Some updates from Karen who is busy climbing the highest peak in several West African countries. These posts are from her own blog:


Note, the days should be read from the bottom up.

Day 32: 9 May Sunday

We were told the bus only leaves to Bafora at 11 but got lucky and finally found another bus station so we arrived in Banfora at 10, just in time to get a guide who 'sold' us a 4X4 and driver for 40 000 F and petrol for 27 000 F, all in all almost R1300 but the mountain was 90 km away and there was no other transport. I considered getting motorbikes but considering Al's discomfort on a motorbike, it left us with little options. A dusty 90 km followed before we reached the Tena village where we paid the chief 2000 F and he gave us a lady to hike to the top with us. All along the way she gave us fruit she picked. The Cairne was the biggest I’ve seen. The guides wanted to take us to the waterfalls but we declined, and the dusty 90 km back followed, with a flat tire to make sure life doesn't get boring. We only had to wait 20 minutes for a bus back but tickets are sold as day tickets so the stampeding was a bit hectic. Back in Bobo Dioulasso, the second longest shower in my life followed trying to get rid of the red dust. Then it was time to finish the gherkins.

Day 31: 8 May Saturday

Got our bus tickets before going to internet cafe and bus left at 10. We hit the jackpot and got the seats next to the bus driver! Pure heaven and I could put my feet on the dashboard without any complaints. Unfortunately, the bus broke down and we waited patiently while mechanics fixed it. Although I got bit worried when they removed some plugs to solve the problem of the red light that said stop! The driver’s face said it all and we were on our way. Unfortunately, his face changed again an hour later when the warning sign would change from Caution to Stop but we made it to Bobo Doulosso, determined not to be harassed by any potential guide. After checking into the hotel, we went to the market to buy tomatoes etc before going to the supermarket where we bought laughing cow cheese and gherkins, and then to the bakery for some bread. It was time for my treat.

Day 30: 7 May Friday

Ouagadogou, Burkina Fase: Went to Mali Embassy to get visa for Al and then to street vendor where we bought another card for my camera. Still struggling to download big pictures but I’ll get there. I’ve never seen so many bicycles in my life. People put their bicycles on the bus, taxi or motorbikes. Al splurged on a steak. The motorbike salesman is bi and there’s music everywhere

Day 29: 6 May Thursday

Amen fetched us at 6 and I finished packing while they went for their first African rum. We then went to his house for breakfast, coffee and bread with mayonnaise. By 8, we were on our way to Burkina Faso. At one stage, 3 passengers were told to get out and by now, we expected them to join us once we've crossed a police patrol. Problems with the door followed and the helper used the window instead. Then the taxi made a terrible noise and the helper had to push us. Then he had to jump out of the window and run to the police patrol giving the taxis papers, jumped on another taxi and met us at the garage, where the chauffeur had to stop to have the engine seen to.

We took motorbikes across the border and were just in time for the bus leaving for the Capitol of Berkina. Initially, we had 5 seats to ourselves, but the bus filled up along the way. The change in scenery was dramatic and in my opinion, overgrazing has taken its toll. We saw loads of bicycles, donkeys and even a camel. The people were friendly, offered us their food and even offered their seats. We took a taxi to another hotel since we arrived at 20h00 and were then told that the hotel we intended to stay in was demolished (they are rebuilding the capital city). I had lost my sense of humour in the dust covering me but felt so bad when the taxi driver gave me change.

Day 28: 5 May, Wednesday

I was losing my sense of humour with Codliver but Al gave him some dash and after drinking some of the very sweet coffee, we decided to, for once on the trip, charter a taxi since we had no clue what to expect in terms of roads and transport. According to Peakbaggers, the mountain was only 20 km away. Amen, our guide, was a tonic. He jumped out of the car to give the road worker some dash and had everyone in a great mood, stopping at all the villages asking the way. We had to pay dash to the Togo border guys as well as the Benin guys but Amen just told me to relax, which i did. My GPS was showing to the mountain ahead so we headed towards the village shown on google earth. Amen stopped at a village and suddenly it started raining and we were invited into his home by Yobara, who just returned from school and could speak some English. After a while, he took out an umbrella and we started hiking, the chauffeur followed. Lots of laughter followed and it didn't take long to reach the top, where i had to climb in a tree for the picture to be taken on everyone’s request.

More laughter followed descending and back at the village, we were offered food. Yabara was so grateful when we gave him some money and a peaceful ride back followed, where no one insisted on getting more dash from us. We couldn't believe how lucky we were to find the peak and since it was a very remote village, we decided it was a good idea to charter the taxi.

Back at Kara, we had to try the African rum before going to the market to buy food. Amen promised me a pizza but the cheese was very expensive so we decided on a traditional dish. Before heading for his home; they stopped at the shebeen for more rum and Codliver told Al that he liked him very much but that he disliked me. Al refrained from telling him that the feeling was mutual. When i was kissed by an old lady that’s been sitting in the shebeen since we arrived, i thought it was time to go to Amen’s home.

We all hopped on motorbikes to his home where his daughter Bella cooked a vegetable soup for me before adding the fish for the rest of them and everyone had more rum.

I was taken back and then Al and Amen followed. Amen gave me mangoes and two of his drawings before leaving for more drinks at the pub and shebeen. It is so heartwarming to see how generous he is, especially since he has not had a steady job for over three years. He lives in a tiny room, yet he never demanded anything and just offered us his laughter, food and love. Yet another amazing day in Africa!

