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2.12. Tue (146) Bamako

In these areas of Mali, in the night the malaria mosquito's attack is usually quite aggressive! It happens mostly between midnight and 4 am. So, every square centimeter in the mosquito net has to be ok to avoid malaria!

I went to a patisserie (cafe) to have a croissant and Coke for a breakfast. Watched CNN from TV... What a different world! Last days were hard attempt to go forward in cattle tracks, now it was luxury!

Anyway, Bamako seemed to be as dusty place as for example Kayes, despite Bamako is the capital and most roads were paved. I wanted to check the air filter of the bike. A sad sight was awaiting for me. Lots of red dust had passed the air filter and it had also leaked. I think also the carburetors had got the taste of Sahel dust :( :(

I had been stupid... In dusty conditions the air filter top has to be treated with thick grease! Then most of the dust remains there and it is easier to clean the places. Bad lesson for me. Luckily I had got a spare filter, I had got parts as a sponsorship from Sfakianakis, the Suzuki Importer at Athens, Greece! God bless Sfakianakis! :)

I heard that for money withdrawal you had to reserve half a day for it. VISA card is left at the bank in the morning (8-11 am) and money can be retrieved afternoon (2-3 pm). That's how things are done in the big world! :)

3.12. Wed (147) Kati

I wondered, how it was possible for me to ride the roads of Bamako and many other places before, without a puncture! In many places there were trash on road, like screws and nails and other garbage. But no. I had been lucky. I'm sure I'll get experience in tire repairing during this tour.

I moved to Kati, a small town 15 kms away from Bamako. I had met before a Canadian guy who lived in a local family. He was in a Canada-Mali cultural exchange program.

So I had now the opportunity to stay with a local family and see their way of life.
Family of Traore and Bintta
These kind of experiences were what I was expecting of this tour. To learn something from the local people. About the local habits and way of life. To make friends from the local people. That wins the touristic hotel and camping life.

In the family I stayed with, they had seven children. Their home was very basic: no electricity, no pipe water, no shower. We took the needed water from a well. Also toilet was the most basic. The basic conditions didn't disturb me so much, because the people were great.

In general, Malians were magnificent! So friendly and polite and honest too. It was easy to approach the people. I would call them "an open-minded nation". The friendliness wasn't because of money, like in Senegal. Amazing.

I was given a Malian name 'Kankou Traore'. Kankou Moussa was an emperor of Mali in 1300's, who made a tour to Mecca and back in 1325-1327 by walk! A world traveller... Traore was the family name where I stayed... So my name was quite well chosen? :)

4.12. Thu (148) Kati

The Canadian guy, Jean-Martin (Malian name Mamadou) worked in a local school as a teacher. Today I had a chance to visit a Malian school too. There was also a Canadian girl Isabel (Bintta) participating in the same program. Actually their job primarily was not teaching, but learning of Malian culture. Working as a teacher is a good way for that, when you work with the children.

As we went to the classroom, the children stood up and sang the Canadian national anthem. Mamadou and Bintta had taught them it.

The children showed excellent diligence. There were 50 pupils but no problem. The only problem a foreign teacher might face, was that the children didn't speak French very well. That's because Bambara was their mother tongue, which they spoke at home.

In the evening I could taste a new drink called 'Dah bleni' (Dah red). It is made like tea, but the leaves are from the flowers of Dah tree. The drink tastes better than tea, I think.

In the family some children had a bacteria-based dermidic disease. Wounds and bad hygienia! And their father didn't have an interest to pay the medication! I did, what I could. I cleaned the wounds and tied them up. But that won't help. The medication (Cefadroxil + Betamethazon) would continue for months and they should improve their way of life.

6.12. Sat (150) Kati

Klick to hear the national anthem of Finland
This very day was the 80th Independence Day Anniversary of Finland! Finland got independent 6th Dec 1917 from Soviet Union. In the morning we went to work to the banana farm of the family. We pumped water to the fields. Not a motor operated water pump, but a foot operated! Banana trees require lots of water... We also cut a tree of 50-60 cm of diameter. The family got that to make the coal for cooking. That was the day's work.

I tasted for the first time the twig of a sugar cane plant. It is first peeled and then cut into one inch long pieces. Then you can chew it and have the sweet juice out of it. Then spit the twig part out.

Time for some fun.
In the evening we went with Mamadou to a bar to celebrate the independence of Finland.

9.12. Tue (153) Kati

I visited the school again, now I told the children (in French) something about Finland. I borrowed a globe from the headmaster and showed them post cards that I had with me. Sceneries from Finland, many winter pictures. That's what it was like now in Finland; snowy, dark and cold. The children didn't know anything about snow or sea.

10.12. Wed (154) Kati towards Mopti

A whole week had gone with the wonderful family. Now it was time to separate. Goodbye to Mamadou, hopefully he finds a Malian girlfriend :)

As I loaded my bike, I admit I was sad. Mohammed, one of the kids, the little banana farmer brought my back protection...

An example about Malian generosity: on my way to Mopti, on a police check point the cops offered me a lunch! Friendly. This day I rode more than 600 kms, to Sevare, near Mopti.

