Facts and Figures
February 10th - 15th 2009
Senegal Cont. & Mali
Start Mileage 6960
Lac Rose - Kaffrine
A late start as breakfast was again at 09:00.
On the road by 10:30 after saying our goodbyes to Hassan and the crew, ďUn Bon HostĒ. ToolBi is a really good place to chill out for a couple of days.
We had been hoping to get to Tambacounda, about 400 Kmís away before dark, but as we left, the words from the Dutch woman in the Palal last night came ringing back. We had turned left at Rufiques onto the road for Tamba and immediately were in heavy traffic moving very slowly, and itís hotter today, 11:00 and the bikes computer is telling me it is 37 Deg.C. As soon as we had cleared the first two villages we were pulled over for a paperwork check, in direct sun with no shade we were lucky he only wanted to see my driving license, again the fake one worked, and we were on our way quite quickly. For a while, then the roads got bad again, with potholes that would smash the† front wheel if not swallow the whole bike.
A couple of villages further on we were pulled again, this time though the cop didnít seem so friendly, and again pulling us over out of the shade he wanted to see everything. Satisfied with the paperwork, or not finding anything to fine us for he let us go.
Progress was slow, stopping more regularly for a break from the road conditions and the heat. It was hard going and we reached Kaolack, having travelled just over a 100 miles in four hours (not including stops) and stopped for a coffee at what looked a nice Hotel/Bar. The place was very nice and as time was getting on we checked the room prices . About £35 a room so we moved on after the coffee looking for a cheaper Auberge.
Just before Kaffrine, the main road was closed and a diversion set up taking us off road again. Lorraine is still not happy about non tarmac roads. It was only a couple of miles, and with the help of† a couple of lads on a scooter, we managed to get back on the main road and to an Hotel which we stopped at for the night. Cheap and cheerful. We are just off to sample the chefs culinary delights.
Great scoff .. Half a chicken with a variation on the onion sauce and a plate of chips with loads of bread Ö. Tasty too!
Start Mileage 7109
Kaffrine - Tambacounda
On the road at 09:15 after coffee.
We turned left out of the Hotel straight into the start of the roadworks that we had been told was all the way to Tamba. It was only 130 odd miles so not to worry, or so we thought. We managed about 10 miles outside of Kaffrine on not too bad roads, just having to dodge the odd bike swallowing pot hole or two, hit one of those at 65MPH and you would know about it, or not!!
Anyway, the roads got worse, as prophesised by the Dutch woman back at Lac Rose, with small stretches of very uneven tarmac and long stretches of even worse dirt. Soon we were deviated off the main carriageway, where the road improvements were going on. (Next year the whole route to Tamba will be smooth and black according to a couple of Chinese Road Architects we met later on at the border. There is a big road improvement scheme happening throughout Africa with the help of the Chinese which should be good for the economy at least, if not for the truckers that pound the roads in their decrepit trucks when they are not broken down or repairing blown out tyres).
The deviations, in places, turned out to be far better than the main road being hard packed dirt and mostly smooth. I could hear the tyres breathing a sigh of relief as they werenít getting ripped apart so much. The good deviations though were few and far between and we were travelling mostly on the yet to be repaired road.
The video above shows what the road is like, in itís better places, it did get worse!
At one point we were moving along a dirt road quite nicely when an artic truck came hurtling towards us, as always we slowed down to let the dust settle before opening it up again, but out of the trucks dust came another artic, heading straight for us!!!!!!! Whether the truck moved out of our way or I managed to move out of itís way I donít know but it missed us, just!
The on and off bad to really bad roads continued for most of the day with lots of stopping to avoid oncoming truck dust and to dust us down. We had overtaken a Total petrol tanker a couple of times between stops and got to sounding our horns at each other as we passed. On one occasion after we had stopped for a break when he pulled over for a chat, asking the usual, where we were from and what we were doing. I asked about the road condition ahead and about aubergeís on the way, he said it was the same all the way to Tamba and no aubergeís till Tamba, another 50 odd miles, which at this rate we werenít going to make before dark,
We had travelled about a 100 miles in 7 hours, when all of a sudden we were on another deviation, only this time it was nice, flat, brand new tarmac, it felt like the treat you give a little kid for behaving all day. Concentration levels dropped along with the body heat as we managed to get the speed up and not have to worry about the road surface, however, 14 miles later another deviation sign popped up, but it was only a short off road and then back onto the new stuff all the way into Tamba, only having to worry about kids, goats and our first monkey spotted crossing the road.
