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Dakar to Cape Town: Driving the Western Trans Africa

Dragoman guide and Wanderlust Guide of the Year 2018 Julie Gabbott is on the road for us leading the brand new Western Trans Africa, Sahel to the Cape. This mammoth 134-day overland tour down the coast of West Africa takes in Dakar, Freetown, Accra and Cape Town (and plenty of destinations inbetween).

Jules is keeping us updated on the group’s travels. Over to you, Jules!

Part One

After leaving Dakar, our first stop is St. Louis, with the UNESCO registered historic center.

 

Here’s the group at Toubacouta camp, Senegal, where the owner Youssou has painted a Dragoman sign on one of his rooms. We visited the village Sipo and met the Queen of the village.

 

We entered Gambia and crossed the river by Ferry, which is always fun and games. It took us 2 hours to get on the ferry. The Spanish are building a new bridge which is almost complete. You can see the bridge in the background.

 

Whilst in The Gambia we went on a walk and spotted python trails.

 

We also enjoyed a boat trip through the Bao Bolong Wetland Reserve.

 

It’s watermelon season in West Africa. They are for sale everywhere, so we keep one in the fridge and have a refreshing dessert at truck lunch.

 

Beautiful long beaches of Cap Skirring and a local gazelle beer does the trick.

 

Part Two


In Guinea Bissau we did a bit of an exploratory towards the village of Chèche, which is in the Boe régional of Guinea Bissau.

 


Firstly we crossed the Rio Corubal in a small motor boat.

 

 
We then took a forest walk, led by trained local guides and a Dutch NGO called Chimbo.  We walked through the Sacred forest in search of chimpanzees, which are difficult to find. Chimbo had set up some camera traps to monitor the chimpanzee numbers.

 


We saw from the camera traps that indeed there are chimps in the area.

 


We then headed to our 4th Country Guinea, and made a bushcamp, gathered around the fire singing along to the guitar.

 


Whilst in Guinea you see cars loaded high ferrying people around.

 

Part Three


In Guinea, we headed up to the Fouta Djallon Highlands and stayed in the village Ainguel.

 


Marcus filling a jerry can from the well.

 


Lisa was a local celebrity with the villagers.

 


Len was guided around the village by the some very friendly children.

 


Tamsin has a go at weaving the brushes that are used to keep the village so beautifully clean.

 


Cassava is pounded into flour and used to make the local staple food of Fufu.  You can hear the pounding going on all day, like another drum beat of West Africa.

 


Children get involved from a young age, always active with the family chores.

 


Whilst in the Fouta Djallon highlands, the Dragoman family enjoyed a trek through the beautiful countryside and onto some amazing views

 


At our last bushcamp in Guinea, we are welcomed by the local community. Carme, Carolyn and Jane enjoy a big sing along with all the children, with lots of laughter and clapping.

 


On to our 5th country between Dakar and Freetown, we drive into Sierra Leone and head to beautiful Bureh Beach.

 


We spend a couple of nights at the Freetown Peninsular beach, enjoying the warm water of the Atlantic Ocean. Cheers from your Trans Africa crew Jules and Duncan!

 

Part Four


We explored the Freetown Peninsular by boat. Using a line off the side of the boat, Brad caught a red snapper. Paul caught two in one go.

 


Heading East through Sierra Leone, we make a stop in a village to buy charcoal and firewood. Carme enjoys playing aeroplanes with Mende Children in the village.

 


Most main highways are paved now in Sierra Leone, although the last 20km drive to Tiwai Island Santuary takes us through the Gola Forest, which used to form part of a larger ancient forest covering all of West Africa.

 


Tiwai is a short boat ride from Kambana village. It is a 12km sq island set in the Beautiful Moa River, which boasts 11 primate species in close proximity. We spend two nights and the group enjoys guided forest walks in search of monkeys and Chimpanzees. Our group spotted Diana monkeys, red colobus and green monkeys to name a few.

We play a few rounds of table tennis at our camp after lunch, followed by an afternoon tree tour or Canoe trip along the Moa River.

 


On Christmas Eve, we make our way to the far North of Sierra Leone to stay in the town of Kabale, which is surrounded by the beautiful Wara Mountain.

