English translation day 12 - 29

picassa photo album

Day 12-14

In Kayes, we bring our laissez-passer for Mali to the customs. Not once they have asked why we  didn't cross the border officially . The visa was already obtained in Europe and the laissez passer cost us 8 euros. What a difference with the difficulties in Senegal. Too bad I no longer can enter Senegal, I wanted to pass there on the way back.
The next day we set off direction of Kita, 340 km further, we expected asphalt, but got our first kilometers of misery.

The Chinese are building a road, but no place has been finished, which makes us slogging through the mud on the building site.
After a whole day we traveled 90 km and after a too expensive ferry , we are in Bafoulabé.

The police escorted us to the only hotel in town, which is a bungalow complex for development workers.
The next day we start on the remaining 230 km to Kita.
A morning run of three hours for 90 km until Manantali and an afternoon drive of another 100 km in 3 hours time. We only see two large trucks and 1 bus. How the bus gets through the difficult passages, I would like to see.

But then there is something fantastic, something I dreamed about, materializes before my eyes, an asphalt road, and even a good one, even better than in Belgium, although that doesn't say  much.
I'm happy as a child in the last kilometers of today that I can use gear 3 and 4. Nice hotel in Kita and the next day to the capital Bamako, along the same perfect asphalt road, where toll should be paid, but not for motorbikes.
Now were in the busy, motorcycle crazy, smog infested capital where we will stay a few days.

Day 15-17

When we left our luxury hotel because there was no room left (we had not booked), we drove out of town and at a crossroads I turned in the wrong direction . Immediately there followed police whistles from every corner, but I pretended not to hear and I drove a little further to the gas station. There I did not believed what I saw, 2 Yamaha Tenere's, like ours, and with Belgian number plates were in the car wash. Two young people came forth, Nicolas and Isabel, both from Antwerp, what a coincidence. Meanwhile, a policeman stood beside us and asked our papers, we could follow him to the chef. There followed a lot of excuses and they finally let us go , much against the wishes of his adjutant, we just had to buy them a few cool drinks.
Once back at the Belgians soon became clear that we had too much to discuss and that we would follow them to Auberge Djamilla, a sort of hippie camp. Nice days followed, with engine maintenance and comparing plans and talking about our travels. Nicolas and Isabel, ambitious young doctors were going through the Congo in the coming months and along the east coast back to Europe, definitely a route less traveled.
Everything is ok for the rest, except I've started smoking again and I've broken my little toe ...

Day 18-20

After 4 days rest in Bamako, the Tenere's are driving again, this time in formation of 4, I and Boni and Nicholas and Isabel. The road to Segou, Djenne is paved, and so it goes smoothly. Along the way the landscape changes slowly and there are more rocks to make it a bit like the Wild West in America.

In the afternoon we drive in Segou and look for an affordable hotel, and after an hour we find a room with four beds for 20,000 CFA, about 30 euro, here starts the more tourist side of Mali. It is already clear that tourists are absent because of recent threats of AQIM, the North African branch of Al Qaeda. In Segou we are constantly followed by a few people from the tourist office on the local market , supposedly for our safety, but they just made us feel unsafe by doing so. Even in a small restaurant they follow us, and when we send them away, we notice that a little later on,they made their way back in via the back entrance, and order food.
The evening is completed by a walk along the river where the stallholders depart in their pirrogues to the other side of the river. We are in the company of Felix, a smooth black guy, who proposed to build a party later on with the ¨ ministre de l'ambiance ¨, whom he knows personally. We do not.
The next day it goes to Djenné with its largest mud built mosque, the crown jewel of Mali, and often depicted in guidebooks.
Arriving at the ferry to the peninsula we are welcomed by many sellers of jewelry and other cheap tourist stuff, and a guide. He convinced us by wanting to work" moins cher que gratuit"(cheaper than for free).
He tells us that tourism here has collapsed since the problems with Sarkozy and their president and the terrorist threat, it will become painfully clear later in Djenne, that these people are desperate. For the rest of the day, we see two white people, while usually busloads are dropped off. After the guided tour we eat spaghetti at his home, and he tells us that the great Imam has a sick child and that we get the very rare opportunity to see the inside of the mosque, normally off limits to infidels. When he then also completely desperate reduces the price, we realy can not refuse. The visit, which has to happen in the dark, is somewhat disappointing, because the outside is 10 times more beautifull than the inside.

