'Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey.'
We left Senegal today on a road with thick vegetation and many baobab trees all the way to Mali, the largest country in West Africa with the Niger River as its lifeline. No problems with the formalities at the border, once we had discovered some of the necessary departments hidden away down side streets. Everyone was helpful and no one came to hassle us.
We drove to Kayes, a large and colourful town with a train station. Finding somewhere to stay however, proved to be really difficult. A taxi driver kindly led us to the Centre d'Accueil de la Jeunesse near the station. The write up in Lonely Planet was not encouraging and it was pretty run down and dirty, with one filthy toilet and shower room but it was getting late and it had to do. We were able to camp in the small yard next to a tap with foul smelling water collecting in a stone trough. As darkness fell we discovered it was also used as a nightclub, bar and perhaps other activities, judging by the crowds of people continually coming and going until the early hours. It was our worst place yet with loud voices and music keeping us awake for most of the night!
23rd - 26th November
The market at Kayes however, was a pleasure to shop around, no hassle, just helpful and friendly people. We enjoyed some hot street food, roasted sweet potatoes with a bag of salt, fried bananas and bread.
We continued south on a very slow and tortuous journey, all the way to Diamou. The tarmac road did not last long once we left Kayes and we were soon on diversions of powder soft sand that rose like a sandstorm behind us. Traffic coming toward us, created the same choking clouds of sand that we then had to drive through. Mali's tarmac roads now seem to be non exsistent. It was also much hotter than in Senegal and although the windows were closed, we were still breathing in the dust. The remote villages that we passed and the people, also looked poorer compared to Senegal. We passed many women and children working in the fields but rarely did the children run after us yelling 'cadeau, cadeau' and the women looked up and smiled and waved. There were many mud brick huts, some round in shape with a thatched, conical roof and often raised on stones, others were simple, rectangular mud buildings with windows but crumbling away.
We had been told that the Chutes de Gouina was a very remote but wonderful place to wild camp but only if it could be found after a difficult journey off piste. We had no GPS markings for the chutes but were determined to find them.
Just before Diamou, we passed through Medine where we saw the old Fort de Medine, one of a chain of defence posts built along the Senegal River in French colonial times. The Chutes de Felou, a couple of kilometres further on, were disappointing since a hydro-electric dam had been built by the French close by. Diamou was of no special interest apart from the hills and large, spectacular, sandstone mesas that rose from the scrub. We stopped for lunch under the shade of a huge, baobab tree to recover from the heat and difficult piste. We were now becoming very confused with the numerous, sandy tracks trying to find the Chutes de Gouina. Local people tried to help but only confused us more by giving the wrong directions and we found ourselves on the road to Bafoulabe having missed them completely! We turned around knowing that after having passed the rusting and now defunct cement factory, we really couldn't be that far away, it was just trying to find the right track!
We made a slow and careful climb up a rough and boulder strewn slope and came across a solitary guy on a bicycle who beckoned us to follow him......our angel on wheels! Through thick scrub and tall grass, the track suddenly opened out to what could only be described as a paradise! A large, deserted, flat clearing amongst trees at the top of the beautiful falls, 200 metres wide and cascading over the rocks with a roar, with the Senegal River stretching away on the right. The river bank opposite was lined with trees and scrub covered hills and a huge sandstone mesa was clearly visible to our left in a gap between the hills. Large, smooth rocks led down to the rivers edge and the rapids before the falls. Some of these rocks had huge, round, smooth holes in them, looking incredibly deep and full of water. Not a place to be exploring after dark but which we unfortunately had to do one night when we were washing down by the waters edge and the batteries in our torch gave up! It was a beautiful place to wild camp and definitely worth the hours we had spent getting there and we had it all to ourselves! The first thing that we did when we arrived was to throw buckets of water over ourselves to cool off!
We rested there for 4 days, it was so peaceful.
Three great french guys, Renauld, Yanick and Pedro arrived in a TD5 during our stay and provided us with many useful waypoints for places ahead. We sat around a huge camp fire at night and exchanged news.
