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Family camping & homeschooling adventure in Africa.  Sahara Desert crossing with children in Jeep & tent trailer.  Travel in Morocco, Algeria, Niger, Nigeria, Ghana, & west coast. Exploring, safari, backcountry, backroads, overlanders.
The Blickley Family's
African Camping
We are in the process of updating our African story and photos
(Page three)
    When traveling in the desert there are very few opportunities to see green vegetation and even fewer opportunities to purchase and eat fresh vegetables.  When we came to a small oasis in Niger we saw these beautiful young people carrying vegetables from their garden.  When we came next to them and saw what they were carrying, we asked if they were interested in trading their fresh food for caned food.  Since they were in an area without refrigeration, canned food was something that was very valuable.  Without any bargaining, we made a trade that made both of very happy.


We saw cotton stored on the ground in piles, carried in large bags on donkeys , and loaded on trucks getting ready for shipment to market.

Here a young man was weaving cloth outside his house next to the road

In Niger we saw water obtained from open wells with ropes and pails. 

   When we reached Kano, Nigeria we found a camping spot adjacent to a racially integrated country club complete with a swimming pool.  As visitors entered the Kano Club they were confronted by a bulletin board with a large notice that said: "Overlanders are not allowed to jump into the swimming pool with their clothes on".  This club was like a heavenly retreat from the hot, dry, dusty environment in the surrounding city of Kano, and especially after the experience of crossing the 2000 miles of the Sahara Desert from Algers, Algeria.  When a person traveling from the Sahara first saw the beautiful the swimming pool, it was a great invitation to immediately jump into it to cool off. 
    There was a vacant, unkept piece of land near the Kano Club that travelers who were traveling and camping through Africa were allowed to set up camp. There were no sanitary facilities (only scrub bushes to squat or stand behind) or water supplies for those camped there. We were glad to have portable toilets, and a water storage, treatment system in our tent camper. We stayed there for a week while we recovered  from almost complete exhaustion, and wrote a log of our experiences.
    While in Europe we made our pilgrimage through the Netherlands where we could almost feel the spirit of some of our ancestors.  There we saw many of the customs practiced by our grandparents still being practiced in Grand Rapids. One of the reasons for our trip to Africa was to visit the ancestral homeland of our many friends and neighbors.  We saw many people and customs here that also resembled many of those in Grand Rapids.
      While in Kano we not only visited and enjoyed the Kano Club, we also experienced similar conditions as most of the local population while we camped on the vacant land near the club, preparing and eating food that we purchased in the local open market.  We camped in Kano for two weeks trying to regain our energy after our difficult desert crossing.

While in Kano we visited much of the city and saw children being taught on the sidewalk outside the school building to get away from the heat. 
    We were especially impressed by the discipline of the children and the lack of educational materials used by both the teacher and students. 

    In the photo below, the school children were having a Track & Field competition before we stopped near them on the road to take a photo.  Before we prepared to photograph them, all the children and their teachers were in the typical organized formations to do track and field events.  When they saw us stopped nearby, we became the event to watch and all their careful organization came apart.  I'm sure the teachers didn't appreciate our presence, but the kids did.  After we took this photo we went down the street a few yards and got permission to set up our camper and began to prepare supper and repair some things that needed attention.  Although we were away from the school athletic field, The kids didn't let us get away from their attention.  Many of the kids followed us to where we had set up our equipment and surrounded us to see what we were doing.  Since we had experience with children with nothing to do back home, we knew that we had to direct their attention unless we wanted to have them cause some mischief or stir up unwanted, unhelpful excitement.  Therefore, we asked them if they ever sang any songs in school.  When they proudly told us that they did, we invited them to sing for us.  They then sang several songs like they were on a stage in front of their parents.  It was such a joy to see and hear these young children sing.  However, the children were so congregated around our camping site that adults, in the background who were curious, couldn't see what we were doing and finally drove the kids away with switches after a while, so that their view of this unusual foreign camping event was not obstructed by the children. 


     When entering the continent of Africa from Morocco and Algeria through the Sarah Desert and into the area inhabited by people of dark skin, we were impressed with the personal cleanliness of the people.  Even though the country is dusty and most of the homes are made of dried mud and other material that is difficult to clean and easily makes people dirty,   the people emerge spotlessly clean,  many women, men and children are dressed in pure white dresses and brilliant colors.  The U.S. manufacturers of detergents would do well to film these people as testimonials to the effectiveness of laundry detergents in an unfavorable environment.  Even living in an American tent camper, we had great difficulty getting and keeping clean and presentable.

      Nigeria, West Africa, like the US, is supplied with food and other supplies by truck over many roads.  Many trucks stop for fuel out of 50 gallon metal drums.  The drivers find parts and get repairs from many one person repair shops in small villages.  We saw drivers sleeping under their trucks and eating meals near their vehicles.  Many trucks were being repaired on the pavement at the edge of the roads, and several trucks had their drivers waiting for repair parts to be delivered from cities far from there. Even though people could purchase bread and most processed food in a market of small shops, there were many people who processed their own food after growing it in their own garden or purchasing the raw food and processing it themselves to save money.  Notice the lady sifting grain above, like in the Bible.  In the background, not very visible in this photo, are telephone/electric power poles and a paved road. 