11.12. Wed (154) Sevare

I asked from the people the road conditions to Timbuktu. I heard that on the road there were lots of water and passing it from Eastern side would make 200 kms more distance to do. Almost 500 kms on desert conditions would require convoy arrangements and then I decided to give up. Timbuktu wasn't that interesting, since it was checked in a couple of hours. Touristic place. Still, that was something, I didn't do... Maybe next time ;-)

A picture of a mosque.

12.12. Thu (155)

A visit at Dogon area. It's in South East part of Mali, near Burkinan border. In the past there used to live a dwarf tribe. They lived in rock caves. As I visited the area I saw that nowadays it is just a touristic thing, guides and the local people have a rip-off way of thinking. Guides took generally 500FF ($90) per person of three day tour in the area. Expensive.

In the area the roads? were bad, they were actually rocky tracks. I had some difficulties to ride these tracks as there were stones of a size of a football or a fist.
Rocks and Rolling stones.
But I with Suzuki did it!

And I had in my bike an engine bottom protection modification, which was made in North Italy. My friends David Vialetto and Luca Piotto had made that for me.

14.12. Sun (158) Sevare (Mali) Ouahigouya (Burkina Faso)

Klick to hear the national anthem of <a href=Burkina Faso" src="">
General information of West Africa.
General information about Burkina Faso.

I felt that now I had seen Mali. Time to go ahead. As I rode the sandy roads to the border of Burkina, in the dark I didn't even notice the Malian customs! :) I almost passed the Burkinan customs point, it wasn't a very clear border.

Police complained a little bit (because I didn't stop in the dark), ...etc... I didn't have to pay :)

Anyway, I have to say: the 'Carnet de Passage en Douane' (CPD) vehicle customs document has showed its power. It was recognized at every West African customs and saved me from paying customs fees.
It is available from the Automobile and Touring Club.

As Burkina Faso also belongs to the CFA Franc monetary system, there was no need to change currency. Senegal, Mali, Togo and Benin all belong to that system.

The town of Ouahigouya was a relatively quiet place.

15.12. Mon (159) Ouahigouya Ouagadougou

So, trip continued to Ouaga. First impression was that Ouaga was wealthier place than Bamako. Despite paved roads there were lots of dust in the air. I found a good but cheap accommodation from a mission station. 2,500 F (4 USD), good quality.

Nearby there was an office that provided access to internet. Almost 100 USD to surfing payments lately. Aargh.

Applying Ghanaian visa took three days.

19.12. Fri (163) Ouaga (Burkina) Ghana

Klick to hear the national anthem of Ghana
General information of West Africa.
General information about Ghana.

Burkinan visa was expiring this day. Ghanaian visa became valid this day, so time to go!

As I arrived to the Ghanaian border, it was nice to hear English again. Only half an hour to closing of the customs. In West Africa they close the borders at 6 pm.

As I checked in at a hotel at Tamale, the receptionist tried to cheat me. I knew also that on the currency exchanging at Forex bureaus, cheating is a rule, not an exception (at least they try). You have to be accurate with money and count them every time at the counter. And if you get cheated, there is no reason to go to complain to police, because there is a lot of corruption.

20.12. Sat (164) Tamale Accra

On my holidays in Ghana my goal was to visit my friends I had met on my last visit (Sep 1996) in Accra and Ho.

On my way I wondered, why all the gas (they say: petrol) stations had run out of fuel. What?! A fuel crisis?!? In Accra I heard: there was some problems in the oil refinery and the country had a lack of fuel for one week! With last drops of fuel I 'limped' to the center of Accra in the night. Maybe next day I'll be lucky in finding more gas.
Chain maintenance after Sahel trails.

21.12. Sun (165) Accra

In the morning one Shell station had got gas. It wasn't difficult to notice: other stations lacked of customers, but at a Shell station there were about 500 people. Many policemen were needed to control the almost revolt situation. There was many hours queue for cars to wait for gas, for bikes just 10 minutes... :) Bikers have sometimes some 'privileges' compared to car drivers :) And I had good luck again :)

I met Mr. Felix Duku and his wife Cynthia and also Vanella, whom I had met last year. Nice to see again! I had possibility to stay at Felix's place. Wonderful people!

25.12. Thu (169) Accra

We spent the Christmas Day at Felix's cousin's place. The people were very nice. We had also marvellous cuisine there.

The Ghanaian Christmas had some similarities to that of Finland. People spent the time with the family. Ghanaian one wasn't that commercial, anyway. Christmas in Ghana is time for spending with family and resting. In Finland, Christmas is a too much commercialised thing. Presents, presents... Also Christmas cards seem to be an important thing in Finland (I sent 40 :) :) The only big difference was the climate. I missed snow a little bit.

26.12. Fri (170) Accra

In Felix's tribe (Nzema) at Western region of Ghana, there is the second name given by the birth day.

Birth Day Boy Girl
Sun Kwesi Esi
Mon Kojo Adjoa
Tue Kwabena Abena
Wed Kweku Ekua
Thu Yaw Yaa
Fri Kofi Efua
Sat Kwame Ama

I calculated that my birthday was Friday (2.7.1965) so my second name would be Kofi :)

We attended a wedding party of Felix's friend. Nice party. In Ghana, on Christmas time many couples get married.

27.12. Sat (171) Accra

We went to a party at Felix's work place, Ecobank. Great party. Thank you, Felix!

Soon the year changes. I wish you all a prosperous and a Happy New Year 1998!

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