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Now in Senegal

Tony is now in Senegal and almost at the end of his two month trip across West Africa. After spending a few days in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, he headed south west spending a couple of relaxing days in Bobo before heading to Banfora where he visited a waterfall, walked in mountain foothills and climbed inside a large baobab tree.

A long bus ride took him to Bouake, the central point of Cote D’Ivoire – country number 120. He spent a couple of days in local company before a short bus trip took him to Yamoussoukro, the countries political capital. Here is allegedly the largest Christian church in the world! After a brief tour, including climbing 11 storeys to enjoy the fresh air, Tony and his local host visited a few other attractive buildings before Tony headed to Abidjan – Ivory Coasts largest city and economic capital. Several days were spent there waiting for the embassy of the republic of Guinea to decide to give Tony a visa before he embarked on his adventurous journey across the more difficult parts of West Africa. A one day bus ride to the small town of Sipileu close to the Republic of Guinea border turned into a 26 hour adventure. This included many stops and changing buses three times. At one point Tony was put in a taxi but not informed of his destination! Finally the bus conductor took him to a small building at 6am and said “bus Guinea border” in broken English.

12 exhausting hours later, after bumping along on non-existent roads, Tony passed into Guinea republic and by midnight was at the small market town of N’zerekore. He spent one brief night with a kind host who helped him find a shared taxi which took him across the entire width of the country to Conakry, Guineas capital. This was another lengthy journey of more than 20 hours. Another kind African host offered him a hot meal and a comfy bed for the night.

The next day, Tony and his friend visited the Guinea Bissau embassy where Tony obtained his visa in less than 10 minutes and headed to find a shared taxi to Bissau. A journey that should have taken roughly 12 hours along reasonably good roads turned into a nightmare of a journey which in total took 50 hours!!

Once in Bissau, Tony had two brief nights in the capital before heading to his penultimate destination of Abene, south Senegal. In three days he heads to Dakar where the trip will conclude. Happy travels, Tony.

Update from Burkina Faso

After posting my last blog about Ghana I have been rather busy. Sitting on crocodiles and visiting yet another slave camp in Paga on the Ghana-Burkina Faso border and also traditional villages with interesting carved houses. After leaving Ghana I made a simple border crossing into quiet peaceful Burkina Faso, country 119. With help I travelled some 20 km to the small uninteresting town of Po. Two kind people actually gave me a free motorbike ride from the border to the town. I stayed at the Hotel Tiandora Esprerance. I was most likely overcharged for the room and a bottle of water. One guy spoke reasonable English and offered to take me by motorbike to the small famous picturesque village of Tiebele some 32 km distance. I was also heavily overcharged for this, having to pay for the bike, petrol, his time and allegedly to take photos at the village in people’s houses. I found out later this was not correct and he took advantage. However the guy was friendly and I had an interesting experience. Tiebele is an extremely old traditional village of southern Burkina Faso, but unlike most other villages in Burkina that have houses made of basic mud brick and no decoration, Tiebele is different and unique. I was able to feel the various shapes and patterns moulded into the outside of the adobe houses and the different textures of paint. Their houses are in many shapes and styles, but mainly they have a tiny semi-circular doors for entry and one has to crawl inside before climbing over a brick step before being able to stay. Inside are simple rooms …

[Unfortunately Tony’s message got truncated at this point. We will try to add the rest later…]

Ghana

I’ve been in Ghana, country 118, for about two weeks now. Sweating the heat, relaxing on the south coast beaches and exploring the history at Elmina, Cape Coast, Princes Town and Beyin. I’ve stayed with some interesting local people via couch surfing. My first host, Charles, from Nigeria, took me to visit the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial and told me a little of the history. He was Ghana’s first president and helped the country gain independence from the British in 1957. After Accra with its heavy traffic, smells and fumes of many taxis and trotros (minibuses), it was time to head inland to the Volta region. I stayed one night in a small town called Dzodze, pronounced Je je. This is where I met Albert, a really cool guy. We travelled up to Hohoe together and visited Wli waterfall, spectacular. Here we encountered a lovely Swedish girl, who is volunteering in some organisation. Then back to the coast and onto the forts. After exploring these slave castles with their deep dark past I headed once again inland, my destination being Kumasi. This should have been a fairly easy journey. However, it turned into an adventure. I first took a trotro from the small coastal town of Axim to Takoradi, this was no problem apart from nearly crashing at one point! Once in Takoradi, I changed to a big bus with air conditioning. This is where the fun began. First it took more than two hours for the bus to fill, then once on the road, we drove to Cape Coast, however, on reaching this destination, the coach promptly broke down and refused to start! Eventually, a second bus, smaller and lacking comforts was found, however, I was nearly left behind as the bus staff kept taking me from one bus to another and back again. A seat was finally found and some twelve hours after departing Axim, I arrived hot and tired in Kumasi. The next problem was contacting my couch surfer. He hadn’t contacted me all day to confirm my stay. My battery on my phone had died, so no news. I was able to charge my phone, but unable to get hold of my host. I eventually contacted a friend I had stayed with previously and he contacted his brother who was able to host me and collected me. Two days later, I headed to Sunyami. My next stop is the heat of Tamale before crossing into Burkina Faso and continuing the journey. Tony the Traveller!

