DAYS 43 – 69: MALI, COTE D’IVOIRE & GHANA or GUINEA, SIERRA LEONE, COTE D’IVOIRE & GHANA
Dependent on the current situation in each country, the itinerary her again is flexible depending on conditions at the time. Option one takes you through Mali and option two through Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Driving through Sahel scrublands, you head to the border and cross into West Africa’s centrepiece – Mali. Passing through the riverside town of Kayes, dubbed as the hottest town in Africa, you will leave the town life behind us as we follow the Senegalese and Bakoye Rivers on your journey to Bamako. Passing the region’s remote villages and absorbing the Malian way of life, Western Mali contains some of the country’s most scenic area of hills, wooded escarpments, rivers and rapids, which are a treat to take a refreshing wash in whilst on your journey southeast. A few days later you will arrive into the Capital city, Bamako. The city abounds with lively bars, cold beers, markets full of fresh fruit and vegetables and people with different culture, language and dress.
The town overlooks the Niger River – stretching over 4,000 kms long the river is Africa’s 3rd largest. Taking a journey on a pinasse is a great way to explore the river, and experience rural life in the villages dotting the riverbanks. Bamako boasts first rate night-life and has some good live clubs – allowing the night owls in the group to enjoy some late night drinking and dancing to some world famous Malian music. Leaving Bamako you travel through southern Mali via the town of Sikasso with its lively market before reaching the border with Ivory Coast, more commonly known in its French form, Cote d’Ivoire.
From Tambacounda you make our way to the border with Guinea. Although one of the poorest countries Guinea Conakry (as it is usually called in West Africa) is also one of the proudest in West Africa. Its people have stood together and survived the always difficult post colonial era of independence without resorting to tribal conflicts or civil war. The first colony to gain Independence from France they stated they preferred ‘freedom in poverty, than prosperity in chains’. You can appreciate Guinea’s spectacular tropical forests and waterfalls as you cross the Fouta Djalon plateau and the beautiful hilly hinterland before crossing into Sierra Leone. Famous for its diamonds, fortunately Sierra Leone has recovered from its disastrous civil war and become one of the safest countries in which to travel. However, its roads are still abysmal so it can be slow going on your drive to the coast. However, you can enjoy its serene palm fringed beaches and remoteness, camping on the coast south of Freetown. Then crossing back into Guinea and back onto the challenging dirt roads through remote small villages this is where the food stocks on your overland truck get put to use. Near the Liberia border at Bossou you have the unique opportunity to trek to see wild chimpanzees. Reaching the border with Ivory Coast, you then continue your adventure.
Both options bring you to the city of Yamoussoukro. Built by President Boigny, one of the classic ‘Big Man’ dictators it was an expensive and vane project to glorify himself with six lane highways leading nowhere and a huge Basilica built to copy St. Peter’s in Rome. A further day’s drive away is Abidjan, one of West Africa’s modern cities with skyscrapers and flashy restaurants. However, it very much has the feel of having seen better days and as with so many cities, ostentatious wealth mixes side by side with abject poverty.
Leaving the Ivory Coast, your trans-Africa overland tour now heads east to the frontier with Ghana.
In Ghana you will notice another change in people and culture – especially the language! For the first time in two months of your overland Africa travels, you will be in a country where English is the main language.
You will spend a night in Mole National Park in northern Ghana and get the opportunity to game walk with an armed ranger – hoping to view some of the numerous elephants and other wildlife that inhabit this park. Making your way to the coastline you will stop off at Kakum National Park where you have the opportunity to embark on a canopy walk, or walk through the nature trails in the forest.
Then following the coastline you will pass the castles of Cape Coast and spend a couple of days relaxing on the palm-fringed beaches before making your way to the capital Accra. You will need to obtain several visas in Accra so you will have a few days here and time to enjoy the beaches near Accra and indulge in great seafood, and cold drinks.