We also met Til and Anne from Germany who arrived in their Toyota. A big thank you to both of them for all the GPS information and software, which we are sure will be really useful. We hope you enjoyed the rest of your trip and realise your ambition in the future to return to Africa with medical supplies.
Cows, goats and donkeys arrived regularly at the river to drink each day, a fisherman stopped to show us a large snake he had caught in his net and a family from a nearby village made camp close by. They came each day to sit by the campfire in the evening, have their photos taken and clicked their tongues and stared in amazement whilst watching us cook on our camping stove. The children collected all our empty tins and we managed to find enough for one each. On the morning that we left Bill had a queue of women bringing their cracked buckets and bowls to be mended with his 'magic' tape. What a delightful family. Our stay here, has certainly been one of the highlights of our journey so far!
We set out today for the village of Bafoulabe, where the Bafing and Bakoye rivers meet approx. 130 kilometres east of Kayes. Another very bad piste, criss crossing the railway track and with difficult rocky parts. We bought bread, green bananas, tins of sardines, biscuits and matches very cheaply at a little shop in the village, where the whole family were sat outside. At the end of the village, there was a huge model of a hippopotamus as these, we were told, could be seen further down river with a guide and pirogue. The locals assured us that we should cross the river here using the ferry, as the piste for Mahina on the other side was much better than the alternative route over the railway bridge.
It was once again, a slow and tortuous journey to Mahina and then another 80 kilometres of rough piste south to Manantali on the northern most point of a vast lake, which has been formed by the damming of the Bafing River to power the huge hydro-electric plant. We returned to the village to find somewhere to stay for the night and called in at La Cite des Cadres, a compound housing the dam workers and their families. We were told that we could park on the quiet road just outside, next to the fire station and we were kindly shown the spotless showers and toilets that we could use next to the swimming pool. We could even eat in the canteen if we wished.......such kind hospitality! A good night's sleep I hoped but just after midnight, I awoke with a sore throat from smoke wafting through our tent and the most awful smell. I felt sure that it came from their huge refuse pile that they were burning close by. I sat until about 3 a.m. with the duvet over my nose and mouth and feeling as if my lungs were being poisoned!
It was strange to wake up in the morning and be in an area with houses and gardens, cars in the drive, men going off to work and children going off to school with their bags.....very civilised! They didn't seem at all phased by having our Land Rover parked in their road and seeing us climb down from our tent in the morning!
We called in at the offices at the dam to see if we could get authorisation to make a visit. Special permission was kindly given (as it was Sunday) and we followed our guide on his moped to the road that ran along the top of the dam..... an awesome structure! We stopped frequently for explanations and photos. The dam took 6 years to build with the help of many countries and it was strange to think that the vast lake that we were looking at, had 20 villages submerged beneath it and our guide had been born in one of them. There were many fish in the lake for the local fishermen. If the lake reaches a certain depth after the rains then the gates will be opened to allow water into the river, however the last time this was done was in 2003. Two huge rows of pylons left the sub-station providing power to Bamako in one direction and to Kayes, Senegal and Mauritania in the other.
The tarmac road out of Manantali did not last long and the pot holes and orange sand were with us once more all the way to Kita. We followed a waypoint for bush camping which surprisingly took us to some large boulders at the edge of a groundnut field, so we asked some women working there if we could camp for the night. They watched intently and couldn't stop giggling as we put up our tent and it wasn't long before a crowd of people from a nearby village arrived and we spent the next hour helping one of the guys with his English, which he was very keen to improve! It was getting dark by the time everyone left and then we had to eat and wash. But it was wonderfully quiet..... at least until the middle of the night, when we were woken by a tremendous noise that sounded like an enormous vehicle or machine coming closer and closer. We really thought we were going to experience our final moments but it passed our tent and suddenly there was a loud hoot and we realised it was the train arriving at Kita! We had not noticed a railway line as we had arrived at our camping place but discovered in the morning that we were only about 50 metres away from it!
