Welcome to a Vagabonder’s Tale

Welcome to Vagabonding Africa.

An occasional blog for family, friends and other interested individuals as I travel through the nether regions of West Africa.

My trip starts on 20 January 2014 with a one way ticket to Gambia (my birthday present to myself), continuing onto Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and onto Cote d’Ivoire – or at least that’s the plan! From Cote d’Ivoire, I have the choice of turning left and continuing up to Burkina Faso and through Mali back to The Gambia, or continue on into Ghana…time and money will most likely dictate.

This trip follows up on my child hood dream of going to Timbuktu which I achieved in 2005. That trip was inspired by Richard Haliburton’s book “The Flying Carpet ~ The Record of a Great Adventure”. A truly memorable trip, flying to Bamako (the capital of Mali) and then by a creaking Russian plane onto Timbuktu where I spent a memorable few days. From there I traveled up the river Niger by pinasse to Mopti, Djenne, Segou and back to Bamako. On the river trip, I also stayed in Niafunke in the hotel of the legendary Malian musician Ali Farka Touré (died March 2006). Unfortunately he was away at the time…

I’ve had itchy feet for several years now and have been attempting to get back to West Africa. After a couple of false starts (due to life/work), I’m finally on my way again…but this time I’m going vagabonding and have no real timetable or itinerary.

The trip will be done as basically as is practicable, staying in local accommodation rather than hotels. Travel will be by public transport where feasible – I was hoping to be able to take the train from Dakar in Senegal to Bamako in Mali, but the latest news if that these have stopped running. The train from Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire to Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso is currently running though.

Shaun Walbridge



Niafunké is a town in north central Mali and home town of musician/farmer Ali Farka Touré, who moved there as an infant and went on to become the town’s mayor in 2004 after Mr Ousmane Sall the first mayor of Niafunke.

Niafunké is also the name of an album recorded by Ali Farka Touré in 1999.

I was fortunate to stay in the hotel owned by Ali Farka Touré on my trip up the Niger in 2005…alas he was away!

Sona Jobarteh – Kora virtuoso from Gambia

Sona Jobarteh is the first female Kora virtuoso from the prestigious West African Jobarteh Griot family, coming from a long line of hereditary musicians. She is also a singer, producer, film composer and multi-instrumentalist. She is the granddaughter of the master Griot Amadu Bansang Jobarteh and cousin to the celebrated Kora maestro Toumani Diabaté.

I was fortunate to meet Sona at her lunch show at the Albert Hall on 4 November 2011.

She has recently completed her new, eagerly awaited album “Fasiya”.

Web site: http://www.sonajobarteh.com/