Day 27: 4 May Tuesday

We didn't wait too long for a share taxi but I got the worse seat on the taxi and suffered for 5 hours before some passengers got off and i could move to another seat. We arrived in Kara at 15h00 and stayed in the Chambres de l'auberge. Found internet cafe and were able to copy the pictures to cd's. Went for a beer and Mr Slimeball, or Codliver appeared, smelling a tourist a mile away. Language was a problem and he couldn't understand that we wanted to go to Mt Sokboro. The third person he brought around was Amen, and we both liked him immediately. It was arranged that we would be picked up at 7, and since no one knew where the mountain was, it was definitely going to be an adventure.

Day 26: 3 May. Monday

We started hiking at 6 and got to the top 90 minutes later. Unfortunately the route was littered with rubbish and once on top, Kofi, our guide phoned his friends to bring plastic bags since I left mine in the room. 7 Guys arrived and we did a massive clean-up of the top. 5 big bags were filled with litter, mainly plastic bags used for water and loads of handkerchiefs. It’s very hot and because of the sweat, most people use handkerchiefs, which they leave all over the mountain. I told Kofi to start a second hand shop.

We carried on to Aduadu, the highest point in Ghana, passing several Silk Cotton Trees and Kofi had to use his panga to clear some of the path. Luckily there’s not a lot of tourist going to this point so there was not a lot of litter to pick up. We returned the same route and what a pleasant surprise to see Ghana's highest peak cleared from all the rubbish. We didn't have any containers with us, but Kofi promised me they will clean the rest of the mountain that afternoon, which seemed unnecessary because the clean-up team was so inspired, they cleaned the whole path as well. We only picked up the odd plastics left behind.

A big church group from Accra was racing to the top and i told them not to litter. It was not long before Alan turned around to tell me not to shout at them, but Kofi overheard and said i should carry on - someone should prevent them from littering. I promised Kofi i would look for sponsors for his baskets to put along the way.

3 People and 2 heavy backpacks turned out to much for the motorbike guy and after dropping me at the border, he fetched Allan. Once through the borders, Al (never keen to get on a motorbike) got the price dropped from CF5000 to CF1500, we were after all seasoned travelers by now. What a way to end an awesome hike on a beautiful mountain. We travelled once again past the forest with the big trees, this time on the back of a motorbike with the wind in my hair.

Back at the Bafana Bafana guesthouse we were treated like long lost family.

Day 24: 1 May, Saturday

Joe decided to be our guide and we were off to Mt Agou by 7, taking a share taxi to Agou. There were 6 passengers and after 5 km, the driver stopped and two passengers got on a motorbike and we travelled 1 km further and stopped again to let the same two guys in. Apparently there is some law and order in Togo and you get a fine for overloading, but looking at some of the other vehicles and luggage, I am determined not to think logically while travelling in Africa. We also passed two joggers, and it must be because of the heat, but they will run slowly for 10 m before stopping and doing some sort of dance movement to the left and then right before repeating the whole process. Once in Agou, the motorbike guys were not happy when we insisted on hiking the 12 km to the top, a hike that turned out to be pure magic. 30 m Silk Cotton trees reminded me of the Avatar movie and i couldn’t stop trying the capture the images on camera. We took shortcuts through the villages and were greeted by everyone. The villages were also very clean and the villagers use everything in nature. They pick leaves to feed the goats and in the one village’ courthouse, they contained the branches to act as umbrellas. According to Joe, petty crime is punishable by a bottle of wine while, more serious crime calls for a goat. Mangoes and avos kept falling off the trees.

Before we got to the top, I received a lecture from Al about the security guy expected at the top and keeping my mouth shut, luckily, just as the security guy was escorting us to top 5i was told no pictures by Al), two french guys arrived in a taxi, distracting everyone’s attention by taking pictures left right and centre from the communication towers on top and no one said anything when i got the picture from the sign with the South African flag. We didn’t linger too long and just before we got our passports back (only paying C1000), we chucked the rubbish that was lying around the dustbin into the dustbin.

The descent was just as pleasurable. At the Agblodone village we were invited in by Evelyn and were given Avos for lunch and to take with. Back at the start, Al and Joe had some homemade beer before we got a share taxi back to Kpalima. The 14 km hike to the top and back was really something special.

After a quick shower, we were on our way to Mt Kloutse. The guide was not the friendliest and once again, a Rasta was lurking in the background. We ended up paying a fee to be on the mountain and hiked to the top before descending to Agome Tomegbe, Joe’s village. The hiked involved some bundu bashing and i thought Joe was weary of snakes, but it turned out to be snares he was weary about. Safely at the village, we went from home to home where he introduced us to al his family. Al got more chilies (for his garden in Australia) from the market and then we headed back through the spectacular road again.

For supper, we had bread with avos and lemon juice and salt. Definitely the best meal so far.

Day 23: 30 April, Friday

Once again up early, back to internet cafe end struggled till 11. Go tour visa and waited little while for our share taxi. Motorbike rode into us but luckily, no one was injured. The locals kept asking me if I was married to Allan and I decided to say yes, from today on. Hanging on to my sense of humour after spending 15 hrs cramped in a share taxi was hard enough work. Al reckons it’s the musicians and not so much the Rastas that wants to have the conversations with me. We stayed at the Bafana Bafana guesthouse and went for a local meal. Or let me rephrase that. Al had a local meal while i had a local beer.

Day 22: 29 April, Thursday

It was so hot; i did some laundry at 4. Went to Ghana embassy and paid CF 15000 for a visa. Then it was off to the internet cafe where i spend 6 hours trying to download pictures and send e-mails. But it had aircon so it was super fine. Then it was off to do some shopping; Bread, avo and bananas. The night was once again hot but who needs too much sleep.

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