It’s been some time since we last posted as we waved goodbye to Zoe, Adam and Aminah from the UK last October – so we’re well over due with an update regarding what’s been happening on the road and at OWA!
In summary it has been a challenging season so far but also a very rewarding and successful one. We’re pleased to say that our trips have proved to be as popular as ever, having sold almost every place on every trip (approx 98% capacity). With a decent number of passengers returning to see more of the region after previous trips with us, it suggests we must be doing something right!
On the road things have, at times, been a challenge this season. Zoe (Trip Leader) decided to leave half way through for personal reasons after doing a great job at leading the 3 southbound trips with Adam. Fortunately Jason was available to do another run for us and flew out to Ghana in February to take over the reigns for the 3 return northbound trips.
Unfortunately the security situation in Burkina Faso deteriorated rapidly towards the end of 2018, meaning we took the very difficult to decision to re-route our Accra to Ouagadougou and Accra to Freetown trips to avoid Burkina Faso completely. We of course continue to keep a close eye on the security environment in the country and very much hope the situation improves soon, in the hope that we can include Burkina Faso in our 2020-21 itineraries.
Along with Jason getting 2 bouts of malaria, Adam getting salmonella poisoning and Aminah falling through a bridge in the east of Sierra Leone (see pictures below), there’s been no shortage of dramas this time around! Still, it’s all part and parcel of overland adventure travel and we believe everybody has had a really great time despite these various obstacles. We’ve received some wonderful feedback from the passengers which has been added to our Passenger Testimonials page, and we’ll be adding more in the next few weeks as we receive it.
One blog we’d like to share with you is from passenger Peggy Bright, who travelled with us between Accra and Dakar this year. Peggy has some really wonderful photos and writes about her experiences in a very evocative way. Our favourite post focusses upon Aminah falling through the bridge in eastern Sierra Leone, perfectly summing up the true nature of overland group travel. Everybody chipped in with helping get Aminah upright again, working with the guys in the local village to get the trip on the road again. Do take the time to check this wonderful blog out out you won’t regret it!
So what’s next? Out next season of trips are scheduled to start in November 2020. The dates are now up on our Overview Page and we are aiming to open the bookings around very late September 2019 – so get your requests in for time off work now!
Please note we will be updating all trip documentation and tweaking the itineraries here and there in the next few months to take into account the feedback from our current season – though please note there will only be a few minor changes. Please do bear in mind that we might not be able to include Burkina Faso at all, depending upon how the security situation in the country plays out in the months ahead.
If you are interested in a trip in 2020-21, please send us an Enquiry Form to register your interest and we will add you to our email list to let you know when we’re ready to start taking bookings. We look forward to hearing from you soon!
David (Hatter) Oades, Al Goodridge and Jimmy C
Below are some wonderful pictures taken on our current season of trips, taken by Adam, Annabel, Peggy, Ella and Herman – enjoy!
We hope you’re all well and that you’ve had an enjoyable summer (or winter, depending on which hemisphere you live in!)
David (Hatter) and Al have been super busy in the UK workshop completing the last few jobs on Aminah in preparation for the upcoming season of trips. With a recon engine and a new clutch assembly fitted, new camping stools made, new leisure batteries fitted, a respray of the cab and locker level and a successful MOT pass, we certainly have put in the hours!
In just 3 weeks time Zoe and Adam will pack up the equipment and drive south for the big journey down to Dakar for the first trip of the season…..not long to go now!
Below you’ll find a selection of pictures of just some of the work that Hatter and Al completed over the past few weeks. Enjoy!
A big thank you to G and Charlie at Dragoman (as always) for allowing us to work on Aminah in their workshop, and to G for putting the new paint on for us! Thanks also to Darren, Pettsy, Nick, Amber and Jordan for helping us for a couple of hours taping Aminah up for the spray job!
We wish you all a great autumn, and remember, if you can join us on either our Accra to Ouagadougou or Dakar to Marrakech trips, please contact us via our Enquiry Form and we’ll send you over all of the relevant booking information.
