Facts and Figures
February 16th - 22nd 2009
Today we are off to the Nigerian and Cote DíIvoire embassies for visas. We left the Hotel around 09:30 heading for the Nigerian embassy first as it was just a couple of miles up the road. We had seen the sign for it yesterday and turned off the main road where it was pointing, onto a dirt track which didnít look promising so we stopped to ask someone for directions. That wasnít successful, a couple of people hadnít a clue where the embassy was and one girl who said she did, led Lorraine to a dilapidated house down the dirt track. Luckily, a guy was passing on a scooter and he knew where it was and told me to follow him. Two minutes later we are at the embassy, it is right at the end of the track and hidden round a corner.
We can get the visaís no problem, tomorrow afternoon! but after some pleading we manage to persuade them to have them ready for this afternoon at 15:00, but she needs paperwork for the bike, which we didnít bring with us, and CFA 50,000 for each of us (£78 per visa...ouch!!)
Back to he Hotel for the bike paperwork and to phone Lamine to see if he had any success with the tyres. My mobile isnít working out here so we ask in the bar to use their phone. They donít have a public phone, but one of the lads that works here uses his mobile and calls Lamine for me who is going to text an address and phone number through of someone with tyres, though he doesnít say what tyres or condition. Still, itís worth a look, and after getting the address and being pointed in the right direction we go looking. About 5 miles past where we were supposed to find the shop we started to run into countryside, so turned round and asked the first local cop we saw who told us we were nowhere near it, completely the opposite side of town. Now time is getting on, if we go past the Nigerian embassy to head into town we will miss getting our visaís before they close, so again weíll have to give the tyres a miss for now.
Visaís sorted we head into town to hopefully get the VTE at the Cote DíIvoire embassy before meeting John for dinner, but we had the same response as in Dakar, they havenít done VTEís for the last three years.
John wasnít at the restaurant when we arrived so we waited a while before ordering. We both ordered something off the Arabic menu but two minutes later the waitress returned and said they couldnít do our order, we chose again, and again they couldnít do our order ,, all they had on the menu was burgers, so we ordered a burger each. 10 minutes later John arrived, and wasnít too happy when he found that we had only been offered burgers and had words with the chef. Rather than rock the boat we stayed with our burgers while John had something off the Arabic menu. We stayed at the restaurant for an hour or so then thanked John for the meal and headed back to the Hotel for a beer and then to pack ready for the off tomorrow.
While having a quick flick through some of the info we had gathered before leaving home, we noticed that the visaís for Cameroon should be obtained here in Bamako or in Abuja in Nigeria. As we hadnít planned going as far north as Abuja, it was going to work out cheaper to stay another night here than the cost of the petrol and the time getting to Abuja.
Another night it is then.
Another bum steer from the HUBB. After trolling around town for most of the morning, asking Police and at Hotels if they new where the Cameroon Embassy was located we drew nothing but blanks. A couple of times we were told where it was, maybe, but when we got to wherever we had been sent there was no sign. At last, someone with some good advice, a security guard at a bank didnít think that there was an Embassy for Cameroon in Bamako, but gave us directions to the South African Embassy where we could at least speak with someone who also spoke English which should help us. Unfortunately for us the SA Embassy confirmed there was no Embassy for Cameroon in Bamako. Another day wasted .. Pants!
Not being very happy with todayís events we went back to the Hotel and packed up while we still had good light, ready for tomorrow.
A cook up in the room for dinner, Ratatouille, mmmmmmmmm, Lorraineís choice not mine, and a couple of loaves, (it wasnít that bad really) but had to wash it down with a couple of beers!!
Start Mileage 7916
Bamako - San
We leave the Hotel at 10:00 heading for Segou or San, not sure if we are going to make it to San in one day. 10 minutes out of Bamako it started to rain and looked like it was quite heavy further on up the road, should prove to be interesting if the potholes fill with rainwater!!
The roads turned out to be quite good and the rain didnít last too long. We hit Segou by lunchtime and† looked around the town for somewhere to buy bread so we could have lunch on the River Niger which looked very nice. After not finding any bread, we just fuelled up and carried on towards San which we should make before 17:00.
We noticed a couple of signs along the road pointing to Hotel Santoro which, going by the advertising for it, sounded expensive but we pulled in just to check. CFA 12500 for the night, very nice Hotel with clean rooms with hot water, a pool and a restaurant as well. After having dinner we decided to stay an extra night here so we could unpack the bike and leave everything in the room to do a bit of sightseeing around Djenne tomorrow.
The bar had no license to sell beer!!! I nearly re-packed the bike and went to look for somewhere else that did when the guy behind the bar said† that we could pay him and he would go out and get some for us Ö phew, that was a close one!! 5 minutes later he was back, beer in hand, a bit expensive but at least we had some. We thought it would probably be cheaper to buy it ourselves so we would look for the shop the barman went to and buy it direct tomorrow.
Djenne Day Trip
I had noticed on the menu last night that a cup of coffee was CFA1500 (about £2.50), the same price as breakfast, so we had breakfast before leaving for Djenne 85 miles away.
