Saturday, 10, December 2006

 

After a short ride through no man's land I reach the border post of Mali. As I already prepare myself for the formalties the soldier only says - welcome to Mali, after 50 kilometers there is cold beer!

Unbelievable, I do not even have to show my passport. The formalities are 50 km down the road in the small town of Nioro.

In Nioro I first need to go to the customs office in order to import the bike. The officialimmediately asks me whether I would like to sell him my motorbike. As my answer is no he seems to be a little disappointed but gives me the entry stamp and wishes me a good journey. The mandatory visit at the police post runs in approximately the same way, one police officer sits on the stairs in front of the station and plays the guitar while some other guy asks me to test one of the policemotorbikes on the yard. In a dark garden under a sun shade I can also buy my bike insurance for West Africa this evening.I just have to wake up the insurance broker and explain him on the basis of Ďhisí documents how much Ď have to pay!  

Now the moment has come, where I notice that I have changed as well. All these things no longer seem strange to me, they are simply part of it. Now I have really arrived in Africa.

 

 

 

 Sunday, 10 December 2006

 

Today the journey starts at 8 o'clock in the morning. Before us stands approximately 450 km to Bamako.

The first section of the road begins directly behind Nioro. At the moment they are building a new tarmac road next to the piste and due to the heavy building vehicles some sections exhibit deep sandy ruts.

 

With my heavily loaded BMW the road can be done quite easily, most of the parts I do in 3rd or 4th gear.

With rains certainly, that would be a different story.

 

 

  

Before we reach Bamako it gets dark.

 

 

Small fires burn beside the road and I drive through a wall of dust and smoke. On the roads are pedestrians, unlighted vehicles and all kinds of animals. I use the horn, flash the light and operate both turn signals to make people notice me. The ride is aconstant fight for survival. If there is something to avoid it is definitely to drive at night inAfrica.

We reach Bamako around 8 o'clock in the evening. Our lodge is excellent and it is just great to fall asleep after this long day.

 

 

 

 

Monday, 11 December 2006

 

Today I have the opportunity to get to know Bamako. A good way of doing so is to go for a run.I run along the banks of the Niger river and the children enthusiastically celebrate me. It is almost like in a Triathlon.

During the day I go for a taxi ride through the city and Iím inspired by the atmosphere. Everything seems to live and move with high speed.

 

People create something useful out of all things and make a merry impression on me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Tuesday, 12 December 2006

 

 

Today I spend a nice day in the lodge. In the morning I go for a run again and cross the river via the old bridge. An adventure.

Subsequently, I work on my motorcycle and change the transmission and engine oil. Much to the interest of the locals who immediately try to have a crashcourse in mechanics by watching me.

Since most of the people here are technically talented, I have soon trained them for various helping tasks.

 

 

Wednesday, 13 December 2006

 

Today I drive to the largest supermarket of the city.

I automatically go to the fruits and pack three apples into a plastic bag.

I look for the code number of the goods and as I enter it I donít trust my eyes. The price is 6500 CFA. That would be nearly 10 Euros for three apples!

Of course I donít buy them and as I check some of the other prices I can only shake my head, Their offer can generally be compared with us, some of the prices however are up to 3! times more expensive.   

In one of the poorest countries of the world. By the way, the cheapest mineral water costs 300 CFA. Nearly 50 Eurocents is definitely a lot if one considers that children and pregnant women should actually drink nothing else.

 

Thursday, 14 December 2006

 

I use the day to see the museum of Bamako. The displayed objects are very interesting, the pieces partially consist of tools and spear heads from the Neolitikum (the early stone age) and reach up to more complex figures from the 12thand 13thcentury.

Only the museum guards extremely anoy me, they pursue each guest at every step and keep constantly telling that it is forbidden to take pictures. Questions to the individual objects can thereby only be answered with ĄOui, Monsieur ď.

Of course they fail terribly with me and my intentions. I just tell one of the guards that I saw a flash behind the next corner and assume an illegal photographer there.

The righteous man thanks me andimmediately runs around the mentioned corner to catch the perpetraitor, while I can take my picture ďtranquilementĒ.

Wonderful, like Lara Croft in Tomb Raider!

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, 15 December 2006

 

Today' s duties make it necessary to go to the embassy of Nigeria. After the rather moderate experiences with the Nigerian embassy in Morocco I hope that I can get the visa in Bamako.

Generally visas for Nigeria are connected to high financial and bureaucratic expenditures. Innumerable copies of various documents as well as all possible kinds of letters of recommendation are very often inevitable.

9 o'clock on the dot I park my machine in front of the embassy building and the guards welcome me with a friendly handshake.

I tell them that I need a visa and they asks me to come in.

As Iím obviously the only client I can go to the counter immediately and everything happens differently than expected.

The lady behind the desk asks for my nationality and as I say Austria the price for the visa is 29000 CFA. Less than 45 Euros. Unbelievable, in Morocco they wanted 300US Dollars and here they donít even want to see a letter of invitation.I can come to fetch the visa on Monday. I am positively surprised.

 

 

Friday, 16 December 2006

 

Today I decide to see the nearby waterfalls.

Since you cannot safely park your motorcycle anywhere, I decide to take a taxi. In addition this usually represents a low-priced and relatively safe kind of transport as well as a nice alternative to the motorbike.

