Day 135 – Guinea-Bissau, a much needed rest day
A marathon in every country in the world for @prostatecanceruk and a non-running day!
Here’s a little sneak peak at the video of my journey from The Gambia to Guinea-Bissau a couple of days ago. Check out the full video on @vimeo (just Google ‘Vimeo Nick Butter’). Share it if you like it. Comment if you want to see more.
Today was hot from about 8am. I managed to doze back off to dream land and sleep till 10 ish.
So today I did virtually nothing. Lots of admin bits and pieces, but other than that, it was a day lying down. As you would have read from yesterday’s run, I needed today to rest. Blooming tired.
The food here is the worst since North Korea. Regardless, I was hungry, so I ordered a few bits and pieces and then napped. I watched some Gavin and Stacey (Season 1, classic), and managed to fall asleep, again. I obviously needed it. Waking up, I went through my usual routine of packing. I isolated the hand luggage items like my satphone, iPhones, lap top, chargers etc, took my clothes in from drying in the sun, and then had one final shower and cleanse of the day. It was so humid that I was sticky again in minutes, but the clean feeling was good while it lasted.
Other than sleeping I was fairly productive. I wrote a little of my sample chapter for the book publishers, edited a video of my journey from The Gambia, and even found time to read a book I found in Katie’s bookshop in The Gambia, Timbooktu. The book is called The World in Conflict. I bought it to learn why these weird and wonderful places are like they are. I should really learn something rather than just doing a bit of jogging.
Tomorrow is an early 3.50am alarm for a 4am transfer towards my final destination of Ivory Coast, after a long eight-hour layover in Senegal (the place where I was stranded this time last week). I just hope I can find a non-concrete floor to sleep on.
I hope you enjoyed the little video. It certainly was a day to remember.
Day 136 – Guinea-Bissau to Ivory Coast
On to my next country, once again. The days are shrinking, my tiredness is increasing and it’s time I had more than one full day in a country. I’ll have to wait a bit though. It’s late and I’ve just arrived from Guinea-Bissau, to here, my home for two nights, in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
One of the many aspects to this trip is visas – I need about 90 throughout the two-year mission. I’m juggling multiple passports and have fantastic support from Universal Visa Services based in London, who sort out all my visa needs. And as you’ve probably read, I have to pop home every now and then to get fingerprints done, provide bank statements and even visit Embassies in person. Blah blah blah… There’s a lot to it. Universal Visa Services take all the pain away that they can. Thanks guys. The reason I mention this is because Ivory Coast seems to do things differently, and I am amazed at the inconsistencies of airports. Anyway, that’s a rant for another day…
After a long day of flying I queued for about an hour to get to the Immigration booth. I was almost last in line. As I reached the window, the official took one look at me and said, “Follow me.” Despite having a visa, an electronic visa, all the foreigners were ushered like cattle to what was effectively a deli counter-style queuing system. We all needed to have our fingerprints taken and our electronic visas printed and stuck in our passports. What was the point in getting the visa ahead of time, I thought? Anyway, hours passed and the numbers slowly ticked over. I woke up from a slumped seat in the corner of the cattle market (not dissimilar in cleanliness). I was number 106. We were only at number 86, and the time it took per person increased as staff slowly finished for the day. By the time I left I was very grumpy and my bag had been dumped in a corner with an air con unit dripping on to it. It’s safe to say I’d welcome a nice, clean, tidy, polite, Gatwick queue any day. In just eight hours I need to be running again. Bring it on. #Yawn. I’d better dry my bag out before bed though.
Day 137 – Ivory Coast, Marathon 45
There were good bits and bad bits about today. Running was hard, hot and utterly dull. A long straight road for 13 miles, and then a turn-around and back. Nothing to look at, and the heat was brutal. Come on body, hurry up and adjust. The beautiful guesthouse I was staying in, though, was so great it took the edge off. The kind owner Izabella had not only allowed me to stay there for free, but also provided me with fruit, a lovely little note, and even washed my sweaty clothes. The staff were also lovely – Villa Oasis is the place to stay if you go to Abidjan. Thanks to the staff for making me some much needed grub. Still no fresh milk, but hey, I had fresh pastries and orange juice. Izabella also collects amazing local art. Brilliant. I wanted an ornament, but settled for a small magnet instead.
