It didn’t seem like a good idea to go to Mali, but then again no one really knows what’s going on there, where it’s all going on, or how safe it is for regular tourists. The locals are still traveling between the borders, so it couldn’t be that crazy to go, but after 32 hours straight on the same bus, it felt a little stupid. There was no AC or windows on the bus, or toilet or garbage cans, so the floor slowly filled with peanut shells and plastic as we put-putted our way east. We made toilet breaks on the side of the road, when everyone had between 30seconds and 2 minutes to piss on whatever rock you found, a few meters away from the next persons rock.
Mali was the first country in West Africa I’ve seen mountains. The horse drawn carriages of Dakar were replaced by a bunch of Eyore look-alike donkeys. The nighttime screams of crickets and grumbling of frogs was weirdly replaced by peacock calls. The local language Wolof, which had started to sound familiar, is now something stranger called Bambara, but French still remains, thankfully. Watermelons are in season, and I’ve seen piles as big as cars sitting on the side of the road. But everybody is selling a hundred watermelons, so I’m not sure how anyone ever gets rid of a car-sized pile at the end of the day.
I took a wander around the sprawling centre-ville of Bamako and got kicked out of the grand market at prayer time. It was Friday and the hustle and bustle came to a halt immediately after the call echoed over the mosques loudspeaker. As every man in sight rolled out a mat to kneel down on, the streets were even blocked from car traffic, and every woman magically disappeared. They rerouted me twice from the main roads I was walking on, and eventually I ducked into the only cathedral in Bamako to avoid my insulting presence (which stood miraculously on the second detour road).
I’m couchsurfing in Bamako and loving my French/Congolese couple hosts. Today we went to the zoo and the last few days have been spent running regular day life errands, which is basically all there is to do in this unsociable town. They say it’s because of the situation in the north, but it’s strange to see an icon of West African tourism advising foreigners not to go anywhere or do anything. Not even Timbouctou or Djenne. But I’m not entirely convinced…