In the South of Nigeria the country gets much greener and agriculturally, and materially more productive. That allows more wealth that is expressed
 in more substantial material wealth urban neighborhoods in Lagos.

Although there are modern grocery stores and large open markets, there were many independent merchants setting up shop outside their homes
along the busy streets of Lagos.

     Outside Lagos Nigeria there is the popular Victoria Beach where people camping through West Africa and fisher people from Ghana who set up a temporary small village/encampment.  We camped along side the fisher families there for two weeks while we applied for visas to Ghana, Dahomey, Togo, Ivory Coats and Liberia.  While our family camped among the Ghanaian families of the fishermen, we swam in the ocean for two weeks.

Many people from Lagos came to Victoria Beach during the evening to enjoy the cool breeze and the beautiful romantic scenery

While camping on the African the coast our sons enjoyed copying what they saw
some local adults do to get fresh coconuts.

After we obtained the visas necessary for out continued travel, we headed West along the African Coast.

 We camped in the parking lot outside the Y.M.C.A. in Accra, Ghana where there was a trade school teaching construction skills.  It was at this location that we heard the male students gather each morning and sing like a professional choir.  It was at this location, on a  Palm Sunday morning, that we witnessed hundreds of children and their church leaders march together carrying palm branches down the street passing our camp site in the YMCA parking lot singing Christian songs related to the Biblical story in John 12: 12 - 19
    Abijan, Ivory Coast is the most beautiful city that we have seen in both  the US, Europe, and Africa.  The city has buildings that were designed with a lot of imagination and with beautiful material.  The city is built along the ocean with modern highways and wonderful trees and shrubs making a park-like appearance nearly everywhere.  A very unusual experience for us here in this tropical climate was our visit to an ice skating pavilion with Japanese style landscaping.

   From here we continued our travel West to Liberia.  On our way to Liberia, we traveled through cultivated the forests of rubber trees managed by the Firestone Company.  There were mile after mile of carefully kept trees that were maintained by the Ivory Coast families.  These families lived in small village/encampments that consisted of houses made of grass and mud.  The people were cooking over open fires and were carrying their water from some distance away from their homes.  It was sobering for us to see the people who made it possible for us to drive by in a modern Jeep, on Firestone tires living in such difficult primitive circumstances.  Today you could say that they are the world's 99%, and that we are the 1%. 
    While driving in the Ivory Coast, we were stopped by the police/army at a check point looking for untaxed material.  It was here that we met another family who were missionaries living and ministering not far away from this check point.  After visiting with these Christian missionaries in the line of people backed up by the police, we decided to visit their place of ministry and discuss their wanting to buy the tent camper that we were living in, that we would soon not need anymore.         
     When we got to their home we collapsed from fatigue!  LaVerne could hardly get out of bed once we stopped and didn't have to travel.  We were lovingly fed and cared for by this missionary family until we were able to continue on to Liberia without our tent trailer that we sold to this family.   After we returned to Grand Rapids, we continued to communicate with this family and once they came to Grand Rapids and had a picnic with us.
    Crossing the boarder into Liberia was a trying experience!  At the boarder the officials questioned why we didn't have the trailer that was noted on some of our official papers.  The Ivory Coast boarder officials began to demand that we return 500 miles to Abijan, and get this one problem with our papers corrected.  We don't remember how we explained this situation we did point out that all our papers were otherwise in order and LaVerne was very weak and sick and needed to get some medical help.  We spent a lot of time at this small boarder in the forest that just had a small pole across the road to hold us back.  We could see Liberia only a few feet away, and returning 500 miles was not what we wanted to do with our family without our camping equipment that we had just given to the missionaries.  After several hours of pleading our case the officials finally got tired of us, raised the small wooden pole and let us cross into Liberia.  
     When we finally crossed the boarder into Liberia we saw a national flag that looked a lot like the US flag and found that their national currency was the American Dollar, and the official language is English.  We expected to be in a country that would make us comfortable with their culture.  However as soon as we applied for a visitors pass for our vehicle, we were asked for bribes and found ourselves arguing for a receipt and finally accepting the reality that to proceed, we would have to pay the official.  Because of the income and privilege gap between the Europeans and local Liberian, Africans, we got that hostel look and body language from the African Liberians like we got during the 1960s from many African Americans who also were being discriminated against by people who have our skin color.  
    After getting our official papers we then traveled to the company town of Bong Mine, a company town that has a lot of similarities to an American town with all the extras of bowling, fast food restaurants, horse back riding, and a golf course.  To enter the town the traveler had to pass a guarded gate like one at a large company in the United States.  The vehicle ahead of us was stopped and asked for identification.  As we approached the dark skinned, African guard, we expected to get some type of hassle, but we were waved on.  We thought that our vehicle and pale skin must have been our pass into the company town. 
     The mining company has special housing units for African workers built a lot like a one story motel that we were able to arrange to live in during our week stay there, and eat in the company cafeteria.  The great part of this housing was that it had AIR CONDITIONING!
    While at Bong Mine Town we were able to make arrangements to sell out Jeep to a mining employee, and then take a taxi to Monrovia , where we bought airline tickets that took us home to the US.