 


To fill our Jerry cans and water tank it’s a team effort to pump water from the well and transfer it into our tank.

 


Duncan and I managed to pull off our homemade Santa Claus beards, and everyone joined in singing along to Jingle Bells.

 

Part Five


We headed north from Kabala and made the epic drive towards the Sierra Leone/Guinea border of Koindu Kurd. We got the roof seats open to enjoy the views.

 

 
The roads of Guinea can be one extreme to the other. As we travel through the Guinée Forestière region we go from a dusty road to new tarmac. As we travel along the tarmac, people leave coffee beans out to dry at the side of the road, and if the beans require some crushing we find them laid across the road.

 


The vine bridge is believed to be a few hundred years old. No cables are required; it is made completely from vines, which are renewed regularly to keep the bridge in good condition.

 


We make our New Years Eve bushcamp after crossing the border into country number 6 on our Trans Africa adventure. Happy New Year from Ivory Coast.

 


Heading north through Ivory Coast, we stop at the waterfall near the town of Man, and have a wash in between our two bushcamps.

 


On our tour of Korhogo in the north of Ivory Coast our first stop is the wood carvers. Each mask holds a different meaning; some are used for dancing, some for protection and some for good luck. Then it’s onto the clay bead makers, where the pigments of the paint are sourced from local rocks and plants.

 


At Sheilo Rock we learn that 60% of Korhogo have animistic beliefs. For animists, sacrifice is part of worshipping the ancestors. The word Sheilo means ‘my ancestors’.

They believe that the ancestors connected their souls to this rock for all of time. A sacrifice could be made for a negative or positive reason. For example, a negative reason might be that someone has stolen your motorbike and you want to curse them, and a positive reason might be that you are building a new home and want good fortune.

 

Part Six


In Yamoussoukro, we visited the Basilica of our Lady.

 

 
Then onto the UNESCO town of Grand-Bassam. Ladies sell fresh fruit, drinks, and fabrics. We enjoy a drink whilst watching the sun going down.

 


We enter Ghana, our 7th country en route to Cape Town.  We visit the Gold Coast slave forts, such as Cape Coast, where we learn about the West African Slave trade. It’s terrible to think that anyone could treat another human so badly.  Anti-Slavery International estimate that approx 40million people are still enslaved today across the globe.

 


Leaving the Gulf of Guinea coast behind we head inland, staying the night in a treehouse within Kakum National Park.  The following morning we take an early morning walk along the canopy walkway which gives a whole new view of the forest.

 


We also visit the Stingless Bee Centre. Stingless Bees produce a different tasting honey which is a mix of sweet and sour with a hint of lemon.

 

 

Coffins are personalised and made to order in Ghana. As we travel towards the coast again we visit a coffin building workshop and see coffins made in the shape of a boat and a chicken.

 

Part Seven


We had to say goodbye to 7 of our Dragoman family at Accra. Thanks for joining us Marcus, Lisa, Chris, Donovan, Anthony and Brad.

 


And Kaz.

 


This is our final Dragoman family as we leave Accra, who will head all the way to Cape Town. Everyone is ready for the adventure.

 


Our first stop is in the town on Somanya, where we learn about the making of Ghanaian Cedi Beads. Recycled glass bottles are crushed using a heavy pestle and mortar. After being reduced to a fine powder, the glass is poured into a mold made of clay. The inside of the mold is covered in a mixture of kaolin and water to stop the glass from sticking to the sides.

 


Arriving into Togo is the first experience of African rural roads for anyone who joined us in Accra.

 


In the village of Mt Klouto, a local artist has constructed these rubbish bins, which are located all around the village to keep everywhere clean - great to see a local initiative.

 


Whilst in Mt Klouto we enjoyed a drumming and dancing spectacular from our local hosts, and also explored a sacred valley of bats. A common sight in West Africa is recycled liquor bottles which are filled with yummy coconut shavings or nuts.

 

Part Eight


We make camp at Coco Beach just outside Togo’s capital city Lomé. We obtain a visa whilst here, explore the thriving market and enjoy the breeze off the Bight of Benin.

 


After crossing the border at Hilla Condi, we enter Benin and head to the historic town of Ouidah.