We arrived in Tamba and stopped at the first decent looking Hotel we saw at about 17:45, parked the bike next to their swimming pool and went for a beer.
After a shower we had the joy of a local taxi ride into town to get some money. As we have seen since we have been in Senegal, the yellow and black taxiís, mostly old Toyota Camryís and various Renaultís, are held together with filler, have few if any lights, no seat belts or suspension and break down a lot but they are cheap.
Back at the Hotel we were fed and another beer or two then bed.
Start Mileage 7243
Tambacounda - Kayes (Mali)
After yesterdays pounding it was a late start again, 10:45 before we were on the road after breakfast.
The roads are much better today, but back to looking out for potholes.
Not planning on arriving anywhere in particular today it was just a pleasant ride, nice and slow to get to wherever we got to.
We reached the Mali border quite early and decided to carry on across and see if we could reach Kayes. After passing through a police check point, which we thought we had been waved on through, we crossed the river and found ourselves at the Mali entry without officially leaving Senegal. About turn and back to the cop that had not waved us on as it turned out, but was calling us to stop!!! After getting a B*****ing from him for not having the correct stamp in the passports and for not stopping, he directed us to the police HQ in the town, which of course we couldnít find. We spotted a guy in uniform on a bike and asked him where to go, he worked there so we followed him. In the office the desk was piled high with passports waiting to be cleared, mostly Nigerian from what I could see and probably all the truck drivers that were parked in the town. Expecting a long wait and another late border crossing, we were surprised when all the others were put on hold and we were processed in 20 minutes and on our way back to the first cop who just waved us through this time, or did he!!?? But we had the proper stamp now and he never chased us so I guess we were ok.
Next stop customs to clear the bike. We had been told at customs on entering Senegal we would need a stamp to officially clear the bike, but this guy was just waving us through until we insisted and he asked someone in the office who stamped it up for us.
Next we are at the Mali police check point, this isnít where all the paperwork is dealt with though, thatís another African KM up the road. About 2 KMís later we found it, hidden by hundreds of parked up trucks, but again we were dealt with quickly and on to customs for just a quick check of paperwork and passports stamped.
Leaving Senegal and entering Mali was a lot better than we had experienced leaving Mauritania to enter Senegal, easier, quicker, the Senagalese and Malian people a lot more pleasant and more to the point it never cost a penny.
Another hour or so we are in Kayes in a nice Hotel.
Shower, beer and bed.
Start Mileage 7418
Kayes - Didieni
Up at 08:00 today looking to get an earlyíish start, although not expecting to make Bamako, we would crunch out as many miles as possible.
Usual stops every hour and a half† or so and we were making good progress on decent roads. As we passed through one village we noticed a bike coming the other way, two up and loaded. We turned around and stopped and had a long chat with Jean Phillipe and his wife Yumi. They had been on the road for two months and were headed back towards France, hopefully to settle in the Pyrenees. Jean Phillipe had left France 22 years ago and met Yumi while travelling. I think they had said that they had left Seattle in the U.S. to do this trip.
After swapping stories, mostly in our favour as they had already travelled the way we had come, we bade our farewells and set off but not before administering some first aid to one of the locals who had come to us asking for medicine. He showed us what looked like a broken finger, quite badly swollen, and he looked in pain, but not understanding him all we could do was to give him some pain killers until he could get to a proper doctor.
We got to a place called Didiemi, that looked the next big place on the map and started to look for a place to stop. We spotted a sign for an Auberge but as we passed it didnít look overly inviting so we decided to ride on a few more miles then pull off the road and put the tent up. Just outside Didieni we saw a Brit registered pick up truck parked on the side of the road so stopped for a chat, turned out they were French and had been to Liverpool to buy the truck, sounds a bit dodgy!! We didnít get the reg, but it was on a G plate, blue HiLux. So if anyone is missing one itís in Bamako at the moment!
