Always in the deep woods when you leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place there will be, along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is an ancient fear of the unknown and is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into. What you are doing is exploring. -- Wendell Berry

The TRIP: GUINEA - wonkifong --> MALI - bamako, djenne, douentza, Dogon Country --> Burkina Faso - ouagadougou, bobo-dioulasso, bala, ouagadougou --> GHANA - tamale, mole national park, tamale, yeji, volta lake ferry, akosombo, accra, green turtle lodge, elmina, cape coast, accra, hohoe and wli falls --> TOGO - kpalime, atakpame, lome --> BENIN - cotonu (transport stop) --> NIGER - niamey, tahoua, agadez, camel trek in aiir mtns, niamey --> BENIN (abomey, grand popo, ouidah, ganvie, cotonou) --> CAMEROON (douala, buea, top of Mt Cameroon, limbe, sangelima, yaounde, kribi, douala) --> MAURITANIA (nouakchott, atar, chinguetti, camels into the sahara, terjit, choume, ride the coal train, nouadhibou) --> MOROCCO (western sahara, dakhla, agadir, essaouira, marrakesh, imlil, summit of jebel toubkal, fes, chefchaouen) --> cross the Strait of Gibraltar --> Malaga, Spain --> fly to Geneva, Switzerland --> Les Grangettes, France
Click for a map. Updated April 30, 2007

mercredi, septembre 13, 2006

Crossing the Karokoro (September 4, 2006)

Thunder clouds had been building in the distance throughout the afternoon and rumbles of thunder periodically rolled in. Would the storm taunt and tease like yesterday or open up on our heads?
“Should we still go for a ride?”
“Yeah, it’s been awhile since we’ve had a good adventure.”
Patrick and I met Rose for a bike ride and our number swelled by two more before we made it out of town. By this time it looked as if we received a temperature drop without massive amounts of rainfall.
We followed the paved road until it ended at the high school and then descended down a steep hill towards the Karokoro. It was a little after 5:00 pm and rush hour traffic was heading up the hill towards town. This traffic consisted primarily of men walking home from a days work at the local diamond mines.
“Do you want to buy some diamonds?” was a popular question as we bombed down the hill trying to avoid running into people. At the base of the hill is the Karokoro, which is a small creek that widens and deepens at the intersection with this road. People come to bathe and wash clothes. We cross and head up the opposite hill and through a small village. At the first fork in the road, we branch left and then left again at a small path heading up a hill. The crest of the hill offers one of the best views in the area. Towering cliffs loom towards the east and south. The cliffs rise in perpendicular walls, bleached a white/tan by the sun and in stark contrast with the lush green everywhere else. Palm and coconut trees dot the surrounding area.
“Rumor has it that we can make a loop by continuing down this path.”
“Should we try?”
Off we go down the incline and the trail immediately became narrower and more rugged. Rain fall had carved out deep gashes in the surface and encroaching brush attempted to grab our feet. The base of descents ended in puddles containing mud that grasped hold of our tires as water reached up to our knees.
Finally, we came to a fork where some Guineans were crossing over a large stream by walking across downed trees. Do we lug our bikes across or try the other fork? We opted to stay dry. The trail quickly plateaued out and opened up to a plain-like area sprinkled with the occasional palm or coconut and covered in tall grass. We soon passed several small, thatch-roofed huts surrounded by a woven fence and then descended a hill that abruptly ended at the foot of a large rice field, which was completely submerged in water.
Rose, Patrick and I attempted to ride our bikes across and as the water reached the level of our seats we tumbled one by one into the water and began wading. Patrick and I are almost the same height and water quickly reached our chests. Rose, however, is a wee bit smaller and soon found the water creeping up towards her neck. Fortunately, we had reached the deepest part and began climbing out of the field to find the large river of the area flowed by the opposite side. If I had a boat, I’d head out in the river…
Patrick and I hopped in and swam out into the river for a downstream (towards Forecariah) look. Dense shrubs lined the banks.
“Our swimming hole can’t be more than a couple of river bends downstream. Do you think we could swim our bikes?”
Why is it than when on adventures crazy ideas quickly gain momentum? Patrick scrambled back up the bank and tossed me his bike. We eventually realized what Rose (likely the brightest of this bunch) knew immediately – there was no way we were swimming the river with the bikes and we would have to backtrack through the rice field.
We retraced our path until we reached the fork where the Guineans had been crossing and waded our bikes across. On the opposite side was a path that eventually led us back to town. With smiles on our faces and mud everywhere else, we were united in the decision to ride instead of lesson plan.