Alla inlägg under januari 2007

Av Vilhelmina - 25 januari 2007 16:12

Sand, sand and more sand(And the rocks and burnt shrubbery of course!)(This text was written friday the 5th but couldn't be updated due to lack of gprs.)We set off quite early from Laâyoune this morning and have since passed through Boujdour and are on route for Dakhla. We've split the group in two as the landrover, msafari express and us are slower than the rest. We and msafari express could keep their speed but then no one would go with the landrover so we need to regroup. We've also seen wayne Kerr racing, the team driving a Lincoln towncar. We heard that they are not doing the desert either so we probably will team up with them for that stretch. We took the ambulance down the beach to try how she'd handle on sand and she did get stuck. The sand on the beach is not the same as in the desert though and Mark is still pretty confident we could do it, but we won't take the risk. If we were driving just any old banger that we could give up then we'd do the desert stretch without thinking, but the ambulance is just too valuable for that. I would never forgive myself if we took it into the desert and had to abandon it. What a failure that would be! And besides, if you ask me it's enough of a challenge as it is! It's not been the most relaxing of holidays that i've had! I guess it's not really a holiday though, yes i have time off work but it's not like i'm relaxing. (although as i write this i'm in the back of the ambulance on top of my duvet looking out the window being quite comfortable. Mark Foster joined us and sits in the front with the boys. He was in the landrover but as they're struggling with speed they thought he could go with us to see if that would help the landrover. His car blew up and he's been hiking with various teams so far.)I sneaked in to the hotel this morning to have a shower in the girls room so i'm feeling a lot better today. I've got a clean top, clean underwear and clean hair, bliss! This trip certainly makes you appreciate the little wonders we have at home like a clean toilet. The toilets i've seen on this trip has been so disgusting i can't even begin to explain. When going in the desert the Angel and the Fairy team girls and i have been holding up a towel to go behind for each other as there's nothing else to use! Good job us girls are used to wee in front of other girls, even if we hardly know each other! That's another interesting thing actually. We're all good mates but we know nothing about what people do, live or anything. It's like normal life doesn't exists and all there is is our group, africa and where we are now. When i get text messages from people at home (thanks a million for them by the way, they are much appreciated!) it feels like they come from a different planet. Matt from the banger boys told me that his folks are reading this blog to keep up with what he's doing as we're in the same convoy. It's nice to hear it's appreciated. Hello to Matt's folks!Dakhla, the arse of Africa(Written Saturday 6th January)No, that was perhaps unfair, but it is what most people in the rally are calling it. Personally i haven't seen much more than the campsite and that's pretty rubbish. The toilets are absolutely filthy and i put on rubber gloves before i go in. The scenery on the way here was fantastic though and weighs up the filthy toilets. The sand dunes are amazing and it changes quickly. It's mainly flat, rocky and sandy, but suddenly it goes all up and down with big dunes and little hills. We're setting off at six o'clock tomorrow so that we get to the mauri border before lunch. Apparently it's a tough one. We haven't bought mauri visas either so need to sort that. After nouâdhibou we will split with the group and the lincoln towncar and us are going via the road through the desert as opposed the off road. I'm not overly impressed that we're going with just one other vehicle, but we haven't got much of a choice. They are four big blokes so should be safe. I'm not sure how much of reception and gprs there will be from now on so if there is a bit of silence from me that'll be why.Mauri border(written Sunday 7th January 2007.)Sitting in a long queue waiting to be let out of morocco and into Mauritania. The border control isn't more than a mud hut in the middle of nowhere. We arrived at 11.10 and it's now 14.30 and they're closed for lunch until 15.30 We're sitting on the road cooking up military treacle pudding with custard. There's nothing else to do anyway!Later: After 5 hours of waiting around and queueing we were finally through. Then we had a "pleasant" drive on a bumpy road through no mans land littered with land mines either side. Apparently 76 killed last year. We kept seeing burnt out cars flipped over on the roof. Nice.It's now 5pm and we're sitting in Mauritania customs waiting for someone to talk to us and let us through. We're at least in a big group so i feel semi safe. I can't say i'm overly impressed with morocco and their customs though. I thought the country was magnificent, the people nice and friendly and the climate at this time of year fantastic, however, i will never return if this is how they treat the tourists. Why give any money in way of tourism if you have to spend 5 hours locked in a compound to get in and then 5 hours in a compound to be let out? I'm so pleased it's not morocco benefitting from this ambulance. (they couldn't anyway as they wouldn't let us in if we couldn't prove we weren't stopping in morocco!)We are also discussing whether we should wait for the rest of the group to get into senegal or if we should try on our own. The thing with Senegal is that they are now so against the rally that they meet you at the border and escort