Friday, 27 December 2013

Day 73 - Golokwati to Santrokofi (FINAL DAY!!!)

We all woke up early today as Mother Kinza had briefed us the night before that we had to arrive in Santrokofi at a certain time. This was because there was a grand welcome planned that would involve the people of the town along with the volunteers. The others went outside to the table area for breakfast. I wasn't that bothered by breakfast until I found out it was free. Shortly after breakfast we got our stuff together and got going. We didn't have too many miles to cover but the plan was to get to a town called Hohoe (the town before Santrokofi) at least an hour before we were scheduled for the grand finish so Kinza could collect our personalised t-shirts from the other volunteers before the final few miles. It wasn't long before Kinza stopped to buy some credit for her phone. She had left Helen (Cockles) Peacock in charge of organising the other volunteers (getting them from Accra to Santrokofi and sorting out the grand welcome). Kinza had previously expressed her slight apprehension to us at leaving Helen in charge of everyone, as she had spent a considerable chunk of the last week living it up on The Cape Coast. Anyway she made the call and everything was going to plan so we continued. We were all feeling very excited about the grand welcome and finally being able to see the school/orphanage and children after all the images and videos we had previously seen at RHF annual dinners/online. Halfway through the morning Chris needed a dump. We came across a petrol station so went over to see about toilets. There weren't any and he needed to go so I gave him some toilet paper and he went for a wild around the back in some bushes. The petrol station was empty apart from the pump attendant and a religious voice was being transmitted via speakers. Whilst waiting for Chris I decided to do some press ups at the side. Chris then returned and slammed out the one-handed press ups. After the press ups we carried on with the cycling. A couple of hours or so later we arrived in Hohoe. It was the biggest town we had come across in a while and we got there with loads of time to spare. Kinza took us to Obama Gardens (a bar/restaurant with large patio and grass areas that was later to become our regular spot). The others got cold soft drinks but I was more interested in food. Me and Tom got involved with rolling an old tyre around with some children for a little while. After that Jones came for a wander with me and we found this woman at the side of the road selling some very cheap and nice looking hot food. She gave us plates and cutlery as Jones explained we would return this after finishing eating. We returned to Obama Gardens with a substantial amount of food and tucked in. It was really really good and we filled ourselves up well. We returned the plates/cutlery and I asked her what times she served the food (I planned to go back for more at a later stage). There was a barbers across the road and I had been wanting to have a haircut for ages. We still had time to spare so we went in. This instantly became a joke as we were looking at a large poster with celebrity faces/haircuts on the wall and remember laughing at Wayne Rooney being up there (post hair transplant). After seeing who could identify the most celebrities it was time for my haircut. I was going for a thick stripe in the middle and shorter at the sides (like an image of David Beckham on the wall). I was a bit apprehensive about this as had always had my standard number 3 all over cut before. I needn't have worried because everyone agreed that it looked good after. The haircut cost me 3 Cedi (£1). Chris and Tom then had a shave, with Tom going for a Will Smith goatee. After some photos of us posing next to the celebrities we headed to the point where Kinza was meeting the other volunteers to get our t-shirts. We stayed out of sight so that we didn't see anyone until the grand welcome. A few minutes later Kinza returned with our T-shirts. All of the t-shirts had the RHF logo on the front and our previously agreed nicknames on the back (me being 'Rave Train', Chris being 'Too Many Pens', Tom being 'The Colonel') except Kinza who had disappointingly gone for 'Sister Kinza' instead of 'Mother Kinza'. Jones also had one that said 'Jones' on the back (I think this may have been adapted to 'Dr Jones' in honour of the Aqua song at a later date). We put the t-shirts on and started riding the last few miles. We stopped at the bottom of the hill before the climb into Santrokofi so Kinza could make one last phonecall telling them to get ready as we would be there in a few minutes. The new t-shirt was already sweaty (a combination of the hot day and nervous excitement at what was about to happen). We decided to cross 'the finish line' side by side with our arms on each others' shoulders. We climbed the hill slowly and soon enough we could hear cheering. We then saw a mass of people in the road ahead and got into formation. This was extremely overwhelming and I remember having a massive smile on my face. We cycled through the ribbon finish line that a couple of volunteers were holding out and got an even louder cheer. Arctic to Africa was complete.