David (Hatter) Oades, Al Goodridge, Jimmy Corrigan and Aminah
It’s been some time since our last update so here we go with all that’s been happening at OWA over the past few months!
Firstly, we’re pleased to say that we’ve sold nearly all of the places available on our trips in 2018-19, which is of course great news for us – and we hope an indication of the growing interest there is for travel in this less known part of the African continent.
We do still have a few spots available on all of our trips, mostly on our Accra to Ouagadougou and Dakar to Marrakech departures, so if you are interested and able to get the time off work, please get in touch as soon as possible to avoid missing out.
We’re also pleased to say that Zoe will once again be leading the 2018-19 season for us, this time accompanied by Adam Blay, who used to own a similar overland company called ‘South America Overland’. We’re sure they’ll run another great season for us and we’re looking forward to receiving all of their updates from the road starting this November!
In the meantime, David (Hatter) and Jason have been burning the midnight oil in the UK workshop getting Aminah ready for the big journey ahead. We managed to get all of the major work out of the way, including a rub down so that Aminah is ready for her new coat of paint in a couple of months time. As always a huge thank you to George and Charlie at Dragoman Overland HQ for allowing us to rent some space in their workshop and for ordering us all of the parts we needed. Cheers G and Charlie!
Below you’ll find a selection of pictures of just some of the work that Hatter and Jason completed over the past few weeks. Enjoy!
The new front springs arrive – the last 2 sets in all of Europe (apparently…!)
Raising the chassis on an Indian jack to remove the old front springs
The offending rivet which caused issues last time around
Springs removed and ready for a clean up
Adding the old blocks to the new leaves to give Aminah a bit more ground clearance
New springs on and ready for tightening
Removing the old brass bush from the swinging shackle
Inserting a new brass bush into the swinging shackle, drawing it in with a length of threaded rod
Cleaning up the threads on one of the rear U bolts
Jet spraying the old leaves ready to put together spare packs in case they’re needed
Jason by the press as we removed a brass bush
Marking the splines to make sure it goes back in the same position
The new carrier bearing
Removing the front torsion bar bushes and circlips
Replacing the leaking steering box top seal
A crank inspection whilst we replaced the weeping sump gasket
Cleaning up the engine sump in the kerosene bath
New sump gasket ready to be fitted
Colin lends a hand for a cylinder compression test and replaces the valve stem seals
Adjusting the tappets after replacing the valve seals
Removing the front hubs to inspect the bearings
Hatter about to remove the rear hub to inspect the bearings
Rear hub removed to replace a pitted wheel bearing and hub seals
A new rear wheel bearing about to be fitted
Nice fresh bearing grease for the front axle hubs!
Jason tightening the front bearings after reinstallation
Replacing the stereo voltage dropper (again…)
Tidying up the wiring
New voltage dropper fitted
Replacing the charging unit in the passenger area
Painting the roof
Sorting out the headlights for the MOT
Making a new stool locker panel
Removing another damaged panel
A lick of anti rust paint to the frame
The big rub down for the respray begins!
Hatter sanding away the truck body
Aminah’s cab after the rub down
Jason replacing one of the broken seat backs
Hatter and Jason still smiling after many late nights working on Aminah!
We wish you all a great summer and remember, if you can join us on either our Accra to Ouagadougou or Dakar to Marrakech trips, please contact us via our Enquiry Form and we’ll send you over all of the relevant booking information.
David (Hatter) Oades, Al Goodridge, Jimmy Corrigan and Aminah
After leaving the UK in September 2016 for another expedition down to West Africa and back, Aminah is home!
Our last trip of the season arrived into Marrakech at the end of May 2017 after the long journey north through Senegal, Mauritania, Western Sahara and southern Morocco. After a couple of days turnaround in Marrakech, Aminah, Zoe & Jason headed to the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, crossing the Mediterranean to Algeciras where they began the long drive back to the UK via Spain and France.