 


During our tour of Ouidah, we visit the Python Temple where all pythons are sacred. Each month the pythons are released from the temple to explore the town, and if you find a python in your house this is seen as a blessing.  Here’s our Joe having his pocket picked ha ha.

 


We also learn about the West Africa Slave trade. The Door of No Return was the point from which slaves were sent across the Atlantic to work the plantations in the Americas. All the crops the slaves worked on - such as sugarcane, tobacco and cotton - were all essential items. You can see this at the forefront of the consumer culture around us today.

 


Andreas and Carme join in hauling the fishing nets in from the waters off Ouidah.  There is one person in charge of the timing who will keep the chant going. You can hear the haul chanting long before you see the fishermen on the beach.

 

Meet one of our passengers, Kate...


Name: Kate

Where are you from? Perth, Australia

Why did you decide to travel Accra to Cape Town with Dragoman?
There are very few places in the world where tourists aren’t. I want to travel to places off the beaten track, and get away from technology - although there is WiFi in West Africa.

What is your one essential item in your backpack?
Power bank.

What advice can you give to future overlanders?
Embrace the parts of the trip that don’t always go as planned. Often they are the most memorable and produce the most hilarity.

If you where an animal, what would you be and why?
Sloth - lots of sleep.

 

 

Next stop is Ganvie, where we take a boat out onto Lake Nokoué. Around 20,000 people live in the stilt houses of Ganvie. They descend from the Tofinu people, who originally built the water-bound settlement during the 16th century to escape the slave traders.

 


Our final destination in Benin is Abomey, home of the Dahomey Kingdom, which ruled this part of Africa right up to independence in 1960. The Dahomey Kingdom was famous for its female warriors, the Dahomey Amazons.

Benin is also the cradle of Voodoo, known locally as Vodun. During the Mask voodoo ceremony we are entranced by what we would see in the West as magic.

 


Some of the most flamboyant textiles are in Benin and we all love them.

 

This is Nigel and Terry Ward...


Name: Nigel

Where are you from? Wales

Why did you decide to travel Accra to Cape town with Dragoman?
To see West Africa

What is your one essential item in your backpack?
Head torch.

What advice can you give to future overlanders who would like to travel in West Africa?
Learn to adapt.

If you were an animal, what would you be and why?
Dolphin - swim the oceans.

 

Name: Terry
Where are you from? UK

Why did you decide to travel Accra to Cape town with Dragoman?
To see other countries and cultures.

What is your essential item in your backpack?
Torch

What advice can you give to future overlanders who would like to travel in West Africa?
Keep your sense of humour and enthusiasm.

If you were an animal, what would you be and why?
An eagle to soar high above.

 


This morning we load up the truck and head out of Abomey and travel to the Nigeria border.

 

Part Nine


NIGERIA!!! We crossed into Nigeria at Ketou and were welcomed with warm smiles.  Tourists travelling overland are pretty rare in Nigeria so we were stopped 23 times between the Border and our 1st night stop of Abeokuta. Most stops were to ask “what are you doing here?", "where are you going?", and "welcome to Nigeria”.

 


Whilst in Abeokuta, we visited Olumo Rock, which is 137mtrs high. It was used as a sanctuary for the Egan people during the Yoruba civil war. It also offers great views over the city.

 


We also got to see some of the wax print clothes that the city is famous for.  Whilst visiting the market there was a lot of “hello, welcome to Nigeria”.  Nigerian female stall holders have no fear to run up and give us big hugs, followed by an impromptu bit of dancing.

 


Enjoying the views over Abeokuta, I asked one of our Dragoman family a few questions...

Name: Andreas (AKA Dre)
Where are you from? Sweden

Why did you choose to travel Accra to Cape Town with Dragoman?
I wanted to visit a part of the world people rarely visited, and I wanted to see and experience the countries for myself.

What is the one essential item in your backpack?
A good quality sleeping mat.

What advice can you give to future overlanders?
Don’t be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone.

If you were an animal, what would you be and why?
A sloth, as they never stress about anything.

 


Mangabey monkeys descend on the truck as we park up at Osogbo Sacred Grove.

