The truck trip was, in general, a disaster. Dragoman were fine, both truck and drivers, and we went to some wonderful places, but the atmosphere amongst the passengers affected everything we did. We continued to correspond with Andrea (still do) and discovered that nothing changed as the truck continued on its way to Kenya. To anyone who thinks that I was a bit severe on my fellow passengers, I offer no apologies. The kiddies were not nice people, and you wouldn't have liked them! Geoff and I talked about them often, and came to the conclusion that they didn't want to be in Africa at all - they wanted to be able to go home and tell everyone that the had BEEN TO AFRICA!!!! Enough said. It almost goes without saying that we will never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever go on a truck trip again.
Backpacking around West Africa is easy. There are lots of bush taxis, a wide range of hotels, wonderful people, fantastic scenery. Some areas are difficult to get to, but they are well worth the effort.
This hasn't been a "where we stayed and what we paid" account, but some mention should be made of costs. The following amounts are always for two people:
Despite the fact that these are poor countries, travel is not cheap. We budgetted $US100 per day, to include absolutely everything - food, accomodation, souveneirs, travel. That's not to say we spent that much - some days our total expenditure came to $10 in total. However, there were some places we stayed, like Grand Lahou, that blew our budget just on accomodation, let alone all the rest. Andrea and her boyfriend, inspired by our enthousiasm, came back to West Africa in 1990-1991, and travelled around budgetting about $60 per day. They did this by staying for longer periods in smaller villages.
We carried more cash on this trip than we have ever carried before or since. We left Europe with about $3000 in cash, in addition to our traveller's cheques.The money was in French francs and $US; we should have taken more of it in francs, since they were the most negotiable. Banks are difficult, and as I related in the journal, it can be impossible to get money with credit cards or Euro-cheques. We do not use plastic cards at all. Africa is a very safe place to travel, and we didn't feel that carrying that amount of money was a risk.
In addition to our daily budget, we carried a contingency fund of an extra $3000 in traveller's cheques. We never expected to use the money, but ended up needing most of it to buy our tickets back to Perth. It is much cheaper to buy return tickets in Europe, but had opted for the freedom of buying in Africa and paid for it. It would have been cheaper to just buy a ticket from Dakar to Paris, then shop around in the bucket-shops there, but we were pressed for time at the end, and didn't fancy mid-winter in Europe with only light summer clothes. We would advise anyone travalling on the same route to make sure they pre-paid at least some part of their flight home - enough to get them out of West Africa and into Europe or India, for example.
Ethiopian Airways was totally useless. In addition to the non-booking of our flight and their inability to sort out the mess, they neglected to tell us that the rules for entry to India had changed since our last visit, and that we required visas. Indeed, they let us onto the flight to Bombay without the required visas, and we hit lots of trouble when we landed in India. OK - partly our fault; we should have looked it up instead of being confident that we didn't require visas, but it is part of the airline's responsibility to check that its passengers conform to requirements.