you through to the gambia. This is because the don't want any burnt out cars left behind. Now, we aren't going to The Gambia, we're going to senegal and hopefully the hospital has got government clearance for us.The problem is if the hospital hasn't got clearance yet from the government then we might be there for another long wait. I don't know. It's one of those questions you just never will know which is best. My gut feeling says to go on our own. We would have a big job trying to explain to the senegalese border guards that we're NOT going to The Gambia and that we ARE stopping in Senegal although we're with the rally that goes to The Gambia... Oh well, we'll see how we do it. Probably call the british ambassador to get his advice. (In the end it took us almost 9 hours to get out of morocco and into mauritania. A well spent sunday...!)Sahara desertWritten Monday 8th January 2007. We slept in Nouâdhibou and paid outrageously €20 for the pleasure, which included cold showers. Fantastic. It's great to be a tourist in this country, they don't try to rip us off at all! On the way out of Nouâdhibou we were stopped 4 times by police to see our documents. The words "cadeaux pour moi?" are very familiar now. Last one asked for clothes to his children. I gave him one of my jumpers and he threw it back in saying he's got a boy. Mark then tried to give him one of his t-shirts but he didn't want that either. He asked for a torch so we gave him a small medical torch which was all we had. Shame it doesn't get to the hospital but i guess we can't help Mauritania is corrupt. We tried with sweets and clothes before we gave up the torch at least.I quite liked Nouâdhibou after all and wouldn't have minded a day there just wandering. It is apparently an outlaw town run by criminals but it also says in the roadbook that you feel safe. I was a bit worried as we drove into town as it was dark, it was only us and the limo and we didn't know where the campsite was, but once at the camping and the next day i felt ok. The cars in Nouâdhibou were completely run down to heaps of scrap metal. They wouldn't even accept them in scrap yards in britain i don't think! Most houses were only half built, but that we heard was because you don't pay interest on your mortgage if the house is not finished... I slept ok apart from nightmares. I must have been tossing and turning as well because i semi woke up by mark patting me shushing me back to sleep.We've just picked up a hitch hiker. Some french madman who seemed to be on his own in the desert. He wanted a ride to the next village and we let him in, although now i'm not so sure. I think next village is nouakchott which is a fair way away... How is he going to get back to his mate? Oh well, during me writing that we came across a few tents and dropped him there. It's hot, but not unbearably hot. I think it's around +32 outside and +36 inside the ambulance. There's sand everywhere, as you may expect from sahara. We haven't seen any huge dunes yet, but a fair amount of smaller ones. We've seen the odd camel loitering around as well. It's a nuisance trying to go for a wee as it's so windy you end up with sand and wee everywhere. Nice! I apologise if this blog is detailed with hygiene issues but after living like this you get used to talk about things like that openly. When we were in the queue for getting out of morocco we discussed which would be the best rock to go behind for a number 2! We stopped at a sand dune so Mark could play and whilst we stood there watching him I noticed how hard the wind is, it feels like a thousand needles pricking the back of your calves. We haven't given many more presents to children than that football we gave the kids in morocco. They almost feel threatening, the second they see the vehicle they run up to us and shout "cadeaux? Stylo? Bonbon?" I wouldn't mind giving them something (we even brought a load of old pens that mum and dad gave us solely to give to the children) but they are so many and they really swamp us. I think we'll wait until Dakar with giving the children presents. We might just give it all to the hospital and then they can do what they like with it. Might not get to the poorest that way but at least it gets to someone considerably poorer than us. I wish i was a bit tougher and not affected by being so crowded in. They are probably really sweet if you talk to them. As we're so strapped for money we've reverted to using tap water that we clean with iodine instead. It tastes a bit funny but with the neutralising tablets in as well it gets almost drinkable. Enough to make me sip some now when we're in the desert at least.We stopped in the middle of nowhere where there were a few tents by the road. We took some photos of a camel and a baby camel. Mark and Jules ran off to play in the dunes and did some sand surfing on a spinal board from sussex police. I spoke with one of the locals that came up and the limo boys gave him a few pot noodles. I explained how to cook them and also gave him our old biscuits from Lidl in Morden. We tried buying camel milk off him but he hadn't milked the camel yet so couldn't sell any to us. Shame!Auberge SaharaWritten Tuesday night the 9th January. (I can't wait to get to somewhere with gprs so i can upload my diary entries!)We came out of the desert alright, despite a stressful refuel in the middle of a sandstorm! It wouldn't have been particularly good if we had got sand in the petrol tank, especially as we were on our own in the middle of the desert!Once out of the Sahara we circled Nouakchott looking for Auberge Menata as that's where we were supposed to meet the rest when they came out of the desert. (It only took us a day to go through as we did the road further into sahara