 


At Osogbo Sacred Grove, we learned about the history and different gods of Yourba heritage. The goddess pictured above is the goddess of the river Osun. She is the bringer of fertility and holds her arms out to welcome us all.  The sacred forest art installations were constructed during the 1980s by the Yourba Priests and the artist Susanne Wenger. Swiss-born Susanne became a born-again Yourba and later a high priestess.

 


A refreshing shower is had at the Olumirin waterfalls.

Name: Paul
Where do you come from? UK

Why did you decide to travel Accra to Cape town with Dragoman?
Right location and right time.

What is your essential item in your backpack?
Torch/light

What advice can you give to future overlanders who would like to travel in West Africa?
Don’t bring light or white clothes

If you were an animal, what would you be and why?
Leopard

 


Next stop is Benin city, part of the Benin kingdom which flourished between the 14th-17th centuries.  Unfortunately, the Oba (Benin Monarch) was not in residence today. We are hopeful that future groups may be able to have an audience with the king.

Down Igun Street, we learned about the lost wax process of casting bronze, which the Benin kingdom was famous for. It’s amazing to see these skills passed down to the modern day.

 


Heading east, we crossed the River Niger Bridge at Asaba/Onistha. The bridge is 1km long and can be very congested, but we made it across in 20min.

 


We spent two nights at the Pandrillus Afi Mountain Sanctuary.  We were hosted by the staff and the amazing Liza Gadsby.

When the Drills call together I can only describe it like a chorus of Mogwais (if you have seen the 80s movie Gremlins you will know what I mean!).

(Note:- the male Drill in the photo had been cut in the face so was kept in an enclosure whilst being treated and he will be released back into the forest in a few days. They do not keep the animals caged like a zoo.)

Due to the efforts of Liza, Peter and her team, they have managed to conserve the populations of Chimpanzees in the area. To learn more you should visit the website and this will make you want to visit even more: https://www.pandrillus.org

We were also treated to a night light shower of thunder and lightning from above.

 


Dragoman Crew Duncan was also brushed up against by one the Serval cats which was rescued, reared and released back into the wild.

 

Part Ten

 

We make our way up to the Chappal Waddi range which separates Nigeria from Cameroon. This is overlanding at its best, following the road less travelled we climb up to 1700mtrs.


 


We meet an unexpected checkpoint. Thanks to Brigit and Andreas for the laughter.

 


At our last stop in Nigeria, we are hosted by the Community of Kanylyaka, setting up camp in their primary school. Before we head across the border the following morning, we say our goodbyes and donate two footballs to the school.

 


Name: Joe
Where do you come from? Ireland

Why did you decide to travel Accra to Cape town with Dragoman?
I had done Dakar to Accra, and Namibia to Cape Town previously and this will complete this section of Africa.

What is your essential item in your backpack?
Smart phone

What advice can you give to future overlanders who would like to travel in West Africa?
Expect the unexpected

If you were an animal what would you be and why?
An elephant because they have a good memory and they all look after each other and work together. They never forget their roots.

 

Saying Goodbye to Nigeria, I must say I am sad to leave. From a traveller’s perspective I would love to come back and learn even more about the diversity of beliefs and linguistic groups, learn more about the history of the kingdoms that still exist today such as the Obs of Benin, and of course see more of the beautiful scenery which is all mixed into this one amazing country.

For me personally I loved the energy and humour of the Nigerian People. Every day I would share beautiful moments of laughter and banter, whether it be with an initially stern-faced checkpoint official, or a loud and energetic lady selling fruit.  Thank you, Nigeria - I hope to come back one day and share more dance moves and laughter.

 


After our first bushcamp in Cameroon, we enjoy breakfast whilst the sun is rising.  We camped at 1200mtrs so it was a beautiful temperature for a good night’s sleep had by all.

 


Cows on the dirt roads travelling through Cameroon.

 


We spend a morning in one of the oldest towns in Cameroon. Foumban was founded in the 15th century by Nchare Yen.  The sultan’s palace now houses a museum where you can learn about the history of the Bamoun people of this area.

 


Bamoun king Mbuembue allegedly had a voice that could carry over a mile, and Bamoun king Ibrahim Njoya invented the Bamoun alphabet and converted to Islam, becoming a Sultan.

