeks ahead of me on.

8. Once again the DHL family…the teams in South Africa, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Mauritania have been an exceptional help on so many fronts this past few weeks.

9. Tracy and Mark Ward, and Sue Anderson for the Fat Kid treats!

10. Jackie, Lee and the whole Salomon family, for the updated wardrobe that’s on the way, and your amazing support since day 1…it’s incredibly appreciated indeed.

11. João Carlos Agostinho for the offer of help in Guinea Bissau and Portugal!

Something random I learnt (aka a FFF or ‘Fascinating FatKid Fact’):

1. The Gambia is the smallest country on mainland Africa, and at only 56m, probably has the lowest high point of any country on the continent.

What I will try never take for granted again:

1. The value of good conversation…and laughter…great soul food!

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