06h50 and our good friends Chris and Alexa are banging on the door, we have overslept! The plan was to be up and ready to leave at 07h00 but due to a very late but most excellent evening we did not even hear the alarm.
There was no electricity last night and so it is a mad rush to pack the last few things, our apologies to Geri & Maurice at our hasty departure and all our love and best wishes to Chris and Alexa we apologise for making you guys late and thank you for getting us out of bed.
Banjul at half seven but too late for the 08h00 ferry so we board the nine which just happens to be the old ferry, only to be overtaken by the 10h00 ferry 5 (new one). So there we are afloat in the bay of Banjul waiting for the 10am ferry to offload and load, only then do we get to offload, happy to have our feet on dry, non moving land.
By 6 pm we are in Dakar at Cheche’s house being fed by Madeline, then onto Christian’s house to meet his family and finally to Cheche’s Mum where we were to sleep during our stay, after being given more great food two very tired people retired to a huge room with double bed and on-suit bathroom, no complaints. We were treated very well by the family during our stay and we are most grateful.
Monday morning and first things first, our real reason for visiting Dakar is to apply for a new passport for me, so off to the SA embassy to meet Ida who I have been emailing. Now let me tell you that it was an utter pleasure dealing with her; friendly and helpful, I can say that it was a pleasure meeting Ida Coetzee who helped me with the whole passport thing and how to arrange to have it send to Nigeria for me to collect in 6 weeks time. God really made a way on this one as I could have had to wait for 6 weeks in Dakar.
The rest of Monday and Tuesday was spent going around with Christian visiting printing presses and design companies, I like Dakar now, it is not as scary as the first time we visited – this is the 3rd time and it is getting better but still reminds me of Jo’burg.
Wednesday morning and we are on the way, last night we celebrated Christians birthday with him and his family, it was great fun as it was madi gras and most of them dressed for the occasion. We collected Cheche from one unhappy Madeline who only gets to see him every two weeks and headed out to Kaolack. Here we parted company with Cheche as he is heading to The Gambia and we are headed to Mali. Next stop Tambacounda (a stop Simon got to know very well last year on his bush taxi journeys) but night caught up with us and so we stopped overnight in the parking lot of this campement. We had access to a shower and toilet and a cold drink and after what seemed like a very long day, it was most welcome.
Leaving Kaffrine Les Mangroves we reached Tamba in no time while doing CD one of our French lessons. The good road continued until Kidira where we signed out of Senegal with no problems, then Diboli where we find out that they cannot issue a visa and that we should get one in Kayes the next big town. Then we hit the bad road where the speed dropped to 30km/h with regular deep, big potholes and the 102km to Kayes seemed very far to go. Then we pass this poor chap walking in the midday heat to Kayes so we gave him a lift, then in Kayes he helped us find the camping place before going his own way.
Camping spot fine with the necessaries and a place to do the washing, also within walking distance from town. Met some blokes in a Peugeot who had done the same journey but were going back to Dakar to sell the car then fly home. Friday and after a bit of washing and tidying we go to the police to apply for our visa, well! This is when we find out that we should have applied in Dakar and that there is a 18 000 CFA fine on top of the 15 000 CFA fee – now I phoned the Mali rep in the Gambia and he told me it was no problem; just go and get the visa at the border – these boys did not believe me and insisted that the fine is obligatory!
Well I didn’t stay calm and neither did Simon, this was the equivalent to 66 pounds – what we spend in a week – and I had phoned and their rep had misinformed me. It took me getting the guide book, showing them the name of the rep (the said they did not have one in The Gambia) and insisting they call him, then they backed down and gave us the visas but we did have to hand over a small sign of our appreciation at them bending the rules for us. The rest of the day was spent in the market getting all excited over finding carrots and back at camp. That night the Peugeot guys left to go back to Dakar, travelling by night because it was cooler.
Saturday and the direct route to Bamako is not viable due to the state of the roads so we go north first to Nioro and then back down South to Bamako. We set off on a newly graded road till Maréna then the old road that is badly eroded and you cannot drive on it so you have a choice of tracks to follow, all going in roughly the same direction. Here your speed drops to 14km/h and the hundred odd kilo’s become a four hour journey, we arrived at Nioro at 5pm where a very helpful chap to us to where we could camp. Not great, had to wash out of a bucket – as we were covered in dust from head to toe – and get the key from the proprietor every time we needed the loo yet we could dust off the car, make dinner and relax – ha! Come dark and a lady arrives, very nicely made up, then another and so on. Yes, you guessed it, a brothel. So our night sleep was minimal what with the comings and goings on.
Sunday morning and two very grumpy people head out to Bamako, at the police stop we were asked to give a bloke a lift to Diema and so the 3 of us head off; the road is graded and so the going is good, occasionally we have to follow tracks along the side when the corrugations gets too bad but should be in Bamako by two – oh we should know better than to plan ahead by now. I’m driving when I notice the brake light is on so we stop only to discover that one of the rear brake lines is broken, so we top up the brake fluid and carry on. Gradually we loose brakes so have to slow down using the engine to break. Just after Kolokani we bush camp and Simon tries to fix the break line but is not too successful, this problem needs some thought so off to bed and we will worry about it in the morning (at least I will).