On today’s run I mostly saw road and dust – literally nothing else to report. They can’t all be interesting, eh. Despite the lack of excitement on the run, it is all part of the experience, so thanks to everyone who’s supported on this one. Once again I had a patient driver.
Tomorrow I have a super-early start to get to Guinea, where I’m yet to know where I’m staying. Another sleepy-eyed morning.
Thanks for all the support. I feel like my body and mind need a rest. Pleeeeasse.
Day 138 – Ivory Coast to Guinea, and breaking out the satphone for the first time
Arriving into Guinea it was early afternoon and the streets were busy. As always I opened up my calendar to find where I was staying. With so little time between countries I don’t even look before arriving. My team do a great job sorting this out for me. Maybe I should look ahead, though – today, the calendar hadn’t updated and I was left without credit, a signal, any local money, and no idea of where I should try and get to. In these countries I tend to have a driver to collect me from the airport – they are often free through the hotel as a security thing. After some time wondering if I should just jump in a cab and find a hotel with Wi-Fi and go from there, I decided to use the satphone. I take this phone everywhere with me. At great expense, it’s there as a back-up and works in 90% of the world. I sat in the heat outside and fired it up. It took a while to get a signal, but eventually I got hold of the team. 20 minutes later a driver had arrived and all was sorted. I learnt my lesson, and I now know the phone works.
The hotel was actually 6km away, but took about two hours to get there due to stupidly busy traffic – motorbikes, tuk-tuks and people travelling in all directions. The sound of car horns is now starting to ‘grind my gears’, as they say in Bristol. Constant, pointless tooting. Anyway, I finally arrived at the hotel.
I eventually managed to get to bed at about 10pm. I had to arrange for a driver for the morning to keep me safe from traffic and to provide me with water. This was fine, except everything is done on Africa time. The driver took a long time to organise, and we finally agreed a price. I fell straight to sleep without even changing. I woke up in a pool of sweat; I’d forgotten to turn the air con on.
Today was not the easiest of travel days, and I’m extremely lacking in food and energy. Tomorrow is going to be a hard slog.
Day 139 – Guinea, Marathon 46
Hard, hot and sweaty! I am, of course, talking about my 46th marathon today. Picture this: narrow dusty roads with large, deep, dug-out drains each side, single-lane traffic, but with four lanes of cars and motorbikes. Each side of the road lined with street traders, selling anything from moonshine to wooden beds; everyone dirty and hustling for business. The midday sun bouncing off the road and onto my face and body. It was like an oven. Piles of burning rubbish at almost every turn. Goats, sheep, dogs and cows roaming the streets, scrounging for food, thin and skeletal. The endless drone of car horns and motorbike engines weaving slowly through the traffic. Deep-voiced African men shouting to be heard over the noise of the traffic. Women carrying food on their heads. Actually, they carry everything on their heads.
And the smell. Oh, the smell! At one point today it got too much. I was sick. The drains are no longer dug-outs but deep mounds of human effluence, rubbish and filth. Burned-out cars and dead animals. Are you getting the picture? Then here’s little old me, slowly trotting through, around and over these various sights and smells. Every now and then I raise my hand and my driver pulls over and I lean in to fetch water. Dripping with sweat and in need of a shower, I was filthy by the end. What a day, what a run. I’m sure there will be many more like this. It will be nice to run again without cars bumping into me and feeling the motorbikes’ wing mirrors come scarily close to hitting me.