Day 72 - Ho to Golokwati

I was up before the others as usual and decided to go for a walk along the main road to find some breakfast. I headed towards the way we came in because I was up for some yams having liked them yesterday. I found these very easily, bought a couple of Cedi's worth along with the standard water sachets and dough balls. When I returned to the hotel I saw the guy who was dancing when we first arrived. He was nice and explained that he lived in the guesthouse and that the parties were a regular thing. I then went to sit down and consume my man breakfast in the gazeebo patio area where we had dinner last night. The yams were very filling and I remember saving some for later. There were chickens roaming around and small lizards running up the surrounding trees. I then went back to see the others. They had opted to have breakfast in the bar area. We left at a reasonable time. It was a hot day and there was a long, gradual uphill to begin with and the roads were particularly bad in the morning. This caused a more noticeable gap than usual in the group (Chris and Jones were quite a long way ahead of Tom and Kinza, with me generally somewhere in between). After maybe a few hours we approached some police who were checking vehicles going in each direction. We were stopped. The policeman seemed more interested in having a chat than checking up on us properly. After between 5 and 10 minutes we left and carried on. A bit later we started getting hungry and in need of a food stop. We were in a fairly remote area with no shops or people walking around with stuff on their heads. Luckily it didn't take us long to find a little cafe/hut thing outside a police building with a plastic table and chairs outside. There were a couple of food options available and it was very reasonably priced. We had a plate of chicken and rice with a sauce that was very tasty with Kinza having a vegetarian alternative. We were joined by an important-looking member of the police force and chatted about the trip and what we thought of Ghana. After Chris had finished his plate of chicken and rice he ordered another plate of chicken and rice. After some deliberation I then did the same. Having eaten well we carried on, with the roads thankfully improving again. Our next stop was probably a few hours later in a sizeable town. We found a shop that had a good choice of food so indulged in juice, cookies, coke and some other stuff. We were offered seats in the shop so sat down and ate. After the food session we got ready to leave and discovered Tom had a puncture. We crossed the road to a shop that had a nice flat smooth concrete area outside well suited for flipping the bike over and fixing the puncture. This went smoothly and after inflating the flat tyre and checking any of our other tyres that needed air we pushed on. Within the next half hour one of Chris's tyres exploded (one of the Casablanca bargain specials). This left us the problem of finding a replacement tyre. After asking some locals we found out that there was somewhere back where we had come from that should have the tyre we needed. It was a fair distance away so Chris flagged down a tro-tro (old minibuses that are widely used in Ghana as a form of cheap public transport) and went off with Jones, leaving me Tom and Kinza with the stuff. We were joined by the local children who were having fun rolling Chris's old tyre around and riding around on their bikes. We were also welcomed by some of the older locals. I passed the time by wandering around in search of food. I managed to find some dough balls and ate maybe 5 leaving me very full. Eventually after maybe an hour of so Chris and Jones returned with the correct tyre. This went on the wheel fine and we were soon back pedalling again. With first the puncture and now the replacement tyre delays we didn't have too much daylight left so had to try and keep up a decent pace to get somewhere near where we were aiming for at the start of the day. With maybe 30-45 minutes of daylight left we arrived at a small town and asked if there were any guesthouses. There weren't any here but thankfully there was one a short distance ahead. We found this easily enough and before the imminent darkness took over. We entered the gated complex (not as posh as it sounds), agreed a price and parked the bikes by the gate. We then went over to a table area to order dinner. I didn't really fancy anything on offer and didn't need to eat after the amount consumed earlier so opted out of the food. The others ordered some food and proceeded to play cards. I wasn't interested in this either so had a lie down/snooze on a bench by the table. After a while the others were done with food and cards so we made our way to our rooms. This time it was me, Jones and Tom in one room and Chris and Kinza in the other. We went for showers but the lights didn't work. Me and Jones proceeded to swap these bulbs around with the ones in the toilet giving us light. I then cleaned my teeth, and tucked in for an early night.

