The night at Kayes was spent at the ‘centre d’accueil de jeunesse’, where we camped on the roof. For dinner we feasted on delicious beef brochettes washed down with Mali beer. The next morning was spent attempting to find the correct ‘road’ to Bafoulabe, not that easy as tracks went in all directions. We did find a quarry though!
Due to the friendly locals the correct route was found, and we happened upon the ‘Fort du Medin’, a French fortress and capital of the region in colonial times. After a tour of that, our guide took us to some waterfalls and fabulous swimming holes. Lunch was bought from a local village and consisted of sardines and bully chicken! After lunch we continued on some incredibly dusty tracks with the advice of “keep the river on the left”, and found a great bush camp on the rivers edge. The evening was spent sipping beers cooled in the river and the sound of a myriad of drums from nearby villages. Jaap somehow managed to throw his pocket knife out of the window, and Jackie misplaced hers – the day of the lost knives! A very African adventure.
A missed turn off somewhere had us crossing the Senegal River earlier than expected, but the view downstream from the bridge was nothing short of spectacular. After a while we reluctantly admitted to being temporarily misplaced! But perseverance wins and after some bone jarring sections of road and very narrow passages of villages, complete with loads of kids screaming “cadeux”(Gary became king cadeux), we found the town of Selinnkegai. Just after that was the one and only signpost to Bafoulabe. The road did not improve and it was slow progress, not helped by a broken down truck blocking the way. The poor blokes had been there four days waiting for parts! No wonder they were very appreciative of the water we left them with. Pretending the truck was a goat we got around them, and then some hours later came to the river, just a slight detour! A crossing of the river on a barge had us in Bafoulabe, but we needed to be somewhere else. At this point two rivers become one. The Bafing and Bakoy rivers join to form the Senegal. Now we needed to cross the Bafing to be in the middle to be able to continue. We had previously been told that we could cross the rail bridge at Mahina, some 7km away, so off we went. Only to be denied a crossing. Two slightly loose plates on the bridge had them all concerned about us going over and no amount of argument would sway that decision…bugger! Another bridge downstream was a possibility, but after the road got even worse, and a tyre blew, camp was set up and a war council was held.
The consensus was to go back to the barge crossing, and when there we saw a landing on the middle bit, just where we needed to be. Why didn’t the ferryman take us there in the first place! Crossed again, and after 9km of very shit road we arrived at the other side of the rail bridge. Then amazingly we walked across it to get beer!
The road to Manantali was much better and good progress was made, stuffed up slightly by the hotel we stopped at for lunch. Ordered at 1.30, meal came at 4pm! No hurry in Africa!
Bamako was a welcome sight after our bush bashing, and we found Hotel Joliba on the south bank of the Niger River and set about preparing for Christmas.
The latter part of the journey I performed on elephants during the heat of the day; and a more uncomfortable mode of conveyance surely was never adopted.
Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker (1817-1911) from Himalayan Journals, 1848