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The value of your travels does not hinge on how many stamps you have in your passport when you get home -- and the slow nuanced experience of a single country is always better than the hurried, superficial experience of forty countries. - Rolf Potts

8 October 2019, Yendi to Tamale, 101.81km
Clinton Lodge 70GHC (R195)  


If you could bottle the feeling spawned by the extraordinary beauty of the green of the grass that grows along the verges between Yendi and Tamale, you will have bottled happiness. It is a fresh green tinged with gold, full of light and life and promise. It changes colour as it moves in the breeze and as the sun catches it. It is a wonder to behold and sustained me on this long ride.
It poured with rain in the night and again in the early hours of the morning, but when we left Yendi under an overcast sky, the rain had reduced to just a spit and a spot. It remained cloudy and cool all day - such a relief.
The road, though not perfect, was easy to ride, the inclines and declines all manageable. On the 100km distance we both gained and lost around 500 vertical metres. Could one argue, therefore, that essentially it was a flat ride? You might define it as such from the comfort of a car, but from the seat of a bike you are, of course, conscious of even minor changes in elevation, so no.
We had bought last night some barbecued meat from a man who turned the meat by hand and selected our portions by hand and wrapped these in a corner torn from newspaper before double-bagging them in plastic. This we had for breakfast. We had also treated ourselves to shortbread biscuits and Mentos sweets, a rare find at a Bonjour shop at the Total garage. These made great snacks on the road, supplemented by more barbecued meat, this time on homemade skewers.
We cycled past rice growing green in flat fields dotted with trees. And wetlands filled with the rowdy song of frogs. And past birds of a vivid orange. We passed through villages of mud hut compounds where villagers pumped water at the communal pump and women sold food from makeshift stalls and men sat beneath shady structures, chatting, and cattle rested. On several occasions today we saw a politician or diplomat passing by, his passing heralded by a blue-light autocycle, a third vehicle flashing emergency lights bringing up the rear.
Goats, roaming free, enliven our days. We know we are approaching a village when we see goats on the road, either wondering about or dozing on the warm tar. The little ones sleep with their heads tucked at an odd angle on their feet, dreaming their dreams. They seem unconcerned about passing traffic, which toots a warning and takes care. You see them even in cities like Yendi. This morning found them taking shelter from the damp and cool on the porches of homes and businesses. On their tippy toes, they huddle in a corner or, more often, stand on top of a wall, longing for mountains.
In one village we earned a reprimand for photographing a pair of trees. Two baobabs growing close together there, have so perfectly shared out the space above their trunks, that they appear to be one. We parked our bikes and took our photos until interrupted by a man in a striped T-shirt. Essentially he argued that we should first have asked for the village chief, introduced ourselves and explained our “mission”, then asked for permission to photograph the trees. Charl and I try to honour local customs, but really? Perhaps the horrible wound and swelling on his lower leg made this particular citizen more than usually curmudgeonly…
On the outskirts of Tamale, a city of 230,000, we passed an old man on an old sit-up-and-beg bicycle. The bike was heavily-laden with wood from the countryside. It had no gears and was clearly not an easy ride. The old man cycled, as do most in Africa, with his heels on the pedals, toes turned outwards. Each pedal-stroke was a laboured push, a slow grind up the incline. Passing him, I caught a glimpse of his old face, mouth strained. Passing him filled me with a vague and irrational guilt. Don’t romanticise poverty - life is tough out here.
At the Clinton Lodge, chosen for its reasonable price and location close to where we entered town, we saw a young woman pounding yam, also known as fufu. I asked if I could try it. It is as hard a job as it looks!

For today's route see below photos
For overview route, click on ROUTE tab above…


Yendi to Tamale
Yendi to Tamale
Yendi to Tamale
Yendi to Tamale
Yendi to Tamale
Yendi to Tamale
Yendi to Tamale
Yendi to Tamale
Yendi to Tamale
Yendi to Tamale
Yendi to Tamale
Yendi to Tamale
Yendi to Tamale
Yendi to Tamale
Yendi to Tamale
Yendi to Tamale
Yendi to Tamale
Yendi to Tamale
Yendi to Tamale
Yendi to Tamale
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