Category: Mali


african-oscars

Well now that we leave Africa soon (Boo Hoo!) Muni & Molly’s African Oscars are now published.

The categories are : (drum roll please)

1. Best Accommadation / Hotel : Green Turtle Lodge, Dixcove, Ghana
2. Worst Accommadation / Hotel : Pensão Leeta, Mocimboa da Praia, Mozambique

3. Best Meal : La Colombe, Constainia, Cape Town, South Africa
4. Worst Meal : Cafe No Name, Arsi Negele, Ethiopia

5. Best Transport : CTM, Morocco
6. Worst Transport : Burundi

7. Friendliest People : Tied at Burkina Faso and Malawi
8. Unfriendliest People : White Namibians

9. Best Value : Ghana
10. Worst Value : Rwanda

And last but by no means least…

11. Best Beer : Primus 720ml, Burundi
12. Worst Beer : Laurentina Stout, Mozambique

And the most coveted award for biggest tosser in Africa goes to….

The fat, Afrikaner, make-up put on with a cement mixer, hair-do like a bulldog’s arse, manager of the Cat Nap Guest House in Springbok for her inability to take a booking 3 whole weeks in advance. Moan about the check in time, lie about her presence prior to us checking in and then only say that we had booked one night when two were requested. I hope you catch the clap from a toilet seat and you choke on some worm infested biltong again. Congratulations, your golden Oscar is in the post.

We’ve also added some additional categories for those that were worthy of such an acolade.

They are:

Toughest Day : 8th April 2009, Butare, Rwanda after visiting a genocide memorial. (I talk about it HERE)

Most adventerous moment: Boarding a tug boat to travel down Lake Tanganyika en-route to Kigoma, Tanzania

The 5 best highlights (in no particular order):

1. Getting up close and personal with 5 Silverbacks in Parc National de Volcans, Rwanda
2. Being pamered in Madikwe Safari Lodge, South Africa
3. Juming out of a dhow, after spotting Dolphins, onto the best beach in Africa. Praia de Chocas, Mozambique
4. Standing on the precipace of the plateau in Dogon Country, Mali
5. Giggling at the confluence of the Atlantic and Indian Ocean’s at the southern most tip of Africa

Muni & Molly

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Dogon, Djenne…Done!

Standing on the edge of a sheer drop over 100m we surveyed the Dogon plain until the horizon became indistingt. Not knowing that on our arrival that we were on the plateau. It was a shocking and surprising sight. And, for me, to be somewhere I only knew through David Attenbourough dvd’s was just incredible. There we were in our own dvd!

Dogon is set out into three different but distingt areas. Plateau, cliff and plain. With people living on all three. Our three day hike would reveal the southern areas to us, with our guide, Gabrielle. The villages we visited in “Pays Dogon” were all very alike and subtley different. We hiked down the cliff on the first day and camped out under the stars (snug as a bug under 5 rugs) and listened to the strange sounds of the night echoing down the escarpment. The second day was spend ambling along plain beside the cliffs handing out kola nut to the elderly in exchange for a photo or just a general waffle about harvesting the Baobabs or herding their goats. The third day was to finish our trip and back up through Dgijuibombo. This place, Pays Dogon, has been the pinnacle of the trip in Mali and definitely in the top three of best places yet. The fact that we took time to explore on foot made it extra special. The people, buildings, culture, artwork, metalwork, textiles, weaving and huge understanding of nature, has made an indelible mark on us both never to be forgotten.

dogon countrydogon-country-61dogon-country-2

dogon-country-4dogon-country-5dogon-country-3

Djenne – a horse of a slightly different sort! After some hopping around both with my gammy foot and on busses we made it to this “quaint” little town. Home to the biggest mud structure in the world and….that’s about it really. It has a big mud mosque. There ye are ted, a mud house. A really big mud house Ted! Yes its impressive,  made of mud and repaired by over 4000 volunteers after each rainy season. But it’s still just a mud gaff, a very nice mud gaff. There is a Monday market, which is right infront of the mosque. We were there for it and is quite colourful. Dont get me wrong, it was nice to be there in Djenne but for two days…. I dunno.

djenne-mosque-1djenne-mosque-2

muni

Prize Draw !!!

PLEASE SEE THE COMMENTS FOR THE WINNER !!!

On our travels through Mali we happened upon a small village. It’s name is,  gloriously African and rolls off the tongue as well as Ouagadougou (Waga-Doo-Goo) in Burkina Faso, – “Dgijuibombo”.

I have decided to offer a small piece of original Dogon art  (picture below) as a prize for the one who can say ( spell phonetlically – fonetically )

“Dgijuibombo”.

I will accept only one entry per person with a fonetic spelling. ( Please post your entry in the comments section for this post ). The winner will have the piece winging its way to where ever you are once the entry is picked on 14th Feb.

Good Luck !!!

