General information of West Africa.
General information about Senegal.
I headed towards the Senegalese border. There the officers checked my
papers: vehicle papers, passport and driving license. Then it was only
to pay the ferry (across the river Senegal). There goes a ferry four
times a day across the river Senegal (200 meters). Other possibility is
to ride a dirt track (sand road) of 80 kms.
At the customs before leaving Mauritania they wanted to check my money
(as it is a controlled thing in Mauritania). Of course I had a lot,
because I had made a withdrawal earlier that day. The officer insisted
me to leave half of it, 30,000 Ouguiyas, equal to 180 USD! to the
counter, because of "customs violation". Damn sure, I refused. So, I
didn't give the money and I could change them at the Forex bureau
(where they tried to cheat me too)... They seem to try everything!
5 minutes trip across the river and border formalities again in Senegal.
Now I was in black Africa. In Mauritania there were also black people,
but maybe 1/10th of population. There were also Arabic culture, in
Senegal it was more black African.
When I stopped sometimes for a break, people asked:
- "Are you participating in the rally?" >
- "What rally? I am a tourist." :)
They meant the Paris-Dakar rally, which is in January. Before arriving to
the first city, St. Louis, a police office stopped me and wanted a
bribe (60FF)! He took my driving license and I bargained for whole five
minutes, but in the end I had to pay, anyway (10FF).
20.11.97 Thu (134) St. Louis, Senegal
Just resting and relaxing of last day's hard riding (600 kms). General
view of St. Louis town was
not very fine. It was like a slum side by side a beautiful, tropical
I rode around the slum and saw coincidentally a text of "Judo" in a
building. Of course I had to check the place. I met the teacher, sensei
of that budo club. He had 3rd dan black belt in Shotokan Karate and he
knew also Ju-jutsu techniques. So, budo is trained in the weirdest
In Senegal the people were different from those in Mauritania
(or Morocco). They seemed to be friendly as long as you had money.
Mostly in the center of St.Louis was too much hassling: kids begging for
money or some drug addicts selling (pushing) some stuff. Not nice.
24.11. Mon (138) St. Louis
I sent some 40 Christmas cards. What a job! :) Of course, it's nice to
have friends around the world!!
That day I had the first time technical problems with my bike: it didn't
start! Soon I understood that the problem was the dust which the bike
had got in Sahara the last few days. The problem was anyway a minor one:
the electrical switch of the clutch lever was dusty.
I stayed with a family, that offered accommodation for travellers.
Usually hotels were around 5,000 - 10,000F (CFA), but this was only
2,500. Not expensive. 100 Francs CFA is equal to one French Franc.
25.11. Tue (139) St. Louis
I found a nice camping, just 30 meters from the sea shore. Dakar was not
an interesting place from my point of view, and my intention was to
leave Senegal soon.
26.11. Wed (140) Dakar
This day was only for moving towards Mali. Very boring road, there were
many straight 10 kms parts, without any curve. Sometimes I had to be
cautious of holes in the road. And sometimes I got a 'cold sweat', when
a herd of cows rushed on the road from bushes with their sharp horns.
Air was really dry and hot! When motorcycling in such conditions,
lipstick and eye drops are highly recommended. Drying of eyes and having
wounds to lips (because of drying) will be a problem. Generally,
dehydrating happens, so drinking is very important.
Despite the boring riding, it was interesting to see the nature to
change more fertile. 200 kms in the North, it was just a desert, now
it was dry terrain, called Sahel. It isn't as dry as a desert and not
as fertile as a real forest.
So, Sahel is a narrow (about 400 kms wide) region between Sahara and
the rain forest. Unfortunately Sahel is moving towards the South all
the time because of the cutting of the rain forests.
of West Africa.
Mali data en Francais.
General information about Mali.
I connected my GPS again, because there were no road signs in Senegal and
I was going to rural areas. On my way towards Malian border,
the top case frame broke.
Trembling and shaking on a bad African earth track was too much for an
aluminium frame. I think that Givi and other plastic/aluminium stuff are
not designed for real use! 300 kms was enough for Givi...thousands to
Givi sidebags and frames were a selection that I regretted, now again.
But not a bad problem, I could live with that.
The border crossing to Mali was an easy thing, they just made the markings
to the Carnet (customs document). That's all.
On Malian side there were a little bit more complicated formalities,
but ok. I was free to proceed to town of Kayes.
A funny thing happened:
Just before arriving to Kayes, I didn't notice a police check point in
the dark. In Mali, it is obligatory to stop and do 'formalities' before
entering a city. I learned that now. I stopped later, police came to
me and insisted me to pay a fee of 9,000 F. I understood that a bribe
was in question ;-)
If you strictly refused to pay the fee in this kind of situation, then
you paid it for sure. I explained politely that "I'm sorry, it is dark,
it was impossible to see the checkpoint".
