As Covid continued to ravage everything and we couldn't move on due to land border closures, we left Africa and we spent 4 months travelling through the Balkans by bus and train and then on to the UK for my daughter's wedding and a brief mention here. What an amazing part of the world the Balkans are but before we left Africa we had our first Covid jabs that were recorded in a big leather-bound book in Ziginchour, Senegal (not a computer in sight) and the only evidence we had was a paper sheet with our details on but well done to our UK Doctor for recognising this and within 48 hours back in the UK we were both supporting sore arms having had our second dose of vaccine fully recorded and evident on our NHS records.
Meanwhile, back in the Balkans we had to rely on public transport to get around and so we barely scratched the surface as we travelled between towns and cities by bus and train but the scenery was incredible with forest, lakes and quaint villages in abundance.
Our journey took us through Turkey to Bulgaria and then on through Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia and finally Austria and Slovakia.
That's a lot of time on bus and train seats and a lot of shuffling around on the seats to stay comfortable!!
Many of these countries are seldom visited by us Europeans as I am sure like me, you just remember the terrible wars and it's true to say that many buildings in these countries still bear the scars with bullet holes being evident on most buildings.
To try and better understand, we went to various museums and exhibitions about the conflict, but the more we saw and read, the more confused we became.
The war is hopefully behind them all now and the city centres in all these countries are making a real effort and Casual dining and chilled out bars are now the norm which came as a very pleasant surprise to us with Ljubljana the capital of Slovenia being our favourite city of all.
With this in mind, we would look into the eyes of many of the older people waiting tables, driving lorries or just walking down the street and wonder what part they had played in the war as many would have been involved?
Did they use a gun, did they lose family? Each one would have a story to tell we were sure.
From the Balkans, we headed to London and Doncaster for my Daughters wedding and I got to be a proud dad for a day.
From the UK we headed back to The Gambia in early November, to be reunited with our truck finally. A moment that was quite emotional for us after 40 different beds in 4 months of travelling we were delighted to sleep in our own bed. And that's a lot of emptying and filling our backpacks (well for Charlotte at least).
Once reunited, we set about getting a few upgrades done with the goodies we brought back with us from the UK (all 8 bags worth)! And we now have a nice new kitchen table and yes, we carried a kitchen table in our luggage with us but I drew the line at a Kitchen sink!
Extra security throughout the truck, better door fasteners are to name but a few upgrades we had done and we are delighted with the results. body content of your post goes here. To edit this text, click on it and delete this default text and start typing your own or paste your own from a different source.
When we weren't at the workshop getting our upgrades we spent a little time driving the River Gambia and heading off the only road along the river to find new and exciting places to stop for the night and as always, when you think you are really remote and away from everything, someone wanders past as though its the most normal thing in the world to do- Welcome to Africa.
One guy we met who was mesmerised by our truck was happy to engage in conversation and it's easy in the Gambia as they speak English and although we were only around 60km (36 miles) outside the capital of Banjul, this guy had no idea about Covid 19 and the devastation it was bringing to the world. A fact we found astounding and we wonder what percentage of the population actually do know about Covid 19?
On another occasion whilst chilling, we had our usual selection of 4 legged friends taking shelter or looking for food as they always do as street/wild dogs are common almost everywhere and we try our best to feed them whilst we can and whilst feeding this particular lot, Charlotte noticed some alarming lumps in the skin of these poor creatures and so Charlotte set about donning her rubber gloves and examining the poor things to discover they were riddled with Mango worm.
Lava burrows into the skin of dogs when they lay in contaminated areas and grow into worms.
With a lot of patience from both the dogs and Charlotte, most of the worms were squeezed out giving great relief all around and allowing the dogs to take refuge under the truck and enjoy a peaceful sleep at least for that night anyway.
Meanwhile, once our upgrades were complete, we were ready to move on but had to await a suitable vessel to ship the truck down to Namibia from where we can then finally move a little easier with few land borders closed in this area of Africa.
In some ways, our timing is once again, terrible with the news of the new Omicron virus hitting Namibia and South Africa, but on reflection, we are pushing ahead armed with the knowledge that Namibia is a country over 3 times the size of the UK, twice the size of Germany and California with a population of less than 2.5 million and that's around 3 people per square Kilometer versus 280ish per square Kilometer in the UK?
Their daily Covid count is around 12 new cases a day and the deaths to date are just a few thousand since the start of the Pandemic.
Life expectancy in Namibia is also rising again to around 64 years of age after the country (as much of Africa) being devastated by HIV for so many years and even now, 91% of the world infected children live in Africa. With over a million deaths every year. HIV is still a devastating disease to deal with.
But we feel will feel a lot safer in Namibia than in the UK?
Now, the only part we have to overcome is the actual shipping of our truck. The last shipping experience (Casablanca, Morocco to Dakar, Senegal) was horrendous as we spent 3 days being hauled between offices handing over handfuls of money for bills that seemed to be being made up as we went along.
This time we are a little more organised but we can't control the wanton theft that takes place on the sea whilst travelling the west coast of Africa.
Our route this time is Dakar in Senegal to Walvis Bay in Namibia is notorious for theft from travelling vehicles and our actions to counter this is extra locks and emptying all external lockers and stripping down our motorcycle and placing it inside our beautiful home. Not something we undertook lightly and we hope our investment in several mattresses (foam covered in fabric) will save the lovely interior of our truck as they have been wrapped around everything we have placed inside. It looks a lot like a teenagers bedroom inside the truck currently.
As I write this we are now hauled up in an apartment in Dakar as the truck is full of our goodies and not livable presently and yesterday we trawled around dozens of offices collecting signatures and official-looking stamps to our paperwork and now its all done and tomorrow we deliver the truck to the port and say our farewells until late December when it will be delivered back to us safely in Walvis Bay, Namibia we hope (we hope) and we contemplate the flight of 27 hours we have to undertake to get to Namibia.
Hay, ho, the next blog will hopefully be from Namibia and will hopefully be back on course depicting local life and the scenery the country has to offer.
Anyway, Merry Christmas and a happy new year to you all and I hope 2022 is a little easier for us all than 2021 has been?