3 Happy Years

On the 1st April 2003 Simon and I celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary and would like to say thank you to all the well wishers who sent their love and congratulations. Now let me tell you about this week and why we must love Jenny like our own child.

We woke up on Monday morning after a restless nights sleep, the crashing sound of the nearby sea foreign and disturbing. Recovering with a coffee at the restaurant that overlooks the beach we caught up with the boys. They are waiting for their Ethiopian visas that take 6 days and have done all the others. They then tell us where to go, what order to apply for them and how much to pay, including the GPS references making it easier to get to. First stop Togo and while Accra is very busy, it is also easy to navigate as it has a ring road and is well signposted.

After handing in our visa we went to a nearby supermarket, one has to stop yourself from buying things just because they are there to buy. Then onto the Internet café as we have some time to kill while waiting for the visas. Speedy connection and it is an utter pleasure to read up on all the mail that has been sent. Now we know what is happening with you guys we will update our end too.

In Mali we saw a lady with a T-shirt advertising Ryan’s Irish Pub in Accra – it caught our eye because it was in Ghana and we were heading that way. Finding ourselves nearby we decided to investigate. Perfect, air conditioned, sky news on the telly, a cold pint for Simon and a delicious steak sandwich for myself. They have big tables and so we set about filling in all the forms to apply later in the day for the Nigerian visa. You see it is all in the timing – collect Togo visa at 2pm hand in at Nigerian (they close at 3pm) then collect it the next day at 3pm and dash off to Ethiopian embassy for their 3:30 closing time and then spend the rest of the time (while waiting for the visa) to prepare the car for the next stretch of the journey.

We met the owner at lunchtime and he mentioned that overlanders stay in the back yard some times and then use the staff showers. Well this would be perfect as while Simon is doing car maintenance like changing the wheels round, I can go email and catch up on the diary. Collecting our visas at the Togo embassy we realize they have cheated us, they insisted we pay in dollars but then entered the CFA (West African currency) price. So the records show that we paid CFA not dollars. Then the go to a money exchange place, change the dollars to CFA and then keep the profit for themselves and their government is none the wiser. When Simon questioned him he started bouncing on his chair and did not know what to say to us.

After handing in our applications at the Nigerian embassy we returned to Big Milly’s and I carried on removing my braids, I am getting nowhere fast and so decided a shower was a better idea. At this campsite that means that you take a bucket, go to the well, draw water to fill it and then take it to the “shower” room. Open air enclosure with paraffin lantern where you proceed to have a wash out of the bucket.

Tuesday morning and we have been married for three years today. We decide to celebrate by having an early morning swim in the sea followed by a full English breakfast and a doze in the tent. Later dragging ourselves out of bed we pack up to go into town to collect the visa and do some emailing. Figured we may as well update the site while it is easy and relatively inexpensive to do so. As we park in town Simon notices fluid running down the clutch and the fluid well is empty. Well now I know you lot are not surprised at this announcement of yet another thing going wrong but it did put a little dampener on the day. But not to worry, mailing done we retire to Ryan’s for a bit of ole Irish home comfort and an update on world news. Well the war anyway as that is all they are showing.

At the Nigerian embassy we are kept waiting until 3:45pm so too late to hand our applications into the Ethiopian embassy. You can imagine what with the clutch and now this it is two very unhappy people that arrive back at Big Milly’s only to find someone has taken our spot and there is nowhere to camp except on top of them. We were most upset with the Nigerian who have messed us around before, we could have had the whole day just relaxing and enjoying our anniversary. This got to us the most, that and the clutch. So why is Jenny not in a container on her way to SA by ship – well we must love her like one of our own, how else do you explain us putting up with all her nonsense?

But do not worry the day was not lost; Milly’s restaurant is on a raised platform and has a beach sand floor. So dinner was looking out over a lightning lit ocean view while we ate our delicious meal in the light of hurricane lamps. The massive downpour that followed only adding to the atmosphere. We went to bed happy.

Wednesday and goodbye Milly we are off to Ryan via the Ethiopian embassy. There the lady that usually does the visa stuff is off and another chap is covering. We hand in all the stuff while talking to him about Ethiopia. He is helpful and friendly and tells Simon that he has to pay more than me because I am African and they charge us less, He he!

He then takes out a SA passport to show us and we recognize JW. So we tell him that we are travelling together and ask him about Ludwig. He tells us both their visas are ready and says that he will try not to keep us waiting too long, will have them ready by Friday. It normally takes 6 days and now look how God is taking care of us. So we thank him profusely and head off.

