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

mardi, mai 29, 2007

Journey into Morocco

Signs warning of the danger of hidden mines periodically appeared along the side of the ribbon of asphalt that the car was traveling down. After an hour of inspection at the Mauritanian-Moroccan border where the car was unloaded, all bags searched and then sniffed by a dog, we were finally moving through the disputed land known as the Western Sahara.

This overland journey had been on my mind for a few days. Not counting the idea of driving through an area scattered with mines, my mind was occupied with the thought of endless hours crammed into a car to journey through Western Sahara, southern Morocco and arrive in Agadir, Morocco.

The first hurdle was met with a wonderful surprise. Those of you familiar with West African transport will realize that I scored big when my car appeared packed and ready to go with only three people in the 9-place. Could I be so fortunate? A 9-place is a station-wagon like car that typically contains place for two in the front (not counting the driver), four in the middle row and three in the back. Patrick and I were placed in the back and wondered who the third person would be. The car left and no one appeared. Surely we would pick someone up. With hopeful glances around we realized that there was no one else and the ride would be in comfort!

The other passengers were gems. They were all women with the two sitting in the middle row obviously friends. They laughed and gave each other high fives while chatting on expensive cell phones. They joked with men at the border stop and, to top it off, smoked in public. What's odd about this behaviour you may wonder. Remember that I'm not in the States but in Mauritania, a Muslim country where women are typically not at liberty to act like this. It was great. The women joked and laughed and smoked through the trip that instead of being miserable was OK except for the finale. With only 50 km to go to Dakhla, Morocco the car broke down. It was near 9:00 pm and Patrick and I had an 11:00 pm overnight bus to catch. Fortunately, we were able to hitch a ride and get to the bus station in time to board the bus that would take us to Agadir, Morocco. It left at 11:00 pm and by 4:00 pm the next afternoon, we finally arrived in Agadir. The next morning we boarded yet another bus for the amazing coastal town of Essaouira which will be a non-transport destination for a few days.