Ugh, dragging my tired and sore body out of bed was one of the hardest so far, and it got worse as the day went on. On the plus side it wasn’t an early start, only about 8am. Due to the very heavy traffic in the early morning and evening we had a middle-of-the-day window where it was possible for the driver to follow me without sitting in traffic the whole time. Well, that was the plan. It turned out there was still loads of traffic, but it was better than it would have been.
Day 140 – Guinea to Sierra Leone
Warning ⚠, this begins with a RANT. It’s fair to say that I am overtired, physically and mentally drained, and I woke up this morning at 3.30am in order to sit in an empty airport for two hours with no food or air con. Oh, and to make matters worse, I’m writing this on my fourth plane journey of the day and I’m still five hours from reaching my final destination. And here comes the rant. Apologies to anyone it offends; if it does, you are most likely guilty of this too! #tough
Why do some people think it’s acceptable to play music from their phone on speaker mode, ON A PLANE?! No, you inconsiderate arses – don’t just sit there like you’re the king of crap hip hop with your gold chain and fake Dr Martin boots. Look around you, your fellow passengers do not wish to join in and bop their heads to your ‘sick beat’. The fact of the matter is, your gold chain is yellow plastic, and maybe, just maybe, other people have other music tastes, like classical, or blues, or perhaps SILENCE! I’M TRYING TO SLEEP!
I’d like to point out that this fine specimen of a man is wearing a fantastically apt oversized vest with the phrase ‘f***ing shut up’ plastered across the front and back. Please do! At least this made me smile. Part of me wishes he is conducting some experiment to see if anyone challenges him. Most of me fears he’s just an arse.
Talking of being challenged, the man behind me tapped me on the shoulder earlier and asked me to move my seat to the upright position. When I say asked, I actually mean he reached around, pushed the button on my armrest, shoved my chair upright and said “I need more room.” How polite. Obviously being me I apologised and sat, uncomfortable, for an hour. I turned around a while later and he was sleeping soundly. At least my discomfort was worth it.
While most people on our fine planet make me smile at the greatness of humanity, some simply don’t.
Something that also happened on this oddly eventful flight involved an old Asian man to my left. He finished the fantastically disgusting plane food and then began to wrap each item of ‘crockery’ in torn-off magazine pages. No more space for more…
Day 141 – Sierra Leone, overland to official marathon bib pick-up
Late yesterday evening, after arriving into Freetown, we had some drinks on the balcony of Gen’s lovely little home. Her mates were super-fun and equally welcoming. They drank; I drank water. The whole not drinking thing is actually really great. Enjoying it, although I do fancy a glass of Malbec. Be strong Nicholas!
After a tasty breakfast early this morning we headed to Makeni. Makeni is about three hours from Freetown by car and the home of my mate Gen for the past year. She’s a doctor in a children’s hospital and has some pretty heart-hurting stories to tell! #legend!
Fiona and Chris, who by the end of today I can class as my new friends, drove us the few hours to the hot little town of Makeni. Surrounded by mountains, this inland basin captures the heat and is substantially warmer than Freetown. Great fun on the journey and the scenery was so lush. I mean that in every sense. I was seeing green trees and bushes rather than brown dust and rubbish.
Thanks to Street Child for giving me a free place in their official marathon. We arrived and I introduced myself to some of the team and mingled a while. I collected my bib, had some more chats and bumped into a few folk I know from home (small world, eh). I settled down to watch some amputee football. These guys were better than most footballers I’ve seen. All played with one leg, and the goalie with one arm. Mouth wide open moment.
We went to a local bar called the Clubhouse where the running gang was gathering for the pre-race day briefing. We met up with some more of Gen’s friends, watched the Champions League Final and then headed to bed. Such great chats with some awesome people! I love the running community, but Gen’s mates are so fun. The small group of locals, NGO workers and medics are all so lovely.
This evening I’m writing this in the guesthouse of the Magbenteh Community Hospital. Gen spent a year working here, and once again I’m surrounded by lovely welcoming people in the most basic of settings. And once again I’m reminded of how lucky I am.
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