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Ghana to Burkina Faso - 27th February 2005
Simon arrived in Bobo Dioulasso yesterday (Saturday 26th Feb), a Western town in the landlocked West African country of Burkina Faso, from the capitol Ougadougou (pronounced 'Wagadoogoo'). He celebrates the end of his shock absorber fiasco, the raising of US$3,600 in Ghana, surviving barely scratched a ninety degree collision with a tro tro (Ghanaian minibus) in Kumasi and life in general.
The last time I saw so many motorcycles was in South East Asia. The absence of traffic congestion is the distinct advantage of cities in many of the poorest countries like Burkina Faso. Small motorcycles and bicycles swarm everywhere, wide main streets double as open air public workshops and every third house has ten to twenty new two wheelers lined up for sale. I love places like this. It is probably why Burkina has a reputation for efficiency. I love tea too, here expresso tea from street vendors is so strong I thought it was herbed coffee!
Burkina slips rapidly under my wheels because I am behind on the schedule again. Climate is important, the heat increases daily and I'm a fair way south of the Sahara Desert still. To increase water capacity to twenty plus litres I buy a couple of backpacks and have them sown together to make throwover saddlebags. They can sit astride the fuel tank, my seat or the rear rack. I got hold of a couple of bottles of iodine to use for purifying, a drop for a litre if I remember correctly. It won't take long to get used to the taste of iodine. Also climatewise, the Hamatan dust wind is blowing strongly and I was eating the stuff for 350 km yesterday. I'll clean the air filter before heading to Mali later today.
The crash occured en route to make an appointment with the Asantehene, the King of the famous Asanti in Ghana. With motorcycles a distinct minority in Southern Ghana bikers are relegated to squeezing through where they can on the choked streets. Because drivers tend to use the middle of the road (witnessed by countless head on smashes a la India) bikers overtake on the inside, that is, next to the sidewalk. I join the suicidal practise and make up time, dressed in a colourful traditional flowery shirt billowing out like a sail. The traffic is stationary as I zip up the inside. A moving tro tro fills a single frame and smash. The very unwelcome sound heralds an annoying interruption to the morning's activities. A crowd gathers, they berate the tro tro driver for trying to kill me. He is in a far worse state than me but I settle knock for knock. I ride off with both headlights smashed, front crash bar flatted, screen from Santiago Chile left in a thousand pieces and front fender looking like a walnut. I find repair parts at the area called Magazine, formerly the Asanti's artillery producer and now Kumasi's automotive district. Thousands of engines and other used parts line the road.
Asanti destiny is bound up with a golden stool that descended into the lap of a former Asantehene. Stools have a number of functions and meanings. Should the golden one ever pass from out of the Asanti hands, the Kingdom will fall. Various stool stories abound and I saw the fake one given to the British as they tried to establish control of the Gold Coast, as they called it, the most productive of all the African colonies at one stage for its gold, cocoa and timber. It was Queen Mother Nana Yaa Asantewaa who most famously resisted the Brtitish. I didn't meet the King, I could not wait around long enough. When he appears publicly it is wearing so much gold that he needs helpers because of the weight.
Ghana is great in the present day too and I am lucky now to have many friends there. I decided to do some fundraising while waiting for some parts (kindly sponsored by Rotax) to arrive. The famous Ghanaian generosity and hospitality came through firstly from Francis Dawson at Honda Overseas Union. The two ST1100 shock absorbers have transformed my bike, I could easily carry double the weight now and if I have to do any jumps she is perfectly stable! I guess that is the last in the rear suspension saga.
When I think of all the people I have met because my shock absorbers broke!
The biggest corporate charitable donators were Barclays Bank, a Millennium Ride partner since the beginning; Takoradi Flour Mill, the owner big Serge being a Sahara motorcycle veteren and the only Harley rider in Ghana; and Shell Ghana, from what I saw the only proactive road safety campaigner in Ghana. Some are surprised that such an amount can be raised in Africa. But they say that we speak things into existence, so when the world says Africa is poor it is for them. Who knows what hidden agendas belie this. I probably upset some people with that comment but its hard to apologise for the truth. However I do sincerely apologise to the people I've upset in the last few weeks. We would have raised more I've I'd been a little more with it.
The bike is going really great, purring along. People from all over were helped including Jeff and Julie Sharp, Jeff being with USAID, who had me stay at their mansion with the luxury of home cooking. Morwan Kalmoni of Morkal Enterprise paid for many nights lodging and gave me a new battery. Mobitel gave a SIM card and air time though Mobile World's telephone could not be persuaded to work. The Ghana Broadcasting Corporation did me proud and Robert & Sons gave me a new pair of spectacles.
The situation in tsunami hit Indonesia is that the aid agencies are still in emergency relief mode because there seems to be little interest in starting to establish long health services. Willy's submission to Save the Children as requested, using managed motorcycles for this, will be linked from the webpage soon.
I wanted to write a bit more but the day is moving along and I want to too. Some people indicated an interest to ride with me in Europe and others have offered to organise some presentations. I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who wants to be involved.
See you soon.
Simon Milward, on the road
A solo fundraising round the world ride on a handmade motorcycle.
Supporting Doctors Without Borders, Motorcycle Outreach and democracy.
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