Mali - Bamako
Day 57 (1 December) – Kayes to Bamako
There is a new tarmac road between Kayes and Bamako, how conveniently, and we setout to drive the 260 km to Bamako. For African standards it is a smooth road with only some imperfections. There are 3 toll booths, each time paying CFA 500 for a normal vehicle.
To preserve the tradition, we arrive in Bamako at rush hour – the traffic is hectic and the city spread out. We select a campsite closest to downtown, campsite Dijiba (or Djabila), which turns out to be a dirt hole but we pitch, eat and get to bed after our long hot day of driving.
Day 58 (2 December) – Dijiba to Kangaba (read shithole to oasis)
The next day we pack up and move to Campement Kangaba. It is 15 km out of town but is a beautiful, beautiful place. It is set on 6 acres and has plenty of lounging areas – reclining chairs, swings, hammocks. And a bar with cold beer. They have WiFi installation, but the night before we arrived one of the radio towers broke down, so unfortunately no internet…
The rest of the day we just relax around the campsite, resting from the many days driving.
Day 59 (3 December) – Kangaba and Bamako
We head into town. The National Museum in Bamako was said to be the best museum in West Africa and well worth the visit. Around the museum they recently renovated the National Park of Bamako (it opened in September 2010) with a few playgrounds (Western style) and nice grass for picnics.
The museum showed a collection of traditional fabrics and clothing, masks and statues, archeological findings and Mali’s 70’s music scene (the latter was a temporarily collection). The park was just beautiful but again midday is just too hot to walk around and we chilled and took powernaps on the grass, while Eowyn and Senna enjoyed the playgrounds.
Day 60 (4 December) – Sinterklaas in Bamako
Last night a group of kids form the American International School arrived at Kangaba. In the morning one of the parents greets us with “Goede morgen”. Sander is Dutch and has seen our license plates. He tells us that Saint Nicholas is coming to the Ambassadors residence at 10am today and we can come along!! Eowyn had sent Sinterklaas a letter letting him know she would be in Mali and it will be a fantastic surprise for her!!
On the way to the Dutch ambassadors residence Niels is navigating the maze of unsignposted streets and Julia driving through the chaos of and Bamako traffic. Immediately after a left turn there is loud shouting and whistling – the police. It is such a predictable encounter it is actually boring. The officer is very energetic and putting on a nice performance – probably thinking of all the Saturday night beer money he will have. They confiscate the car papers and take Julia from the car. All the while shouting “You are a danger to the public! You are a danger to the public!” while dilapidated public busses heaving with people and goods maniacally whizz by and scooters and motorcycles weave through the cars and busses. After some facilitation from Stanley it is decided that they can release Julia back onto the streets of Bamako to continue endangering the public for a fee of 6,000CFA – no receipt. Completely predictable but still disgusting.
We do finally make it to the Sinterklaas party and just in time as the good old Saint is calling out the kids names. We slip a note to St. Nicolas about Eowyn and he says “Eowyn, did you drive all the way to Mali just to see me?” There are plenty of ‘gevulde speculaas’, ‘speculaas brokken’, amandel staven en pepernoten to eat and presents for all the kids. Thanks very much to Sander for inviting us along and the rest of the Dutch Embassy crew for having us – a great party.
In the afternoon we headed out for shopping at Mali Chic, a store that works with national artists and sells masks, statues, baskets and other stuff for reasonable prices. Niels bought a huge mask from the Kayes region in the hope Marijn and Annemieke can take it home for him after their visit in Ghana…
Day 61 (5 December) – Kangaba
Things start breaking down at Niels’ car… The GPS holder is broken, some stitches on the roof tent are letting loose, the mosquito net at his tent is coming loose, the dirt flap at the right back tire is hanging half broken (although this was from the start of trip already), the t-rip that was put in place in Spain had to be replaced, and so on and so on… No biggies!
Today, we fully enjoy this heavenly place on earth!