On the map, it looked that to get to Djenne we might have to do about 32 Kmís of piste (off road) after turning off the main road which made Lorraine a bit nervous again, she is taking her time getting used to the off road riding. As we approached the turn, we were stopped and had to pay CFA 1000 each entry fee into the Mopti touristique area. I asked the guy selling the tickets what the road was like and he said it was Goudrons (TarMac) all the way which made Lorraine happy. Barring a few pot holes and the usual goat or cow wandering out in front of us it was a good ride up until the end of the road. You have to take a small ferry over to the islands that the Mopti area is situated on, and there is a couple of hundred or so yards of sand either side of the ferry that need negotiating. Waiting for the ferry to come in we were accosted by Ally, a local guide, who would let us park the bike at his house and show us around, which we decided to do as it would be easier for us. When the ferry came in it didnít come right ashore, it stopped short about 10ft which meant we had to ride through the water to get on. Watching the cars and 4x4ís in front of us getting loaded on first, the water looked about 3ft deep and it was cloudy with the sand they churned up so I couldnít see the ruts they had left. A bit scary but we made it on in one piece.
On the road to the ferry we had been passed by a 4x4 occupied by white Europeans which gave us a toot and thumbs up, we met up with them on the ferry, they were Brits so we had our first conversation for a while with someone without struggling to understand or be understood.
The tour around Djenne was quite interesting, and hot (we should have left our jackets behind at Allyís house too), and we understood most of what Ally was telling us. 2 and half hours later we are back at Allyís, he was going to have his lunch first before taking us back to the ferry and trying to pick up another punter. He went and fetched us a couple of cold drinks and, although he didnít have much, he offered us some of his lunch but we declined his offer and just drank the drinks.
We had a good run back to the Hotel. I needed fuel and Lorraine was worried again. We would be leaving Mali tomorrow and hadnít seen a bank in San, the map only showed minor villages between San and the border, and if the Visaís for Burkina Faso were as expensive as for Nigeria, we were going to have to use the last of our emergency Euroís.
We couldnít find anywhere that sold beer in San, so, with the money situation, only two beers magicked up by the barman and the cheapest thing off the menu for us tonight then!!! Omelette and chips, which was very nice and loads of chips so filling too.
Start Mileage 8358
San - Bobo Dioulasso(Burkina Faso)
Bike loaded and breakfast consumed we are on the road by 09:30, Lorraine is still worried about the money situation after not finding a bank with an ATM in San, although I had told her there is no point worrying until we actually have a problem, if needs be we will just have to come back into Mali (somehow) and ride back to Bamako.
About 20 miles out of San the road disappears again, and we have some bad potholes to negotiate for about 50 miles before getting on to good roads again. The old girl stood up to the battering again, and Lorraine didnít do too bad either!!
We reached the Mali exit point around 13:00 and decided to stop for one more Malian coffee before crossing into BF, no coffee only cold drinks so that will do.
Bike paperwork cleared we move on a couple of Kmís to the Police exit for the rest of the paperwork and passports to be checked. Very easy procedures from both Customs and Police, and both very friendly. We even ended up giving an English lesson to one of the Police who wanted to know the words for the person on the front (rider) and back (pillion) of the bike and why it was different to a car (driver and passenger).
Lesson over we have 4 Kmís before the Gendarmerie into BF where we will hopefully be able to afford the Visaís. As I said, there was no need to worry, they only cost CFA 10,000 each (I did breathe a sigh of relief though, I didnít really fancy riding back to Bamako or being stuck between two countries). The Visaís are valid for only 5 days but we can extend them at either th Surete in Bobo or the Dept. of Immigration at Ougadougou for up to 3 months at no extra cost.
Visaís in hand, next stop Customs, the Carnet is no good here so we have to pay CFA 5000 for a Laissez Passage for the bike. On the way out of the Customs office we met a German Guy from Berlin, we had seen the previous night in the Hotel, he is travelling on his own in a car. We had a proper chat as we only exchanged a few words before, turns out he used to work for BMW in the PR Dept. might be a useful contact!!
We have one more entry point before getting into Burkina Faso, the Police. Yet another easy, friendly procedure. As we pulled up the first thing they did was offer us some of their oranges and a seat in the shade. After talking to them for at least a half hour, they then think it might be a good† idea to get the official stuff out of the way. Paperwork all done and a bit more of a chat , one of the cops wants the bike after we are finished with it Ö.. I said I would ring him in 3 years when we get home, we are on our way. BF seems like it will be a nice country.
Just as we entered Bobo, we spot a stall selling bread at the side of the road so pull over to buy some in case we canít find any food later on, before I can find a flat area to put the side stand down, a young lad appears carrying bread and within seconds there are hundreds of them all trying to sell us their bread even though we have already got some, manic but funny.
