So this is Mali

Trip Start Mar 07, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Mali  ,
Thursday, April 16, 2009

Leaving Mauritania at one of the most remote border crossings in the country is a bit of an adventure. The border crossing south of Nema had seen only 38 people either enter or exit the country all year, that 3 1/2 months. Our group of 28 people took the local Police by surprise, so much so that he did not have the exit stamp for our passports and needed to go home to get one. He also didn't know how to exit the vehicle from the country, its all too hard for him. After 2 hours we are finally away but after an hour of driving in nomads land between the border of Mauritania and Mali we are stuck in the sand yet again. Tents up is the call.

Its early Monday morning when we arrive in the border town of Naro in Mali. Monday is market day in this part of the world. Naro was awash with all the people from all over the district. They were trading in goats, sheep, camels and cows. We all went for a walk through the crowds and were all impressed with their friendliness. They wanted us to take photos of them. There are many places where people want you to take photos so they can charge you for the privilege, here they just want to be nice.

The town is also home to our first beer in a couple of weeks. Mauritania is an Islamic country which forbids alcohol in the country. So when we found a bar that was open in Mali it made some good money from us. It was midday and still 40 degrees (as normal) so the 2 litres of beer in an hour made an impact on my ability to talk with any kind of sense. Yes, I am a cheap drunk. The locals were friendly and cheery as we were exchanging stories. Before long it was time to make the long drive to the Mali capital of Bamako. We were advised that it would be about 9pm when we would arrive. The advantage of the long drive would be a couple of days rest and relaxation beside a pool and 24 hour bar with cold beer. Surprisingly some people didn't want to make the long drive, 7 days without a shower must not have been long enough for them.

As we entered Bamako we made a detour that ended with the trucking hitting overhead power cables. Luckily no problems, the locals were amused at the time.

The campsite at Bamako had air conditioned rooms so I booked one for the night. Arhhh, private shower, toilet and air conditioning. Most of the group followed the lead and took rooms as well. Very good idea. By 2.20am it was time to make my way to the room, the bar had run out of beer, I don't think I've ever know that to happen at a place I've been to.

The next couple of days were for lazing by the pool, exploring the town of Bamako (which is a bit boring) and washing clothes. On one of the nights we cooked a goat on the spit and organised for one of the local bands to come to the campsite and play for us. Later that night we went out on the town, by about 11pm it was a blur for myself and several others.

Now its time to make our way to the ancient towns of Djenne, Mopti and the iconic town of Timbuktu.
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