and they also stop in a national park close to the water.)Auberge Menata was full though so we went back to Auberge Sahara that we had seen on the way in. It's run by a french woman who speaks brilliant english and her mauritanian husband. It's very sweet with beds scattered in various rooms around the house, in a tent in the front garden and on the roof terrass. Very African. They have a little bookshelf and i even found a swedish book! They are very helpful and lovely, i can warmly recommend it if you're in this neck of the woods! Shortly after we had arrived six more PBC07 cars turned up. Team Beeblebrox, The Sanddodgers, the fire landrover and a couple of others. From hearing their stories i am quite pleased we did the road. It definitely sounds like they had a good time, but also very hard and gruelling experience. I would have been so worried about losing the ambulance to the sand dunes that i probably wouldn't have enjoyed it. We haven't really done that much today, got up late, around 8.30 and after a much needed shower and hairwash i felt quite good. The limo boys set off early-ish and said they would camp somewhere close to the border so that they would get to senegal border first thing. It is known for being very tricky to get through... Lots of border guards, lots of administration and "petit cadeaux"... We rang the hospital and i've probably upset the A&E Director by calling him by first name and not by his title... I said we're coming through tomorrow and could he possibly ensure the border at Diama knows about us and expect us? Also, we have no more money for bribes and physically can't pay our way into the country. We'll kip at the border if we have to! They have a hospital here in Nouakchott where we could take her if all else fails. We tried some camel steak earlier which was nice. Tasted pretty much like beef. Had i not known it was camel i would have said it was old and chewy cow. Very nicely flavoured though, think it was either rosemary or thyme. I got chatting to another guy here at the auberge. He's scottish but packed in his life in Britain and now lives in a tent in Sahara desert as a shepherd. He has a dog for safety and also a rifle in his tent. He comes here to wash his clothes and have the odd shower. He told me that he hasn't been to his tent for two months now. Not entirely sure where he's been, but i think roaming the desert. Utterly tired now. Sleep!Zebra bar, St LouisWritten Wednesday night 10th January 2007. The words filthy, dirty and dusty suddenly take on a new meaning... The dirt track down to Diama border was really just that, a dirt track that made all cars incredibly dusty and filthy. It had pot holes big as bath tubs and part of it was so bad we had to drive really really slow. It was also very hot so on top of being dusty and filthy we also got boiling hot. It was at one point +37 / 99.5f outside. Rather toasty! We left Auberge Sahara around 8am I think and travelled in convoy with another group who went into the desert a couple of days earlier than "our" group. They're all very nice and friendly but they don't have as good cooperation on the road and they don't really look after each other as well as we did in the other group with the desert scouts, banger boys, angel and fairy etc. If any vehicle got a bit behind they just carried on. I think they would have stopped eventually, but if the lagging car had broken down i wonder how long time before they would have turned around to go back to them, if ever!Oh well, we're in Senegal now and the worst bit is behind us. I really wouldn't have liked to have done that dirt track to Diama border on my own. It was too small and had we been on our own we would have started doubting that we were on the right road. Just 3 km from the border the fiesta in the front hit a pot hole too hard and smashed its suspension and pulled its driveshaft completely out. Mark, Jules and a couple of other guys weren't hesitating getting their hands oily and two hours later they had put the driveshaft back in the gearbox and got a new wheel on, not bad. The toolbox and jack we've got has proved very useful indeed. The crossing to Senegal wasn't actually as bad as we thought. A man came to meet us and he looked after us through the customs. He was just a private individual but he turned out to be very useful indeed so i didn't mind giving him his €5 charge. He sweet talked the customs director for us and ensured we didn't have to pay for customs which was €35. Fantastic! The kids came flocking around us at the border as well and we have now started giving them stuff as we're through the last border. Hopefully we won't have that many police blocks to bribe our way through with pens and sweets anymore. We gave them some pens and one girl asked for clothes so i handed her one of my tops that i had tried with the police in mauritania. (The one who chucked it back in at me saying he had a boy.) At least this girl looked happy with it. From what we've seen Zebra bar is lovely. Good cooking and clean toilets. We'll probably stay here a couple of nights to wait for our old group so we can say a proper good bye before they head for The Gambia. Time for bed now, the boys are already fast asleep.A day on the beach in St LouisWe've spent the day wisely; hardly done anything! Zebra bar is fantastic, one of the better places in Africa i dare say. We've got chatting to a lot of people here and they all say the same, Zebra bar is the place to be. I think we'll stay here quite a few nights as Dakar will be a lot more expensive and probably not as nice. They've got a private beach with canoes and windsurfing boards for anyone to use, the cooking is really fantastic and everyone is really nice and friendly. We slept