 


Duncan can confirm there is lots of detail in the Ironwork.

 


After 5 days of the beautiful red dirt road we are on tarmac again, with the morning rising over the Central Hills of Cameroon.

 

Part Eleven


Arriving into the capital city Yaoundé, we head up to Mont Fébé for views of the city of seven hills. Even though we’re only 5 degrees north of the equator, it’s still cooler than expected as the city sits at 700mtrs above sea level.

 


In Yaoundé, we stay at mission orphanage, which does amazing work to support children who lost their parents to AIDS.  Amazing work by Darius, papa and the whole family.

 


Name: John
Where do you come from? Australia

Why did you decide to travel Accra to Cape Town with Dragoman?
I’ve never been to Africa before, and Dragoman journeys give you a real sense of what the country and its people are about.

What is your essential item in your backpack?
Other than the obvious, a selection of tape - flexible, strong and paper tape.

What advice can you give to future overlanders who would like to travel in West Africa?
Look for the beauty in things and people.

If you were an animal what would you be and why?
A Bonobo, as they are friendly, lithe, active, social and sexy.

 


The beautifully clean sand beach of Kribi is our next stop.

We visit the Chute de Lobe, where the Lobe river waterfalls directly into the Atlantic Ocean. Bob, our onboard geologist, notes that there were crystals set within the stone, which means the falls were created by a lava flow, with different minerals rising and cooling at different times forming the crystals - it’s great to have so much knowledge from everyone travelling on the Trans Africa adventure.

 


Name: Carme
Where do you come from? Spain

Why did you decide to travel Accra to Cape Town with Dragoman?
Because I consider Dragoman as a mobile university.

What is your essential item in your backpack?
Camera and my soul

What advice can you give to future overlanders who would like to travel in West Africa?
Have a big lens in your eyes, keep your eyes open, the bigger your zoom the better.

If you were an animal what would you be and why?
An elephant - they are wise, it’s a community and they know the nature.

 


It was an amazing sight to see a celebration for the President Paul Biya. The congregation even had traditional clothing with him on it.

 


At the Marina in Kribi, we tuck into freshly caught seafood. You select your fresh catch from the fish market, and this is prepared for you there and then. We had fish, Gambas and shrimps - sorry, I forgot to take a photo of the food as it tasted so good and we all devoured it straight away.

 

Part Twelve


We’ve made it into our 12th country on this epic journey. After three and a half hours of paperwork at the border, we say Bonjour Gabon. The roads are smooth for now and we are flanked on either side by virgin rainforest (80% of Gabon is still covered in this rainforest).

 


And in the afternoon we are at the Equator. Can anyone name the 13 countries that lie on the Equator?

 


Leaving tarmac behind, we take the road less travelled, and head towards Lope National Park. It’s a bumpy ride with stunning views of the forest along the way. The road to Lope National Park also skirts alongside the 660km Transgabonais Railway, which was completed in 1987. The railway was built to transport Manganese and Uranium from around Franceville in the Southeast of the country all the way to the capital Libreville, to be exported abroad.

 


The lovely Chief of the small settlement Junkville allowed us to make a bush camp in his village. He was super hospitable.  There were only about 7 people in the village; most of the villagers have moved to be with family outside of Libreville during the wet season, and will return in a few months.

 


Whilst in Lope, some of our troop headed down into the Mikongo area of Lope National park in search of Lowland Gorillas, and they succeeded in seeing them in their natural environment. Wayne commented that he has never heard such continual sounds of nature all through the night as he did whilst at their forest camp in the dense jungle.

 


A rock we picked up whilst on the Lope National park dirt roads is removed by our Mechanic Duncan.

 


Our next stop is the Ogooué River town of Lambaréné. We stay on the central island; it’s hot and sweaty here and the local hairdresser tells us it’s one of the hottest in Gabon. We enjoy a refreshing boat trip along the river and around Lac Zilé; we spot lots of birdlife, such as kingfishers, egrets, cormorants, plovers, and more.

 


The now overgrown boat has the name Corsaire on the side. The Corsaire patrolled the waterways during Colonial times.

