Monday, February 28, 2011


One difference between my 2001 trip and my 2011 trip is the camera gear.

That's what I carried to Africa for my safaris in 2001.

And here's my camera set-up for 2011. I might take my Zoom audio recorder too. I have all my stuff laid out on the floor and need to see how much weight I'm taking so far before I decide.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

More Ghana


Today I started reading about the next country on my itinerary. Togo. And then I looked ahead a bit, into Benin.

Aha. There's a big stilt village in Benin. Much bigger and not as out of the way as the one I was interested in on my Ghana leg.

So I'm revising my Ghana itinerary already. Now it's:

April 6: Kumasi to Cape Coast.

April 7: Cape Coast.

April 8: Accra.

April 9: Accra. (visa stop)

April 10: Accra to Lome (Togo).

Friday, February 25, 2011


I'm a bit frantic. Today I worked on sorting out filing some compliance documents for the work 401k, tracked down our unemployment percentage for the new payroll service, threw a bunch of stuff away, and brought home more boxes. I'm trying to get my trinkets and books out of my apartment, since my tenant is going to become two tenants in a few months. They'll need space.

And on the train, I read about Ghana. I'm no expert, but I think I have enough info to plan a trip. We're still pretending I'm racing around, because I need to understand the minimum time it will take me to cross Africa before I start factoring in longer stops.

April 4: There's a 7:00 a.m. bus on Sunday and Thursday to Kumasi, Ghana. Unfortunately, April 4 is a Monday. Let's face it, odd of me getting there precisely that day are slim. Anyway, I can use this as a guide. There are other buses, and if nothing else, there's the shared minibus for 2-3 hours to the border, walking across to Paga, Ghana, then hopping another minibus 90 minutes to Bolgatanga, then to Tamale (2.5 hours) and then staying there or getting another bus to Kumasi (7 hours—early start day).

April 5: Kumasi, Ghana. Kumasi is a city famous for its crafts.

April 6: Kumasi to Takoradi, 5 hours. That's in the west, along the coast. But that's not the end of the day. After that, I get a minibus from Takoradi to Beyin (3-4 hours), in the far west. Because that's the launching point for the trip I'm taking the next morning.

April 7: I'm not really going April 7, because I'm unlikely to be on this precise schedule by then. And that's good, because today's destination isn't open on Thursdays. I'm heading to a stilt village named Nzulezo, which is an hour away by canoe. The trip must be booked in Beyin, where I also have to pay for the canoe trip. The canoe goes through wetlands to the stilt village. I'll have a look around and then the canoe takes me back to Beyin. Then it's back to Takoradi, then on one more hour to Cape Coast.

April 8: Cape Coast is a nice coastal town with an old castle. Sounds like a nice place to spend a day.

April 9: On to Accra, which is only three hours away. There doesn't seem to be much to see in Accra, so my time spent there will be determined by how many visas I need. And then, it's 4.5 hours by bus or minibus to the border with Togo.

*You might notice that I'm not going to Mole National Park. I'm thinking of going on safaris a bit later, if at all. Living in a national park in Uganda kind of spoiled me.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Productive Procrastination

I'm in full-on panic mode. I don't even have my passport back from the Embassy of Mauritania yet.

The best way to deal with this would be to get to work.

Instead, I made business cards tonight.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Introducing...Marie's World Tour 2011

I spent my Saturday night moving a ten-year-old site from one server to another, and updating links that have probably been broken for seven years. What did you do?

Saturday, February 19, 2011


I finalized my ticket today.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mali and Burkina Faso

I'm having a harder time planning as my virtual weeks progress. That's because I don't have my passport back yet--it's at the Embassy of Mauritania at the moment. I hope. I don't really know where it is. I should probably look into that.

I am hoping to get more visas before I leave NYC on March 1. I've been collecting visas for months now, but have to get many visas at the last minute or else they'll expire before I arrive in the country giving me the visa.

And because I don't know how many days I'll need to acquire visas en route, I can't plan that precisely after Bamako. Will I be in Bamako a week while I collect visas? Or just two days? And then will I be able to hook up with a small group and a private vehicle when I get there, or will I be spending days on buses?

I won't know until I know, so I'm now into estimating territory.

Let's say I arrive in Bamako, Mali, on March 21. That's a Monday. I could then work on getting visas for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, then head off to play tourist as of Thursday night.

Then stops I want to make in Mali are:

-Segou (3 hours by bus from Bamako).

-Djenne (that's the home of that big mud mosque you see in photos of Mali).


-Dogon country, via Bandiagara.

I'll just call it ten days, and then I'll head from Mopti to Bobo-Dioulasso (via Bla) in Burkina Faso. I'm estimating arriving in Burkina Faso on April 1, and hoping it's not a joke.

April 2: I'll spend in the town of Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso.

April 3: I'll take the bus early to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. I'll spend the rest of the day there, then I hope to proceed on April 4 to Kumusi, Ghana. Except I might have to hang around a few more days to get more visas.

So that's where we'll start next. With me arriving late to Kumasi, Ghani. The bus website seems to indicate that I'll be traveling from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. So Kumasi. Let's look at Kumasi next.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Why don't I have the Burkina Faso book? I don't remember now.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Hitch

I'm subletting my apartment soon, so I need to pack up some stuff in boxes, get my car out of my garage, and put the boxes into the garage, then put the car back into the garage.