in until lunchtime today and then slowly got ourselves over to the beach where we slept for another hour. Then we relaxed in the ambulance before taking one of the canoes out and also have a go at windsurfing. Mark and Jules that is, not me! I was perfectly happy with just the canoe! We saw a jellyfish on the beach and also several crabs. Amazing little buggers! Jules found a teeny lizard on his surfboard and i watched it scuttle across the sand. Amazing!They fired up a big barbecue in the evening and two more groups arrived, including our lost friends the scouts, banger boys, angel and fairy, team unstable and msafari express. The banger boys had unfortunately have to leave their car behind after having driven it way too fast over a sand dune and then planted its nose into the next dune. Matt was saying that the sand came up over the bonnet like a wave of water would! Apart from that they all seem to be pretty happy and good spirits. I think the desert was a challenge, but now they're out they're glad they did it. There's a huge cockroach in the second toilet - the only one with working lights! - and i had a hard job keeping track of him and a grasshopper whilst doing my business. It was easy as long as they both stayed on the left side, but when the cockroach ran over to the other side i got a bit stressed. I'm no good in countries like this really... Time for bed now. We might go in to St Louis tomorrow which will be good. Night night. St LouisWritten Friday night the 12th January. The French colonised Senegal in the early 20th century and you can really tell from the architecture here in St Louis. The town is full of absolutely magnificent buildings in true french art deco style but they've been left to deteriorate into shells of rubble. You can really imagine how beautiful it must have been here then though. Apparently St Louis used to be capital at that point. The town is very square, it's built on two islands and surrounding areas. The roads are like in New York, just a criss cross of roads at a 90 degree from each other. There are loads of goats everywhere here. We've got this theory that goats are planning world domination and they're starting in St Louis. They hang around in little groups and they eat literally everything. We've spotted them eating everything from watermelon to paper, pieces of string and basically whatever they can find on the streets. Our second theory is that they are here as dustmen. There is no rubbish collection in Senegal and you can really tell from the droves of rubbish around. Without the goats there would be even more!We tried buying some presents for people at home, but we're too crap at haggling. I just don't like the idea of haggling and seriously dislike doing it. I don't like being ripped off either though so i usually succumb to haggling in the end. I also really dislike when they come up to you and try to lure you in to look at THEIR stuff. I have as a policy to ignore them and if they persist walk away. One was just too in my face and i turned around and said in my best french "please don't talk!" and it seemed to do the trick, he just walked away!We got a taxi back home to Zebra bar and stumbled straight to bed, absolutely knackered. I didn't even finish this diary entry so finishing it now, Saturday 13th January. :-)We had a relaxed day today with not much more tham washing our clothes, cleaning out the whole ambulance and waving off the other teams. It was really sad to see them go actually. We won't see them in Banjul as we're not going there. We ran around taking pictures of everyone and also got them together to take a picture in front of the ambulance of them. The desert scouts presented us with honorary scout scarves and various badges, for mechanical skills, communication skills, medical skills and other ones. I put my scarf straight on! We filmed the teams leaving and Matt did his usual loud "Morning!", the desert scouts kept beeping their horn and everyone waved! It was very quiet when they had gone. There's only one other family here at the moment. During the day a few bikers turned up and now this evening a bunch from Group 3 turned up around 10pm.Mark and Jules are out there burning some of our rubbish as they don't have any collection of it anyway. Boys like their fires, don't they. I'm thinking about washing my feet and then go to bed. Very tired now. What I have learned about myselfStarted writing this Sunday 14th January. We had a Big Brother-style chat the other day; what have we learned from this trip, what have we learned about ourselves that we didn't already know and what we've learned about each other. Personally I've learned that I'm a worrier and that I prefer to have full control over situations. I don't like the unknown and i want to prepare for things if i can. I have also learned that although i like to prepare, i'm quite good at dealing with crisis when it happens.As mentioned in the previous post, I don't like being hassled by locals trying to sell me things. I quite like the african art and culture but i have barely bought anything, partly because of lack of money of course but also because i find it incredibly irritating when they come up to me and start chatting about what i'm called, where i'm from, what i'm doing there, how cheap prices they have as opposed to anyone else etc etc. I can't think whether i want the thing i'm looking at or not with that constant chatter in the background so i just walk away. I am not buying things from a street vendor that starts talking to me the second i'm within 10 metres of his stall. I know i can't turn around the culture or anything, but that's not what i'm trying to do either, i've just learned that i don't like those markets and vendors and will