Day 71 - Shai Hills Reserve to Ho

I woke up pretty early (before the others) as wanted to go for a run, get the haircut and see the Baboons that inhabited the reserve before we left. I went into the living room and Jones was sitting at the table. He had already been down the track and taken several photos of the baboons by the main road. Seeing these photos made me very keen to see them for myself, so I thought I'd kill 2 birds with 1 stone and go for a run through the reserve. After reaching a small clearing after about 5 minutes of running I was told by a ranger that it was dangerous to go any further alone as the Baboons may attack me. So I turned back and headed back towards the main road. On the track to the main road I noticed the rangers' lodge with some baboons knocking about so went for a closer look. There were lots of young ones climbing over an old tractor and older ones walking around/play-fighting in the dirt. I sat for a while enjoying the spectacle. At one point a big one started walking behind me in my direction. I sensed that it might attack so swiftly got up and moved - thankfully me moving put an end to any advances. With a raised heart rate I decided this would probably be a good time to go, so headed back to the track. There were some ostriches behind a fence next to the track so spent a while watching them/feeding them grass. After this I started my run properly, going to the end of the track, crossing the road past the shop/restaurant down and heading down a dirt track for a while. It was busy everywhere and I was soon accompanied by a boy on his bike riding alongside me. A lot of people waved and said hello and I felt very welcome. Despite it being probably about 9am it was getting hot and I was glad I took a sachet of water with me. On the way back I saw Jones and Tom buying breakfast food from the shop and agreed to meet them back at the guesthouse soon. I was dripping with sweat after what was probably between a 1-1.5 hour run and got straight into the cold shower. Kinza had banned us from using her shower gel (we had used half of the bottle in a day) so I had to make do with lathering up a bar of soap. There was some sweet bread left over so I had some of this for breakfast. Time was getting on but everyone else wanted to see the baboons so we headed out to find them whilst leaving with the bikes. By this time there were quite a few visitors in the reserve, with a crowd of people admiring the ostrich and several more at the end of the track where the baboons now were. There was now a woman walking around with bananas on her head selling them to the visitors wishing to feed the baboons. Kinza bought some and proceeded to put them by her bike so she could get some photos with both the bike and the baboon in. After the baboons we headed to the main road to start cycling. Whilst leaving one of the rangers tried to charge us extra for 'visiting the reserve'.This of course didn't work as we were guests staying in their guesthouse. We finally headed off shortly before midday. The road was noticeably better than yesterday and we made reasonably quick progress - so good in fact that I was able to adopt the tri-tuck position for the first time and get a good speed going. I was starting to develop a fairly sizeable gap between me and the others. So I glanced back to see how far ahead I was (whilst still in the tri position). I then lost control of the bike, failing in my attempts to put my feet down to save falling and me and bike hit the tarmac pretty hard. I had a few small grazes and scuffs to my trainers but was more worried about the bike. Thankfully this was fine, with just the extrawheel needing to be reattached. Chris and Jones were soon asking if I was OK and helping with the bike. Chris had seen it and said it looked quite bad. I explained that I was fine and it was just a lapse of concentration/not being used to the tri position that caused the crash. I think I used wet wipes and toilet paper to clean the grazes before continuing shortly. It wasn't too long before we reached the town of Kpong and stopped for the first eating session. There was lots to choose from - after quite a lot of deliberating I went with a carton of juice some dough balls and a pasty. It was all good and like yesterday we found a bench outside a shop and sat down to eat. Our presence had attracted a fair number of people selling stuff. There were young children (probably about 6 or 7 year olds) with water sachets so I stocked up on these. There was also someone starting to cook some corn (I wanted some but everyone was getting ready to go). Typically I was last to leave due to faffing about organising the pannier bags. By the time I was finished faffing the corn was cooked so I got a couple of these for the road. The next mile or so was spent trying to catch up with the others whilst simultaneously eating the corn. They had waited for me a short distance ahead just before a big bridge. Kinza was keen to go swimming in the river that went under the bridge so we rode alongside the river and soon found somewhere suitable to swim. There were some small houses here and we were soon greeted by all the local children. Kinza gave them loads of packets of Haribo to share out and they loved it. I then decided it would be a good idea/challenge to get my Ironman swim training underway by swimming to the other side of the river and back again. There wasn't a strong current and the river wasn't too