Today is the day. By evening the shelter is complete. Nothing can describe the elation we feel in successfully completing the project.”
Charlie Curtis : 18th May

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Starting from their departure in London on 14th March 2009.
Europe 14th March
Andorra 17th March
Gibraltar 19th March
Morocco 20th March
Western Sahara
25th March
26th March
30th March
The Gambia
4th April
Senegal again!
8th April
Guinea Bissau
9th April
11th April
Sierra Leone 18th April
Liberia 27th April
Côte d’Ivoire 4th May
Burkina Faso 8th May
Ghana 22nd May
Togo 16th June
Benin 16th June
Nigeria 20th June
Cameroon 16th July
Gabon 30th July
Congo 6th August

Click the photos to see the gallery of Burkina Faso
and the building of our first shelter.

Click the photos to see the gallery of Burkina Faso
and the building of our first shelter.

Click the photos to see the gallery of Burkina Faso
and the building of our first shelter.

Click the photos to see the gallery of Burkina Faso
and the building of our first shelter.

Click the photos to see the gallery of Cote d’Ivoire.

Click the photos to see the gallery of Cote d’Ivoire.

Imagery: ©2009 Terrametrics
Map data: ©2009 Europa Technologies

24th May : Accra, Ghana

We are currently sitting in a hotel in Accra having driven down from Burkina Faso in the last few days. On route we had diverted to visit a renowned waterfall in the hills. Unfortunately on arrival we were told they were closed to the public as there was a swarm of African bees attacking people. With people still trapped inside the area we offered some surplus plastic sheeting to the would be rescuers to act as protection against the swarms. We did not see the bees.

So here we are waiting for our loving and patient partners Ann and Camilla to arrive. They have foolishly stood by us while we trek through Africa on our journey. They are flying out to meet us for two weeks. Needless to say we are both overjoyed at the prospect, as we haven't seen them in two and a half months. We are splitting up to get some time with alone with the girls and also to get a break from each other. Two and a half months is a long time in a tent!

22nd May : Ghana Tip: Click pictures to pop-up a larger view!

Thankfully it was negative but I was diagnosed with gastroenteritis and dehydration. Antibiotics and a couple good night’s sleep in a hotel rather than the tent, and I was back on my feet and we were off to Ghana.

20th May : Burkina Faso

Waking up on our final morning in Bobo I felt awful; dizzy, nausea and feverish. Nevertheless we set off for Ouagadougou to obtain our visas for Ghana. Jon read up on Malaria and since I appeared to have all the symptoms decided it best to take me to the local hospital. Jon managed to communicate the problem and got me a blood test.

19th May : Burkina Faso

Following the completion of the shelter in Bobo, there was the small matter of officially handing it over to the community. After a brief exchange with the local mayor we signed a hand over paper. The shelter now belongs to the people of Bobo Dioulasso.

We both feel incredibly proud of our achievement,  especially given the challenges we faced.
We invited the whole community and in particular the local children to come and enjoy the shelter and get their views on it.

There was a stampede of tiny people and a thousand hands were on us as we handed out balloons and sweets. It was terrifying but again a proud moment. They loved the shelter and spent the rest of the afternoon running in and out of it. Not the original purpose we had for the shelter but ...

18th May : Burkina Faso Tip: Click pictures below to view the ‘Build 01’ gallery!

Today is the day. By evening the shelter is complete. Nothing can describe the elation we feel in successfully completing the project.

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17th May : Burkina Faso

Today we finished off the roof and attached the legs. Tomorrow we begin fitting the sides.

It is hot; an understatement. The temperature regularly hits 40 degrees. At midday today Jon was insistent that he’d heard of supernovas that were cooler than our worksite.

11th May : Burkina Faso

After two days of work we had our first bitter taste of bureaucracy. We had just finished digging the foundations and levelling the ground on site, when we were regretfully informed that we must stop work. Although given verbal permission, it was needed in writing.

We had just 14 days to source materials, prepare a site and build a shelter. Work stopped for several days while we waited for the written authority. With only 9 days remaining and our options fading we decided to find another site. We set up shop in a local street outside the workshop of the guys stitching our roof together. We have been there for the last 3 days now and made a lot of progress. Hearing of our plans and our predicament the guys have really made an effort and we have gained much of the lost time.

