The Challenges West Africa Kita, Mali, West Africa Sunday, September 23, 2007
Kiss me first, and we can call it love.
I am traveling West in West Africa, I am trying to sit back and enjoy it. It is hard to derive a conclusion. I think I have bought my own illusions of Africa hook, line and sinker.
I think my delusions went something like, I will go to Africa, see big Animals, see women walking around topless, and people living in tribal conditions. It would be strenuous travel, long arduous journeys from beautiful locations to beautiful location.
I was reading my guidebook on the bus yesterday, and realized, I am reading my guidebook on the bus. This was a new experience for me and a revelation in a way. I have tried to read guidebooks on buses for years, and after about two pages I become motion sick.
I was very lucky to travel to Abidjan, Cote d Ivoire on first true West African trip, then proceeded overland to Benin, and by the good Gods ironic guidance I spent some good tribal time in Natitingou, Benin. This was my first real taste of Africa and it made me want to come back and try to find it again.
I truly avoid reading guidebooks, I normally read them when I am bored, or I am in very expensive countries and looking for relief. I do not read about countries normally and plan ahead, because everyone is in love with the place they visited, write nice information because they visited it, and, well, it is like this, they spent a lot of money to travel there, so they must have like it, so they say they did, and they believe what they wrote, however they have nothing to compare it to, so they will continue to believe it was best.
I think Africa has not become insanely easy to travel, annoyingly boring, and West Africa is an expensive bruised banana in the market. I keep buying ten bananas and I need to throw nine out the window, and this is West Africa.
The challenges of West Africa?
1. French, the big one, the huge problem, and mainly a problem because until I spoke French well enough, I did not know, they do not speak French. Now that I speak good enough French, I can stop speaking with people who do not speak French and search for a person that speaks a little. Africa does not speak French, and Ghana does not speak English, however in Ghana it is easy, I know immediately they do not speak English and can go to the next person. I now know, they do not speak French in West Africa for crap, and can search for the one in ten that does.
Challenge is removed, I speak travel French.
Hmmm full stop.
Craig of Travelvice.com quote me, and created a continual reminder in my brain of what I should remember when I travel. He wrote in one of his post something like, and I do not remember correctly,
Andy said, - I realized one day, 10 dollars is an expensive room on the planet, and I had been paying too much for a long time. -
This now is the annoyance of West Africa; everything is over-priced, about the worst travel value on the planet, maybe neck and neck with the Caribbean. To enjoy West Africa it has to be your first big backpacker trip, or you will be biting the bullet, eating bad bananas until you puke.
I am so bored I was reading the guidebook and thought, the section about how to get drunk and eating is bigger than the sections on hotels. I never read these sections as they just tell me how to avoid being in Africa and where to buy Pizza or as they say, Western food, or where there is cold beer. I feel to read these sections, and follow the guide would be to say, I give up, I will look at Africa from the window of an Air Conditioned four-wheel drive, if there is crap in the road, and we will just go around it.
I just thought of a solution to my headaches, I should just accept that I am not traveling from beautiful location to beautiful location. There is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow here.
I can be a tourist, not a traveler, there are no backpacker here in West Africa, they know better, they studied the guidebooks and read enough to know there are no backpacker in West Africa, I must accept that to backpack through Africa is a royal pain, a person should drive their Air Conditioned family car.
Tourist go to places like Africa, live in room with AC and room service, drink too much beer, pay for sex with the locals, give money to small children, tell themselves they are great people, inflate the price of room so much a local person can never afford to travel in their own country, then call it love.
If I say piss on Africa, I can raise my budget to the normal tourist level, read many books; I still have about 10 in my backpack. I should be able to travel faster because there is only the transportation pain to recover from, not too much room pain, although it would take 100 dollars per night to equal a Thailand room for 10 dollars, so I am going to just grin and bear it.
Damn it! I cannot travel as a tourist; I do not have a car. The guidebooks are written by people with their own transportation, the continually recommend Hotel or Motels that require cars.