wide so it seemed like it would be easy enough. There was a hotel slightly further along the riverbank so there was the odd small boat going past. I got to about halfway and Kinza and Chris had got involved too. I was getting quite tired towards the other side before climbing onto the bank and waving across to the others. I stopped for only a few minutes before starting the swim back- it soon became apparent that I should have stopped for longer. After about 5 minutes and about a quarter of the way across, as well as starting to get fatigued my legs started to cramp - I knew that this was due to me not having swam any sort of distance in month and doing too much too soon. I treaded water to try and get rid of the cramp and started to drift slightly downstream - not a good situation. The worst of the cramp continued for probably 10 minutes before being able to swim progressively again. I had probably drifted 40 or 50 metres downstream so had to swim diagonally to get back to the others. This was a struggle but I got back eventually. Chris helped me out of the water. I was knackered and needed a sit down and some water. Tom was proving very popular with all the children and Jones had been taking loads of photos. I went round the back of one of the small buildings to change into dry shorts and bungeeing the wet ones to the pannier bags to dry in the sun. Tom was now pushing the children round on his bike - two or three at a time with one being on the saddle and the other one or two on the top tube. I started stretching and the children soon came over and copied. I think we all pushed them around for a bit on our bikes and Kinza gave them more Haribo before we finally left. It must have been about 2pm by the time we finally got going having only covered a very small distance. The rest of the afternoon was fairly uneventful - I think we stopped once more in a small town for a quick food session and once or twice to adjust the gears on Jones's bike, using a cable tie to pull the gear arm bracket into the correct position. The roads were still generally good and scenery was getting even better with tree covered hills being a regular sight. By about 5pm we got to the town of Ho where we would be staying. As we cycled in we were greeted with a load of people selling yams. I hadn't had yams before and wasn't keen on trying them, being more concerned about finding a guesthouse and then getting food. Then there was a police checkpoint. Cars seemed to be getting stopped but we were allowed straight through. Then as we approached a junction there was Ghanaian music blaring on our right and when we looked this was a bar/guesthouse with one guy dancing in the middle of a dirt clearing by the speakers waving at us. The general opinion was to try and find another guesthouse that wasn't so loud. Me and Tom rode around for a bit but didn't have any luck. So we had to make do with staying in the guesthouse with the blaring music . We got 2 double rooms which were slightly more expensive than the reserve but still reasonable. I asked about the music and it turned out tonight was the end of Ramadan party and it would continue until 11 or 12. Chris and Tom had ended up buying a load of yams when we came into town so I tried some. They were really nice - like potato wedges. Jones had now been introduced to Angry Birds and was playing this in their room (it was my turn to go with Kinza so the other guys shared our second room). The shower consisted of scooping cold water out of a bucket and tipping it on yourself. After the 'shower' we had a little walk around in search of a restaurant. We didn't have any luck so went back to the hotel bar and asking about food. They did food so we found a table on a gazebo/patio area that was in a quieter position. I was loving the music and decided to get a beer. They didn't have any familiar drinks so I went with a Ghanaian beer called 'Club'.This was really nice (I'm not usually a big fan of beer but this was good) and very cheap costing the equivalent of between £1-1.50 for a pint-sized bottle. After not drinking for such a long time I was starting to feel the effects a bit after just one bottle. The music continued to please and Jones showed us some Ghanaian dancing (he was really good). I made mental notes as was keen to go over to the dirt clearing/dance area later to have a go. The meal then came. I can't remember what I had but it was good. I then went up and got beer number 2. Also getting one for Tom sensing that this could tempt him to join me on the dancefloor later. I was right - after this drink Jones, Kinza and Chris retired back to the rooms for bed whilst me and Tom headed over for a dance. It was completely dark but fairly busy with children as well as the adults getting involved. We got involved. I'm not the most gifted dancer in a normal situation let alone in this foreign situation so I tried to remember Jones's moves and copied the other people. We proved popular and were soon dancing with everyone. I was absolutely loving it. Tom lasted maybe an hour before going back to the room. I carried on for maybe another half hour before calling it a night. I went back to the room and Kinza was still up either reading or texting. I had a sachet of water before cleaning my teeth and getting into bed. She instantly warned me about not sleeping commando (I always sleep commando). I agreed and kept some boxers on. I set the alarm for a reasonable time and went to sleep.