We now have a team of seven people working for us on the construction. We also have a whole metal yard working on fabricating the frames, bolts and anchors. Work is progressing fast. In many ways this situation is preferable. We are working in the community with the community. And we are learning a lot about both our plans for the shelters and about the environments and situations into which they are to be placed. The work is of course frustrating at times. We have to keep a close eye on our metal workers to make sure they are working to schedule, and managing a team of seven with a combination of limited French and drawings can be tricky. However the work is incredibly rewarding as we see our design come to fruition.

10th May : Burkina Faso

Work begins on our first childrens shelter.

We are finally able to draw breathe. Bad roads and sleepless nights from the heat has exhausted us, but we are now filled with the drive and excitement of carrying out our first project for the charity.

9th May : Burkina Faso Tip: Click pictures below to view the ‘Build 01’ gallery!

The next day we entered Bobo-Dioulasso; our goal since leaving London. This had been our first major objective, and the reason we have been pestering you all for money [see justgiving link top right].

Our aim was to build our first shelter here at Rev+, an HIV clinic specialising in the treatment of mothers and children. We were to design and build a shelter that the children could use. We headed for the hospital where we met up with Geoarges Kouassi, the pharmacist and link with the One 2 One charity. He took us to meet with the President of Rev+, Madam Pare and her assistant, Fanta. They were impressed with our design and were happy for us to start immediately. And so began one of the most challenging projects either of us has ever undertaken.

We surveyed the site for the shelter and immediately set about finding materials. The original design consisted of a wooden structure, with a canvas surround. We quickly discovered that wood in Burkina is both expensive and unreliable. It’s all imported from Cote d’Ivoire, increasing the price and the number of termites it contains. We also found that it was not possible to source canvas in Bobo-Dioulasso. It was ‘back to the drawing board’ with a list of the materials that we did have access to. An abundance of metal workers made it clear that a metal frame was sensible and the impending monsoon season informed our decision to go with a thick plastic surround. Jon quickly drew out a new design based on the local knowledge he now had and we set off on the hunt again.

As such, finding the materials we needed was easy. Negotiating a price was not. As we have discovered, and were later informed by Geoarges, being white automatically means we are wealthy. All prices were inflated by at least 200%. The fact that we were working to build a shelter for their community did little to temper the demands. It was very frustrating. And so the skills we picked up haggling at checkpoints and borders, once again came in useful.

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8th May : Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso

Something that has become steadily more apparent over this trip is the clear differences between countries in Africa. The mere act of crossing over a line that was marked out by man not long ago ushers you into a completely different environment. Suddenly the flora gets thicker or sparser.

We left dense rainforest in Liberia to drive open roads and plains in Cote d’Ivoire. The trees change entirely and you see a different range of animals in the bush. The houses change completely, suddenly becoming round rather than square, or mud rather than straw. In a short space of time we see remarkable changes in geography and culture, and we are still in awe every time we cross a border. Crossing border number 10 in Africa we were equally impressed.
Burkina Faso is undeniably beautiful.

It immediately puts the traveller at ease. Perhaps this is because some of the stigma around Cote d’Ivoire had sunk in, but Burkina did have a different vibe. We spent our first night in a small village at the local (and only bar) trying to chat with locals and watching a magnificent electrical storm light up the plains around us.

7th May : Côte d’Ivoire Tip: Click pictures to pop-up a larger view!

The further north we travelled the more signs we saw of the war. The number of checkpoints increased. Whether these were government or rebel controlled was unknown to us. The north also showed more scars. Both in the people we saw with injuries and the buildings bearing pockmarked walls. Other than the usual financial requests at the armed check points, we encountered no serious problems.

