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Decapitations, searing heat and little room for sleep

Panorama have returned to West Africa to once again pick up the trail of migrants who are willing to risk everything for the chance of a new life in Europe.

Following on from my work in Destination Europe in September 2007 and Destination UK in January 2008, I have kept a travel log of the team's experiences.

In the coming weeks, I will be blogging about everything from the palpable emotion of a cave that was once used to process slaves being shipped to America, to the intrigue of introducing a group of small children to the myriad intricacies of satellite links, to the need to forego air conditioning for the sake of the camera.

Northwards to the town of Tamale.

Eight hours in the car with my producer, cameraman, local fixer and driver. Yes, it has air-con but, no, we can't use it. You know why? Because if the camera is cool and then we decide to leap out and film, then it will steam up like a bathroom mirror in the heat and Joe the cameraman won't be able to see anything through the lens and will spend 20 minutes grumbling. So, just in case that happens, we go with no air-con.


We arrive at 11pm in Tamale. We are hot, bickering and hungry. There are two decent rooms at the hotel. They go to the producer ("I'm the boss") and cameraman ("I need the space for all my gear") and I'm led to an outhouse which is not quite in their league. Sticky carpets and plenty of mossies.

There's only one place in town still open for food. We have omelettes (safest thing on the menu) and local beer.

I then remind the crew that this is where a tribal king was decapitated in 2005. It involved some complex local power feud, which came to a head on the day of the fire festival. The king was stabbed and then his head was cut off and stuck on a pole which was paraded around town. I ask the waiter for his views on the event. He says he's not allowed to talk about it. Twenty minutes later he's still talking and our omelettes are cold.

I have vivid bad dreams, fuelled by the local brew, malaria tablets and a grizzly account of men with sharp knives.

Tomorrow it is back in the hot car for the next leg on a journey to trace the route taken by the migrants who risk all as they attempt to reach what they hope is a better life in Europe.


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