We had a five-minute conversation about the fee. I'll tell what
"- You tried to pass the checkpoint without permission! That makes 9,000F!"
"- But sir, I don't have money almost at all."
"- How much?
"- And my fuel tank is empty, I need to buy expensive gas etc...
He got bored, I didn't have to pay! :)
28.11. Fri (142) Kayes
The broken top case aluminium frame was welded at a "truck and moped
workshop"! :) They did good work again. 10,000 F.
Traffic insurance was necessary to get. The reason wouldn't be of
getting money in case of some accidental damage, but avoiding problems.
For example: when a police officer asks to show that piece of paper
(insurance document), you don't have to pay any bribes to cops...
An insurance for one month, valid in West African countries cost
44,000 F. Expensive fun.
Kayes was a small town, which didn't have any specific downtown. It was
a slum town. It was the former capital of Mali, nowadays the capital city
is Bamako. There were many buildings that were built by the French
colonialists 100 years ago. As Kayes was a town in Sahel area, air was
very dusty. Many people used surgical masks.
I met there a nice German family. They stayed there because of work,
they were missionaries. They invited me to visit their home (Catholic
evangelical mission station). They had quite a luxurious home.
They told me about their work. As the majority of Malians are Moslems,
the Christian congregation in Kayes was tiny, only 20 members. The
missionaries' work is quite difficult and demanding anyway. Always it
is necessary to learn the local language first before they can even
start their work. In West Mali the spoken laguages were Soninke,
Sarakole and Bambara.
The Christian church (MAF) is using a lot of money for that kind of
purpose. I think it would be more important for the local people that
the money would be used for example to improve the local health
conditions and education there. I would let them believe in whatever
god they want. These missionaries try to convert Moslems to Christians.
Doesn't make any sense. Arabs were there 1000 years earlier...
29.11. Sat (143) Kayes
In West Mali the road conditions were bad, really bad. As I asked from
the people which might be the best route to Bamako, one suggested to go
along the road following the railway. That was the shortest way. Then
I heard that because the rainy season had ended just 6 weeks ago
(in middle of October) there was half a meter of water on road...
So, I had to choose the Northern alternative, route via town of Nioro.
I rode from Kayes
towards Nioro, a town in North Mali, near the border of Mauritania.
Road was not a good one!
It was mostly very bumpy, sometimes soft track like Saharan piste,
sometimes I found myself riding 'motocross' with a 'truck' on a dried
river bottom, between stones... So because of horrible road conditions,
I did only 145 kms in 8 hours!! The
modifications made in Italy,
were really needed now!
Of course I could have put my bike in a train, but this is an MC Tour!
I arrived in a village during the night (again). As I was exhausted, an
accommodation was a must there. Even in Malian villages there are
'campements'. They are not actually campsites, but some kind of. That
campement was closed, so I could set up my tent to a gas station!
The village was called Sandare.
30.11. Sun (144) Sandare
I rode towards Nioro through a sand road, not too bad, but dusty. Because
no road signs existed, in every crossroad it was important to find and
ask from a local person the correct road. GPS was a little bit helpful
and for 'just in case'.
Nioro seemed a poor town, I would rather call it a village. This day's
destination happened to be a village called Diema. It had a tranquil and
good atmosphere and it was quite a clean one.
In the campements the rooms were quite terrible: dark and without mosquito
nets. Like a prison. Camping outside: 2,000 F. No showers. Bathing was
possible at a water well they had in the village. Generally, living in
the villages was very basic. Electricity, television and pipe water were
luxurious things, that weren't needed in the villages or they couldn't
1.12. Mon (145) Diema
This day my goal was to reach Bamako. A friendly police officer in the
village took me to the beginning of the Bamako road (with his 100 cc
Next 5 hours were just a painful experience.
'Kayes-Bamako Highway' was
sometimes (this part) just a cattle track!!! Wouldn't have been any
problem with just the bike. Without the luggage, I could have 'flown
over' the tracks, but now I had lots of luggage.
I rode like a madman, but could do only 100 kms in 5 hours! Air
temperature was about 40°C, and sometimes I nearly had to carry my bike!
And I had diarrhea too. Uurgh. The conditions were almost as bad as
in Sahara. Sometimes I had to beware the tree roots risking injury to
Then, suddenly, a wide good earth road spread in front of my eyes.
Farewell, bush roads! 80 kms/h... Throttle... When I had a Coke and
a piece of bread in a village,
I was in heaven :)
Finally, I arrived at Bamako, the capital of Mali. I felt paved road
luxurious! 12 hours continuously on bike, in extreme conditions. Finnish
stamina (SISU) since 1965! Next update of the Tour