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Published: March 3rd 2011
Goodbye to Mali - last day was 13th February, 2011
We had one day's rest back in Timbuktu after the festival and I spent a fair bit of time cleaning out our packs and trying to get rid of as much of the Sarah sand as possible and having a well earned shower and clean up.
We decided to have a fancy dinner on our last night in Timbuktu and we were not disappointed. The special restaurant that we went to also had a very important diner who had a lot of protection and the two streets surrounding the restaurant were very protected by local police and lots of guns........(two Hi-Lux uteswith 50cal machine guns mouted in the back of each ute and plenty of armed soldiers as well),,,,not sure who the
important person was but that didn't stop us enjoying the best meal we had for 3 weeks.
Up bright and early to begin our trip back to Bamako (capital city) - the early start is required to get your vehicles in line for the river crossing by barge. We left our hotel about 5am and drove the 15km to the river - finally making it to
the other side by approx 9am. So, another opportunity to meet and greet the locals, have coffee, buy more CD's and farewell our fellow festival group who were heading back to Mopti by boat (they were doing the reverse trip to us).
It would take us two full days of driving to get to Bamako but as we headed off we had no idea of how long the days would be and the state of the roads we were to travel on....it was exhasting. (Easy to say now that I have done the road trip - but next time just fly from Timbuktu to Bamako).
We drove into a sand storm and could hardly see the side of the road - we were thankful that we had not experienced this weather on our trip up the river. Our two vehicles travelled together (driven by two brothers who only spoke French and their local language) most of the time - our driver preferring to make new tracks in the sand along side the gravel road....that's how good the road was.
As you can imagine the amount of dust and dirt that we collected inside the vehicles - our
faces changed color and my black t-shirt turned brown (thank goodness for baby wipes to clean ourselves up a bit). Needless to say that all the effort I had put into cleaning out our packs in Timbuktu was lost as our packs were as full of dust as we were.
We have all joked that we are carrying a small pocket of Sarah sand in our stomachs somewhere after this trip.
The first vehicle had two punctures within 20 minutes of each other and we were a bit worried about the state of the spare type that they put on - but with a long lunch break we had all tyres repaired and felt a little safer again.
Our lunch stops were interesting on these two days as there weren't any preferred 'western' lunch stops - so we relied on the owner of the restaurant to advise us what was available. One day it was suggested that we have an omlete (with tomatoes and onions) and chips - thought good suggestion. However, after a while we took a peek outside to see that a whole lot of local women were busy peeling potatoes and onions, etc to
make lunch for the 8 of us.
We were all happy to arrive at our fancy Bamako hotel and I was not a bit embarrassed to be paying a lot of money for some luxury - hot and cold shower; cold wine; etc. We had two nights (one day) here to revive ourselves and get ready for Ethiopia.
It was a sad farewell dinner with our two travelling companions who were heading home - but we shared a last gin and tonic and meal together and appreciated the fact that had all enjoyed the experience together.
I read somewhere (and I hope I don't get it wrong): Mali is poor in economy, but rich in people. And I think that sums up Mali - it has a real fibrant feel about it - the people, the culture, the music - they are mostly happy, very friendly and if you travel with an open mind you will be richly rewarded.
Mali, many thanks for the experience.
My special thanks to our guide Hamma who made this trip so memorable from his passion for football to his love of people, music and dancing - great memories and
I hope to meet you again one day. Contact details:
firstname.lastname@example.org or 00 223 7644 1192
I hope you have enjoyed our travels in Mali - what a great experience - we have since spent 5 weeks in Ethiopia and are currently having some R & R in Thailand before flying home......so the next installments relating to Ethiopia may take a while but we will publish ASAP....thanks for your patience......Ros
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