 


30 seconds of team work and our kitchen is relocated into the shade for lunch. On any overlanding trip teamwork is vital and also one of the joys you share on this kind of adventure.

 


Name: Wayne
Where do you come from? Shepparton, Australia

Why did you decide to travel Accra to Cape Town with Dragoman?
To finish/link up my journey around Africa from Tangier to Accra to Cape Town, onto Nairobi and Cairo

What is your essential item in your backpack?
My camera

What advice can you give to future overlanders who would like to travel in West Africa?
Keep smiling and waving, and get used to camping

If you were an animal what would you be and why?
A platypus because they are so different and unique

 


We reach the small village of Sindara, where there is a Catholic mission which was built as a memorial to the slaves who were loaded into boat from here, and sent along the Ngounié River towards the Atlantic Coast, bound for the Americas.

 


We take a walk through the forest and even experience a short downpour of rain, which raises the earthly smell the forest gives off.

 


Gabon has a population of about 2million, with the capital Libreville being home to half. In the south of the country we make a bush camp and enjoy a beautiful sunset. We are en route to the coast tomorrow.

 

Part Thirteen

We’ve made it into The Republic of Congo, and there is no tarmac here, only mud!


We find our route blocked by a total of 5 local trucks stuck in deep mud. After some local advice, we take an 80km diversion through the forest.

 


Even our diversion holds some challenging mud.

 


Outside of Point Noire, we have lunch with a view over the Gorges of Diosso.

Last stop in The Republic of Congo is Point Noire. We have time to explore this booming city, buy souvenirs at the artisan market, eat steak and enjoy the luxury of a hot shower. Feeling refreshed for the next part of the journey!

 

Part Fourteen


We make it into the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the tarmac ends. Only 1.8% of the whole country has paved roads so there’s some deep mud in sections.

 


Every car you come across is packed with people and stacked high.

 


We find our route blocked by a local truck which has stalled and unable to start due to flat batteries,  so a little jump start from Duncan (Dragoman crew) and we are on our way again.

 


We reach the Congo River town of Boma.

 


This 700yr old Baobab tree is where Morton Stanley spent the right while making his traverse of the Congo River, the second longest river in Africa. Back then there was no town or houses. Baobab are known as the tree of life, as they offer, food, shelter and rare materials.

 


En route to the Port Town Matadi and you can see all sorts for sale, even mushrooms!

 


Up above the city of Matadi, we enjoy a local beer and peanuts.

 


Matadi is the main port for the whole of DRC.

 


The Matadi markets are out and open early as we drive out, and head to the Angola Border of Luvo.

 


We’ve made it into Angola and it’s lush green.

 


Sunrise in Angola as we pack up our bushcamp and head towards the Capital city Luanda.

 


Luanda’s Marginal street set against the water is wide boulevards you can wander. You will see the city is growing fast with many modern buildings, but Luanda still retains some of its Portuguese influence with the pink and white National Bank.

 


Sunset cocktails on the peninsular of Ihla do Cabo. Ilha do Cabo has an interesting history; this is where the Portuguese first landed in 1575.

 


It was off the shores of Ilha do Cabo that Cowery shells were collected and used for currency by the Kongo Kingdom.

 


Heading inland we arrive at the mystery rock formations of Pedra Negas.

 


The footprints on the rock are believed to be made by the Queen and King of the Kingdom of Ndongo.  The king bore the Ngola, which is where the Portuguese derived the name of Angola from.

 

Name: Bob

Where do you come from? Canada

Why did you decide to travel Accra to Cape town with Dragoman?
This is an area few people travel, if it is not Egypt, Kenya or South Africa.

What is your essential item in your backpack?
My camera and my water bottle

What advice can you give to future overlanders who would like to travel in West Africa?
Be prepared for the unexpected, be flexible and make the most of every opportunity

If you were an animal what would you be and why?
Cheetah – they’re fast and sleek, two things I am not

 


An amazing bushcamp with BBQ roaring - fillet steak anyone?

 


Kalandula Falls is one of the tallest in Africa at over 105m high and 400m long. The rushing water of the Lucala river is spectacular and we are the only ones here.

 


Possibly the most spectacular camping view ever!

