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Gary is currently in Toronto, ON (Sep 21st, 2014)
 

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Day 28, West Africa Cruise – Dakhla, Western Sahara


Latitude: 23° 50.5338′ N
Longitude: 15° 51.4997′ W

No one knew what to expect in Western Sahara. Last year, the West Africa trip ended in Senegal, so even the staff didn’t know what to expect. It isn’t a place that most people even know about, and the name doesn’t really lend itself to much more than sand.

Before I get into the details of what we did, however, I think a bit of backstory about Western Sahara is in order.
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Day 26-27, West Africa Cruise – At Sea, Off the coast of Mauritania

Latitude: 21° 05.20′ N
Longitude: 17° 51.30′ W

As the cruise is winding down, I thought it was worth it to take a moment to talk about the passengers on the ship.

Prior to boarding the ship in Cape Town, I suspected that the other passengers would be well traveled people. West Africa isn’t the sort of trip a first time traveler takes.

My suspicions were right.
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Day 25, West Africa Cruise – Dakar, Senegal

Latitude: 14° 41.7956’ N
Longitude: 17° 27.9840’ W

In Senegal, we were given two different options. The first was to visit the Bandia Reserve and have lunch at the Pink Lake. The second option was a tour of the city and a trip to Goree Island.

As Goree Island is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and one of the first dozen in the world at that, there was no way I could pass that up.

The day started in central Dakar where the government buildings are located. This part of Dakar is one of the nicest areas we’ve seen on the entire trip and was on a par, or surpassed, Accra, Ghana. It had the feel of a French Colonial city and was quite clean. Unlike what we found in Sao Tome and other countries, you could take actually photos of the guards in front of the presidential palace!
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Day 24, West Africa Cruise – Banjul, The Gambia

Mangrove forest in The GambiaLatitude: 13° 18.1922’ N
Longitude: 16° 36.9651’ W

The Gambia is the smallest non-island country in Africa. It is also one the rare countries which borders only one other country: Senegal. In fact, on a map, The Gambia looks like a finger being stuck down the throat of Senegal (if you don’t believe me, go look at a map!)

Carved from the area immediately surrounding both banks of the Gambia river by the British, the Gambia marks a significant turn for the trip. From our previous stop in Sierra Leone, we’ve moved closer to the Sahara. The population is significantly (but not yet exclusively) Muslim, the landscape is drier and, unlike Sierra Leone, The Gambia actually has tourists.
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Amateur Traveler Interview – St. Helena

For a record 8th time, I’ve had the pleasure of joining my This Week in Travel co-host Chris Christensen on the Amateur Traveler podcast. Similar to my past appearances, the topic dealt with very small places. This time we talked about my recent trip to the island of St. Helena, located 1,500 miles off the coast of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean.

Amateur Traveler Episode 417 – Travel to Saint Helena

May 2014 Desktop Wallpaper

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This month’s image is of a fishing village near the Cape Coast Castel in Ghana. It was taken during my West Coast tour from Cape Town to Morocco on the G Expedition.

Day 23, West Africa Cruise – At Sea off the Coast of Guinea and Guinea-Bissau

Today marked an important milestone in the trip. Today we rounded the southwest corner of the Guinea region of Africa and started heading north.

For the last 2-weeks, since we left the cold Benguela current, the water temperature has been hovering around 30°C. Regardless of air temperature, when the ship is in a bath of hot water, it becomes difficult to cool down the vessel. This is especially true for a ship that is designed for the polar regions.

From Angola to Sierra Leone, you could notice the increased temperatures in all the public areas of the ship. Once we rounded Guinea-Bissau, however, the water temperature dropped dramatically. The sea temperature went from 30°C to 25°C. Everyone on board could tell when the water temperature dropped. It was a great feeling.

In addition to sailing in cooler waters, we are now also entering a very different part of Africa. The stretch from Angola to Sierra Leone was very green, more densely populated, with a Christian/Animist population. Now we are entering a drier region: the Sahel. Beyond that is the even drier Sahara Desert.

This is also the beginning of the last leg of the trip. We’ve now traveled about 3/4 of the total distance we will be sailing. From here we also only have 4 more stops before we arrive in Morocco: Gambia, Senegal, Western Sahara and the Canary Islands.

We’ve done so much, it seems like I’ve been on the ship much longer than 3 weeks. I’ve been trying to upload a few images from each country, but I have several hundred to upload once I get on land. I’m really proud of some of the photos I’ve taken the last 3-weeks. It is some of my best work ever, especially my photos of people.

Tomorrow we arrive in the Gambia, the smallest country on the physical continent of Africa.

Next Stop: Banjul, The Gambia

Day 22, West Africa Cruise – Freetown, Sierra Leone

Latitude: 8° 14.4182’ N
Longitude: 13° 09.7768’ W

For the first time on the trip, we woke up in the same place we were the day before: Freetown, Sierra Leone.

We were supposed to be in Guinea-Bissau today, but for reasons only known to them, they would not let us land. So, to compensate for the extra day in the schedule, we stayed an extra day in Freetown.

The passengers on the ship had two options for the morning today: 1) visit an orphanage and present them with a gift of school supplies, or 2) go on a birdwatching tour of a near by nature preserve.

I went with option #1, the orphanage visit.
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Day 21, West Africa Cruise – Freetown, Sierra Leone

Latitude: 8° 25.1932’ N
Longitude: 13° 12.38.52’ W

I had no idea what to expect when I visited Sierra Leone. The only thing you hear about Sierra Leone was its civil war which took place in the 1990’s and the horrific crimes which were committed. Children being used as soldiers, amputation as a form of terror, wanton killing, enslaving people to work in diamond mines and systematic rape.

Prior to our arrival, we had a lecture on Sierra Leone and watched several documentaries about the war and its aftermath. It left you feeling sorry for the place before you even arrived.
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Day 19-20, West Africa Cruise – At Sea, Off of the Coast of Liberia and the Ivory Coast

Latitude: 7° 00.8041′ N
Longitude: 12° 40.7239′ W

I’ve decided to combine these two days at sea because there was little which differentiated them, and because we have just gotten past the meatiest part of the trip. From Sao Tome to Ghana, we had 6 stops in 7 days, with only 1 day at sea.

From here, we have 2 days at sea to reach Sierra Leone, another day at sea to reach Gambia/Senegal, and a few more after that before we arrive in Morocco.

I thought this would be a good time to talk about life abroad the ship and the ways that the West Africa Cruise differs from when the Expedition is in the polar regions.
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