29th November - 2nd December
We just managed to get washed and dressed before a group of villagers arrived to greet us. It is really difficult to eat with an audience, so we shared biscuits with the boys, made the older guy a cup of tea and gave a nurofen to one of the women who said she had a pain in her chest. As we were leaving Kita, we met Elizabeth from San Francisco on her bicycle and stopped to chat. She has spent 1 1/2 years here with the Peace Corps in a small villlage helping the women set up a vegetable garden. We hope you enjoy your last few months here, we think you are doing a grand job in difficult circumstances!
180 kilometres of pot holes, corrugations, intense heat and orange sand and we finally arrived in Bamako. What a journey! Moby was full of red dust yet again and I fear our lungs are too! However Bamako will not allow them to have time to recover, as clouds of dust and pollution clog the air from this overcrowded and busy city. Every day the sky quickly becomes a yellow smog from the constant flow of cars, buses, lorries and flocks of mopeds. The streets were crowded with people and stalls were set up on every inch of every possible space and selling everything under the sun. There were no campements but we found the last room at the Catholic Mission opposite the cathedral. A very spartan room, with a single metal bed with a board and thin mattress, a cupboard, table and a chair. The shower and sink could have been cleaner so could the floor and walls and there was a constant supply of mosquitoes waiting to come in as soon as we opened the door, so we were glad of the mosquito net over the bed, although it was full of holes! However the people there were helpful and friendly and every evening we were entertained by the most wonderful singing by local people who had formed a choir. Enthusiastic clapping and musical instruments helped the rhythm to keep going with a swing! This was to be 'home' for the next four days and although we could not wait to leave for cleaner air, Bamako definitely had a lot of appeal. It was polluted, noisy, crowded and dirty and you had to be careful not to tread in the open sewers (which overflowed we were told in the rainy season) but it was also colourful, lively and full of atmosphere. The city centre was one, big, lively market with music blasting away day and night. We found some great restaurants however, a patisserie with a wonderful selection of cakes and a well stocked supermarket that was full of tempting goodies until we saw the prices! We obtained our visas for Burkina Faso from the Embassy in a very nice, quiet area outside the town and whilst we waited for them, we used the internet room in a private business centre just around the corner, with air conditioning, modern computers and comfortable swivel chairs! We even had a great lunch in their canteen. We were however, glad to leave the smog and pollution behind and left Bamako by the old bridge over the Niger River as the new bridge was closed for the arrival of the French President and numerous African Presidents for an important summit meeting in the capital.
3rd - 9th December
We left early to cover approx. 23O kilometres to Ségou, a large town on the banks of the Niger River with some impressive, tree-lined avenues and lovely, old, colonial buildings, some of which though were in need of renovating.
We were looking for a campement listed in our book when a motorbike pulled up to see if we needed any help. Mark and Glicia with their little girl Chayenne sitting between them both, insisted we go back to their house where we could camp in their garden, or so we thought! Instead, we were given our own bedroom and bathroom in their lovely villa and garden situated close to the Niger River and their wonderful hospitality for nearly a week.
We visited the Monday market with them, the very interesting bridge and dam at nearby Markala, enjoyed meals in the excellent restaurants at the hotels Independence and Auberge in Ségou and had a relaxing Sunday in a pirogue on the Niger River, watching life go by on the river banks. It was hard to leave such kind friends but there was still more to see in Mali!
A short ferry trip took us to Djenné which is situated on an island in the Bani River. One of the oldest towns in West Africa, most of the houses, as well as the famous mosque, are built with mud bricks and rendered in traditional Sahel style. The mosque is said to be the largest, mud-brick building in the world. Each year rains wash away the building's smooth, outer layer and the townspeople work to restore it in the dry season. It was certainly an amazing building but even better to arrive, we were told, when the large and colourful, weekly market takes place in the main square just in front of it, adding to the atmosphere.
We had been looking forward to our visit to Mopti. The town lies at the junction of the Niger and Bani Rivers of which it remains dependent and it has the busiest port in Mali. We went past fields of rice each side of the road as we drove toward the town, people knee deep in the water cutting armfuls and loading up donkey carts that waited patiently at the sides of the road.