We rode on another couple of miles and pulled off the road for our first night camping in the wild.
Start Mileage 7711
Didieni - Bamako
Woke up around 06:30 after not too bad a night. The road was busy all night with trucks passing but it didnít disturb us much. After a brew up and chasing a swarm of wasps out of the tent, we started to pack up and soon had an audience. Firstly 4 guys on pedal bikes stopped to say hello and watched us for about 20 minutes, then after them a young lad with a donkey and cart also stopped to watch.
It was getting on for 08:30 and the sun was already baking hot before we had managed to get the bike packed, we were glad it was only going to be a short run to Bamako today.
We arrived in Bamako at 12:00, it had been a hot ride this morning made worse by following the wrong signs into town. We had picked up the truck route into town and it wasnít moving very fast, with little chance to pass on the narrow road with trucks and buses coming in the opposite direction, we just had to suffer the heat.
Finally we spotted an Hotel and Lorraine went in to check the price, quite expensive at nearly £30 a night, but the receptionist told us that there was another Hotel run by a Chinese woman attached to the end of this one that was cheaper. After investigating and getting a price of £10 a night we parked up and unloaded the bike, yet again with an audience. We are getting used to being the centre of attention everywhere we pull up now, quite the celebrity!!
Next on the agenda was a beer to cool down a bit and it went down great. After a shower and another beer we tried to get some food, the bar had a menu board up but when we asked they said they didnít do food, we hadnít eaten since breakfast yesterday and needed food. It was getting late now and dark and we didnít fancy walking or riding into town when the owner came up to us and asked if we had eaten, when we said that the bar had told us there was no food she said that we could eat in the restaurant of the Hotel next door. A really nice, and big,† steak and chips for me and omelette for Lorraine and we felt much better, back to the bar for more beer, only to be told the price had gone up because they had music on Ö from CFA 800 to CFA 1000 for a pint, about £1:50 .. still better than Wetherspoons!
We didnít stay long at the bar as we were in need of sleep, or the beer kicked in early, so an early night for us, but the music went on past midnight as it was still playing and there were lots of peopleís voices enjoying the party when I woke up to empty some of the previously consumed beer.
Up at 08:30, a quick shower and a coffee in the Hotel next door. Just a trip into town today to locate the Cote DíIvoire embassy to try and get our VTE Visa after failing at Dakar, and the Nigerian embassy. We found the Nigerian embassy quite easily being signposted off the road but had a bit of a hunt round town trying to find the CDI embassy. We found it eventually and I marked it on the GPS to make it easier tomorrow.
We had passed an internet cafť while trundling round town so went back to check it out. As we pulled up two guys came over and started chatting to us. After answering the usual questions, and because they both spoke very good English, I asked if there was anywhere we might find some tyres and straight away Lamine was on the phone to someone he knew who might be able to locate some. While he was on the phone another guy turns up and introduces himself as John, and we go through the story once more. Meanwhile, Lamine has finished on the phone, because it is Sunday, and most of the shops are closed, his mate is having no luck, but he gives me his mobile number and says that if I ring back tomorrow around 12:00 noon he should have an answer, so we leave it at that. Just as we are about to go into the internet cafť, John invites us to dinner tomorrow evening at a restaurant he used to own that has the best Arabic cooking in town apparently, so we say we will meet him at 16:30 tomorrow evening after doing the visa thing.
Emails eventually checked and site updated we headed back to the Hotel for dinner, steak and chips for Lorraine and grilled chicken and chips for me. We knew what to expect with the steak as I had it last night, but when the chicken turned up, it wasnít the pokey bit of breast you would get in a restaurant back home, it was a whole chicken, and a big one at that. After dinner we thought we would have a drink in the expensive Hotel bar tonight instead of ours. Half way through the first beer, one of the guests starts talking to us, turned out he was the Mali Minister of Culture and he wanted our website address after finding out what we were doing. Pleasantries exchanged, and a chat with some of the other people in the bar, we were about to finish our drinks and head back, when another two were put in front of us courtesy of Ally (Minister of Culture), then the same thing again after they were nearly done. It would have continued all night Iím sure, but having to face the traffic the following day, I thought we had better make our excuses before we got too plastered.
We have met some very friendly and helpful people today.