Rainy season is now well underway in West Africa, a time that makes travelling in the region challenging at best, so time for Aminah to have a well deserved break back home in the UK.
We’d like to say a massive thank you to Zoe and Jason who ran the trips for OWA this season, they both did a truly fantastic job! With trips in West Africa it’s so important to have good crew on board, they’re an essential part of any overland expedition, and Zoe and Jason’s hard work and enthusiasm is highlighted by the overwhelmingly positive feedback we’ve received from the passengers that travelled with us. Thanks very much indeed Zoe and Jason!
You can read some of the great comments the passengers from this seasons trips wrote about Zoe, Jason and OWA (as well as previous seasons comments) by clicking on the photo below. Thanks so much to all of those who took the time to write such positive feedback for us. Cheers guys!
Dave the Hat headed up to the Drago workshop a few weeks ago to give Aminah some TLC and a good deep clean, as well as a good mechanical inspection. As you can imagine the road conditions take their toll on Aminah and the mud and dust clings to everything, so it takes some time to get her cleaned up properly. After a few long days and nights Hatter parked her up under cover until our next season of trips begin in late 2018/early 2019.
So what’s next? Well, over the next few months we’ll be jigging things around a little to take into account what has and hasn’t worked well on our trips to date. We’re going to start the 2018-19 season slightly later in the year, with our Dakar to Freetown trip starting in early November rather than mid-October. Hopefully the extra few weeks will give the roads more of a chance to dry out!
You can see all of the dates for our trips in late 2018/early 2019 here:
If you haven’t done so already please send us an Enquiry Form to register your interest in joining our trips in the future.
Remember, you can keep in touch with all the latest happenings at Overlanding West Africa via our social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, Pinterest and Google +) by clicking on the icons close to the top right hand side of each page on this website.
We look forward to hearing from you and hope to see you on board Aminah in 2018-19 for another adventure through magical West Africa!
David Oades (Hatter), Al Goodridge, Jimmy C and Aminah
Below is a wonderful selection of photos that our passengers took over the course of the season. If these don’t tempt you to visit the region with us then we don’t know what will! Many thanks to Mahesh Patel, Zinzi Speear, Kath Donaldson, Knut Ovrebo, John Stenson, Melanie Smith and Jim Stolk – your photos really do show off what a magical region West Africa is to visit!
If you’ve still got some annual leave to use up, or if you’ve had enough of work and fancy taking off for a bit, then come and join us in West Africa for one of our trips this season!
We still have 2 seats available on our Accra to Ouagadougou trip starting next month, visiting many of the highlights in Ghana, Togo, Benin and Burkina Faso. This trip runs over the Christmas and New Year period (19 December – 16 January) meaning it should be easier to convince your employer to let you take 4 weeks off work!
We also have a few seats available on our Accra to Freetown trip starting on 06 February 2017. This 42-day trip is full of cultural highlights as we travel through Ghana, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea (Forest Region), Liberia and Sierra Leone. Please note you will need to obtain at least 3 visas in advance so it’s worth booking as soon as possible in order for us to send you the relevant paperwork for your visa applications in good time.
Further ahead in April 2017 our Dakar to Marrakech trip also has a few seats available. This trip is a real contrast to our other trips in that it crosses from West Africa into North Africa via Senegal and Mauritania, before visiting numerous places in Western Sahara and the far south of Morocco. Crossing the Sahara desert truly is one of lives epic overland journeys, and one we guarantee will stay with you forever!
Remember, discounts apply if you book multiple trips. If you’re interested please send us an Enquiry Form and we can send you all of the relevant information.
On The Road Again!
We’re pleased to say our first trip of the 2016-17 season from Dakar to Freetown is now well underway. Aminah, Zoe and Jason left the UK in late September and arrived in Senegal a few weeks later after a long drive south through France, Spain, Morocco, Western Sahara and Mauritania.
After meeting Lisa, Jeremy, Robert, Vicki, Stefanie, Brian, Zinzi, Andy, Knut, Eva, Candace and Kent in Dakar they headed south towards Gambia and the Casamance region of Senegal.