Day 70 - Accra to Shai Hills Reserve

We woke up pretty early as planned. I remember listening to music from Kinza's laptop (the first time we had heard anything that wasn't on my very limited iPod playlist since Gibraltar). Me, Chris and Tom sorted out our belongings into 2 sections (stuff that we would leave at the hostel and stuff that we would need for the next 4 days until we got to The Orphanage/Summer School in Santrokofi). As Kinza had already planned for us to stay in accomodation each night we happily ditched the camping stuff as well as unnecessary clothes. Luckily for Chris Kinza had some clothes that her brother had donated that were his size. He opted to carry the absolute minimal amount of stuff and leave his extrawheel behind, carrying only a handlebar bag and a few clothing items bungeed onto the pannier (the idea of this was to minimise the chances of getting a broken spoke by not putting any additional weight on the back wheel). Tom decided to bungee one pannier bag on top of the pannier rack, taking only clothes, pump/multitool and pillow. I kept the trailer and both pannier bags, one of which contained the Iberia blankets and pillows and the other containing clothes. I left the Lycra and cycling shoes behind and took a couple of pairs of casual shorts, t-shirts and running trainers knowing that it would be an easy 4 days. After getting all the stuff out of the room and down to the storage area we set to work re-assembling the bikes. Whilst doing this we got talking to some Canadian guys who were also staying at the hostel who were doing a work placement in Accra. They had been there for some time and it was good to talk to some other foreigners about what Ghana would be like. We were also joined by Jones (one of the ex-students from the summer school who RHF are now supporting to do an electrical course at a college in Accra). Jones would be joining us for the remainder of the ride. After re-assembling all of the bikes we got going with Jones and Kinza leading the way. Accra turned out to be a congested, noisy, smelly nightmare. At one point Chris went too far ahead and got separated from the rest of us - typical of Chris. His phone wasn't working so we waited at a junction whilst Tom rode off ahead to look for him. He came back not too long later having not found Chris. I then had a look further along the same road, with no luck. Thankfully when I got back we had been able to get in touch with Chris, and he had ended up at a famous landmark. Thankfully Jones knew where this was and we were soon reunited with Chris. We posed for a few photos before carrying on. As well as the traffic chaos, pollution and noise we had to contend with at times very poor road surfaces and massive potholes. It soon dawned on me that given these conditions it would take considerably longer to cover the same distance that we would be able to on decent roads. Our route took us along the coast for a short distance before escaping the worst of the chaos of the city. We stopped for some food -it was still very busy. Before this we had to exchange the American Dollars that we had with us (we mistakenly thought American Dollars were the currency used in Ghana) into Ghanaian Cedis. Thankfully this was straight forward. This was my first experience of the sachets of water, pasties and bread dough balls (the dough balls became a favourite of mine and I would describe them as being like mini plain doughnuts without the sugar) from street sellers that are available everywhere. Everything was very cheap, the food was very good and people all very welcoming - we were invited to sit in a shop to eat what we had bought despite half of what we had having been purchased elsewhere. We probably stopped for about half an hour before continuing. We stooped again for more food about an hour later. This was weird - we were in the habit of stopping less often and eating more during in each break. It felt like we were making very slow progress and we were behind schedule for today, but it didn't really matter due to our low daily mileages. This time I had grilled corn on the cob, more bread dough balls and some liquid ice cream thing. Again all very nice and all very cheap. This break was probably another half an hour or so. We still had a little way to go until we were completely out of the city and the roads for this area were particularly bad, with Tarmac reduced to dust track in places. It was far nicer when we were finally free from the city altogether sometime in the middle of the afternoon and we could enjoy fresh air and nice green scenery. At around 4pm we decided to stop at a guesthouse in The Shai Hills Nature Reserve. We may have had a couple more hours of daylight left and hadn't covered as far as intended, but we weren't sure whether we'd find the next guesthouse before it got dark. After agreeing a reasonable price (according to Kinza as we hadn't got to grips with the Ghanaian Cedi's yet) one of the rangers showed us to the house. It was very big with 3 bedrooms, 2 showers and a large living