We followed the river crammed with stalls and selling everything imaginable, from colourful, plastic sandals, clothes, fabrics, fruit, traditional medicines, herbs and spices, bread, tobacco, meat, salt, fish, pots and pans and much, much more! The river was lined with boats from up and down the river that unloaded their cargoes at the water's edge.
We saw the huge slabs of salt from Timbuktu, piles of firewood, mountains of pots, goats and chickens, boats being built and repaired and crowds of people waiting to board the lines of pinasses that go to destinations up and down the river.
Mopti has a real mix of all the different tribes of Mali and their different cultures, features, dress and hats make it such an interesting place. There was a fantastic range of art and craft for sale from all over West Africa and you needed to bargain hard with the street sellers who were everywhere, selling beads and blankets and much more!
We met Jose from Spain and went for a drink with him at a rather disappointing patisserie. It was great to chat to him however and we hope you enjoyed the rest of your trip.
We really liked Mopti and plan to return after visiting Timbuktu and Dogon.
We spend the morning queuing and waiting in a Mopti Bank but felt relieved to have some more cash and to feel free to plan our trip to Timbuktu. We celebrated by having lunch in the gardens of Mankan-te Rest and it was the afternoon before we finally left Mopti for Douentza, where the road branches off for Timbuktu. We camped at the Auberge de Gourma, to be recommended for its cleanliness and helpful people. Guides can be hired from there to visit Dogon or the 'desert adapted' elephants near Hombori, so it is a very popular place.
We passed spectacular, sandstone mesas at the beginning of the 'road' from Douentza for Timbuktu today. This was approx. 2OO kilometres of red, sand track with some corrugations that shook us to bits and unexpected potholes! We had taped up the rear and back doors of the Land Rover, in the hope to try to keep as much sand out as possible and it did help.
We hit a sandstorm as we arrived at roughly the 1/2 way mark by the sand blasted, wind blown village of Bambara-Maounde. A collection of round, mud brick and thatched buildings, with a few cattle and donkeys turning their backs to the storm and a taureg striding along, his wonderful indigo clothes billowing in the wind. Another Taureg in blue, head wrapped against the dust, rode by on his camel and we really felt that we were heading for the desert again which we love! We noticed a large area of water and according to our map, there are a number of lakes in the area but which are possibly only full in the rainy season.
It took almost 5 hours to reach the Niger River and luckily the ferry was just coming in. It took us and a lorry on board for an interesting 3O minute journey up river to the village of Korioume, about 19 kilometres south of Timbuktu.
Many people we had met expressed disappointment in Timbuktu but for us it was another highlight of our trip. We stayed in the quiet and friendly yard of the Hotel Sahara Passion right on the edge of the desert. On the corner, with views of the dunes, was an excellent restaurant with live singing by a Songhai tribesman. We could have listened to him all night!
At the Hotel we met Régis Belleville from Fance who was attempting to cross the Sahara alone by camel. He was in Timbuktu to buy new camels to continue his journey, the first part of which had been from the coast of Mauritania to Timbuktu. When we left, the police were having a meeting with him but were not happy about him continuing his journey without an escort. We wished him luck with the rest of his travels.
We explored the old town of Timbuktu and visited the mosques, the markets and museum and the restored houses where the three explorers Laing, Caillé and Barth stayed during their travels to Timbuktu in the 19th century. Many of the old buildings had small shuttered windows and heavy, wooden doors decorated with geometric ironwork designs. There were many dome-shaped, clay ovens along the streets where women baked small, round loaves of bread. The wheat for the bread is grown near Lake Faguibine and you can feel the crunch of sand as you eat it!
We saw a number of camels but missed the night arrival of one of the large caravans that arrive every few days from the salt mines at Taoudenni, about 75O kilometres north of Timbuktu. The camels carry the huge slabs of salt from the mines and the journey takes many days. Because of the intense heat, they travel at night and follow the stars. On arrival in Timbuktu the salt is sold to merchants who transport it by river to Mopti, where it is sold again all over West Africa.