I flag down a driver and we begin to negotiate the fare. After approximately half an hour the whole taxi stand as well as some pedestrians and moped drivers are already involved into the discussion.  Some are on my side and naturally believe that the taxi driver is a bandit, others are against me for they think that the rich tourist shall pay

In Africa each discussion is public, all take part with highest eagerness and jump in for that side they believe to be right.

After a further nerve cracking 15 minutes and the threat from my side to start negotiations with another taxi driver, we finally agree on the price. 7 Euros for the whole afternoon donít kill me and for the driver itís the business of the week. 

So here we go! It must be remarked here that in most cases the taxi driver has no idea where the destination actually is. Each fare is taken and the places are normally found sooner or later by questioning colleagues and other car drivers for the more or less correct way.

With my desired destination this gets particularly difficult. The waterfalls are outside the city and we must first find the right exit. We do not really succeed and get lost in one of the suburbs of Bamako.

 

 

 

After a dozen further questionings as well as giving transport to allegedly well informed local pedestrians suddenly the car stops.

At a closer examination of the engine and the starter we find the cause of the problem. The fuel is exhausted.

Not on the correct way yet, but without fuel and gas station in reachable distance, we are on breakdown!

 

 

Actually it doesít need to be mentioned that the taxi driver has no money for fuel and therefore naturally asks me it to help him out. After a long discussion about the further procedure we come to a conclusion. The price remains as negotiated, the taxidriver takes the fuel money off the fare and I watch his car as he tries to find fuel. Within a few minutes the children of the neighborhood have gathered to watch the stupid Toubab (white man), who parks a taxi in the middle of the road.

 

After approximately one hour suddenly my dear friend, the chauffeur returns.

In his hands he has two bottles of fuel.

After successfully refueling the vehicle and approximately two hours of break we continue our ride.

By pure intervention of fate and the transport of one, this time really well-informed pedestrian, we reach the waterfalls around 5 o'clock.   

With the last energy I have I climb the rocks and enjoy the beautiful nature. I did not know up to now how arduous taxi rides can be.

 

 

 

 

The return goes rather calmly. We get lost only once and the fuel lasts. Briefly said, the journey back is a success.

As I pay the driver, he automatically asks me for a little gift and to contact him again when I plan the next trip.

 

Saturday, 17 December 2006

 

 

Today I am happy to go for a run at the river and still must think about the cheerful taxi experience from yesterday.

Actually it is exactly these things, which really make a journey. The more you get in contact with the people, the more interesting and also funny things happen.

This evening I am invited to the cultural center of Bamako. A traditional music festival takes place on the banks of the Niger river. Many artists from Mali and the surrounding countries will perform.

The party is excellent. The music transports a good atmosphere and after a short time the whole stage area is in motion. The people dance, applaud and sing.

Covered by the party crowd some guys try to climb over the fence to avoid the entry fee.

After a short time they get noticed by the police. The procedure in such a case is a little different from Europe. With batons and kicks the people get banned from the areaand small riots start immediately. Groups form, and people begin to jump in. In any case for me itís time to go now for a big riot can develop quickly. Back in the lodge again, I see that the festival is on television.

I watch some more and then go to bed. 

 

 

Sunday, 17. 12. 2006

 

In the morning I go for a run and come by the Lybian embassy. The security guards are tired as every morning, but the men greet me nicely. Today they even have a cup of tee for me and afterwards we do some push-ups together.

In the afternoon I drive to the city center to draw some money from the ATM.

For any inexplicable reason none of them functions, so I make my way home.

 

 

Monday, 18 December 2006

 

Today I drive to the Nigerian embassy to pick up my visa.They are veryfriendly again and immediately hand me my passport with the essential documentation .Valid for 3 months and one month of stay. Exactly this visa would have cost me 300US Dollars in Morocco.

I thank them very much and inquire about the current security situation in the country.

The security in some areas of Nigeria is extremely unstable at the moment and I would like to avoid these particular places on my journey.

My intended transit route should be passable, however according to informations of the embassy there should be some problems in the region. Over a distance of 600km I will have to expect approximately 150 checkpoints and police roadblocks!  

If they all want a gift I must either sell my bike or risk to be arrested as a cigarette smuggler. Let us hope the best!

I have sorted out all important things in Bamako now and will continue the journey according to my plan.

 

 

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

 

Today I write my christmas letters and prepare everthing for the departure to BurkinaFaso. I hope that I can reach Lome/Togo during the Christmas holidays.

I plan to spend Christmas and New Year in Lome and then to travel to Nigeria at the beginning of january. This country still represents a safety-relevant risk and the crossing will be a difficult task.

My climatic window for Cameroon is then only open for another 15 days. If I can not make it within this time the rainy season starts and the difficult piste roads of the north-east will become impassable. Any way if things keep going well I should not have problems to stay with my schedule.

 

Subsequently, I would like to thank all my friends, acquaintances and people who know me for supporting my project and wish them a merry Christmas.

 

I would also like to send two small impressions home.

Austria is a blessed country for many reasons and it is a privilege to live there as well as to spend Christmas with the family and friends.

One should never forget that. Exactly the same as one should not forget the people here in Africa who have so little and still welcome their guests with all they can share.

Let us keep this feeling in our hearts!