 

Part Fifteen


The Slave Museum south of Luanda is a sobering experience for us all. It’s from here that slaves were baptised and given Portuguese names before being sent off to the plantations of Brazil.

 


We cross the Rio Kwanza, the only river wholly within Angola, rising in the Bié Plateau and flowing 320miles to the Atlantic. It’s seen here on the 2000Kwanza bill.

 


Sunset over Cabo Ledo beach, soft sand between our feet and the Atlantic is the perfect temperature for a refreshing swim.

 


En route south we visit the Kubal river gorge, with storks nesting in the sandstone crevices.

 


We call in at the UNESCO stone forts of Kikombo, dating from 1645.

 


Another amazing bushcamp, with time for a swim before we get the BBQ to roaring.

 


We explore the city of Lobito. The Registan Peninsula has a distinct Portuguese feel.

 


Here you see the old cinema and the post office.  The Registan peninsular has a relaxed feel, and it’s great to wander around and admire the many Art Deco buildings.

 


We reach the South of Angola and the air is fresh up at 2600mtrs. We’re enjoying the panoramic views of Tundavala.

 

Name: Anne
Where do you come from? Canada

Why did you decide to travel Accra to Cape town with Dragoman?
To complete my photography project “red earth in black and white”

What is your essential item in your backpack?
My camera and my hat

What advice can you give to future overlanders who would like to travel in West Africa?
To travel as an ambassador for your country, plus to have empathy and understanding of cultures and customs

If you were an animal what would you be and why?
A migratory bird that would have at least one guaranteed trip each year

 


Bushcamping under the full moon.

 

Part Sixteen


Our truck Christie takes us to Cristo Rio, a 30meter statue of Christ made from marble and overseeing the city of Lubango.

 


Serra da Leba pass is a 25km switchback descent with amazing scenery...

 


...and I am pretty excited to drive this amazing feat of engineering.

 

Name: Elisabeth
Where do you come from? Fremantle, Australia

Why did you decide to travel Accra to Cape Town with Dragoman?
To revisit loved countries and experience new. I trust Dragoman including the crew, vehicle, equipment and everything.

What is your essential item in your backpack?
Reading material, I am a nuisance when bored

What advice can you give to future overlanders who would like to travel in West Africa?
Keep your cool, open you mind and get involved

If you were an animal what would you be and why?
Giraffe as they are tall, peaceful, strong and have no enemies

 


The Huila province of Angola is home to the Mwila, who coat their hair with Oncula, which is made from crushed red stone, tree bark, oil, anima dung and herbs.

 


The Sea Festival is on for the month of March in Namibe, and there are lots of handmade souvenirs to be purchased.

 


Our truck Christie is dwarfed by this giant Baobab.

 


Heading south through Angola, we start to see more of a desert landscape, and remnants of the Civil War.

 


The Civil War from 1975-2002 displaced 67% of the population, but Angola today is a truly safe and peaceful place. The vibe from people we meet is genuine friendliness.

 

Part Seventeen


Our last stop in amazing Angola is the Memorial to King Mandume, the ruler of the last independent kingdom within Angola during Colonial times. You see the name Mandume used in street names all over Angola as he was seen as a symbol for the independence movement.

 


Bring on the Safari! We have two days of exploring Etosha National Park in our truck Christie. We are lucky enough to see Cheetahs with a kill, Rhinos around the watering hole at night and a tower (collective name for Giraffe) of 35 Giraffe eating from spiky Acacia trees.

 


The Himba Tribe number up to 50,000 in northern Namibia.

 


One of my favourite places in Namibia is the granite peaks of Spitzkoppe, believed to be 700million years old, and home to ancient rock associated with rain making, but no rain for us as we get to bushcamp here under a clear sky of stars.

 

Name: Di
Where do you come from? Australia

Why did you decide to travel Accra to Cape Town with Dragoman?
Always wanted to travel to West Africa, and I like travelling overland so the Dragoman trip is perfect- music, voodoo, jungle, desert, mountains and welcoming people.

What is your essential item in your backpack?
Comfortable sleeping mat

What advice can you give to future overlanders who would like to travel in West Africa?
Embrace it all, the good, bad and ugly, and you will have a wonderful experience you will never forget.