Now in Tegucigalpa, Honduras

I’m now in Tegucigalpa, capital of Honduras. This is country 113! Getting here was fun, a challenge and an interesting day all round. I started Saturday morning in Esteli, north Nicaragua, my task to find an internet café and Skype my girlfriend. This was my second attempt to find an internet place, my first attempt had ended in almost failure. I did find one eventually but when I arrived, the internet decided to quit working. This Saturday morning, 7th May was more successful. I walked five blocks from the Sonati Hostel where I stayed and turned left and walked two blocks as instructed. Still no café. I asked one guy and he crossed me over one road and pointed up the street with my stick. I walked up the street and asked in the first open building I found, it was a café, but no internet. The owner spoke English and was originally from Kenya. I decided to have breakfast and attempted to order a sandwich – ham and cheese with no salad. Moments later the food arrived, but strangely with lettuce only and no meat or cheese, I chewed away wondering to myself what had happened. The owner returned and I mentioned the problem laughing. He also laughed and said nobody listens. Eventually the correct sandwich was produced and happily feed, I continued my quest. One block later I found the internet café in question. Naturally, the headphones and microphone failed to produce sound and my only option was to write messages. This done, I retraced my steps back to the hostel and with minutes to spare, grabbed my backpack and jumped in a taxi and headed to the bus station to go north to the border with Honduras. Not a straightforward trip, first a two hour chicken bus to Ocotal crammed in with many locals and other people jumping on and off the bus selling anything from water to mango, chicken and rice to chocolate bars. Once in Ocotal, I was taken to the stand for the next bus to Las Manus, the frontier town with Honduras. This was another bumpy ride of 1.5 hours with more being squashed and squeezed!

Once in Las Manus, sweating like a pig and bladder full and aching, I walked towards immigration up a steep hill with much traffic doing its best to run me over. One guy helped me up the hill, then another officious type asked me in Spanish for my passport and demanded $2 exit fee. I looked and acted confused. Two ladies who spoke Spanish and English came to my rescue and took me in their pick up truck to the Nicaragua immigration. I climbed into the open back and sat on the wheel. At immigration, I paid my 2 dollars in Nicaraguan Cordobas and we continued to Honduran immigration in the truck. Five minutes later customs officials questioned me, took my passport, asked my destination, and eventually stamped my passport and let me cross the border. The family who I was travelling with, a mix of one lady from the US and Nicaraguans, took me to a small town named Danli from where I caught a minibus to the capital. For anyone doing this journey, there is a bus from the border to Tegucigalpa, but the last bus buggers off at 2 pm!

2.5 hours later in the dark I arrived in Honduras’s capital and largest city. A spread out place with little to see or do apart from a large statue of Jesus Christ in the hills. I took an expensive taxi to my intended hostel, but was told it was closed. The driver tried to explain this in English but I didn’t understand. Eventually a pedestrian managed to translate what he was saying. Therefore I headed to Palmira Hostel and stayed for 2 nights. By the time you read this I will be in Los Naranjos, near Lake Yojo.

Nicaragua was interesting, in two and half weeks I managed to cover almost all of the west side of the country. I’m not sure where I left you, maybe in the historic city of El Castillo on the banks of the calming Rio de San Juan. This is an historical tourist town with a beautiful old castle built around 1660 to stop pirate raids on Granada, Nicaragua’s oldest city in 1524. Exploring the castle with a lovely local lady I was led onto the ramparts which give magnificent views over the river and surrounding hills. The lady gave this description. After two nights in El Castillo it was a boat back to San Carlos my first stop in the country and a nine hour journey involving three buses to Granada, Nicaragua’s first capital.

Two nights of historical wanderings, plus a crazy zipline on Volcán Mombacho and it was off to explore Isla Ometepe. Island of two mountains. A chicken bus takes you to Rivas after a rough two hours of yet more bouncing and twisting, then an expensive taxi to the port of San George before an hour long boat ride to Moyogalpa, the main town of Ometepe. I had one quiet night at Hostel Yogi, which I found with the help of a French traveller I met on the bus from Granada.