area. We all congregated in the master bedroom. The bed was massive and could have probably have slept all of us in. One of the first things I saw was a little lizard running up one of the walls - I asked Jones about this and this was very normal. After taking it in turns to have a shower/use Kinza's shower gel we headed back out to the main road in search of food. There was a shop/restaurant on the other side of the road so went there for a meal. They had the music blaring (something I had already noticed was popular everywhere). We sat down on what I think was the only table there and they were happy to turn the music down when we asked. There were fairly limited options (it was a case of asking what the woman could cook for us rather than getting an actual menu). Out of the options I went for goat with some rice this was something new to me and a typical Ghanaian dish. I was tempted with a beer but decided against it thinking of my budget. I can't remember what everyone else had but do remember the goat tasting like liver (It was OK but I wouldn't rave about it) and the sauce being very spicy. The sauce and rice were good. I had a sip of Chris's beer which was really good. After being reasonably full we walked back to our guesthouse (Tom sensibly brought a head torch out as it was hard to see where we were going along the tree-covered track in the dark). We congregated again in the master bedroom messing about on the bed and discussing the days ahead. Jones then walked in sporting a new haircut. He had got it done for a very reasonable price in a barbers next to where we had dinner. I was starting to get hungry again so borrowed the head torch and walked back to the shop to buy a pack of biscuits. I was also in need of a haircut - the barbers had just closed but would be open again early in the morning - I decided I would go back first thing and get the hair sorted before we set off. The biscuits were consumed within an hour before I went into one of the smaller rooms and went to bed.

Day 69 - Flying from Casablanca to Accra (via Madrid)

Our flight was early afternoon so we agreed that we would pack up everything from tramp corner and start walking over to check-in at 11am. When we got there we were told that it would cost us €60 extra to take the bikes. We were not happy about this as there was nothing stated about a €60 charge for additional/oversized luggage when we booked the tickets, and given the fact that we didn't have to pay anything to get the bikes from Dakhla to Casablanca with Air Maroc we were surprised at the amount we were being charged. Chris asked to speak to the manager of the airline (Iberia). We were told that he would be along in the next 20-30 minutes. He never showed up. We were running out of time so had no option to make our way over to the Iberia ticket/office area and pay the €60 each. To make matters worse the card machine they had didn't work so we had to go and find a cashpoint in the airport and withdraw an extra 20 or 30 Dirhams than we needed to as the cashpoint would only give out cash to the nearest 100. We went back, finally paid for the bikes and checked all the bags in/collected our boarding passes. We didn't have much time until our flight left so quickly went into the departure lounge shops to get some food with our 20 or 30 leftover Dirhams. There was a very limited choice (despite being in Morocco most items could only be purchased with Euros) and everything was overpriced. I think I managed to only buy a bag or crisps (I was expecting to have enough for 2 or 3 items). Chris was especially annoyed about this as he had taken extra money out to get food/coffee. Anyway we boarded the flight OK and took off on time (we needed to as we had just 1 hour between landing in Madrid from this flight and taking our second flight from Madrid to Accra). The flight was good with TVs and earphones allowing us to watch from a choice of programmes or listen to music. We got to Madrid on time and there was just enough time for a quick coffee and snack (Tom) before boarding the next flight. This second flight also took off on time with no issues. This flight was really good - we each had complimentary flight pillows and blankets, had the TV setup like before but best of all we were given a free pasta meal with desert mid flight!!! I have never been a fan of in-flight meals but given the fact that we hadn't had any pasta since Pizza Hut in Gibraltar and the fact we were all very hungry this was amazing. It was a long flight and after watching and listening what I wanted to on my TV and meal I fell asleep for a few hours. I woke up towards the end of the flight and we spent the remainder of the flight playing 20 questions.This was highly amusing. I decided that I would take 4 of the complimentary blankets and 4 pillows as both would come in useful for us in Ghana. So I spent the last part of the flight emptying various items from Tom's backpack, putting these smaller items in a carrier bag so I could cram the blankets and pillows in the backpack. This was