Travels in Africa 1972

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Map 1 - Marrakech to Tamanrasset
(click on this map to see an enlargement)

Here are some notes that I made while traveling in Africa in the 70's. It would be a long story to explain how it happened that I was hitchhiking across Africa, in attempt to reach Kennedy's promised land, the Seychelles. The adventure actually started out in Marrakech where I happened to meet a Frenchman who had the fantastic idea of crossing the Sahara in an old Deux Chevaux, he was looking for a couple of drivers to do the trip and had already a found a Dane who was keen. As my general plan was to try to get from Morroco to Mombassa on the East Coast of Africa this seemed like a lucky break, the fact that I spoke little French and the Frenchman almost no English was somewhat ameliorated by the fact that the Dane was fluent in both.

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The Citroën 2CV, deux chevaux vapeur, literally "two steam horses".
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Above is a picture of a newish Deux Chevaux, "Sahara", this is the luxury 4X4 version and not what we were driving although it looks much the same. These cars are small, smaller even than a VW Beetle. It was some kind of miracle that the three of us managed to get all our gear, as well as the spare tires, and jerry cans into it. In fact our car had even less room than the conventional model because we had it fitted with an extra gas tank in the trunk.

I could here write pages about this adventure which started out poorly when our car was robbed in Algiers. I suppose everyone wants to know what it is like driving across the Sahara and most people have the wonderful image of endless sand dunes, however the fact of the matter is that a lot of the trip is like traveling over an immense gravel strewn flatland, which is better done at night to avoid the scortching heat... imagine then that what you see is only that which is within your headlights and that there is in fact no road. In the absence of any well defined road you follow whatever tracks there might be, these in the darkness are never too obvious. Thus there seemed ever a sense of total insecurity and uncertainty which then is combined with a sense of urgency to try to get through to the next stop as quickly as possible. Driving therefore is quite a challenge as you are speeding along this rock strewn piste.... the risk of a flat tire was ever present and often the Frenchman would be shouting "a gauche! a droite!... trop tard!".

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The photo is a very good example of the lack of a defined road, which way do you go?
Also it gives you an idea of the rocky ground, that is hard on tires.
(click here to aee what this road looks like at night!)

Actually now years later it seems really miraculous that we actually survived this and made it as far as the middle of the Sahara arriving in a place called Tamanrasset which had not seen rain for several years. As fate would have it we met another party of French people making the same trip in a VW beetle, Two Frenchmen and one Frenchwoman who seemed to be fed up with her companions. Our Frenchman was quick to assess the situation and without a lot of formality announced that he would rather proceed without our assistance and drove off with the woman from the other car!

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On the road (again).

Suddenly I found myself in the middle of the Sahara without a ride and I guess you could say that from this point I was truly hitchhiking across the Sahara, the next closest gas station was 600 miles down the road and a ride if you found one would not be short, however before long I chanced to meet an American couple going my way. Really right out of the flower power 60's, driving a psychedelic yellow VW van, they agreed to take me with them to Nigeria.

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"well you said, just follow the tracks....."

Our trip to the Nigerian border, was really action packed and it is a pity that I never made any notes about it, more than once we were digging ourselves out of sand dunes and on one occasion we nearly fell into the hands of an angry mob outside of some ancient walled fortress. The sights you encounter in the Sahara are some of the most primitive on the planet, it seems as though you have been catapulted back in time, returning to an age where man has barely invented the wheel. In fact you sometimes see people who appear to be living as man did even before the dawn of civilization, naked except for a spear and gourd. Life here is terribly hard here. I remember seeing people at some remote well laboriously working an ancient pulley system to barely extract from deep underground, a bucketful of murky water....

My notes start with our arrival at the Nigerian border, (for the moment I have just uploaded the pages as scanned image files)

Page 1 - Barefoot in the Sahara

Page 2 - Sleeping with beggars

Page 3 - The train from Ouagadougou

Page 4 - Hell on wheels

Page 5 - The Jungle

Page 6 - The Ivory Coast

Page 7 - The usual confusion

Page 8 - Grand-Bassam

Page 9 - The right spot at last!

Page 10 - The "SS Congo"


Map 1 - Marrakech to Tamanrasset

Map 2 - Tamanrasset to Ouagadougou

Map 3 - Ivory Coast (Cote D'Ivoire)

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