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West African Love

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I fell in love all over again in West Africa!

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I fell in love with this incredibly diverse continent – its deserts, savannahs, jungles, stunning coconut palm beaches and, of course, the friendly welcoming faces of its people – especially the kids.

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I sometimes wish that I had a hidden camera because most people won’t believe my stories. It’s comical and unreal, especially if you are coming from a developed country. You don’t have to travel far into Africa to see anything – you can just sit and watch and be entertained by the kids, the contraptions, the day to day life of how people get by, amazingly with so little. It is fascinating and will make you think that we have a lot to learn from Africa and its people.

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Only in Africa’ is an expression you often hear and there is a reason for that! Where else in the world would you see an Immigration Officer enter a visa in your passport with a stamp in the one hand and a chicken bone in the other, sauce dripping onto the pristine pages of your vital document?

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Where else would you see a chain with different coloured plastic bags tied to it, standing in as the official International barrier between two countries? Where would you hear an immigration officer say “give me a Christmas box before I stamp your passport” Or a custom official say “in this country Samsung products and diapers are not allowed.”

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How about walking into the immigration hall and finding that it looks like a mechanical workshop and a bedroom at the same time – officers passed out sleeping next to the immigration desk with their discarded lunches lying next to them.

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Where on earth do you hear your drivers say, we have to finish these tires properly. Meaning until there is no more thread left with wires sticking out at which point they finally explode? Only in Africa!

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Another thing I love about Africa is their entrepreneurial skills. It’s fascinating how the people love to see you struggle in Africa because they see an opportunity in your struggle, a way to make money. After all, that’s how they survive at the end of the day. They are entrepreneurs like no other.

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Some of these roads in West Africa are almost inaccessible. So what do the locals do? They point you in the wrong direction towards a particularly nasty section so you can get stuck. How clever?! Once you are stuck, you would like to get unstuck. How do you do that? The locals have the solution. They will bring the whole family to push you out – at charge of course, and, voila, that’s how they make a living.

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West Africa is a part of the world that’s been coloured by the media as a very dark place. We decided to go and explore that ‘darkness’. Turns out to be the perfect place for a real, rough and raw bicycle adventure with no bells and whistles. I still find myself giggling every now and then thinking back on the adventure we had. How we, or I should say our vehicle, survived is still a miracle to me.

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I will certainly always remember the things I’ve seen and experienced in this fascinating corner only in Africa. Maybe you will too!


1 Comment for "West African Love"

Sharita, I love reading your posts – they bring back fantastic memories of Africa. My husband, Bernie, and I cycled the full TDA tour in 2008. I loved the calmness that came over me when cycling, meeting the children on the route, stopping at the various ‘coke’ stops along the way. I spent a great deal of my time cycling alone (other cyclists about a city block from me), it was a very spiritual experience. Of course there was many a time, I sat on the truck (stomach problems) and I still had a wonderful time with other cyclists – lots of laughs. TDA Tour people were fantastic – always there when you needed them. We had such a memorable time, that we wrote a book on our experience: RusticoRiders Cycle Africa (This is not a sales pitch). We were so happy we had signed up for the full tour, not just a section as we saw so many people leave the tour wishing they signed up for the full continent. Keep having fun, it has all just started.

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