We had barely known each other for a day when I realized I knew just the perfect birthday present for Gav. Sitting by a fire on a campsite in Tarifa we agreed that bringing a hammock on the trip around Africa would have been a brilliant idea. One of the few things on which our thinking seemed to be eerily alike. But it was Gav’s birthday in early November. So I decided that he should be given a hammock.
I commenced shopping for it as soon as we touched African soil. I didn’t expect it to be too big of an effort. After all: with the heat and the abundance of palms in some parts selling a device that allowed for swinging and napping in the shade seemed only logical.
But no such luck in Ceuta. Or in Chefchaouen. In Rabat. Fez. In Marrakesh I searched through every single mall and caused a bit of confusion in the medina. Though Moroccans were intrigued by the concept they weren’t familiar with it.
Gav’s birthday came and all I could give him was the promise that he’d get his hammock before Cape Town. Well, of course he got a card and a cake, too.
Mauritania‘s largely treeless landscape didn’t look promising. But next we headed for Bamako. Along the way we saw some trees, the Malian people we met seemed to know how to enjoy life and we were set to stay at the capital for at least a week. So once more I scoured the markets.
To no avail.
Until one day Steve repacked his bags: There was a man with enough foresight to take a hammock to Africa. Unfortunately for him at this moment he was also a man riding on a motorcycle from London to his native country South Africa. So when I first laid eyes on it the hammock was on a pile of stuff-to-be-possibly-left-behind.
It was perfect: small, lightweight, yet sturdy.
I wanted it.
Steve, however, – sympathetic as he was to my cause – was not ready to part from it.
We left Bamako behind and spent a few days bush camping before we reached Djenne. The city is known for its large mud mosque and the market in front of it. It was there on the market I saw a familiar smile beaming at me.
What were the odds?
Steve and some other friends had left Bamako days before us, usually traveling much faster in their car and on the motorcycles than we could in the truck. But an onset of malaria had made them opt for an extended stay in Djenne.
It had also given Steve time to think about the hammock.
I didn’t even wait until we had left town to give Gav his birthday present which took such a long time coming.
And we made good use of our new favorite accessory: For three magical days our group was cruising up the Niger to Timbuktu, taking turns hanging out in the hammock with a book and a beer. In Ghana it was the place where I’d spend hours following the ankle injury I sustained on Christmas Day.
Here’s to Steve! The man who had the foresight to take a hammock to Africa. And the heart to pass it on for the perfect birthday present. May you and Johan and Sjark one day get to Cape Town.