It has been a long, bumpy and dirty few days. This afternoon we arrived in Bamako, Mali after a bush taxi (14 hrs), mini bus ( 40 packed people for 4 hrs, another taxi to cross the border, and a bus (23 hrs...at least 7 at which we were sitting still at police check points). We thought we had gotten incredible tans, but it turns out it was just dirt...everywhere. It feels great to be clean and to get a few things done in the city. We would like to load photos, however this internet is incredibly slow so they may not work. We were hoping to visit the Dogon Country, unfortunately our cash is running low and unable to find an ATM which accepts our cards. Otherwise, we will head directly to Burkino Faso.
Holly and I arrived in Rosso, Senegal yeasterday afternoon from where we took a sept-place (seven seater car) to the capital of Dakar. We checked the city out a bit this morning and plan on heading inland shortly. To this point Holly and I have actually completed the Paris-Dakar route (the famous off road race). Unfortunately I can't upload picts here, but hopefully we can find a place soon...
How to even start... The past few days have been a definite adventure! We took a 12 hour iron ore train straight into the middle of the Sahara on Friday. From where we had to catch a truck heading inland a bit through the desert. This truck in the end (a Toyota pickup) had 14 passengers with Holly and I holding on for dear life on all the luggage in the back (including a goat strapped to the side). With so few people living in these parts everywhere we go we have to setup bush taxis (and try to share with others to reduce costs). We ultimately made it to an Oasis town called Chinguetti where we were able to go on a Camel adventure into the deeper Saharan dunes to our own private Oasis for an afternoon. The sunrise and sunset over the dunes and the Sahara are indescribable. Today we had a few bush taxi rides to make it back to the capital of Mauritania, Nouakchott. Along the way we encountered two independent flats with only one spare on board. Thankfully another similar car came by shortly after that we could get a spare from and continue on. Once we get a chance we will try to upload a few more photos, unfortunately the connection here is marginal at best.
Yesterday morning we arrived in Dakhla, Morocco (Western Sahara) after a 14 hr bus (with numerous police checks where we held up the bus) ride from Tan Tan. On arrival we quickily meet up with a guy from Senegal and found a bush taxi to drive us through the border crossing to Nouadhibou, Mauritania. The frontier was somewhat tiresome as everything had to be checked multiple times (took about 6 hrs and 20 euros to cross). We hope to cut inland today by train to the dunes. (pictures will come later).
1. Don't believe everything in your guidebook 2. Nothing comes for free... 3. It's cold... bring warmer clothing for this time of year (especially at night) 4. Things are rarely as they seem 5. Account for tipping costs in tourist areas (even when they say they will not ask for one... They will) 6. There is always a catch... 7. Always carry your toilet paper (and change to pay for the use of toilets) 8. Ask for well done meat (The rare hamburger we ate made us nervous) 9. Hand gestures are key 10. Bread is a staple here... to bad we don't eat it
Yesterday we made our way from Essaouria south to Tan Tan. We had thought that the journey was only going to be 6 hours according to our guidebook... 14 hours later we arrived. I suppose the frustrating part of that journey was the waiting (in the bus) along the way. About 4 hours in total. The journey was quite beautiful following the coastline for much of the journey. Due the extended travel time we missed the connecting bus and now are hanging out in Tan Tan for the day till the next bus... Not much to do here, however the people are really friendly and we are not being hassled nearly as much as in the North. The plan is to make it to Dakhla by tomorrow morning. Then hopefully catch a ride to Mauritania from there...
After spending the morning getting lost in the markets of Marrekesh to find some moroccan fabric we headed to the coast. We are now in the port town of Essaouira, which is a much quieter area comparied to the cities. Despite the chilly weather there are still a number of other tourists walking about checking out the sights. Soon we will be making the long haul south through the Western Sahara on our way to Mauritania.
After visiting the rock of Gibraltar (and enjoying communicating in English for the short while) we took a ferry across the straight separating Europe and Africa to land in Tangier, Morocco. After spending a night in Tangier we bused through the atlas mountains to the imperial city of Fes. Fes in many ways felt like it came straight out of Disney's Aladdin movie, with narrow alleyways, a maze of markets and unforgettable smells (especially the tannery). This afternoon we moved on by train to Marrakesh where we now are. We are staying in the Medina (old city) on a square which is supposedly the heart of the city. It seems quite lively and should be exciting to explore even more in the morning. (Pictures to follow)
It´s not hot.... For some reason I always thought Spain was a fairly warm spot. During the flight I dreamed that it was going to be -1C in Madrid... Which it was! I guess I must of heard the captain and somehow incorporated that fact into my dream. Madrid is a beautiful city that took us both by surprise. Clean streets, historic architecture and spacious parks. Overall a very enjoyable however tiring day of exploring. Holly and I are moving on to Gibraltar tonight then hopefully on to Morocco (Africa) tomorrow sometime.
After three days of travel Holly and I have now moved through London and Paris. In the morning we head to Madrid then will continue on south. Africa is still a few days away but it is quickly getting closer...
In a few hours Holly and I will be heading off for Africa (well Europe then Africa). As with most extended periods of travel the typical excitement of the unknown is starting to set in... I for one am quite curious how things are going to work out over the upcoming months. We will try to post the odd comment along the way as things unfold... Jon