A man bringing in fire wood with his donkey and cart.
Mali was an uneventful ride. We wild camped our way across Mali to the capital of Bamako where we stayed at the Sleeping Camel Campground in the city.
Really it is a hotel with three tent sites. Fortunately two were open. We were in the process of setting up our tent when I heard the main gate open to let a vehicle in….and I looked up and saw the front bumper of none other than ……the blue adventure truck~!!! It was a great and surprising reunion with our new found friends…..we keep bumping into each other like that.
Come to find out they saw us in Dakar, Senegal and tried to get our attention but we missed them…dang~!!
Our Blue Truck friends stayed for a couple of days before heading to the Ivory Coast…..while we spent a great deal more time applying for our Nigeria visas and our Burkina Faso visas. That all took about six days.
While at the Nigerian Embassy in Bamako we met a young man named Oumar Koulohogon. Oumar is the Assistant consulaire à l'Ambassade du Nigéria. He is a very bright young man who speaks excellent English, and he took a great interest in what we are doing in Africa.
Oumar told us a little about how he grew up, how he managed to leave his village and attend college…..and it is truly a fascinating story. He has promised me that he will write his story down and send it to me. I will post it on our blog when I receive it. I am sure that you will find it as fascinating as we did
After some discussion with Oumar about our mission, he mentioned that the small village that he is from, which is located about 500 kilometers north of Bamako in the Mopti Region, was in need of some assistance with their water well. The water was making people sick. We agreed to look into the possibility of going there to see what we could do.
As we were about to leave, Oumar told us we could pick up our visas the next day….which from every one we have talked to that is an impossibility.
About this time the Nigerian Ambassador to Mali comes out and Oumar graciously introduces us to him. Mr. Ambassador took a great interest in our trip and asked what route we were taking through Nigeria. He then spent a good deal of time sitting with us and looking over the map we have on Lana’s IPad, and then advised us of the safest route through Nigeria. Then he said that we didn’t have to wait until tomorrow to pick up our visas, he would have them ready this afternoon~!! WOW…that is nothing like we had been hearing from many people.
After gathering some intel over the course of the next several days we found that it is far to dangerous for us to ride motorcycles to Oumar’s village. Here are only a few examples of the intel we received---some of it by GODS Grace:
One woman, who until just recently was working with her team in the Mopti region (where we were going), was providing clean water and sanitation education in the villages. When she heard through the Africa grapevine that we were going there, she stopped late at night at the camp ground where we are staying and came to our tent just to warn us not to go. Her people were forced to leave the area at gun point when the bad guys (BG) told them that they were going to cut their heads off if they continued to work there.
Several months ago the BG burned two Arabs alive in the street of a village (Gao) north and east of the village we were going to
There are 281 known armed militant groups in northern Mali
We were told that there are bandits on the road leading to the area that we were going to. They target white people in particular, and they will steal everything we have, including our bikes, “but probably won’t shoot you”. (We are much more vulnerable on motorcycles than we would be in an adventure truck. I. E. It is pretty difficult to run through a BG road block on a motorcycle)
And the list goes on…………..But you get the general idea…….We didn’t exactly get a warm fuzzy feeling from any of this intel
It is FAR TOO DANEROUS of a place to take Lana to. So common sense won out over ???? , and we have canceled that portion of our trip.
After a long discussion with Oumar, who, after hearing our intel, told us that he would not allow us to go---and he has the political horse power to stop us. So between the three of us we have discussed our options.
People are getting sick from drinking the water. Here is the current problem with the well: It is very possible that the well was put in using a big rotary auger drill rig (like a giant size post hole augar). The well apparently has a large diameter concrete well casing and is deep enough that they are unable to pull the full water buckets up out of the well by hand. So they use a donkey, pulling on a long rope with the water bucket on the other end to get the bucket of water up out of the deep well. The rope goes from the bucket on one end, up to a pulley at the top of the well (the “draw works”) while the donkey is pulling on the other end of the rope to pull the full water bucket to the top of the well. That all sounded OK until I quickly realized that the pollution problem that is making them sick is that the rope gets drug on the ground going in and out of the well. When it goes back in to the well it carries all of the animal feces and many other contaminates with it.
Oumar will dispatch a local from the area whom he knows to gather actionable intel and photos of the situation with the villages water well, population density, number of families, etc, etc. Then we can make a determination of how many water filters that they need, and we can also decide what type of hand operated water well pump is needed, a top for the well, and what the best well cleanup program is for them to use.
Of course we will need to have someone install the well pump, teach several of the people in the village how to maintain the pump system, supply them with some spare parts for the pump….and teach them how to maintain (read clean) the water filters. They also need some instruction on how not to contaminate the water when they get it out of the well and then out of the filter.
Coming from the west it is hard to believe that they do not know anything about basic sanitation….like keeping your water clean and washing your hands~!!!
So as an interim measure we are going to get them some water filters and then look into a water well pump and a top for the well.
For the most part we found the Mali people to be very friendly and hospitable….not like we were told they would be. As we approached Bamako (or our next place to stop anywhere) we start waving at the locals in the nearby villages to see how friendly they are. In Mali we got two results and they were a long ways apart.
In some villages the people were very friendly and some were as cold as ice….with getting some serious hate stares…..VERY serious hate stares.
Riding through Mali is way, way off the beaten track for tourists. We ran into one other couple on adventure bikes and our blue truck friends….and that was it. No other outsiders. Tourists do not visit Mali because it is quite a bit more dangerous than most people will deal with…..and for good reason. Here are a few examples:
A few days before we got there some BG’s threw a few hand grenades over the wall into two different compounds in Bamako to see how many people they could kill….they were just not smart enough to pull the pins first. Thank GOD for dumb as a rock terrorists.
A week before that, a women suicide bomber with a baby detonated a bomb at a military facility in Bamako and killed a bunch of people and wounded a bunch more.
A couple of months before this there was a military coup in Mali and a new government took over.
The security situation in Mali is deteriorating fast enough that the campground we stayed at in Bamako (a lot of UN people stay here) painted over their sign on the outside security wall so no one can tell it is a motel / campground facility. (So when we pulled up on our bikes and the GPS said you are here…we had no idea where “here” was…until a gate guard opened the gate and said “in here”.
So you can see why Mali is not at the top of most tourists “gotta see it” list.
So we rode out of Bamako, Mali headed for the Burkina Faso border…..and the crossing was easy.
Below are a few random photos that we think you will enjoy.
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Kids surround Lana and her bike at a road side village
A very small child beside the highway...a common sight
A large village in Mali
Women carrying fire wood back to the village on their heads....a very common sight
People harvesting a long type of grass near the road that is used to thatch roofs with
A small market alongside of the road with not much to sell. Between the border and the capital of Bamako it was very difficult to find any food to buy.....we missed a few meals Goat meat, bush meat and rice seems to be the staples. We NEVER eat bush meat (monkey, fruit bats, lizards, rats, etc)...it is how Ebola gets started