09/09/2010  – Fada N’Gourma to Ouagadougou – 167 miles – Last bit of tarmac to the capital. An eventful last week and good to be nearing a city for a few days!

07/09/2010 to 08/09/2010 – 308 miles (from Camp Numi to Fada N’Gourma on Wednesday, inc visa messing around!) Monday was a wipe out, we were looking at going into the park but it continued to rain heavily. We relaxed all day and sorted out the Landcruiser after getting it out yesterday. Mud everywhere!

On Tuesday we were up at 6am to get going into the park. We had scanned the map to work out where we could get to. We went in Alfred’s Nissan Patrol. It might have been battered and extremely uncomfortable but it was kitted out in case we got stuck. After an hour in the park, there was a noise coming from one the back wheels. We carried on for a while and then it got worse. Alfred then decided to take off one of the back wheels. It didn’t look good. A few bolts dropped out and others were loose, so he spent an hour fixing it.

There was little chance of seeing any animals. We saw elephant droppings on the main track. It was so overgrown it was very hard to see anything. It was still great to see one of West Africa’s main parks and it was great just taking it in, as we were driven around. We finally made it to the main watering hole but we still didn’t see much aside from some waterbuck. We ventured on but each track we took ended in us turning around because of deep water.

On the way out of the park , we got stuck again. Luckily it wasn’t us this time! Alfred was trying to avoid a bump and we went right down into a ditch on the side of the track. An hour later we were on our way again  after he had used a manual winch around a nearby tree to get us out.

We camped the last night and got going early on Wednesday to drive to the border 60 km away. The giant truck was gone so luckily we didn’t have any more problems getting from the park to the main road! We left Benin OK. When we crossed over to Burkina Faso we got a shock – we expected  to buy a 7 day visa at the border, and then extend it when we reached the capital, Ouagadougou. We had to pay for the three months there and then. We had heard that the visas prices had gone up, but were only expecting to pay 10,000 cfa initially and then pay the rest in the capital.

We were pretty much stuck there as we didn’t have enough money. The visa costs for Burkina Faso are stupidly high, with only one option of paying for three months, at over £100 a visa. We got chatting to the chief and went round in circles for a while. I suggested that I go to the nearest town, 100 km away and then return with the money for him to issue the visas. Bun had to stay there at the police offices, and I bombed off to get the money. It took three hours to get there and back. As I left the border town, the policeman said there were bandits on the road to Fada N’ Gourma. I kept asking if it was OK, and he said it was alright now and he let me go on.There is known trouble in this area during the night when they normally target vehicles. I cracked on and got back in decent time.

We eventually reached Fada to spend the night there! Another time zone change as we hit Burkina Faso , so we gained an hour and a bit more time to find somewhere to spend the night!

06/09/2010 – Pendjari National Park – We got the Landcruiser out by 11am. The rain had kept away long enough to get it out. Massive relief getting it out OK – what a mission! We spent another night at Camp Numi with  the intention of seeing the park with Alfred. He said there was too much water in the park to go in over the next few days, so we decided to hang out there for it to dry up enough to go in. It worked out to be a good place to stay. We were the only ones there. The chef was really good and whipped up some really good food for us.

05/09/2010 – Benin – Natitingou to Pendjari National Park – 53 miles – What an unbelievable mad few days. Bun has a good write up of this, so will post it later when we have more time. We got stuck on a track heading towards Pendjari National park. The heavy rains had wrecked the tracks leading to the park. We were OK for the first 20 miles, but got totally stuck when we tried to pass a lorry that was in the area to repair the track. As we passed it, the Landcruiser got bogged down in mud. We spent six hours trying to get it out with the help of some local farmers, jacking the vehicle up, getting logs and branches underneath the wheels to get some grip. A winch would have got us out very quickly but we didn’t have one!

We almost got it out by ourselves but after the last attempt, it wasn’t looking good with the Landcruiser now at 45 degrees with both wheels properly dug in. Nightmare! Our final option was to call on Alfred, a German man who runs Camp Numi, the only lodge in the area. We had read that he offers recovery services! He tried to get us out in the dark but said to leave it until the morning. We spent the night at the Camp and had the guard who was looking after the truck to keep an eye on the Landcruiser for the night!

04/09/2010 – Benin – Porto Novo to Natitingou via Cotonou – 354 miles  – Here comes the rain. A hell of a mission to go from the south to head north towards Pendjari. We are on our way north towards Burkina Faso. A last stop at Pendjari before crossing the border. We stopped early in Cotonou. We bought some french pastries at an amazing little shop in the capital. We could have been in Paris. They tasted so good and we grabbed a few things to take away! We stopped again in Dassa Zoume to grab some food on the roadside. Usual chaos navigating the roads and a rain storm didn’t help. We made good ground and got further than we expected today.