avoid them. It doesn't matter how much i like the tat they're selling, it's not worth the hassle it is buying it. Someone told me that i won't like india then because it's like here but ten times worse. I'm quite pleased that i've been warned as i'm sure i wouldn't like it if it is as they've described. Not that i was planning a trip there or anything, but now i know i really won't!On that note, i've also learned that i don't like haggling. And i mean SERIOUSLY don't like haggling. We said we'd buy a few bits and bobs to people at home but now i'm not so sure! The sheer hassle trying to find something that people actually want and then buying it is just too great! If i had something for sale i wouldn't try and sell it for ten times what it was worth. You work out the cost of it, add a little bit for profit and then sell it. Not adding more than it would be worth, even if you could because of rich tourists. It's not morally right!I've also learned that i appreciate a clean bathroom. I've been ok with the filthy hell holes we've seen (and used!) but it has at the same time been one of the struggles. I can't tell you how much i long for a proper bath and having a toilet at hand whenever. Whilst driving you end up drinking less water because you don't know when you'll be able to stop for a wee next. When in the desert there aren't that many bushes and if you're travelling in convoy with mainly men then that is a huge problem! Dehydration is not fun! One of the more positive insights is that i truly have enjoyed the driving part of it. I also like camping and would love to buy a cheap motorhome or campervan and do Europe. I want to go to France, Italy, Portugal and Prag. I am also very keen to do that trip to Sweden that we've been talking about for so long. Another pleasant insight is that Mark and I really haven't argued or fought at all. Living with someone in this close proximity means you are in each others face 24/7 but that's not been a problem. All in all it has been a fantastic trip and experience so far that i would not want to have missed. It has been difficult at times but then again, the name says it all, Plymouth to Banjul Challenge. It is a challenge after all, not a holiday.Potentially last night at zebra barWritten Monday 15th January.We had planned to leave Zebra bar tomorrow and head for Dakar but when we started her tonight she revved a bit too quickly and Mark wants to check her over here before we leave. We'll see, we've adopted the African mentality of taking things as they come.I'm ready to move on now. Zebra bar has been absolutely lovely and i have truly enjoyed it, but there's so much relaxing one can do. I'm also getting a bit bothered by the heat. As there's no pool, only salty water full of crabs to cool down in i get a bit overheated. Talk about crabs, there's absolutely millions of them here and they fascinate me beyond words! There's so many of them and they look just like huge spiders and they move really fast in big groups. They are terrified of humans and run off as soon as we come close. I don't want to stress them but at the same time i want to have a closer look at them! Mark and i took a walk around the outside of zebra bar and waded through the waters where most crabs are loitering. They are so cute when they eat, they use their little arm to feed and basically just keep shoving things in! There's loads of holes throughout the beach where they hide and around each hole is loads of little beads of sand they've dug out. Truly amazing! Hospital presentationWritten Thursday 18th January.Today was very special, it was the day we gave our ambulance away. She's come home and she's here to save lives. It was quite emotional actually. The hospital director General Klotz and A&E Director Colonel Seck greeted us when we came in. They had also gathered around 15 to 20 high ranking hospital doctors, nurses and military officers. The ambassador, his pr woman and second in charge were driven before us in the flag car and then we came after. The ambassador made a little speech where he explained the Plymouth Banjul Challenge and also mentioned the 5 year rule that Senegal has imposed on import vehicles. He also explained to them that we personally have spent roughly £6000 out of which £1500 has come from donations from friends and family. He said that we have not had any support from an organisation and that we, mainly Mark, has worked very hard to prepare and equip the ambulance and that it is a completely private initiative. (Mark wants to add here that Jules and I have done loads too!)He did it all in French and I was so proud as i understood most, if not all of it!General Klotz said that they were very grateful for our efforts and they will put a plaque with our names on the ambulance.There were various press and journalists there and several pictures were taken of us, the ambassador and the hospital people in front of the ambulance. After that we went up to the terrass and had soft drinks and mingled so that the press could ask us further questions. It was an absolutely fantastic view from there of the cliffs, sea and in the distance goree island. We also saw the embassy very well, they back onto the hospital. Mark was interviewed by this chap from the senegalese equivalent of Reuters. He thought it was for one local paper and not a news agency covering all media in Senegal. He nearly had a fit when he realised and worried about what he had said.When we were in the taxi on our way to the flat we got a text from Susanne saying she'd seen the piece from that guy online! After the drinks we went down to the ambulance and showed Colonel Seck where everything is and made sure they know all equipment. They also called the boys who will drive it