Dogon Art

muni

Sahel

We arrived into Bamako airport only to be dazed and confused about the visa situation. We paid for a 30 day visa, was issued a 5 day visa and told tht as it was the cold season it would be ok! We were worried abot the visa situation as if we did not have the correct one the random police checks along the way would prove to be expensive – by the way of many bribes.
Quickly we made our way from Bamako to Mopti. (12 hours on a bus – not that quick I suppose!) Camped over night on a roof under  stary African sky and arranged for a 4×4 to take us to Tombouctou (Timbuktu) the next morning. The wooden doors of the Hotel Caravanserail were opened by a Tuareg with a dark chisled face. He was kind and welcoming shaking our hands with his, boney and strong. I like him immediately. Shouting and laughing disturbed the Timbuktu ambience as once again we were with our good friends and overlanders, from Austria, Pete & Sabine.

timbuktu
It ws really good to see them again. We had arranged in Ghana to go to the festival together and meet in Timbuktu. Strange, really – to arrange to meet in a place that is not supposed to exist! August (the truck) looked a little more wethered but more than up for the 3 hour trip through the soft sand and corrugated dirt roads to Essakane where the Festival au Desert was to be staged. On arrival we had setup camp and had broken out the cold beers before we had even explored the surroundings. This was overlanding in style!

The festival on the whole was good. Most of ther music was a disappointment, strangely. Marred by sound checks (3pm – 8pm) and extremly repetitive tribal mantras of little musical content from various groups across the Sahel region. This seemed to be the status quo for the rest of the festival. The quality only to be raised by Salif Keita, Ali Farka’s son and Habib Keita. Morning Amarula coffees made the festival surroundings more enjoyable. A small area for Tuaregs and their wares, random food stalls selling various mystery meat and a rabble of fellas on camels. It was wonderous to be there in the desert. It was just a pity about the music – seeming Mali is known for it. Molly was gutted. And I, for her. We sat on the dune opposite the stage most nights with Pete & Bini and some overlanders (overlanders being far more agreeable to bloody backpackers!) and made light of the bad music. How we laughed watching some flute trying to get the crowd to dance by shouting “Essakane, Timbuktu, Number 1” as if trying to teach a child a nursery rhyme.  Overlanding is for me. Molly also warming to the idea. The festival ended and we stayed an extra night amid the rubbish and remaining Tuaregs. Had a hearty dinner by our camp fire and made “snoozy-time” early. Halcyon Days…

essakane-sunsetmuni

I just had to do this as it would give those who are interested an idea on our take so far !!!

The categories are : ( drum roll please )

1. Worst Hotel : Baobolong Camp, Jangjangburreh, The Gambia.
2. Best Hotel : Green Turtle Lodge, Ghana.

3. Worst Meal : Fulladu, Basse Santa Su, The Gambia. (nothing but bananas sir..sorry!)
4. Best Meal : Clay Oven, Fajara, the Gambia. Yummmmm!!!

5. Worst Transport : Bani Transport (for pissy seats !)
6. Best Transport : CTM, Morocco.

7. Friendliest People : Burkina Faso.
8. Unfriendliest People : Mauritania.

9. Best Value : Ghana
10. Worst Value : Mali

And last but by no means least…

11. Best Beer : Gazelle
12. Worst Beer : not one – just warm beer !

And the most coveted award for biggest tosser goes to….. Everybody’s loveable friend….( and a taxi driver )….

Mr. Taxi Driver in Takoradi, Ghana.
( for changing the agreed price and taunting the customers afterwards. I hope you are plagued by punctures the rest of your days. )

muni

Segou to Bobo

Just how bleedin tropical does that sound!!

“Segou to Bobo Dioulasso…!”

Mali was a good ginch and the more rural we got the better it got. Food was good and got even better as my new favourite, Capataine a la Bamkoise (fish with banana and tomato sauce), was had in copious amounts. The Niger river was a riot of colour at sunset and the trip up to Segou Koro (old Segou) was the muts nuts. The 15km trp up the Niger river was leisurely on a large pinasse with our new guide and friend, Vieux. A while ago someone asked me “Why travel in Africa?”. It was a simple answer; Big Sky! And the trip on the Niger River reaffirmed this for me.

Our Pinasse on the Niger

Our Pinasse on the Niger

Segou we instantly loved. With its wide dusty streets, good food, friendly laidback people and COLD BEER !!
Its street artizans were also a pleasure to deal with. Mostly Tuareg with kind chisled faces, softly spoken and will always welcome you into their shop / tent for a cup of “African Tea”. After promising Baco I’d drop into his shop for tea he offered to show me the basics of playing the drum. I accepted, drank tea, ate biscuits and banged my fingers, in the darkness, on a very ornate drum, until they were a tingle with pins and needles. I’ll look forward to seeing them again in February for the Festival of the Niger next year. Strangely, I found that Yves Saint Laurent had moved his business to just around the corner…

YSL

YSL

We had a bit of trouble leaving the next day and a bit of a frakah at the bus station. It probably looked worse than it actually was as we have found that everyone likes to get involved in a good ol’ arguement! So, the next day we hit Bobo Dioulasso in Burkina Faso instead of hitting Sikasso on the Mali border as planned. Bobo, the second biggest town in Burkina Faso was busy enough. And we found the Hotel L’Auberge easily. Swimming pool etc was available and dually used! When we resolved to go out that night we were highly surprised to find our mates from Germany, Yves and Thomas, walk through the door for a frosty one. I suppose this is bound to happen!!! Banfora was next on the hit list as there were waterfalls and a nice lake with Hippo’s there. We booked the tickets and headed off 3 days after checking in…

muni

Mali finally

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