Of course by now we were due some car problems since we hadn’t visited a garage in Cote d’Ivoire. Lola was happy to oblige sending the suspension cone and shocks up through the wheel arch and into the bonnet; a nice little reminder of our time bouncing along the tracks in Liberia. Luckily, after 2 months on the road our mechanical skills had developed exponentially and we were well equipped to deal with what might seem a catastrophic problem. The bolts had all sheered, so taking an old piece of tyre from the side of the road, we wedged it in between the spring and the wheel arch. We then used cable ties to fix the cone back in place attaching it to the mounting for the air filter. Finally we used duct tape to ‘firmly’ hold the shock central. A repair job that any Land Rover dealer I’m sure would be proud of!

6th May : Abidjan

One memorable experience in Cote d’Ivoire was surely to watch Chelsea play Barcelona with Didier Drogba (more God than man here). If you think it’s hard getting through Fulham when the blues are playing, you would have no chance over here. Watching the game in a local bar was exhilarating. But seeing Chelsea knocked out was terrifying.

Our other focus in Abidjan had been to secure visas for Ghana. Our original plan was to head up through Ghana into Burkina Faso as the reports indicated that Northern Cote d’Ivoire is still held by rebels. However our friend in Internal Affairs informed us that the government had taken back control in the last few weeks and so it was now possible to drive north and cross directly, saving time and money. With some trepidation we made our way north into unknown territory.

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4th May : Côte d’Ivoire

Nursing serious hangovers the next morning we made tracks for the capital, Abidjan. It was the most advanced city we had seen in Africa, with towering offices and hotels, and grand promenades. All of which were now dated, and suffering from the ravages of time.

We were there to meet with our contact in the city research hospital. Unfortunately we learned that he had been dead for two years. Not a great start when. Pressing on we met with the Head of Paediatrics and discussed his work in the city and most importantly the difficulties they were facing.

The facilities were not what we would have expected from a hospital in a major city; tiny babies lying in adult beds with scant covering, and their mothers sleeping on floors at their side. The heat was oppressive throughout the wards necessitating that all doors and windows be left open. Not ideal conditions for the treatment of infants and children. However as we had witnessed many times before the doctors and staff made do with what little resources they had available. They desperately need more space to offer diagnosis, treatment and counselling to mothers and children, many of whom are left waiting for hours in corridors as there is simply not the space to tend to the numbers.

We left with pages of notes and a commitment from the Director to get become more involved with the PATA network of clinics.

3rd May : Côte d’Ivoire Tip: Click pictures to pop-up a larger view!

The crossing from Liberia to Cote d’Ivoire involved a river, a ferry and a barrage of pecuniary requests. Luckily, by this stage in our journey our patter was top notch and we batted away the initial attempts with ease. That is until we reached customs.

At this point we were hit with the news that our ‘Carnet’ was not valid and we should have a tourist import form for the car. Unfortunately with no computers at the border we would have to go to St Pedro, 200km away, and it would cost CFA100,000 (£170). We would have to be escorted through the numerous military checkpoints lest our car was impounded. We were less than pleased and put up a strong fight; until a soldier with an AK47 hopped into the car to escort us. We decided at this point that a silent protest en route would be more advisable.
Arriving at the customs office we waited several hours until the customs chief could be found. Then the protests began in earnest. We flatly refused to pay the price we had been given. It was clearly too high. For over an hour I argued with the chief in French. Finally we agreed a price of CFA25,000.

I would like to think that my wit and argument construction won the day but I am fairly sure he just wanted to get rid of the foreigner shouting in almost incomprehensible French. The day got progressively more bizarre as later in the day we were adopted by a one of Cote d’Ivoire’s Internal Affairs officers. Previously DEA, he insisted on carrying a gun everywhere, but seemed friendly enough. At one point he observed that he was unable to leave Cote D’Ivoire because he would not be allowed to take his gun. He invited us out for some beers to see the town. But first, back to his place where he casually threw his gun and handcuffs on the bed while he took a shower. Then donning his gun again we went out on the town to some bars and a club; strange feeling going clubbing with someone carrying a Beretta; stranger still was seeing every girl in the club standing in line in front of a mirror dancing in perfectly synchronised steps to a song that lasted well over 20 minutes.

1st May Tip: Click pictures to pop-up a larger view!

50km from the border but we have car problems again. We thought the differential had gone again but it turned out to be a minor problem. Still, it delayed us a couple of days.

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