If you were an animal what would you be and why?
Domestic cat because they are independent, proud and live by their terms.  They have a home but explore neighbourhoods.

 


Even on the wide streets of Swakopmund, you still have to watch out for Guinea fowl.

 


Sunset over the pier in Swakopmund, the adventure capital of Namibia. We enjoy some luxury items with a twist such as pizza with Oryx.

 


Our truck Christie posing next to the shipwreck Zeila on the Skeleton Coast of Namibia.

 


Cape Cross is home to the Cape fur seal. Fur seals can hold their breath for up to seven and a half minutes whilst they catch fish, squid or crabs.

 


From the Equator in Gabon to the Tropic of Capricorn in the Namib Desert.

 


The quiver tree of the Namib Desert was used by bushmen to make a holder for their arrow, hence the name.

 

The final part... Part Eighteen


After a climb up Dune 45, eggs Benedict all round.

 


We visit the salt/clay pans and sand dunes of Namib-Naukluft National Park.

 


At 160km long and 27km wide, Fish River Canyon is one of the largest canyons in the world.

 


Birthday celebrations with banoffee pie, happy birthday Anne.

 


A pool with a view is our last stop in Namibia. The scenery of the orange river is outstanding!

 


A Gemsbok, the national animal of Namibia, sheltering from the sun. It is the largest animal in the Oryx family.

 


We have made it in South Africa, country #17 on this epic journey. It’s time to do some wine tasting and we choose a bottle to celebrate with.

 

Name: John (Aka “I'm Fine”)
Where do you come from? Aplha Centuri

Why did you decide to travel Accra to Cape Town with Dragoman?
A mental abversion

What is your essential item in your backpack?
My cordwangler

What advice can you give to future overlanders who would like to travel in West Africa?
Do not go to Alpha Centuri, would I be here if it was worth staying

If you were an animal what would you be and why?
Dolphin – They know when you leave earth

“so long, so long and thanks for all the fish”

 


We’ve made it to Cape Town.

 


Our final group meal in Cape Town and Bob won the silver poo shovel, which he will take home with pride.

 

Final Thoughts

So we have completed our amazing adventure and to be honest it is still sinking in. We started in Dakar in November. We’ve been travelling for 134 days, visited 17 countries, covered 20,117km, had 2 birthdays, 1 bogging (yes only 1!) and 1 puncture.

The roads less travelled on this Trans Africa adventure have delivered more than we could have expected.

Nigeria offered us a sense of humour at every turn, Nigerians love a good laugh and we did not see another traveller the whole time we were there which was surprising as there is so much to see from the bronze work of Benin City to the far Eastern border where we listened to the Drills call each other in the Afi Mountains.

Cameroon is truly diverse from the cool air of the rolling hills to the warm waters of the ocean. I was impressed with the bilingual abilities of the Cameroonians.

Gabon is pure forest at every turn with great opportunities to spot wildlife. Some of our group took the opportunity to track down lowlands gorillas, which was very special.

Congo gave us roads of mud and adventure, taking diversions through the forest, and being welcomed to bushcamp by villages along the way.

DRC supplied even more mud at points, lots of fun. DRC has such a diversity of ethnic groups and languages, but it all works.

Angola was definitely a highlight for most of us. Angola offers amazing bushcamping opportunities from the rushing waters of Kalandula Falls to the winding roads of Serra Da Leba.

The views from the truck are better than any TV, and the ever-changing landscapes and friendliness of locals made everyday a highlight.

Africa as a continent gets under your skin and touches your soul like no other place I’ve ever travelled and this journey of exploration has cemented this feeling. The kindness, laughter and love I have felt from people we have met along the way is something that is hard to put into words, but if you choose to travel in Africa remember to get involved. The greatest gift you can give anyone is your time and love, and Africa gives it back tenfold.

A massive thank you to my fellow leader Duncan Clarke, who has worked so hard the whole way and kept me laughing, and to our truck, the lovely lady Christie, who has done us well. Our adventure would not be anything without the new friends from around the world that came to take on the epic journey. You arrive not knowing each other and leave as new friends for life.

Peace and love.

Jules

 

Learn more about Dragoman’s Western Trans Africa overland tour.