Another catch up post in mostly pictures and short summaries.
*** ROAD TO BAMAKO ***
*** NIGER RIVER IN BAMAKO ***
In many growing cities around the world, the bodies of water that are in or pass through the city are disgusting (true of developing and developed countries). But the Niger River that flowed through the center of Bamako was surprisingly clean and beautiful. Maybe it’s because the rainy season just passed, but we really enjoyed crossing the long bridges that spanned this river in the middle of the city (and where we stayed happened to be right after one of the bridges, very close to the water).
*** THE SLEEPING CAMEL ***
When we were at Zebrabar in Saint-Louis, Senegal, we met a crazy Italian motorcyclist. He was one of the strongest advocates for going through Mali instead of northern Guinea and Cote D’Ivoire, and he told us about The Sleeping Camel in Bamako. We stayed there for 5 nights, and it was great. We hung out with Matt, the owner, a bit (but he never gave Jackie the Sleeping Camel billiards/pool champion T-shirt he promised her after losing a best of three contest), and got lots of good travel tips from him and all of the staff. There were also a few people that regularly hung around, and it was a great social atmosphere. Plus, there was very reasonably priced laundry (!), a good menu, and bunnies! We became a bit attached to the bunnies.
We also met another motorcyclist who was traveling overland. A Dutch guy, who seemed to have overland travel down to an art (the stickers on his bike and cases show that he’s been all over Africa, Europe, and into Siberia, multiple times). We wanted to learn more about his travels, but unfortunately he didn’t really speak any English, which seemed surprising from a) a Dutch person, and b) someone who’d travelled through that many places. Alas.
*** IN THE MARKET ***
Per the suggestions of everyone we met at the Sleeping Camel and the wonderful Sophie (a friend of a friend who used to live in Bamako and gave us a great list of things to do in record time), we visited the main market and the Maison des Artisans on our first day in the city.
Mali is overflowing with KTM Power K scooters, a Chinese knock-off of a Honda from 1995 (and not actually from the Austrian KTM motorcycle manufacturer). We really couldn’t believe how everyone had the exact same scooter.
We then visited the Maison des Artisans, where we looked for a small bag/purse for Jackie (who’s been looking for one for when she has to dress up, which is becoming more often now that a bunch of her friends have been getting married). We didn’t see one that we liked immediately. But Aron had spotted a pattern he liked a lot, and Jackie saw a size she liked, and so we asked if they could custom make a bag in 48 hours. The Maison des Artisans was filled with people working on their crafts, and so they said it could easily be done. We discussed all the details of what the bag would look like, and then gave a down payment for the work.
Two days later, we returned to find exactly the bag we wanted. The strap was a bit too long, and so the man who made the bag made a new strap in about 15 minutes, and we got to watch him finish the work.
We also visited the national park, which was nice and tranquil, and we went out a couple nights to see the local restaurant/club scene.
*** MALIAN DANCE ***
Sophie put us in touch with a friend of hers, Djibi, who dances at the Yeredon Centre for the Arts. He invited us to one of his practices, and so we drove a bit out of town to watch. We had a great time watching the dancing. It was very similar to the type of dancing that Jackie did in college, when she danced in a group called PADAME (the Pan-African Drumming and Dancing Ensemble). It turns out that the main choreographer of PADAME, Joh, was a part of Yeredon (possibly in starting it? we didn’t fully understand the explanation in French), and Djibi and the others knew him well.
*** DAY TRIP TO SIBY ***
One our final day in Bamako, we took a day trip to the Siby (suggested by Matt at the Sleeping Camel). It was a beautiful ride to Siby, and we took the smaller road to get there. We ended up riding on 19km of dirt road to get back to the main road and to the town, and that’s where we found this awesome blue Citroen 2CV (abandoned and complete with flat tire). Note that we both really want a 2CV someday.
When we got Siby, we drove through town and found the stone arch. We took a small road that didn’t look like it’s traveled very often to get as close to the arch as possible. We then attempted to hike up the mountain on a path that looks like it’s only used by locals collecting firewood, and eventually disappears. We got close enough for some good pictures, though, and didn’t get hassled by anyone trying to be our guide.
When we drove back through town, we found the real road that leads to the arch, and also to a nice waterfall if you continue for 19km. Oops. Next time!