In the morning with a couple from Ireland, I caught a taxi to Little Morgans hostel on the lake where loud music and lots of drinking awaited me. Little Morgans is a fun place, mostly made of natural material with dorm beds close to the ground, the toilet and shower block too far to walk if you’re caught short, it is nevertheless a happening place. It’s basically a beach bar without the ocean. I spent four lovely relaxing days there, went horse-riding into the foothills of Volcan Maderas one evening, a lovely ride up the steep slopes with birdsong in the trees and nothing else except the clip-clacking of the horse’s hooves.

I made some friends at the hostel, Alex a crazy seed who’s been living in Australia for the past year, Carli a small, kind Aussie girl who attended to my every food need, and Whitney a lady, who like myself doesn’t like men! The first people I met however were Jessie and West, a funny couple from Ohio. They took me down to the lake on my first morning, a refreshing dip and a bit of sunburn. The remainder of that first day was spent relaxing. Other people arrived during the course of my stay and many drinking games were played. Iggy from London was an especially memorable chap, especially re-encountering him later. Also two nice chicks from Australia arrived on my final day, Nicole and Alisa. What jokes we told and funny card games were played. Finally I said goodbye to one and all. I remember the final night with fondness as we listened to Thunder Struck by AC/DC during an actual heavy thunderstorm! Then it was back to Granada for one night before heading to Masaya.

Unfortunately, when I arrived, late in the evening, the hostel I visited was full. I found a cheap hotel, but no English and was a struggle to find places or internet cafés. Alas, with the slight disappointment of Malaya and not finding much of interest I continued to the hot streets of Leon. Staying at Big Foot hostel not only meant meeting old friends again but allowed me to climb Cerro Negro volcano and try my hand at Sand Boarding.

A bus picked up people from the hostel and a 45 minute ride took everyone to the national park. It’s 31 dollars to sand board, another 5 dollars to enter the park and another 5 more dollars if you want someone to carry your board up the hill. A lovely funny Swiss guy took my board up for me and dragged me up the mountain, which for most people takes roughly an hour to climb. Once at the top, panting and out of breath, I put on my jump suit, walked down part of the black ash and stone covered mountain and waited for the fun to begin. When my turn came, I sat on the end of my board which had wooden ridges along it, took hold of a triangle-shaped handle attached to the board rope and put my feet either side of the board on the ground and pushed off. Immediately, having not gone three metres, I fell off and rolled in the stones! Not bad for a beginner. Laughing I picked myself up, sat back on the board and began again. If you keep your body weight forward you can go slowly and control your speed. The further back you lean the faster you go down the hill. The run is mostly straight but the board likes to go left or right. In order to keep the board straight you need to tap one foot on the ground, the right foot if it goes left and the left foot if it veers right. The faster you go the more it tries to change direction. About half way I fell off again and rolled three times, sliding in the gravel. I managed to keep hold of the board and after digging it out of the stones remounted and continued. After the half way point the hill gets a little steeper. I leaned back too far and began going too fast for me to control the board. I finally went left tipped over, landed extremely hard on my left shoulder, bounced a second time and rolled a further three times before sliding to a stop. I sat up and sat still. My left shoulder hurt. I mean really hurt. I didn’t make a sound, I just sat there for maybe five minutes. Thinking this might be broken. I eventually bounced down the remainder of the hill where the others met me. One girl put warm water on it and another asked me if I could move it. When I tried moving it backwards it was OK, but moving it forwards hurt like hell. A doctor later checked it out and gave me pain relief. I continued travelling…

Costa Rica

So now I’m getting ready to leave beautiful Costa Rica and cross into Nicaragua. Well I’ve travelled from the Caribbean cost to the Pacific, been near Mount Chirripo in San Geraldo, staying at Casa Mariposa, a wonderful paradise hostel retreat. I’ve rafted and got sunburnt in Turrialba, ziplined and done my 16th bungee jump in Monteverde, hiked trials, fallen often, cut toes and been attacked by many mosquitos. Yet the one constant thought in my mind is, the Costan people are lovely. Keiner and his lovely girlfriend who I stayed with in Turrialba to Oswalso and Andrea in the small town of Belen near San Jose, whose hospitality and humour I’ll never forget. Yes, the country is expensive, especially food and activities, but the nature in its abundance compensates for any expense. The beautiful birds that woke each morning or the howler monkeys with their occasional screech were delightful. I walked and swam in rivers and hiked to many spectacular waterfalls, the highlight being Viento Fresco, about 11km from Tilaran in north Costa Rica. It has been fun and interesting. Bring on Nicaragua and more adventures.