Tuesday, 29 June 2010

More Overlanders

As I've mentioned before, I've already met some Overlanders in Togo who have driven from Europe - Joel in his VW van; a Dutch couple in their Land Rover en route for Iran via South Africa, and a couple of Land Cruisers full of South Africans travelling to Cape Town from the UK. Today I met a British couple travelling the west and east coasts of Africa, including the corners of West Africa that most overlanders cut off (Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast and Ghana). Great guys. We met in a horrible traffic jam, and I sat in their Landy for 20 minutes chatting before they had to move on. They want to change their clutch before they continue their travels through rainy season, so hopefully I'll be able to help them with that.

Below, a photo of them driving through what is uniquely up-country Liberia! Olly

Monday, 28 June 2010


Many up-country roads in this region are scarred with strange scratches...caused by people dragging steel for construction behind their vehicles. Here our good friend Ali caught one in the act. Click on photo to enlarge to see the sparks. Olly

Thursday, 24 June 2010

On the road

Thanks, Eric, for these magnificant photos of life on the road in Togo and Benin. Olly

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Commercial vehicle drivers protest in Lome

Lome, Togo - Lome, the Togolese capital, was paralyzed Tuesday following a strike by commercial vehicle drivers over rising fuel prices in the country, PANA reported here. Taxi drivers, armed with clubs, stones and other harmful objects, barricaded some roads in Lome, apparently to deter security forces from getting through to them.PANA reports that only pedestrians and some motorbike riders were seen moving around town as workers had difficulties getting to their offices.The striking drivers say the same government which increased fuel prices on Saturday had refused to allow them increase transport fares.Unable to continue subsidizing oil products, the Togolese government on Saturday increased prices from 505 CFA francs to 580 CFA francs per litre for lead-free p etrol, from 500 CFA francs to 575 CFA francs per litre of gas, and from 390 CFA francs to 475 CFA francs per litre of paraffin.However, the increase does not affect domestic gas that is still sold for 3,500 CFAF per 12.5-kilogramme cylinder. For original article, click here.

Flash floods hit Lome

The Torrential rains of early Sunday in Lome have led to a serious flooding in parts of the Togolese capital, preventing inhabitants from attending to their daily chores. In Nyekonakpoe, western district of the capital, water overflowing the lagoon flooded the streets and houses. In Tokoin Gbadago, a district in central Lome, houses were flooded, forcing inhabitants to vacate their homes with few important household items to seek shelter elsewhere. Nukafu, a district in northern Lome, has become unrecognizable, as the water level reached between 1.5 metres and 2 metres in some places, leading to the collapse of walls and houses. PANA recalled that about 10 days ago, three children, aged between 3 and 14 years, died after drowning in rain-water in their homes. The Minister of Security and Civil Protection, Colonel Mohamed Atcha Titikpina, has said on national television that the government was planning rescue operations for victims. For three successive years, Togo has been affected by torrential rains during the rainy season between May and August. For original article click here.

Thursday, 17 June 2010


Libby continues to lose her teeth. This evening alone she has lost not one but TWO! Huh. Olly

Mistral continued

We toured the French Navy ship Mistral today. Wow - she's very big, and very cool. She dwarfs the Africa Mercy, as you can see: below, Anna and Noah from the Africa Mercy's top deck:

Below, inside the ship's submersible deck, with two landing craft just returning from exercising.

Below, inside the massive hanger deck complete with two helicopters:

...where over 1000 French nationals slept whilst being evacuated from the Lebanon in 2006 during the Israeli bombings:

Below, our tiny little ship:

Below, our kids on the flight deck, where 6 helicopters can land and take off simultaneously.

A very comprehensive tour! Thank you, French Navy! Olly

Wednesday, 16 June 2010


I crave chocolate. Creamy, delicious, bars of milk chocolate, with or without nougat, fruit or nuts. We've not had a chocolate delivery to the ship for months, and the last delivery sold out in minutes. The only bar left in our cabin has gone white and chalky after being too hot for too long...I guess I'll have to control my cravings until we get to South Africa in September, where fantastic creamy milk chocolate reigns! Hmm..can't wait! Olly

Air conditioning

First: the old air conditioning system on the Africa Mercy was tired and worn out; then God sent Jeff and Bowie! These two graduates of Hold 4 on the Anastasis have recently torn apart ducting to clean out the blockages, thus increasing the airflow to our cabin by about 200%. The air temperature has plummeted from 28 degrees to 24, at last! Very pleasant, and just what I need after a hot day working on the dock. Thank you, Jeff & Bowie! Olly


This morning the French Navy amphibious assault ship Mistral docked across the pier from us. She is HUGE, and very cool. She is 199 meters long (compared to our 151 meters), has a crew of 160 (compared to our 400 plus) and only 2 operating rooms in her 69 bed hospital (compared to our 6 ORs in a 78 bed hospital); she can cruise at 19 knots (compared to our 12) whilst carrying 16 helicopters, 4 barges and 2 landing craft and any number of tanks or armoured cars and infantry. Hopefully we'll get a tour onboard before she sails at the end of the week. Click on cutaway deck-plan below to enlarge. Olly

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Anna and Tani

These pictures are of Anna and Tani, the little girl who I mentioned a while ago who was horribly burnt when she was one. She came to the ship with no nose (just a hole where it used to be), no top lip, teeth sticking out at all angles, and more than half her face covered in burns scars. She now has a new nose and top lip (which will bring her teeth back into line like a retainer or brace). As you can see she still has one bad eye, which we can't do much about. Despite what she's been through she is the toughest little thing I know - I regularly see her playing boisterously on Deck 7 with other patients and nurses. Olly


"I can play the piano, piano, piano. I can play the piano, pia-piano." Thus sayeth the popular song for babies and toddlers...meanwhile Noah and Anna have continued with their piano lessons over the last year, and entertained us with an end of year concert on Friday evening. Below, Noah looking very grown-up in a shirt and tie;

Anna looking pretty...