We met Hammaye an interesting Taureg from Tintellout, a small village about 8O kilometres north of Timbuktu. He invited us back to his cousin's house for the ritual of tea drinking. He was staying there before making the return 4 day journey back to his village with his 3 camels. It wasn't long before he brought out a bag to show us the contents.......leather work, beads and silver necklaces. We bargained hard over 3 glasses of sweet tea for an antique Taureg, silver anklet and for some beads made from various stones, that he assured us had been found over a period of time in the far north of the desert. He also agreed to make a leather sheath for us, to fit Bill's machete.
We walked out into the desert with him on the evening before we left and sat on top of one of the sand dunes watching the sun go down and enjoying the solitude and the silence.
We would really liked to have visited his village with him but there were difficult dunes once turning off from the track to Araouane and Hamaye was not leaving for a while. His village has 2 wells one of which is dry and they desperately need another.
When asked what were the most important things to him, he replied that water came first and then his camels so that he could travel to towns to buy and sell. When Hammaye arrived on the morning of our departure with the intricately carved, leather sheath we were delighted, it had been beautifully done.
Timbuktu has been a fascinating place and a great experience we were glad not to have missed!
We returned to Douentza to camp again at the Auberge de Gourma and met Blanche from France who loves to do the unusual and stay in remote desert areas. She had also just returned from Timbuktu and had been talking to Régis about his travels....small world!
We also met Brenda and Albert, more Land Rover enthusiasts who were traveling with a Swedish family with 6 children all aged between 2 and 1O years. We did admire them all and am sure the children were learning so much from their travels. They were going to Timbuktu so that the children could have a ride on a camel. We hope they enjoyed this and wish you all safe journeys back home.
We visited the market at Douentza today to stock up on food and bought all our potatoes, tomatoes, mangoes (6 for 2Op) and bread, for under £1! The market was a smaller version of Mopti, full of colour and noise and smells of spices, meat cooking, of animals and of dust and dirt. People from various tribes and wearing their different hats and clothes of many colours and patterns, had travelled great distances to buy and sell. It was difficult to move amongst the crowds, carts, piles of sugar cane, huge baskets full of tiny, hot peppers the most brilliant of orange and the many other wares spread out on the ground.
We took the road to Gao to visit Hombori approx. 14O kilometres from Douentza. This road runs through the huge, towering, sandstone mesas of the Gandamia Massif that rise up from the plains all the way to Hombori. We passed a large bus at the side of the road surrounded by crowds of people and all their belongings, perhaps they were heading for Gao. Up on the roof amongst piles of sacks, rows of goats were being tied down. A man was passing up another unsuspecting victim. What a journey they had in front of them!
We passed the spectacular weathered sandstone shape of 'La Main de Fatima' which is said to resemble the hand of the Prophet Muhammed's daughter with an outstretched thumb and finger. In Islamic tradition, Fatima's hand is a protective symbol. The massive, flat-topped mesa Hombori Tondo, rising to 1155 metres (the highest point in Mali) and its pyramid shaped neighbour the Cle de Hombori (Hombori's Key), rose up at the end of the town, beyond which we could see large, red sand dunes.
We camped wild that night with a view of Fatima's Hand and with a really strong wind blowing in from the desert. Later a wonderful array of stars appeared but the full moon, which we have really appreciated the last few nights, did not appear until much later, gliding like a huge, flourescent ball slowly over the trees and illuminating the sky.
Dust storms followed us nearly all the way back to Sévaré. We continued to Mopti, to extend our visas which had almost expired. We then went to Mac's Refuge for camping, a great place with excellent food.
We met Luiz and Lynne there and their three children Leslie, Luke and Lara from South Africa. Luiz was working close to the Senegal/Mali border with some of the family and they were all enjoying seeing a bit more of Mali. We enjoyed a drink with them at Bobo's bar down by the harbour in Mopti, just as the sun was beginning to set.
