Dakar – Ouagadougou



11th January 2009

We spend almost the whole day on the beach repacking and cleaning our Landy. Fortunately the beach is filthy and it does not attract even a single tourist. Only some locals gather to sell us souvenirs and lure us into the empty restaurants.

With a clean car we refill diesel and hit the road towards Mali. First 50 km of the road is decent but it becomes the usual – dusty, dirty and very slow track to drive on. We stop around midnight to camp in a field in order to give Janusz another blending-in night. No highlights of the day except for the amusing bonfires by the road where people gather and spend evenings together.

 

12th January 2009

Early start as one does after camping in field and we hit the dirty track straight-away.

The bad road continues for the most of the day until 100 km before the Malian border where it gets better and even meets European standards! This is promising and when we finally cross the border with Mali we are amazed how smoothly and bribe-less it all goes. Now Janusz will never believe in our previous border experiences.

Mali is a surprisingly clean and well developed country. Pavements, gutters, curbs – not only in the cities but also in villages.

In Kayes just behind the border the cash point eats my MasterCard. Obviously it spat it out twice as the warning but as stubborn as I am – the card gets swallowed at my third attempt. Well, as it turns out only Visa cards are accepted in this part of the world.

We drive almost through the whole night in order to get to Bamako early morning. We need Nigerian visa and as many others as the time allows. We camp in savannah. Przemek sleeps on top of the car. Me and Janusz in the tent exposed to any savannah’s dwellers. I’m not too worried as Janusz is visibly a meatier catch for the predators.

 

13th January 2009

After the breakfast we drive towards Bamako and we make it there for 1pm.

Basic spelling mistake and we drive straight to Niger embassy instead of the Nigerian one on the south of the river. This will prove quite ironic in 1 week time.

Nigerian embassy turns out to be a nice place which seems strange after all the horrid stories we heard about the country. We fill in the forms, pay €150 and when we are about to leave the nice lady who was dealing with us says that Przemek looks like Vladimir Putin. We know at this point that the visa will be ready for tomorrow.

We dine at Azar – a bar where foreigners usually meet. Perfect place where you can find out about accommodation, money exchange and perhaps do much more if you dare.

We get some directions from Norwegian students and find the hotel they recommended easily – 15,000CFA for the room.

 

14th January 2009

Two weeks on the road. We leave the hotel and go to the internet cafe to upload some pictures from the trip. Once we get the visas we drive 600 km east to meet Filip, a guy Przemek spoke to before the trip. You can’t rely totally on SatNav in Africa. We take a wrong turn and end up sleeping in field instead the hotel where Filip with his girlfriend were waiting for us. 

 

15th January 2009

8am is a wakeup call from Przemek standing on the roof of Landy. When we open the tent we see a bunch of kids from the village staring at us as if we were UFO. 4 hours of sleep will have to do for the day.

In the daylight we immediately find the bearings and we drive 30 km over plateau to meet Filip.

On our way we take two hitchhikers – Hungarian girl and French guy. They are in Mali for the festival in the desert run by Touaregs.

Bizarrely we drop them off at the place which we were looking for half of the last night. We meet Filip and his girlfriend who manage to discourage us from going via Nigeria.

As we are already in Dogon’s country we decide to explore its heart which is on the verge of the plateau. We find and sleep in the only hotel that has proper signage. Although it’s only half finished its owner in convincing enough to make us stay – 7500CFA for the night.

Still the same evening we drive to the cliffs. Picturesque view of the cliffs and the valley below are stunning. Just after sunset we watch bats flying out of the caves and above our heads.

Dogon’s country should be called spring onion country. That is the only crop on all the fields. Dogon’s make a special syrup out of it and sell it in the near towns. The whole air smells of it.

 

16th January 2009

Although we have a proper room we sleep outdoor. The village around is already alive when we wake up. After a modest breakfast we leave and go via Banani, along the cliffs to Douazenga.

The hotel owner says it is 6-hour-drive but we manage to do it in 5 with many pic/pee/pit stops.

Once we get to the asphalt the road heads among rocky mountains scattered up to the horizon.

150 km later driving towards Gao we stop beneath pointed 600 meters into the sky finger-shaped rock . We set our camping to the east, get rid of some locals who gather around and have a peaceful supper. Finding a tree is easy, even with a dead and already dried off goat in its branches. We axe it down but after 5 attempts to start the bonfire we have to give in. The trees in the desert are very resistant to the fire. Now we know it.

Early in bed as it is going to be a long climb on the morrow.

 

17th January 2009

Crowd of onlookers wake us up at 7am. That what happens when you camp between a village and the only well in vicinity.

After a quick but also high in calories breakfast we are on the climb. It’s steep at times but we manage to get to the highest point you can get without the equipment within 1 hour. We trek around and find a deserted village in a very secluded place on the other side of the mountain.

We look inside the houses and set free a big lizard from what seems like a massive oppression to it.

We try to get down via gap between rocks but we get stuck without the protective equipment.

When we get back to the camp we cook eggs bought from the locals, pull a track that got stuck on the road and drive towards Gao – City on the 0 longitude. In order to get there we have to cross the bridge over Niger river.

People here look different. Very tall and they seem like a mixture of Arabs and black race.

At the petrol station we hire one of those big guys. He guides us to the shops and to the market to make sure we don’t get ripped off.

Our new plan is to go via Niger and Chad instead of Nigeria – bummer with getting the wrong visa in Bamako. We camp 30 km from the border.

 

18th January 2009

Leaving Mali is easy and then we drive 40 km to the first Niger village with customs.

When we get there we are told to go back and get the visa in the country we have come from. As we are 1000 km from Bamako this is not an option so we decide to try our luck in Burkina Faso. Fortunately Malian border is very friendly and they let us in without having to get a new visa. The one we have is just single entry and we enter Mali for the second time.

80km before Gao we turn left take a ferry (6000 CFA) over Niger river and enter Burkina Faso.

Further 160 km to Burkina customs where we get just stamps into the passports – no visa which I required!

We find out from the locals that we can try another border crossing with Niger in Tara where we should get the visas without going to Burkina’s capital – Ouagadougou.

Worth a push so we camp again 50 km from the border.

19th January 2009

Dusty drive on a non-existent road for around 100 km to Tara in Niger.

It is not two times lucky and we get turned away for the second time. We need to drive back to Burkina and then to Ouagadougou where the Niger embassy is.

On the long way back we stop briefly in Dori to exchange some money. Time goes slowly in African bank. Very polite staff but basic things take forever. Also people here still sign documents with fingerprints.

When I am about to give up my last place in the queue one of the guys notices me and takes over my case.

By the evening we are in Ouagadougou in a nice and cheap hotel – Pavillon Vert.

We get into a long discussion with some people from Monaco who are dining next table. French woman with an English guy purely envy us our car.

 

20th January 2009

The owner of the hotel is French so continental breakfast is in order. We go to the embassy to get visa Entante to enter Niger. It turns out that we also need Burkina Faso visa which we were supposed obtain on the border. 25000CFA for Entante and 10000CFA for Burkina Faso. All in one place and we hand over a little “encouragement” to speed things up. It works and we get both visas the same day.

In the meantime we take a cab to Chad embassy and apply for another visa. We should get it the following day provided we bring the passports 8am.

Very visa active day! Later on we meet again Philip and his girlfriend who are also in Burkina.

 

 

 

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