The clutch is playing up and we filled the well when leaving Milly’s but now it will only go into 1st. Just before Ryan’s and she is not going anywhere so Simon quickly jumps out, puts some fluid in and off we go to Ryan’s. There we meet 4 Irish blokes with a Landy that looks much worse than Jenny. They have been all the way to Benin and are now heading back but first some maintenance. So we swap stories and you know what, we are not the only poor suckers in the world to have loads go wrong. It is a comforting thought and I feel much better now. Simon then sets about fixing the clutch and no I can’t tell you the technical term. But after some time the self taught mechanic triumphs once again. And what may you ask is Nicole doing while poor Simon does all the hard work? Well writing to you dear people of course, that and getting rid of my braids!

Thursday is overcast and perfect weather to change round all the tires, putting the good ones on the back (takes most of the wear), second best on the front and the worn ones for spares. We are having some problems with the fridge but that is an entire episode all together and I will get Simon to write about that one. But we need a new battery so he goes shopping and I spend 5 hours in the Internet café updating the site. When Simon meets me at the café he is all wet, apparently it has been pouring all afternoon and I did not even realize. Back at Ryan’s and the boys are back from the Cape coast. They did some touring while waiting for their visa. They are very please with Ryan’s as they have maintenance stuff to do to like oil changes and it is the perfect setup to do it in. So we did some proper catching up about who has been where. JW says that being at Ryan’s is like being in England, overcast and raining outside, sky sports and news and pints of beer inside.

Friday and we buy a new battery so hopefully our fridge will work properly now. We leave JW changing his oil; well he started to when Simon said that his oil is very clean. Looks good for another 6000km. On closer inspection they smelt diesel and realized that he was draining his fuel tank not his engine – oops! So we left a very sheepish JW to go and collect the visas and head off to Cape coast for the weekend for a little holiday. We drove to a place called Anomaba just before the Cape coast. It is a beach resort on the beach. There are palm trees everywhere and you camp on the beach sand. By the time we arrive it was dark and what they do is hang hurricane lamps on the palms. So you arrive in the dark to the welcoming sound of the surf and little lights on all the trees. It is a beautiful introduction to a really special spot. Up in the restaurant and the service is excellent and the food good. It is a roofed deck without sides on stilts that reach onto the beach. Yes it is as good as it sounds and we are very happy there.

In the morning we are woken to the sound of sweeping as the staff sweep the entire camp wiping away all yesterdays’ footprints. The place is spotless and the showers are clean and great. We are going to play tourist today and start off by visiting the Cape coast (next village) where they have a gramophone museum and archives of old Ghanaian High life (what they call their music) music. These from the Ghanaian recording studios. We get there to find the proprietor missing but he will be back so we decide to visit the castle / fort in the mean time. Just as we get there we hear something is loose, the rear shock absorber is loose and we have lost the nut and bushes. Simon removes it and we go look for help. At the Mobil garage a nice guy takes Simon to where the bolt can be rethreaded – it had stripped and that is why the bolt worked loose. He then helped him to refit it and did not ask for anything, nice to be helped because you need it. Then back to the museum (3rd time) for a great visit.

This was right up Simon’s alley, they have a grant to digitalize all the old records and so save them for the future. The guy running it took us round and showed us the old gramophones, the record archives and where they are doing the transferring onto digital. Had this been in SA I would have lost Simon just there. Most of the day was gone by the time we were finished and we were just too tired to play tourist anymore and headed back to Anomaba.

Putting on costumes we hit the surf, big waves greeted us and you had to pay attention or be knocked flying. They have boogie boards that you can use to body surf with, giving one to Simon I tell him what to do and head out to get myself one. Coming back I notice he is drifting to the left and I shout to him to come to the right. Then I notice he is not catching any waves and realize that I should go help him get the knack of this body boarding thing. After putting my board on the beach I head back in, Simon is out in the swells now and there are no waves to catch, on my way in I am sent back by the two lifeguards who are on their way out to Simon. They saw he was in trouble and out they swim. They bring him across and to the right where the waves are so that he can surf in. I’m on the beach praying and watching then the little girl next to me says to her friend; “look there is a man drowning” boy that did not help one bit! But those two guys helped Simon out and brought him to me; we were then given a well-deserved lecture on beach safety. Two shocked people returned to their tent that day and we had to just sit a bit and recover. Dinner that night was a sedated affair and we went to be early, too much excitement for one day.

Sunday and we are not going anywhere, there are sun beds on the beach and after breakfast we settle down under the umbrella. And there we spend our entire day, me removing braids (yes still) and Simon reading. He found a book in the hotel bookshelf and so has to finish it today. Did we swim? No! We just say and enjoyed the breeze, view and when another chap got into the same trouble as Simon and those two lifeguards had to go get him, well that kind of stopped any plans of swimming for good.

Now, Mom and Dad Angling your son is fine and much the wiser – so is his wife. Our relaxed day ended with a great dinner and we have enjoyed our little holiday. Early tomorrow we will head back to Accra but for now we will just go to sleep under the palm trees to the sound of rain.

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