We plan to visit Dogon but had been told by various people that we should find ourselves a guide to really be able to appreciate the area. From Mopti therefore, we took the road for Bandiagara where we visited the Cultural Mission and from there, the Hotel Kambary where after a lengthy discussion, we obtained a guide with the recommended yellow card and badge! We camped at Hotel and Camping Toguna and looked forward to meeting our guide in the morning who will be organising our food and lodgings for our 3 days and 2 nights in Dogon.
21st - 23rd December
We set out from Bandiagara with our guide Borro, to visit a part of the huge Falaise de Bandiagara area that extends 15O kilometres through the Sahel to the south and east of Mopti. This area is home to the Dogon people noted for their very complex and elaborate culture, art forms and unique houses and granaries, some of which cling to the bare rock face of the escarpment. We carried our bag of kola nuts which we were told were much appreciated by the village elders when we enter their villages. The Dogon are traditionally farmers and we passed bright green fields where their famous onions were being grown. We headed for our first village of Djiguibombo situated on the top of the plateau and where Muslim, Christian and Anemist all live together.
The focal point of any village, is the round, stone shelter that is the meeting place for the older men to discuss the affairs of their village or to just lounge, smoke, swap stories and take naps. It has big, smooth, stone slabs on the floor on which to sit or lie and the huge beams on the ceiling are very low. Bill banged his head and everyone laughed because the story goes, that the beams are kept low so that if you come in feeling angry, you would forget about the low beams, bang your head and whilst you were concentrating on your hurt head you would forget about what made you angry.......a lovely story! It was really cool and peaceful however inside and the old men enjoyed some of our kola nuts.
Dogon houses were made from stone and mud bricks and plastered with a sludgy mixture of straw, rice husks and clay. Many had flat roofs on which millet and other crops were left out in the sun to dry.
Many of the trees also had huge bundles of cattle fodder drying high up amongst their branches.
The pepper-pot shaped granaries with their conical, straw roofs gave every Dogon village a very distinctive look. They stood on stone legs to protect the millet and other crops stored inside from vermin. Granaries belonging to the men have 3, small doors and would contain only the millet, before it is pounded for all the family. The women however, have only 1 door in their granaries and these were divided into comparments, not just for storing millet and other crops but also for their private possessions such as jewellery, cloth and money.
We descended the escarpment to the village of Kani Kobole which had an impressive mosque, similar in design to the one at Djenné but much smaller. Hundreds of mud bricks lay out in the sun to dry amongst many beautiful baobab trees.
We drove on to Teli at the foot of the escarpent where we climbed on foot up to the cliff dwellings and then higher still to the ledge, where the elders would sit during a funeral to discuss the event and drink millet beer.
Sitting there so peacefully and quietly high above everything and everyone, with only the noise of the wind and a huge, cliff overhang high above our heads that kept everthing dry when it rained, we had an amazing view down to the village below and the plains beyond.
It would also have been an excellent place to watch for approaching enemy!
When important village members died, they were wrapped in colourful cloth and lifted with ropes high up the cliffs to a cave. These caves and ledges are still full of ancient human bones from the Tellem people who inhabited the escarpment before the Dogon.
We continued to the village of Endé for the night, where we were given mattresses, pillows and a mosquito net and then climbed up a notched tree trunk to sleep on the roof of one of the buildings under the stars!
At Endé we watched the bogolan or mud cloth being made, the finished pieces looking so beautiful hanging on the walls, blowing in the wind with their striking, geometric designs and wonderful colours, all made from natural dyes.
At the next village we watched the chief wood carver at work and then climbed again on foot to see the old granaries high in the escarpment.
Higher still and we came to a hidden crevasse in the rocks where water flowed down to form a permanent pool at the bottom.
We packed overnight bags, left Moby in a secure yard and walked to the local market where we tried the famous millet beer and wandered through the colourful crowds and many stalls.
We then began the climb to the top of the escarpment, following a group of women returning home from market, carrying baskets and bowls on their heads and babies on their backs and making light of the steep, rocky climb.
