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Suzuki’s new Swift hatch and sedan in SA

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Timbuktu Expedition rolls on

2006-06-12 15:06

DAY 14: 8 June 2006

SENGAL: Dakar - Kaolack - Tambacounda - Kidira MALI: Diboli - Kayes - Diema - Didiena - Kati - Bamako - Bamako - Segoué - San - Djenne - Mopti - Douentza - Timbuktu - Sévaré - Mopti - Dogon Country: Bandiagara - Sanga - Bankass BURKINA FASO: Ouagadougou - Kantchari NIGER: Niamey.

A number of aftermarket components have failed, but the Toyota quartet has been utterly reliable throughout the first fortnight of the 62-day trans-African epic.

They say it's better to travel hopefully than to arrive - well, we're putting that to the test.

Based on local advice obtained in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, we've decided to head for the Niger border without our visas, in the hope that we can buy them there. That's against the advice of guide books and information we had back in South Africa.

The other thing our guide books stress is that Niger bureaucracy is a fearsome thing, and officials adopt a no-nonsense approach. So we'll see.

We left Ougadougou at 4:30 pm after waiting for the shakes and rattles to be ironed out of the vehicles at CFAO Toyota, so we've only done 140 of our scheduled 370km for the day. But we've enjoyed our time in Ougadougou.

Although it bustles and buzzes like any other crowded African city, there's a palpably laid back air and friendly atmosphere.

Swarms of scooters - mobilettes - and bikes race in their own lane alongside four-wheeled traffic, dodging goats, pedestrians and cars, but we rarely heard a hooter.

There's plenty of giving way, and even overtaking in the face of oncoming traffic is OK - cars just swing out, and swing back, going with the flow.

These Burkinabé really do go placidly amidst the noise and haste!

Right now we've just finished up setting up a bush camp just outside Koupela on the road to the border, Mel is cooking up a curry and Pankil is making naan bread. Who said camping meant you have to rough it?

Day 15: 9 June

We're through! With a certain amount of misgivings, and wearing our Toyota shirts so we looked 'official', we left Burkina Faso and drove on to the Niger border post at Makalondi, half expecting to be turned back, and definitely anticipating some sort of hassle.

In fact our visas were issued without a quibble and with a large amount of laughter, oiled by lengthy discussions on global soccer World Cup prospects, which starts today.

They also cost a lot less than we'd been expecting to pay if the original plan had worked (which was to get them via the consulate in Cote Ivoire).

Bush camp

So we've rolled into Niamey, Niger's capital, right on schedule, the Cruisers and Fortuners eating up the kilometres on excellent tar.

The architecture of the villages we pass has changed considerably - in between square mud brick buildings are villages consisting of a series of domed grass huts, raised up on tree stumps or stacks of rocks.

Another odd feature is that we've seen hundreds of vultures along the way, perching on lamp posts, scuffling over road kill with dogs at the side of the road, or balancing on stalls.

Must be fairly threatening to live in a place with vultures circling above - not a good idea to fall asleep in the sun... (By the way, the idyll of our bushcamp went a little sour last night.

Amid flashes of lighting and deafening thunder, a massive rain storm blew in, having us running like rats yet again to pack everything away and batten down the hatches before the heavens opened.

We retreated to our tents (which leaked!), leaving the chickpea curry to survive the elements. It became breakfast instead.)

Adelle Horler and Geoff Dalglish

Visit the Toyota Timbuktu Table Mountain Web Log for updates and photos at http://blogspace.mweb.co.za

With thanks to our sponsors Toyota South Africa, Megaworld, African Outback Products, Pertec, Garmin, MWEB @ Home - iPass, African Stuff, Toshiba and DataShuttle. Thanks also to CFAO Toyota dealerships in Senegal, Mali and Ouagadougou for their enthusiastic assistance.

*Catch the television series on this expedition on SABC TV3 on Sundays, starting on September 3 at 5:30 pm.


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