all done on the sly. We landed fine and went through passport control. Whilst queueing we got talking to a woman named Mary who worked in the airport. She was very friendly and was very interested in the ride. Chris ended up giving her his phone number and email. We got through without any real issues (we just had to fill out a customs form stating what we were doing in Ghana, how long we would be there etc.). We then went to collect our bags and bikes. The bikes just about made it (the boxes were in bits and I would have definitely lost some of the bike parts had I not cable-tied them together). I did lose a cheap roll mat but wasn't really bothered about this. However one of Chris's pannier bags had got lost (his attempt to stick a bungee around both bags had failed and only the bag with the label had made it). So we made our way to the lost bags area hoping it would be there. It wasn't. In the bag was Chris's helmet, tools and clothes. He filled in a form describing the lost bag and its contents in case it showed up. We had been in touch with Kinza and she had arranged a taxi to pick us up and take us to the hostel where she was. So we walked towards the exit. We were immediately bombarded with men wanting to carry our stuff - this was an unnerving experience and certainly not what we needed at the time. We found our driver who was holding an 'Arctic to Africa' banner, and followed him to his car. We were then faced with the tricky task of trying to fit the 3 bikes, 2 bike trailers, pannier bags and ourselves into a small people carrier. The task was made harder by the swarms of men surrounding us insistent on helping. I told them to go away on a few occasions but they wouldn't listen. There was no way it was all gonna fit in as it was so we had to rip the bike boxes apart and squeeze each frame, wheel and bag in carefully. We just about managed to get it all in, leaving Chris the front seat and me sitting on Tom's lap in the one empty back seat. The swarm of men wanted money having 'helped' us. I refused to give them anything, I think Chris may have given them a few left-over euros. We then drove out of the car park headed to the hotel. The drive gave us our first opportunity to see Accra. There was lots of traffic and people everywhere. When we stopped at traffic lights there were several people walking around with various stuff balanced on their heads that they were selling. It must have been at least 8pm and dark at this time so I was surprised that it was still this busy everywhere. After probably 45 minutes or so we got to the hostel and were reunited with Kinza. It was great to see her again and tell her about the trip, and her tell us about what she had been doing/what the plan was for the next 4 days whilst enjoying a pizza. She then showed us our room. It was basic with 2 bunk beds and another bed in the middle that Kinza had already claimed. The highlight though was using Kinza's shower gel. It was a real treat to not to have to lather-up a bar of soap for once and actually come out of the shower smelling nice. We went to bed pretty early as knew that we would have to get up to pack up/get out of the room and get cycling by a reasonable time in the morning. The talking continued in bed for maybe an hour or so before we finally went to sleep.

Day 68 - Terminal Day in Casablanca

This was a very boring and uneventful day. We woke up late as there was no reason to get up and very little for us to do in the airport with no money. We took it in turns to go and brush our teeth in the toilets so that one of us was always with all the stuff in our tramp corner. Whilst putting some chocolate spread on bread I dropped the jar causing it to smash. Not wanting to waste anything/not having money for any more food I proceeded to scrape the chocolate spread from the bits of broken glass and onto the remaining bread. This was a slow process but it gave me something to do. I also spent the morning completing a model bike made from cable ties. Some time after this Chris and Tom returned having successfully found an area with wifi. I went to check this out leaving them with the stuff. When I returned they had moved a massive table and Chris was busy making notes on his next trip idea (flying to New Zealand and cycling home). They also tried to download Rush Hour 2 on the Ipad at some stage - it didn't work. We were approached a few times by airport security (the airport was immaculate with cleaners sweeping the floor around the clock) - luckily they were happy to let us stay in the corner when we told them about our flight the next morning. I remember the airport background music being played on loop, one of the songs being a weird version of 'My Heart Will Go On' from Titanic. During the afternoon I spent some time wandering around the airport in search of some free packaging tape for re-taping the bike boxes - I didn't have any luck. I had a walk around outside too but still no luck. Tom managed to buy some somewhere later on so I needn't have worried. We went to bed pretty early.