and the doctors from a&e to have a run down of everything. We also got the head mechanic guy who will maintain it to have a look at the engine. We showed him the toolbox, hydraulic jack and all spares we've brought and i think he was quite impressed with it all. It's all new and shiny! They don't have any dealer for LDV here but some of the parts are the same as Ford Transit so we mentioned that to them. We also said they can contact us if they're struggling and we'll see what we can do. We will send them a manual for it so they have something to refer to. I almost got teary when they turned around and said that it's the best ambulance they've ever seen. They didn't even dream of getting so much and such an equipped ambulance. Bless them! After that we went back to the embassy to have lunch with the ambassador, his wife and some of his staff. It was very pleasant and i truly enjoyed it. The ambassador and his wife are such nice people. I popped over to the office to check with his PA what the plans for the afternoon was. I thanked her again for organising the flat for us and she said that they had given us this good price because of delivering the ambulance to Dakar! I'm so impressed with everyone's generosity towards us. The african people has been very warm and welcoming.The flat is brilliant by the way. It's in a reasonably nice area and our flat has got two double bedrooms, both en-suite. It's set over three floors, ground floor being lounge with small kitchenette, then both bedrooms on the next floor and right at the top is a roof terrass and the kitchen. Not necessarily the best view from up there but it's a view!Before we went over here we took some bandages, syringes, blankets, Mark's old jacket and various other medical items given to us by other teams throughout the trip to a clinic run by nuns in a very run down area. Even the goats looked manky.We also had duplicate medical items which we gave to another hospital down the road.The nuns and the other hospital seemed very pleased with our donation which really was heart warming.African drivingWritten Tuesday 22 January.African driving is an art in itself. I am truly amazed that we haven't seen more accidents than we have. (Although the hospital did say they have lots of car accidents in Dakar.) Driving in Morocco was relatively easy, i believe. It wasn't me driving, but from what i can judge the boys seemed to sail through Morocco without any problems. Marrakech was quite hectic and you had to watch out for all the horse and carts that were around, but apart from that and the sheer number of vehicles it was relatively orderly. Western Sahara was just an extension to Morocco and contained not much more than sand, sand and one straight road. Mauritania was more interesting. Nouakchott was a complete nightmare and as a passenger a wondered how on earth anyone would choose to drive there. Mark said that once he had worked out the local rules it was rather fun! There were cars, bikes, people, goats, dogs, cats, donkeys, children and anything moving you can think of coming from every direction. If it's too congested on the road, drive on the sand next to the road where all chickens, goats and people are wandering.Likewise, if you need to go in the different direction to everyone else, don't let anything stop you. Turn around and go in whichever direction you please, at any time, any place. (However, a word of warning to future Plymouth Banjul participants, don't think these rules applies to a foreigner, they're just waiting to fine you for crossing a white line or parking 3 inch outside the parking space.)Apart from the interesting driving in Nouakchott driving in Mauritania means police checks every few yards. I'm not exaggerating, coming in and out of town they have several police checks in a line on a road where you can't turn off or on between them. We were tempted to ask them what they thought would have changed with our papers since the control only a minute or so away, but we didn't. They were arsy as it was, asking for presents and gifts to ignore our supposedly fake insurance. To start with, it wasn't fake. Secondly, even though it's real, do you think you could ever claim anything on it? You buy the insurance from a lady in a mudhut next to the border... No filing system, no computers, no records you have actually bought it apart from your little piece of paper.Anyway, we had a stash of pens mum and dad had given us for the children. They got handed out to these police men instead, to "forget" to check our insurance...Driving in Dakar is also interesting. There's not so many chickens or donkeys here, but far more goats wandering the streets and a lot more cars. Don't think i've seen any car without a dent or scratch on it. Nor have we seen a taxi with a whole windscreen. Most of them have serious cracks all over the passenger side and some have attempted to sellotape it with the result that you don't really see anything out of it. Fantastic!If you come up to a junction behind a car waiting to pull out, don't line up behind him, no, go over in the oncoming lane and try to squeeze past him. He's probably not waiting to pull out because there's lots of traffic, he's probably waiting because he's slow and can't drive. Yeah.Roundabouts are quite interesting as well. We haven't worked out yet who's got right of way, the ones IN the roundabout or the ones outside coming into it. It really is 50/50 who will stop for who and who will just drive. Could be that if you're cocky enough then you just go... One good safety measure they have on their taxis is that you can't open the backseat door on the left side as that is out in the traffic. It's been disabled so you have to get out onto the curb. Very good. /Vivi

