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    Wednesday, March 12, 2008

    Challenging the Rainbow


    Yes, the Jamie Rainbow is back, but it sure got a challenge in the last 26 hours! With the boat to Casamance in limbo I was told there was transport down to this magical region where I’d begin my expedition north through Gambia and up to Morocco. But I had no idea what I was getting myself into until just yesterday!

    I got a late start and arrived at the bus station later than I should have and the shared taxi wanted to charge me 20 bucks to take my bike and gear so I was convinced to take the shared bus for ½ the price with the locals. What I did not know is that it was going to take two hours to leave and it would stop for anything, anytime anyone wanted to get on or off. I’m still a bit rusty on my African travel stills, obviously.

    I got a seat right on the sunny side with no window, so off to a steamy start from the get go. Progress was slow as ever with stops every few minutes, and I doubted we’d make it to Casamance by nightfall. When we finally made it to the Gambian border, it took us 4 hours to go through 4 border posts and take a boat across the Gambia river. But it really starts getting nuts when we were just 50km from Ziguinchor, our final destination.

    Since Ziguinchor area has had some political problems the military did not want any traffic moving at night. Soooooo, for the 4th time since being on the road in Africa, we were forced to sleep right there on the road! The weather seemed nice enough at the time so I grabbed my thermarest and ground cloth to catch some rest. What I was not prepared for was the freezing cold temperatures that came as the night went on! My sleeping bag was buried under tons of stuff and I had to wrap myself in a ground cloth freezing all night long, so I only got a few winks of sleep. It was nutty!

    But, I kept my cool and 26 hours later we finally arrived here in Ziguinchor and I’m going to take an extra day to get my bearings before pedaling off. Found a great pad called Le Flamboyant that has Wifi, pool and great rooms at the best price in all Senegal so the Rainbow is not far behind.

    I’m excited as ever to get out pedaling again. I"m a bit weary of the political situation so am waiting now to chat w/ the hotel owners about my route to make sure I'm not venturing off into any danger zones. For the most part I'm very refreshed and the lingering cough is just about finished. Nothing some good breathing and water can’t flush out! Over and out from Casamance, Southern Senegal.


    Sunday, March 09, 2008

    The Rainbow is Back!

    It’s been a rocky start and re-entry was rough but I’m happy to report that the Jamie Rainbow is back—this magical force that seemed to guide me through my journeys and attract just the right people and experiences. I had some personal hurdles to overcome that seemed to manifest into susceptibility to sickness. The body follows the mind, I always say.

    So my crazy cough, brought on by my emotional state and the thick dust of the Harmattan (see photo of the scenery, or lack thereof, in N. Benin below) finally backed off after 5 days of pampering at my brother from another mother Hugo and Stephan’s Oasis in Cotonou with my own room, WIFI, aircon, chef and regular trips to the ocean.

    The Harmattan dust makes the roads look like this...

    A flower power party was just what I needed in Cotonou, Benin

    A a nice day relaxing on Jamie Island...

    I have found a home in West Africa, and Benin is it. I’ve met some friends for life there and a sense of community was just what the doctor ordered all around.

    After many great meals, surfs, chillin sessions and a bit of work I finally caught my plane to Senegal. I had to pay a bit, for the first time in about 5 years, for my baggage but I can’t complain. I had planned to catch a boat to Casamance in southern Senegal but due to a big Islamic conference they canceled i. I saw that, and the the arrival of a beautiful swell of great waves from the north (7 feet at 13 seconds to all you surfers), I decided to extend my pampering for a few more days and surf my tail off.

    I was blessed to meet the owner of Tribal Surf Shop Cyril here in town and he set me up with my board, wetsuit and board bag that allowed me to turn my tandem into a surf mobile. I also met a French woman Silvi who has turned her home into a small B&B and I felt immediately at home. I was greeted by a wild Italian man Franco who was visiting Silvi and we hit it off big time. He decided to cook me his “Mama’s Favorite Pasta” with pork cheek and lots of love.

    The surf mobile checkin the waves ;)

    Cooking at Sylvi's place with French, Senegalese, Italian and American influences

    Good fun with new friends!

    And pleeennnnty of surf. This is Rene, a local surfer and cool cat

    The weekend was full of waves, sun, more waves, great people and more waves and all full of energy to head off tomorrow for a 2 week expedition of S. Senegal in the Casamance region and Gambia. I honestly caught some of the best waves of my life and if you like to surf, put Dakar on your radar screen stat! My rainbow has also attracted some great people lined up along the way and tons of musicians who I’ll be recording when I come back to Dakar once more for another dose of surf and fun before hitting the Sahara Desert up to Mauritania and Morocco.

    Big love!


    Saturday, March 01, 2008

    February 28, 10:38 AM

    I’m somewhere off the map now in northern Benin sitting in the only shade could find, which happens to be right next to dozens of bottles of illegal petrol which are making quite a toxic shade location. I’m staring at my broken down bus, which ½ dozen people are trying to fix with pieces of paper, parts of a tree, and a maize sack full of random tools.

    I’m returning back to Cotonou on an 8 hour bus ride 3 days earlier than expected. I tried to muscle through a growing infection in my chest and sinuses but they got the best of me. Sadly, I only made it 20KM of the hilly, sandy, Harmaten wind blanketed region of Natitingou and the Somba country. Each kilometer that went by I coughed up something scary looking, and I decided to cut my losses and turn back to heal up before heading to Senegal for the last leg up to Morocco, which I’ve been warned is a doozy.

    It’s frustrating and boggling to me right now why I was able to crank through 11 countries in south and east Africa without any illness and here I am now with back to back physical challenges in Togo and now Benin. I’m going to give myself some time not only to heal physically, but to do some writing and meditating to clear my head and get grounded and strong once again.

    Looks like they rigged the bus up as it’s running and the driver is honking, gotta run.

    Big love and bigger green alien colored boogers from Benin!

    Update: 5:21PM, same day

    7 hours later we have made it about 150km with a bus that’s spewing out rich black smoke and doing about 10km/hour up any kind of incline—and there are plenty in northern Benin. The heat is still pumping, ventilation limited (my thermometer was over 100 degrees several times on the bus) and my cough is getting worse. I’ll be arriving into Cotonou well after dark and have to find a way to Hugo’s place where I’ll finally get a chance to nurse myself back to health. End gripe session.

    Africa is a great place to travel, but when you are not feeling well, it takes all the patience and tolerance you can muster to keep your cool. Right now the greasy guys have spare parts all over the ground and it’s a mystery when we’ll get rolling again. Ahhhh Africa. I’m sure I’ll miss it when it’s gone, but right now I want the BLEEP out!

    Saturday 3/1/08, 3:17 PM

    Two days later, after some rest in bed back at Hugos, half dozen Divx movies, some more anti-biotics, many liters of water and a nice surf I’m at about 75%. I’ve got some dry coughs but no more alien green lung butters so on the up n up. Bummed to have missed the ride up north but grateful to have friends here in town. All sunned and salted it’s Saturday night in the capital of Benin. Life could be worse ;)

    Over n out from Benin!