Bypassing the red tape in Conakry

The flight on an “Royal Air Maroc” plane from Banjul to Conakry was short and comfortable. Well, as comfortable as it gets, leaving in the middle of the night and arriving in the wee hours at Conakry airport. Yes, we had our visas, didn’t have any duty-free items over the limit. So, our expectation was to clear the administrative wall swiftly upon arrival. Well, almost… Just before exit to the luggage belt, we spotted a lady in a nurse uniform, who checked the yellow-fever certificate of all arriving passengers. This was fine with me, since I had the required document. But Evgeny whispered to me that he had no such certificate.

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Last ferry to Banjul

Most of the people know The Gambia due to its funny shape on the map. Located on the West-African coast, with only one neighbouring country – Senegal, that encompasses The Gambia in the North, East and South. In fact, the country is basically a beautiful stretch of land about 10km wide on each side at the shores of  the Gambia river. While being in the capital city of Banjul, Evgeny and I knew that we needed to organize a few things before we could move on to the next country.

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The dark side of Dakar

Armed with a couple of visas, Evgeny and I decided to do a small West-Africa trip around the Year End holiday season. The planning and organisation of the trip came with a few challenges and we knew in advance that quite some flexibility is required in Africa as things never go as planned. Our plane ticket set the start and end point for our trip in the town of Dakar, Senegal. Consequently, this defined our itinerary: Driving overland in clockwise direction from Senegal to Mali to Nigeria and along the West-African coast back to Senegal. We knew that this was an ambitious plan, but we kept an open mind in terms of changing the route, as long as we could manage to visit Mali – our main focus for this trip.

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Vilnius and historical curiosities

Hill of Crosses

After a six hour drive coming from Pärnu (Estonia), I arrived in the middle of a traffic jam in the old town of Vilnius (Lithuania). What a change of culture! Yes, I liked Riga in Latvia – and I enjoyed Tallinn in Estonia. But Vilnius in Lithuania felt quite different. It’s a whole world apart from the other places I visited earlier during my Baltic road trip. Actually, I am quite happy to have visited the cities in the present order.
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Fined in the fine city of Tallinn

Downtown Tallinn

The first stop in Estonia was the small city of Tartu where I stayed overnight. Distances are small in the Baltic states, which is a key advantage since this leaves plenty of room to cover many places and still have enough time to visit and relax. Tartu was one such place. Being the second largest city of Estonia, there are plenty of cafes, book stores – and students. In fact, the national University of Estonia is located here. Founded back in 1632, it is considered to be one of the oldest universities in Northern Europe. No wonder, Tartu is being considered the intellectual center of Estonia.
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Riga and the last night of freedom

Clocktower in Riga

Riga, capital city of Latvia is easily reached by plane, since it has the largest airport of the three Baltic states. This obviously draws attention of budget airlines and the associated influx of tourists who choose their travel destination by price. When Ryan Air started to fly to Riga, the city became a major destination for hen and stag parties. The number of Irish and British tourist groups celebrating the last night of freedom in the city center is stunning.
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Petra, passion in the desert

Corinthian Palace at Petra

After crossing the border from Syria, I first arrived in Amman, Jordan for a quick change of buses. Finding the bus was quite easy at the Amman bus terminal. A few hours later I arrived in Petra where I spent three days wandering around tombs, palaces, temples and other ruins like Indiana Jones.

Going back to Amman was very straight forward, too. After talking to the bus driver, he agreed to drop me off at the airport turnoff, so that I could avoid the unnecessary round-trip to downtown Amman.

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