Av Vilhelmina - 25 januari 2007 14:21

Back to where it all started, almost 5 weeks ago...! Skriver mer när jag har "kommit hem ordentligt" :-)

Av Vilhelmina - 17 januari 2007 20:12

I just can't contain myself, life is just too fantastic at the moment! All the people in the Embassy are so helpful, nice, friendly and I am amazed at the hospitality they are showing us! We've stayed one night here in the ambassador's private residence and will stay tonight again. After that his PA Naomi rang around to half of Dakar to find us a room until we leave. She managed to find a whole flat for us, and really cheap as well! She is so brilliant! (Money is running out completely and we're now living on credit cards! We're fine here, but will be interesting to see the account when we get home. :-) The man on reception helped me calling and Iberia as well to check if we can change our flights. After much hassle I think we've managed to change them to Wednesday 24th, arriving UK early morning 25th. That's a lot better as we can then go to Wales to pick up our little guinea pigs... Gosh I miss them now! When it's been tough during the trip I've been imagining sitting on the sofa with Curtis on my lap twittring away. Bless him... ! I also spent some time with Ndac, the PR and Communications woman here at the Embassy to work out our story for the press tomorrow. I'm a bit nervous as there will be both big papers for Senegal and a TV crew as well...! Must do my hair in the morning!! We don't seem to get all text messages and twitters now, so if we don't reply it's probably because we haven't got it. Apologies, but the mobile network seem a bit temperamental sometimes here. I had heard it would be good, but I'm not sure I agree with that. Dinner with Ambassador tonight and then lunch with him and his wife and staff tomorrow after the press conference. Then we're off to a very disadvantaged hospital for some equipment and then on to a clinic for even more medical items. They explained to us that the Hospital getting the ambulance is a fairly well off hospital. They chose this one as they would be the only ones with enough funds to actually maintain the ambulance and also make use of the equipment as their staff is properly medically trained. The other hospitals - although perhaps more needy and serving the less advantaged people - would not have the resources or knowledge to make use of it. We have today sorted out which hospital should have what depending on their abilities and need and all that's left is going to a clinic that can use things like bandages and syringes. All our bedding, clothes, cooking items etc is to be given to other charities that the ambassador's wife is engaged in. She has got her cleaning lady to wash the clothes to be given away and she will ensure all items are given to the ones who need them the most. I am truly amazed at the engagement and passion of the people here at the embassy. Anyway, gotta dash! Dinner soon after another PROPER SHOWER! I can't tell you how amazing it is to have a toilet and shower at hand whenever you need it! Or just to be able to wash your hands! Heaven!!!! Dad - could you put this on the English blog as well? Internet too slow over here! :-) Thanks a million!

Av Vilhelmina - 16 januari 2007 21:54

We've arrived in Dakar and are currently at the Ambassador's residence. Nice feeling seeing the Union Jack outside, ahh, British soil! They don't have gprs here so I will not be posting much more before getting back unfortunately. I have about 7 or 8 entries stacking up in my mobile and will be writing more for the next few days I guess. The ambassador and his wife are truly amazing and have kindly offered us to stay with them for two nights. We're absolutely thrilled to sleep in a proper bed and have a decent shower for the first time in WEEKS! (You don't want to smell us right now...! +35 and no water at campsite meant a somewhat improvised wash...!) Whilst writing this email to Dad (he's the one who's uploaded it as I can't get on to the websites!) the ambassador's daughter called him on Skype so I got chatting to her. She's really nice and we will get together to organise equipment for birth clinics in Mali in February. She needs baby scales and they are apparently very expensive. I said we'll see what we can organise for her to bring with her when she goes next time. If anyone has got any contacts then please get in touch, 07920 006 042. (But don't call just yet, it's too expensive to receive calls in Senegal for me!) We drove past the hospital on our way here and it was so exciting to see it!! Our little ambulance's new home....! :-) Truly amazing! We're staying at the embassy tomorrow cleaning the truck and making it ready for the hospital. On Thursday we're having an official handover with the press to the hospital which will be exciting. The PR woman from the embassy is going to come with us to help with translating...! My pigeon french has been ok to get through borders but i don't think it'll be enough for an interview! The Lisboa - Dakar rally comes in this weekend and we will watch it which will be exciting! Hopefully we can change our flights to leave on Tuesday, but if not we'll lounge around here for another couple of days. The Ambassador's PA has sorted out a few hotels we can try so shouldn't be too bad. (Published by Owe)