Day 67 - Dakhla rest day/flying to Casablanca

I woke up probably around 7.30 and decided to go for a walk around the town as the others were still asleep. I headed along the coast for a bit thinking I might find a beach but no such luck (there were just rocks). The town wasn't really very interesting and the best bit was definitely the cycle in yesterday with the massive kitesurfing beaches. After maybe an hour of walking I headed to the nice hotel from yesterday to use their toilet and go on wifi - there weren't many staff around and the ones that were didn't care. The standard Facebook status update and browse of the news feed followed (it was nice to not have a limited time to do this). After maybe half an hour Chris and Tom joined me guessing that I would be here having a wifi session. Tom told me about him having to use the awful smelly 'hole in the floor' toilet at our hotel for his morning dump (the toilet was blocked and it overflowed). They also got on the wifi and I remember Tom trying to finish editing the final desert video 'The Dash to Dakhla' and the accompanying song 'Camels' by Santos playing over and over again. I also remember sending Benji a message (the guy who we met in Nordkapp who was cycling around the world) thanking him for persuading us to take on The Western Sahara. We spent a good 3 hours here (pretty much as long as we could before we had to go back to the hotel and pack ready for our flight which was late afternoon). We packed up (I found a discarded Puma sports bag in the wardrobe in our room which I used as my hand luggage bag). We got to the airport around 1.30 or 2 (knowing that it could take a while to find cardboard, take the bikes apart and box them up). We asked if they had any cardboard at reception. They didn't so me and Tom walked to the kiteboarding shop not far away to get some boxes whilst Chris stayed at the airport with the stuff. The kitesurfing shop was really nice and I would have definitely bought at least a t-shirt if I'd had any Dirhams left. Unfortunately they didn't have any boxes - the owner said our best bet would be to go to TV/appliance shops near the market. This was a bit of a walk away but was the only option - we were told that we would be able to get a taxi from the market to the airport for 5 Dirhams so it wasn't too bad. Me and Tom then spent an hour or so looking in several shops collecting enough cardboard to box up the 3 bikes. We then set to work flat-packing all the boxes before flagging a taxi over (the first taxi was a similar size to a Ford Fiesta which was too small so we had to wait for a bigger one more like an Escort). With some help from the driver we squeezed our mass of cardboard into the boot and off we went back to the airport. Unpacking was a bit tricky with a strong wind. We then set to work boxing Chris's bike up. My packaging tape that I was given in Casablanca was rubbish so had to rely on some tape given to us by the guys at check-in to tape the boxes around the bike. The whole process was made twice as hard with the strong wind and we weren't allowed to pack them up inside the small clean airport. After Chris's bike was done the check in/baggage guys came out and helped with me and Tom's bikes (Chris didn't do the best job of boxing his bike flatly). Eventually the bikes were all adequately boxed and we were done as check in was in full flow. Thankfully we didn't have to pay any extra for the bikes. We went through to the departure lounge which like the check in/reception area was small and it was clear that the airport only did one flight at a time. The wait wasn't too long before we were led out towards the plane. One guy who helped us box up the bikes and checked them in was now loading them onto the plane - Chris joked that he would probably be the pilot too. The plane was nice considering how cheap our tickets were. There were no problems and the plane took off on time. The highlight of the flight was undoubtedly an unexpected free meal we got - it wasn't big but we were hungry with our food rations and this helped. We also played '20 questions' which is a game where you think of a famous person and the other person/people have to guess who it is - this was fun and helped pass the time. We landed in Casablanca and went to collect the bikes. Our slaggy boxing attempts had failed and the taped together cardboard was on the verge of falling apart. We carefully put the boxes on some trolleys and made our way to a cafe. It was pretty busy but we found a table, left the trolleys by the side and got out the chocolate spread and bread from my bag for a food session. There was no wifi. Next on the agenda was to find somewhere to sleep. I left the stuff with Chris and Tom and had a wander around. The airport was fairly big and I located a quiet corner away from the busy areas easily enough. We went to my quiet corner after the cafe and set up camp getting the roll mats and sleeping bags out, used the boxed up bikes as a barrier to help hide us from view. We looked like tramps. Anyway we then went to the toilets to clean our teeth before going to sleep.