Sketching our plans

So what are we going to do when we embark on our trip? Where are we going to go? These are questions that we do not have ready answers to. I can not imagine how we could have a concrete plan extending several months and stick with it. For a start there are so many practical uncertainties. How will the Zil hold up on long journeys? What will our cash flow be like? Will Anika enjoy herself and what would she like to do? How will Miki survive in the hotter climates?

The destination of Morocco was my story that has received a warm endorsement from the girls. It is very close to Europe should we need to be rescued. It is also culturally another world of sights and sounds to immerse ourselves in. I feel particularly drawn to the empty deserts of the south. Whilst doing some research I came across a photo taken just south of the Moroccan border in Mauritania, in Nouadhibou. It is of a beached cargo ship.

This picture has an apocalyptic feel to it. A human endeavour wrecked on the barren shoreline. What I love about it is the loneliness of the ship, like a ghost never seen. I am resolved to attempting to take my own photo of this hulk.

Mauritania is a dangerous country. Currently the bulk of the country (including the shores where the ghost ship rests) is a red zone (advise against all travel) as advised by the Foreign Office. This is due to the increasing militia, criminal gang and terrorist activity spilling over from Mali. The rest of the country is a yellow zone (advise against all but essential travel). The conflict is a tragedy for the region which only a few years ago was open for extensive travel. Now cities such as Timbuktu and Atar are closed off, their heritage under threat.

So my proposal now to the girls is that since we are in the area lets keep driving south (depending on getting a Carnet de Passage), through Mauritania (quickly and in convoy with other overlanders), Senegal, Gambia, Cote d’Ivoire to Ghana. My old school SOAS has ties with schools in Gambia and Ghana. It would be possible to contact them with a view to offering some teaching hours there in English. This would be my ideal second leg of the journey. There is a condition here though. That is the small window of travel, mid winter, which is the only time Miki would be able to cross the desert in any kind of relative comfort.

Well, I am very excited about this plan. I hope we can find a consensus to test it out. If one or both Mara and Anika block the proposal then I guess we have to find a second plan. I have heard that the border between Morocco and Algeria is still closed (despite an Algerian promise last year to open it). This means one possible route through to Tunisia and then a short ferry ride to Italy is no longer an option. Oh well, we will wait and see how we feel as a family.

For now I am doing further research into the health side of travelling through west Africa. I compiled a database (sourced from the National Health Travel Network) which I made pretty on gimp. Not wanting to sound dramatic but this is the data:

Reassuringly Hepatitis A, B, Tetanus and Rabies are found in most of Europe.

A near miss

It was going to happen sooner or later. Miki and I were walking through the woods when suddenly she darted off. I looked up and saw a stray calf further up the path. The poor thing was running hard back to its family with Miki right on top of its rear legs. All my shouts were to no avail as Miki switched into hunt mode. The calf was calling out for help and in no time a highland cow emerged and came straight for us. We were some distance from the cow but she pounding at us at a frightening pace. I grabbed Miki by the scruff of her neck, whipped her lead on and we dived into a nearby gorse thicket. The cow came up to the thicket and called out bringing a few more cows and a bull to the scene. Miki thought this was the greatest things that could happen. We slogged it through the gorse until we came out into a nearby copse and made a long arch back to the yard. I had a chicken roasting in the oven and had visions of getting back and finding it black. All was well. The herd had gone off in pursuit of us leaving the gates to the yard unguarded. We slipped back in, I pulled the gates tightly shut and took a deep breath for our luck. Had there not been that gorse thicket I do not know what we would have done.

I shall have to reconsider our walks in the forest from now on.

A window for a view

Today has been exhausting work. The sun has left me with a headache even though I have been keeping hydrated on orange juice and once that ran out, lager. It could also be the radiation emitted from the field of satellite dishes, mobile phone masts and radio towers. The work has payed off though because now we have a window in our kitchen as well as the power steering unit now being set at the right pressure and a few other minor jobs around the truck such as the wiring for the water temperature gauge.

Here are the pictures of the window:

The window is a Dometic seitz S4 which I think is pretty damn ugly and questionable whether its going to last long even with its German origins. But it was very easy to install and has insulation rated as double glazing – oh and it has a pull-down mosquito net!

Miki and I met the Highland cattle today on our walk through the forest. I could not get a close up photo as they were stamping the ground and swinging their very big horns in the air. But believe me these animals are impressive!

Paul keeps the cattle grazing the land so he can get a subsidy from the Government. As part of the subsidy agreement they get no commercial feeds. Their diet comprises of what they take from the land. I had Miki on a lead when we passed these formidable aurochs but later she got to run free and chase a deer into a thicket, rabbits on the pathway and investigate badger holes.