But I've hit a snag. All that snow isn't snow. It's ice.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Revised Timetable

I woke up this morning thinking "What am I, crazy?"

I couldn't bear to contemplate that last leg from Tahiti to Auckland to Tokyo to LA to Houston to Lima to Santiago to Easter Island. Not when Easter Island is four hours away from Tahiti by plane.

So I sucked it up, as the kids, they say. I sacrificed Christmas.

Because my round-the-world ticket is on frequent flyer miles, the only flight available out of Tahiti later than Dec. 4 was on Dec. 25. I'd initially refused that flight, because I didn't want to miss Christmas after ten months away and after just missing Thanksgiving. But then I woke up with a moment of clarity, thought "My mother won't mind having Christmas on Dec. 27 or 28 or whatever," and I rearranged my itinerary again.

So now I arrive in Tahiti on November 21. That's too early. I can barely afford Tahiti.

I have some down time to do...something. Then I can go to Easter Island. Flights are $550 roundtrip and only go on Wednesdays. So I can spend one week in Tahiti, one in Easter Island, or two in Easter Island, or one in Easter Island followed by one in Tahiti.

Then I can go on the Aranui 3 freighter cruise around the Marquesas. But sacrificing Christmas, I can go on the special Marquesan Arts Festival trip. The festival happens once every three years. I hear it can be tough to get a room during this festival. Good thing I'll have a berth on a ship. Just a berth. I'm too poor to stay in the cabins. I have to stay in the dorms. This goes from Dec. 9 to 23.

Then on Dec. 25th, I'll start the long trip home. Tahiti-Auckland-Tokyo-Newark, arriving on Dec. 26th.

I'm giving up Christmas for Easter.

Friday, February 11, 2011


I've made my itinerary, more or less, with the help of a couple of amazing reservations agents at Star Alliance.

I couldn't get myself out of Tahiti anytime between early December and Christmas. So I am going to try to get to Easter Island from South America instead. The run from Tahiti to Lima is pretty brutal, and then I'll still have to get to Santiago after that.

Click here to see what is almost certainly what I'll end up doing. Unless I can get a ticket later out of Tahiti down the road, like if more seats are released.

Monday, February 07, 2011

A Solution

Will I get to Kayes from Georgetown in one day? If I have to stop short of the Senegal-Mali border, wouldn't that lose me an entire day as all the transport onward to Bamako would be gone by the time I made it to Kayes the next morning, on the late side?

I read my Rough Guide to West Africa on the train today. I came home and opened up the Lonely Planet Mali PDF chapter on my computer. I went to and check the latest on the trains. I read the Lonely Planet Thorntree forum.

All reports agreed.

Kayes to Bamako=pain in the ass.

The train from Dakar to Bamako has been out of service for some time, but the Kayes-Bamako leg is running. Scroll down on this page to read a glowing review of that train journey.

And then I read this, from May, 2010. Eh, not so appealing anymore.

I scoured the guidebooks and the Thorntree. Everyone agreed. Bus or 4x4 from Kayes to Bamako? 12 hours. If you're lucky. The road is being built still, and some of it isn't quite done.

Then I found this, written recently, in December.

The road seems to be finished.

Or if not, pretty close.

March 21: Kayes (or border area) to Bamako. Overnight in Bamako at the Sleeping Camel. Yay! Now I get to get onward visas and then wander off into Mali.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Gambia to Mali

I've been distracted by the incredible events in Egypt. At first I thought the protest would be put down quickly, and then it wasn't, and then the Internet went off. Blip. Just like that.

That's when I realized that this wasn't just another protest. I tuned right into Al Jazeera English online, and was riveted for days.

But MariesWorldTour 2011 is only 23 days away, and I need to get back to planning. I booked my first night in Malaga, my ferry ticket, and my second night in Melilla. There's no way to book the train tickets in Morocco from here, so I have to hope I get a couchette rather than having to spend the night in a reclining seat. And then I'll be in Essaouira.

So far, I've found good hotel rates on,,, and even Expedia. I have some various point balances that will help me get a room here or there, but once I am south of Morocco, I won't be using many pre-booking sites.

Last we checked, I was planning the end of Week Three.

Well, I was obviously tired when I was working on March 20th, because it doesn't work the way I had it at all.

Here's the right way to get to Mali from Georgetown, Gambia.

March 20:
-Ferry off Georgetown back to highway. Catch shared taxi or minibus to Basse Santa Su, Gambia. (One hour drive.)
-Basse Santa Su to Velingara, Senegal. One hour.
-Velingara to Tambacounde. 2.5 hours.
-Tambacounde to Kidira border. 3 hours. Cross border to Diboli, Mali. Border closes at 6 p.m.
-Diboli to Kayes. 2 hours.

Easy in theory, right? The problem is that there is bound to be a lot of waiting for various forms of transport en route. So I may not make the border by 6 p.m. The guidebook does list a hotel in Kidara, so I'll just have to see how far I get.

Perhaps I will be in Bamako by the end of March 21. I'll look at that tomorrow.