After escaping the crazy bread sellers, I am following some waypoints I have on the satnav for accommodation in Bobo, we manage to find none of them, so I pull over to check again, right outside a Hotel. After checking, itís only CFA 9000 so we decide to stay here, itís pretty basic but clean with secure parking. A couple of beers bought at a bar down the road went down quite nice sat in the Hotel courtyard before having a shower. A quick exploration of the nearby area didnít reveal anything that might be a restaurant, so bread and pate was had for dinner, then we braved the night and went to the bar that we had bought the beers from earlier for a couple more.
We decided to stay in Bobo for another night as it was Saturday and just in case we couldnít find anywhere to stop that was decent in Ouaga while we waited for the Visa office to open on Monday morning.
A bit of a lazy day. We took a walk down the road from the Hotel to look for a roadside coffee (they are really good, it is only made with Nescafe and tinned milk but tastes like no other coffee Iíve had) and found a little bar/cafť, we asked the waiter if they did cafť au lait and ordered two when he said they did, what appeared ten minutes later wasnít cafť au lait but instead we got two cartons of fruit juice!!! In a lot of places we had been served water with the coffee and thought that this might be a posh establishment Ö.. Still no coffee so I guess† it isnít, weíve never had trouble ordering coffee before but we didnít make anything of it and drank the juice and left.
We took a taxi into town later on to go to the bank, again it was a beat up, barely running car, the driver crunching every gear and all the seats rocking as he did so. I think my seat was held down by the bits of remaining carpet it was sat on being stuck to the floor with the years of dirt that had accumulated. The windscreen on the passenger side was broken and held together with sellotape, I nearly asked if it was smashed by a passengers head because of heavy braking, but then thought it was more likely the lack of brakes that caused a pedestrian to try and enter the cab in a not too dignified a fashion whether they wanted to or not. After being dropped at the bank and getting some more funds we went for a wander around the market and to search out a coffee. Lots of walking later we found a shack with a Nescafe sign on it and sat down on the bench outside. Asking the lad that was sat there for two cafť au lait it turns out he is just sat and doesnít work the stall so he started shouting for the owner with no sign of him appearing, it was hot and our feet were aching so we werenít moving till we got our coffee. Eventually the guy turns up and we order two coffeeís, he is making lots of rummaging movements behind the counter and then apologises that he only has one glass, a big one so no problem we can share. Well worth waiting for and it was soon consumed. When we went to pay he wouldnít accept any money for it, his gift to us. Another example of the goodness of these people, although he lives in the corrugated tin roofed wooden shack he sells his coffee from and obviously has very little, he flatly refused to take any money from us.
Refreshed we took another taxi back to the hotel, the ride a bit better this time, the seats didnít move, much, and I could see out of the windscreen, the driver being very chatty although his English was limited to naming 70ís and 80ís pop and rock groups, when he learned we were from the UK.
We bought some beers from the bar down the road to drink while we had our dinner at the Hotel and then back to the bar for a couple more.
Start Mileage 8
Bobo Dioulasso - Ouagadougou
A quick easy pack today as most of it was done last night, coffee ordered while we strapped stuff on the bike and it was ready by the time we had finished. On the road by 09:30 for the short run to Ouaga. We managed to find our way out of town first time as well, so that was a good sign.
We arrived in Ouaga around 15:00 and followed the co-ordinates for the OK Inn,which we had read let you camp free if you ate in their restaurant, and found it with no trouble at all, 2nd thing to go right for us today!! As it was an Hotel as well as a camp site we checked the room prices before making our minds up, but that didnít take long and we were soon being shown where to put the tent up. Pulling up at the Hotel, I had noticed another GS parked on the site, and we were told to park near them, it was an 1150 on UK plates, there was also a Land Rover Defender on UK plates parked near them. We asked Ian (the owner of the Defender) if he was travelling with the GS but he isnít, he is on his own crusade across Africa to Cape Town .. www.overlandtrombone.com
After a little chat we left him to his dinner, which we had disturbed him from, and parked the bike. Lorraine went to get some thirst quenchers from the bar before we started offloading the bike and as we were appreciating the cooling effects of a nice chilled bottle of Castel, Olivia came over to chat, a French girl travelling with her Husband Olivier and two dogs in a Saviem truck, she spoke perfect English with a French - Somerset accent, she said it was because her mother is English.
There is another guy on site, Knute (hope I spelt it right) from Germany, driving a standard Mercedes camper van which he takes anywhere, sand, mud, water, he tells us about a lot of his trips, an interesting guy, he has done a lot of travelling around Africa both in his van and on bikes.
The only other guests at the site are a French family, Marco and Clo with their two kids Hugo and Jo, also† travelling to Cape Town in a Land Rover.
Mark and Allison (the other GS) turned up a little later, they are both Australianís that were working in London and have been travelling Africa since September. Originally they were planning on riding to Cape Town but have since changed their minds, and are not sure what they will do.
We eventually get the tent up and get a much needed shower before heading into the village for supplies and then the restaurant for some dinner.
An excellent meal later, we met up with Mark, Allison and Ian for a drink Ö cheap Vodka from the Laffi shop across the road makes for a big hangover after half a bottle!!!