Av Vilhelmina - 12 januari 2007 18:34

2007-01-10We've just done the wheelbaring on the fiesta, he took a pot hole a bit too fast and banged it completely. Good job we've got so many tools with us.2007-01-10Hey! We're through the border! And they didn't charge us! Unbelievable! Well, not more than e10 to get out of mauri & e30 to stamp our passports.2007-01-10Happily arrived at zebra bar! Had a lovely meal that we didn't have cook ourselves - or do the washing up! Intermittent mobile reception & no gprs.2007-01-11Today we have windsurfed, canoed, seen jellyfish and lizards, had a proper shower and bbq tonight. Staying another night before going to Dakar2007-01-12Found qn internet cqfe in St Louis; shame the keyboqrd is qfricqn qnd thqt i cqnt access either of the blogs: No idea why!!2007-01-12Our old group arrived at Zebra Bar last night, very pleasd to see them all! We have missed Matt's "Good Morning!!"2007-01-12We're going to Dakar on Tue or Wed. Should have GPRS there I hope. Would love to hear from you all at home, what's new?(Published by Owe)

Av Vilhelmina - 9 januari 2007 10:55

Hi Everyone! We have passed the dessert and just arrived to Nouakchott in Mauritania. Everything is ok, we are in good shape.Still bad mobil coverage. (Published by Owe)

Av Vilhelmina - 4 januari 2007 20:13

I'm not sure if we technically are in the desert, but it certainly looks like the desert, sand, burnt shrubbery, dunes and one long road.It got a bit boring in the end so i went back to the stretcher for a snooze. The good thing with the stretcher is that you can lie on it and watch out the window. If it gets too boring then you just nod off! The mornings and evenings are very cold. It's averaging +5 and that is bloody freezing to do the washing up and basic personal hygiene in, especially as the water is cold as well. I'm not complaining, but i would love a hot shower, to wash my hair, a wide bed, and a warm duvet. The days are very hot, you dress up warm and snugly because you're so cold from the night and then you have to get changed during the day. Today it was just over +40 when we stopped for some food. Admittedly that was in the sun, but at the end of the day, the ambulance WAS in the sun and we in it. We've had a long day driving and we still have about 70 km to go before we can stop for the night. You don't really want to just stop by the roadside, it's a bit outlaw-ish around here. The locals are friendly, but they know we have money and they keep begging and it can get frightening. We had a bunch of kids throwing rocks on the ambulance and that may not sound very scary but it was a bit unsettling and angered us slightly. We're so strapped for cash as the ambulance is guzzling petrol like an alcoholic downs white lightening and we're not sure we actually have enough money for fuel to get us all the way to Dakar. We'll have to get more out next time we get to a town but we don't really have that much money in our account either. We're living cheaply eating the noodles we brought with us and buying cheap bread from the locals, but apart from that and driving slowly and sensibly there's not much more we can do. To then have a bunch of kids throw rocks at the ambulance because we didn't give them any presents is a tad bit annoying. We're driving in a convoy with five other teams that are really nice. It's the Desert Scouts, three guys who we also met in the new forest get together that they organised. Then there's the Angel and the Fairy, two sweet girls in a VW Golf. The banger boys are also in our convoy, three guys in a Toyota corolla. We have Team Unstable which consists of two guys and then, last but not least, Msafari Express, two americans who's shipped their VW Campervan from New York. On the way to the dock the engine seized up and they had to change it... They're really nice, they stopped in our hotel in marrakech to pick up jules wallet that he had accidentally left behind. They're all really nice and good people and our convoy works really well. We're using the walkie talkies a lot to communicate within the convoy and we have a good teamwork between us. Team Unstable are running a quiz to entertain us on boring stretches and so far the angel and the fairy are leading. That's it for today i think, hopefully we'll get to Laâyoune not too late. (Publicerat av Owe)

Av Vilhelmina - 3 januari 2007 17:21

Jules and Mark i Sidi Ifni(Publicerat av Owe)

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