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19.11.97 Wed (133) Mauritania Senegal

Klick to hear the national anthem of Senegal
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 beach.

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 places.

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 Dakar

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 Tambacounda (Tamba)

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. Urp.

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.

Typical Sahel road.

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.

A family picture.

27.11. Thu (141) Senegal Republique du Mali

Klick to hear the national anthem of Mali
General information 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 go...

Givi sidebags and frames were a selection that I regretted, now again. But not a bad problem, I could live with that.

Fixed gear.

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 kind of:
"- 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 towards Bamako

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! Another fix.
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 towards Bamako

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 afford them.

1.12. Mon (145) Diema towards Bamako

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 bike).

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 40C, 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 my feet.

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!

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