And the whole class with Mrs Sharon Threthaway, dedicated piano teacher.

Mrs Threthaway wants to continue with lessons over the summer holidays, so no peace for us as piano practice on the little keyboard in our cabin will continue every time I want to listen to some music...but at least recorder practice has finished for now. Olly

New Land Rovers

On Friday we took delivery of two brand new Land Rover Defender 110 Station Wagons, supplied by Foleys in the UK and donated by friends of the Swiss office. I spent the morning yesterday pealing-off all the shipping labels, and putting on our own Mercy Ships stickers. We will get them registered in Togo over the course of the coming week, and then they can be put to serious use. This brings our fleet up to 29: 22 Land Rovers and 7 Nissan Patrols, and yes, we still have some of the oldies from the ANA including #077, #333, #376, #482 and #993 - I'll be happier when they are retired! Olly

Above, fresh out of the Customs compound.

Above, on goes the Mercy Ships sticker.

England -v- USA

The Africa Mercy must be one of the few places in the world where genuine English people watched the footy last night shoulder to shoulder with genuine American people. To complicate matters, some couples and even families were British AND American - American parents with English kids, or English husband with American wife...it made things quite complicated. Below, Anna - 100% English although not lived there since she was 2...

Below - Megan (American with a Welsh father) and Libby (Liberian) supporting England...

It was a most amusing evening - lots of flags, face paint and England shirts (not too many USA shirts though). Boring match I thought - but hey, what do I know about football? Olly

Friday, 11 June 2010


Schools Out!
Yesterday we finished school! Next year I will be in 4th grade, Libby will be in 1st grade, noah will be in 6th grade! My teacher will be Miss Danae, Libby's teacher will be Miss Estella and Noah has all the teachers.


Noah, Anna and Libby have had some of their art uploaded onto a website by the Mercy Ships Academy. To see Libby's click here; to see Anna's click here, and to see Noah's click here. Olly

Monday, 7 June 2010

Real alarm

Monday 10.30am: about half an hour ago the crew alert alarm sounded, and the Captain announced over the PA system "this is NOT a drill; the fire is in the galley" but evidently a sprinkler had been knocked and activated, and we were stood down. Since we were all in our fire gear anyway, and we were the nearest team to the galley, we went to help the clear-up...only to find the sprinkler was still shooting out water which the Rapid Response Team and some galley crew were catching with dustbins - one waiting; one being filled and one being emptied. So I went to help, and got thoroughly soaked as I relieved the galley crew and held the bins, whilst Jens the carpenter tried to stop the flow of water with wooden pegs. If only I had my camera with me! D'oh. Anyway, the Engineers turned off the sprinklers, and the water was swept into drains that leak, so there is now a clean-up operation underway on Deck 5, just under the galley. D'oh again. Olly

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Pool is christened

On Monday afternoon, the pool was christened by the Deckies and Engineers who worked so hard over the last couple of months to finish it's installation. The rest of the crew of the Africa Mercy wait with baited breaths for it to be opened up to the rest of us; I understand there remain one or two issues of signage and protocol to be sorted before then. In the meantime, the green net you can see in the pool has become a permanent fixture; it is weighed down with heavy chains and has become a very successful wave-dampener, which allows us to top the water levels back up again without losing to much over the side. The kids finish school for the summer on Thursday, so we really hope the pool will be operational by then! Olly


We've got a new family. A big one of adults in their mid twenties who are an absolute delight to be with, and keep Sally and I laughing for ages and feeling younger than we really are. Today we all spent the day cooking a big roast together, to celebrate Christmas and Thanksgiving early, as we will soon be split apart as parts of the family travel off around the world. Below, Julle and Jen (from Canada) and Sally prepare the carrots...

...and Alex (UK) and Tim (Australia) prepare the turkey...

...and a few other faces not already mentioned - Elliot (Canada), Liz (USA) and a bit of Sharon (USA).

Missing from the photos are Ben (UK), Murray (South Africa), Phil & Ali (Canada), and me, Noah, Anna and Libby. Thank you, Family, for the friendship, fellowship, late nights and laughs! Olly


Libby lost another tooth on Thursday. Great. Olly

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Vehicle Mechanic Needed 7th July to 7th August

Vehicle Mechanic needed on the Africa Mercy in Togo, West Africa, to help me manage 3 local staff and our fleet of 22 Land Rover Defenders and 7 Nissan Patrols. Position available 7th July to 7th August 2010. Responsibilities include maintenance and repair of ship's vehicles. Click on http://www.mercyships.org/positions/entry/auto-mechanic to see the web ad. Email me or make a comment if you have any questions. Olly