Ghana, Burkina Faso and Mali


Well, well. Where should we start ? Last news were from Ushuaia, bottom end of the world. We’re now in Bamako, Mali, and impressions have been piling up faster than snow in countries far away from where we are. Harhar.

The 3000 or so kilometers from Tierra de Fuego to Buenos Aires were quite uneventful in terms of the landscape, mostly taking us through endless straight stretches of highways and nondesript patagonian country. One attraction was the relentless wind that forced us to ride against it at an angle that would usually make us fall over anywhere else and slapping us around brutally with every passing truck. We had to fight like hell at times to keep the bikes from blowing into the oncoming traffic.

A very welcome distraction was offered by meeting Erwin Thoma, a german round-the-world biker with whom we rode and camped with for a couple of days, our campsites being patagonion gas stations that would be the only places offering shelter from the wind mentioned above.

After reaching Buenos Aires, we took it easy for a couple of days, enjoying the dangerously good argentinian wine and food and partying like fiends. Total distance covered by the time we got to Buenos Aires was almost exactly 30.000 kilometers in five months since Alaska.

Since we had decided to change our initial plan by dropping our visit to New Zealand and extending our time in Africa, we opted for a stopover in Luxembourg in order to treat ourselves and the bikes to some very welcome attention by friends and mechanics, respectively. It worked very well, in both cases. Thanks. We should be sponsored by Pinot Noir, we deserve it.

Our favorite airline, Cargolux, after flying us from Buenos Aires to Luxembourg, also transported us to Accra, Ghana, where we spent a few days visiting and getting acquainted with yet another unfamiliar culture. Ghana is spectacular. The city itself was not much, but the people and the reception more than compensated for that. We had been warned that West Africa was a constant hassle, so the very minimal hassle we actually encountered seemed minor in comparison with the good experiences.

Generally, the people were not all that used to seeing tourists, much less on motorcycles, so the usual greeting was surprise mixed with a lot of curiosity, followed by what seemed like a hearfelt «You are welcome ». From Accra, we rode west to Cape Coast, then north to Kumasi, heart of Ashanti territory, and on to Kintampo and Mole National Park.

Close to Cape Coast, we met Christian, a german desert biker with whom we rode into and through the park. The road wasn’t exactly easy, consisting mostly of washboard, alternating with some deep sand just for fun, but we made it. In the park, apart from seeing elephants very very up close (see pictures, will only be available once we get back to Europe end of March, sorry) , I also had the pleasure to drive our guide around on the back of the bike, dropping him along with his machine gun into the sand at one particularly difficult passage. He took it very graciously. He was also very useful in swatting Tsetse flies while we we were driving, since the flies would distract me from concentrating on driving the bike which in turn would make him pretty nervous. If in Mole, say Hello to James, he’s all you can expect from a good guide. We rode on around the park into Burkina Faso, where we only spent four days, two of which were in Bobo-Dioulasso, where once again we met pleasant people (including Ramin, an Iranian-Italian riding a BMW around West Africa), heard some good music and did some serious shopping. Just before the border, we spent a night in Tumu, which is mostly worth mentioning because of Latif and Alex, two locals that took us into their protection, showed us the sights, fed us Fufu (don’t ask...) and the local firewater ( called Asabe, quote « the white man calls it local drink ») and introduced us to their families.

From Bobo, the road led us to Sikasso in Mali, and on to Bamako, to a much anticipated reunion with a very good friend, Manu and his wife Nathalie, friends from Luxembourg that have been living in Mali for the past eighteen months. In accordance with tradition, we spent the weekend partying, after which we left by car for Mopti and Dogon Country where we spent a few days admiring what is deservedly considered as being the main tourist attraction in Mali.

The Dogons are one of the most homogenous tribal groups in West Africa, with a very distinct culture which is accentuated by the fact that they mostly live either on top or on the bottom of a huge cliff in the middle of nowhere, the Falaise de Bandiagara. Their cosmogony continues to intrigue ethnologists in general, they are swarmed with tourists, yet it seems that they manage so far to maintain to a large extent their own style of living. Another one of those places to come back to for further exploring.

After getting back to Bamako, we spent yet another great weekend with our friends, and that’s where this update ends. We are now heading for Mauritania, via Nioro du Sahel, Route de l’Espoir, Nouakchott and Choum, where we plan to catch the train to Nouadhibou and cross the border to Morocco. Inch’ Allah.

Stay tuned
Ellen & Manou