One of the highlights of the trip (so far!) was a stay at Simon and Khady’s campement, a wonderful place where our group gets to witness a traditional koumpo dance amongst other festivities.
Check out these fantastic photos from Simon Fenton at The Little Baobab, our co driver Jason Parry and passenger Lisa Vitaris!
West Africa Tourism Organisation at World Travel Market
If you’re keen to learn more and/or play a role in helping promote the countries of West Africa as a travel destination, then why not visit World Travel Market in London next week?
West Africa Tourism Organisation, headed by Ola Wright, is hosting a press conference at the Novotel as well as a dinner at the Crowne Plaza (see the flyer on the left for more details).
The aim of the press conference and networking dinner is to introduce the new ECOWAS regional tourism policy. This is aimed at promoting the countries of West Africa to operators and travellers alike, as well as identifying and addressing the issues the tourism industry in the region is up against.
Ministers of tourism will be in attendance as well as Ambassadors and journalists. Dave the Hat is a member of the organisation and will be at the dinner representing OWA and playing a role in the proceedings. Come and lend your support!
David Oades (Dave the Hat), Al Goodridge, Jimmy C and Aminah
Overlanding West Africa
As many of you who are on our email list will already know, we’ve just started taking bookings for our trips in late 2016/early 2017 – and are pleased to say that seats are selling fast! If you are keen on joining us for a trip please get in touch with us via our Enquiry Form and come and see some of this magical part of the African continent for yourself.
We ran our new Accra to Ouagadougou trip for the first time last month, and welcomed Frank, Tracey, Tony F, Tony K and Sam to join those who had travelled with us from Dakar and Freetown. After some initial confusion, it was revealed that Frank was the owner of the trumpet that had mysteriously found its way onto the truck the previous evening!
We visited Ghana, Togo, Benin and Burkina Faso on this trip, and this blog post covers the first 2 weeks of the trip.
One of the highlights of southern Ghana is visiting the coffin makers around Accra, who make some lively and unusual designs. Above are some of the impressive examples we got to see.
A number of the group went on a walking tour of Nima, a lively residential district of Accra for an insight into the lives of the local people. The guide was the principal of a primary school: as you can see the children were rather excited when we visited their classroom!
From Accra we headed to Ghana’s Volta region, a beautiful but relatively little visited area which is sandwiched between the artificial reservoir of Lake Volta and the Togolese border. We enjoyed the cool air and beautiful views up in the hills, a lovely contrast to the weather on the coast. Frank even had some time for trumpet practice!
The views from the top of Mount Gemi down to Lake Volta and across to Togo would have been great if it wasn’t so hazy!
Above are waterfalls near Amedzofe that most of the group visited after the trek for a refreshing dip.
Before we crossed over the border to Togo, we visited a community of habituated Mona monkeys which are revered as sacred by the locals. Jase seemed to be feeding them the tastiest bananas!
Our first stop in Togo was among the cool green hills close to the summit of Mount Klouto. We walked among coffee plantations, explored villages, learnt about medicinal plants and natural dyes, cooled off under waterfalls, and looked for butterflies.
We enjoyed a great evening of drumming, dancing and fire breathing with plenty of opportunities for dancing practice which we so clearly needed!
After a brief stop in Lome to visit the famous fetish market, we arrived in Grand Popo in Benin where we camped on the stunning beach for a couple of nights. Some of us enjoyed boat trips to visit fishing villages and to see salt production where the Mono river meets the sea.
Above and below are photos from the voodoo ceremony we witnessed in southern Benin. Voodoo continues to play a huge role in the culture of the people in Togo and Benin, fascinating though a little bewildering at times! We were encouraged to try the local palm spirit while watching the ceremony, sprinkled with talcum powder and sprayed with perfume. Al and Jase smelt the best they had in weeks!