Huge, weathered, sandstone formations marked the top where we were going to spend the night in one of the villages and where washing, toilet and cooking facilities were very primitive indeed!
We met Pete and his girlfriend Jane both living and working in Ghana. Many thanks to you both for all the advice and places to visit in Ghana, we hope we meet you there!
The sun was setting as we walked out to the very edge of the escarpment and looked out to a spectacular view of the plain far below, bathed in a golden glow and stretching far away into the distance.
We heard drumming, singing and clapping from a neighbouring village that evening and went to watch the dancing, mostly men but some women joined in also, their babies still tied to their backs and fast asleep!
We had to climb back down the escarpment today but via a different route, that required some courage from me when we had to cross two gaping chasms via notched tree trunks. Our guide of course was like a mountain goat and Bill was fine but not being too keen on heights with nothing underneath, I found it a bit scary at times!
Collecting Moby, we drove back to Bandiagara and said goodbye to Burro our guide who had looked after us so well and who had helped to make our stay so interesting in such a remote, amazingly beautiful and fascinating part of the world. Certainly another highlight of our trip!
We camped wild that night and were in need of a good shower. It will be a rush but we have decided to return to Mac's Refuge near Mopti tomorrow for Christmas and then accept an invitation to spend the New Year with Mark and Glicia in Ségou.
Happy birthday to Ben our grandson on the 23rd, 8 already. We hope you have a very special day!
The Christmas tree was lit, the decorations were up and Mac's Refuge was bursting at the seams with people! We were in time for the festivities and an excellent Christmas meal around the big table with everyone in the evening. Crackers were pulled and there was lots of fun and talk with other very entertaining people.
HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL OUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS!
Many interesting people here all travelling for different reasons.
A French couple have driven on old Citroen 2CV from France, every inch of it covered in colourful pictures done by very young children from a school in France. They are now planning to sell it in Mali, the proceeds of which will go to help a charity.
We also met Pippa and Simon and their daughters Bronwyn and Lorissa from Lincolnshire.
They will hire Borro our guide and visit Dogon country after Xmas. We hope you all enjoy yourselves and we wish you all the best in your new skiing business.
Most of Christmas Day was spent relaxing and chatting to Jennifer and Henry who had also driven overland and who were heading for the music festivals out in the deserts near Gao and Timbuktu.
We hope you had a great time at them and returned safely back to your home in France. Many thanks for the Nivea Jennifer!
We said our goodbyes to everyone including Bierre, the lovely, black dog who came to stand at the gate looking sadly after us. He often used to come and sit down next to us in the evening by the Land Rover for company.
We need to return to Mopti today for another visit to the Bank but once again, have a very long wait as it is very busy. We bought a papaya from the side of the road and then drove just through San and found somewhere away from the road to bush camp for the night.
We left our camping after sharing our tea and bread and jam with a local guy, who arrived with his dog and donkey and cart looking for wood. He was very grateful for the tea and bread but he would really have liked shoes, trousers or a T-shirt. Am sure he would have felt like a king with a new set of clothes! We need to return to Ségou where we are looking forward to seeing Glicia and Chayenne and Mark, when he returns from Namibia. It will be lovely to spend New Year with them and exchange news.
3rd January 2006
SPECIAL NEW YEAR GREETINGS TO ALL OUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS FOR 2OO6!
We were very sad to leave our friends again but glad that Mark made it back in time after being delayed in Paris due to arctic conditions.
We celebrated New Year with them at the Hotel Idependence and the evening before we left, Mark opened an excellent bottle of champagne with goose liver and truffle pate, smoked salmon and some wonderful Arabic cakes from a Lebanese friend, which brought back memories of our time in the Middle East!
Thanks Mark and Glicia for another really lovely stay again and we do hope we will see you in Namibia!
Leaving Mali behind us today for Burkina Faso, we reached the last Douane at approx. 4.3O p.m. and had to interrupt the gendarme's game of Scrabble to get our Carnet stamped!
Everything had gone smoothly but it felt strange to no longer be in Mali after spending such an enjoyable 6 weeks there!