Gambia done and dusted, Mali to come, I was exicted.  For years I’ve wanted to come to Mali and now the time had come to see it all.  We had one of our longest days travelling to get there, waited in the Gare Routiere for a sept place taxi to take us from Tambacounda in Senegal to Diboli in Mali. We met two Germans (Yves, Thomas if you’re reading this, have you made it to Bamako yet or what happened you?!!) who had already waited two hours for the taxi to fill up and urged us to jump into the back back seats.  Having learnt that you cannot fit Jon, me and une autre personne into a seat the size of a matchbox we declined and said we would wait for another.  Little did we know that we would have to wait another four hours. But Africa time and four hours later with little bother on us we set off, even I had not lost my patience!

We arrived at the border with Mali; a bit strange the first time I have been in a country that does not stamp your passports or even check you on arrival, it is up to you to get your passport stamped at a police station…. which we duely did, where the whole village was watching Mali play Cote D’Ivoire in footie, I sat down and joined them watching whilst Jon got the passports stamped. The policeman didn’t care who we were or where we’d come from as long as he could get back quickly to the match.  So on we went to Kayes the first decent town inside Mali. The only way was in a sept place taxi; which in Mali now take 9 passengers rather than 7 in Senegal and so defintely was NOT an option. So we got on a bus organised by gangsters and arrived just into Kayes at 8pm, tired, me cranky, Jon about to do his nut with me and the local burly cops who kept checking us every few hundred metres, the Muslims for whom the bus stopped so that they could all get out to pray as the sun went down, the flute who robbed our water and the rest!!!!!  But we made it to the Hotel du Rail, which had a bed and even better a meal of fish, the first meal of not rice and chips for a week, happy was I and Jon even happier with cold beers.

It was only until our journey onward to Bamako that it really felt like Mali, with local music blasting outa the speakers I was in my element. The landscape changed immediatly, saw rocks for the first time in weeks and hills and mountains.  On one of the pit stops three of the most beautiful traditional women I’ve seen yet appeared to say hello, dressed all in black including their headresses, lots of beads and face piercings, I looked at them in amazement whilst they asked me to take off my sunnies so they could see me.  One of the those memorable moments.

Bamako for me is a contradictory place, for the city of a country that is one of the poorest in the world there is alot of moula around, plenty of open prostitution everywhere, good food but pricey, street kids aplenty but imagine like The Gambia, piss poor people 10 miles away. Had no luck finding live music here, I think not being understood because of locals lack of French, my lack of French and Ramadan keeping people in check with them not going out. Dissapointed but we’re heading back to Mali for the Festival du Desert in January so will get my fill then.  Went to a local artisian market where we met a Tuareg silversmith, Jon took a chance and commissioned him to make him a ring.  Very hard trying to get the point accross as to what he wanted but today he is sporting a new bling ring, very nice!

So onwards we go, Segou tomorrow. Still enjoying the travels, nice to be back in a city and refresh ourselves (I even dyed my hair today!!) and eat properly and wash some clothes but am ready for rural countryside again for a while.  The rains are still about but at least now we are getting better at judging the sky and legging it when needs be.  Roads unpaved can be pretty desperate at times.

Til the next one, Jeanne

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