Ouidah is known as a centre of the voodoo religion, as well as having a tragic history as a port from which many millions of slaves were transported across the Atlantic to the Americas. We visited the famous python temple, numerous other temples and shrines, and learnt about how the voodoo religion travelled across the Atlantic with the slave trade to parts of Brazil and the Caribbean.
We spent Christmas in Ganvie, staying at the famous stilt village on Lake Nokoue, an area originally settled by people escaping the slave trade. After a tour of the village we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening watching the world go by. Frank entertained both the locals and the group by playing Christmas carols on his trumpet! Many people were celebrating by singing and dancing on boats parading around the village; it was certainly a memorable Christmas!
Having spent 2 weeks slowly exploring Ghana’s Volta region and the south of Togo and Benin, after Christmas we had a couple of days driving up to the north of Togo.
The grounds of this primary school made for a great bush camp – the children were fascinated as we set up camp for the night!
We had plenty of interesting stops along the way. In the photo above, Alice is standing in front of the Aledjo Fault, a stunning geographical feature through which the main road passes. On the right, Frank is trying to get through the entrance of a sacred Baobab tree, which has a large cavity inside with room for about half a dozen people to stand in. It was a bit of a tight squeeze!
Below are the weavers hard at work at a local co-operative we visited. They were weaving long but narrow strips which were then sewn together to make a range of colourful garments.
The Tamberma Valley World Heritage site is home to the Batammariba people. We spent 2 nights with them in Togo, visiting their fascinating ‘Takienta’ (mud fortress houses), learning about their customs and beliefs, and witnessing traditional music and dance ceremonies.
Below, Tracey tries her hand at archery. It’s a good job we weren’t relying on her to catch our dinner!
As the day cooled off we trekked up to a cave network, formerly inhabited as a retreat in times of tribal war. From here we were treated to some spectacular views of the valley below.
From here a short drive took us over the border to Benin and the Atakora hills, home of the Tammari people. We learnt about their animist traditions, and saw the similarities between their fortress houses with those of their cousins in Togo. Most of these were spread out among their agricultural land rather than being grouped into villages.
We trekked to see waterfalls, caves and farming land. Above are examples of giant grain storage jars which are partitioned inside. They’re in a cave, near a water source that was used as a retreat in times of tribal conflict as well as to escape the slave raiders. It is believed that people could have hidden for up to 6 months inside!
Below, Frank, Tony, Al, Alice, Theo and Tony stand outside a sacred Baobab tree which we visited on another trek.
Millett is a common crop of the area and is made into millet beer. Above, Tony and Sam share a gourd of it, wondering if it might be a little more palatable cold! We watched 2 locals down a gourd, drinking simultaneously from the same vessel, but didn’t manage to pull off this same feat ourselves!
Below, Jason climbs up to look inside a grain storage hut on the roof of a house, which is partitioned inside for different crops. A bell on it’s rain hat stopped thieves getting inside without waking the household who would sleep nearby for security.
Another short drive took us to Pendjari National Park, part of the WAP complex, the largest protected wildlife zone in West Africa. We boarded a couple of 4×4’s for a bumpy and dusty day of wildlife viewing.
We were lucky enough to see buffalo, water-buck, warthog, jackals, crocodiles, antelope, many different types of bird, and numerous herds of elephants. At our first coffee stop we were treated to a rather special encounter with a group of elephants that wandered right past us. We also visited a pool where we saw many hippos up close.
Below, Tracey, Janet and Sam were getting as dusty as possible on the game drives!
From Pendjari we headed across the border to Burkina Faso and after a great bush camp we stopped in Fada where, above, Al is in front of the signs. Here we encountered a major problem…no eggs! Jase and Al were both very concerned about the next few breakfasts!
We then travelled west to Bobo Dioulasso, home to skilled artisans and a fantastic live music scene. Some of the group visited the impressive domes de Fabedougou (above) and the nearby Karfiguela waterfalls.
The trip ended all to soon in Ouagadougou, but we’ll be back in Burkina Faso very soon to explore further on our current Accra to Freetown trip.
Many thanks to some of the passengers for allowing us to use their photos we very much appreciate it!