Day 21-22

When we arrived on the escarpment of the Dogon it was quickly decided to stay one day and take a short guided walk along some authentic Dogon villages. One of the brothers of the village chief went along with us via steep slopes down to two villages later to surprise us with a climb along a kind of ladders made from a tree, right back up. We found this spectacular, but moments later a mother with child on the back and a basket on her head, came up which put everything in perspective. The landscape and villages are absolutely incredible,but the fact that our guide leads us by all the village chiefs, without prior notification that a gift of cola nuts is needed, is slightly irritating, cause we have nothing to give with us. By the third village we are looking for something to give to the village chiefs, and so we buy 3 packs of tea in the local shop.
Everywhere we go, we are followed by the children who spontaneously take our hand and then begin to ask for a stylo, chocolate or money but mostly are just shy and come to say hello.
The next day I wake up with all the symptoms of a cold, always suspicious here in malaria area, but it's also winter here. That it's winter you can see clearly by the locals in the morning, dressed in thick coats complaining about the cold, while the temperature hardly drops below 20 degrees.
Despite a running nose we head for Burkina Faso, after conquering the sandy dunes, a very sandy piste of 30 km awaits us.
Nicholas and I are going through it quickly, coupled with a few crashes, but for Boni, which is still injured and Isabel, who has trouble with the weight of the bike, the first few kilometers are very difficult.
Isabel has found a solution in the donkey bush taxi, while Nicolas drives her bike through the sand.
Meanwhile, I discover a huge dent in my rear rim, probably sustained by a deep hole on the asphalt.
In the afternoon we reach the Burkina Faso border, where another problem arises,apparantly we notified the customs after our river adventure into Mali, but not the police, so we don't have an entry stamp for Mali. By now it looks like we prefer to travel illegally, but this is simply a blunder, since we asked for directions in the police station en route to the customs. Fortunately, a solution is never far away in Africa, and after paying 5000 Cfa the police officer put an entry and exit stamp in the passport, complete with two different signatures.
Now we are finally officially in a country, we quickly drive towards Ouagadougou, the capital city with the best name in the world.

Day 23 - 25

Arriving in the backpackers village "Le Pavillon Vert" in Ouagadougou we take the time to take care of a few things, like fixing my rim. The first person I asked, a mechanic of a Total service station, says it will be no problem, I will be very happy,he says, and only 1 hour later I was . Wheel off, tire off, take the rim to someone to get it heated and in no time it's repaired. Seeing someone putting a tyre on the rim with the heel of his foot and one tyre iron is magical, especially for someone like me, who needs three irons and three arms.

Problem nr2: mild tourista, I will not go into detail, let me just say that I reserved a room with a toilet just in time .
Problem nr3: money, nowhere in Mali and now in Burkina can I use my Mastercard, Visa is no problem but I haven't got one. Soon I will be as poor as the average African.
Problem nr4: Visa for Ghana and Mali, resolved in 2 days, record time!
Problem nr5: Rear tire is half worn out, resolved in one day by sheer luck that the auberge owner, also a biker, got his hands on some good michelin T63's in the right size.

Then I sent some postcards home, washed my clothes and all that remained was relaxing with a beer at 30 degrees in the shade.

Day 28-29

After the outright refusal of my brand new Mastercard in both Mali and Burkina, it's good to have arrived in English speaking Ghana. Just over the border, Ghana gave a more modern impression, with a lick of paint on the outside of the shops and also more than three products on offer, and just like 'Lonely Planet' announced,'ATM heaven'. For the first time this trip the bills come out of the cash machine, bills of 5 Cedis (2.5 euro) for the maximum value of a 100. I immediately feel rich, at least rich enough to pay for a Christmas dinner this evening.
After reviewing 5 or so hotels in Tamale we arrive at Hotel Relax. There WiFi is available, so on Christmas Day the family can be skyped, and though the Muezzin of the mosque opposite does his very best to shout the koran verzes as hard as possible through the speakers, we succeed in celebrating Christmas in the hotel restaurant by bringing in a candle from the room in an effort to create some sort of christmas atmosphere.

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