Not available on trip advisor or booking.com or Hostelworld. You’ll find last night’s Hotel down a dusty side Street.
Nah, not in the mood for wasting more time with the police this morning. If they are upset they will come and find me, there is only one road too Cote D’ivoire and I’ll just play dumb.
Breakfast with Milky Coffee right here.
We have no shared language. I’ve spent and hour fannying around sorting my puncture, emptying bags and stuff and I’m feeling a bit grumpy. 8am start is an hour later than I wanted and the damn mosquitoes must have loud hailers or something buzzing like mad, thankfully outside my mosquito net all night.
Getting braver with camera. Just not the fancy one yet.
Still, this is Africa and as soon as I walk out of the hotel an impossible amount of roadworkers are balanced on the back of a Toyota pick up, chatting away and a quick bonjour gets one back in perfect unison and I’m back in love with the morning, in fact it’s bonjour central all the way down the little side road too the as of yet completed highway or road from hell.
Ready too eat dirt?
Another couple of Miles and on the left is a shack, a typical shack that would surely get a zero health safety rating in the UK but works rather well here in Africa. “2 baguettes si vous plais”. One to eat now with egg in it and one too be folded and put in my bag for later then a quick full on diplomatic fly the English flag moment and shake maybe 20 hands and the get the smiles going.
Never ever get bored in the Red Stuff.
Then realise that although in my mind I’m heading south and that’s how it looks if you look at the map of Africa, I’m in fact heading east and into a bastard headwind. Balls! That kinda sidey I hoped for ain’t here.
My spokes ain’t on speaking terms with me right now.
Sure it ain’t a storm Ciara but along with the dust that fills the air and a little light cloud cover, I’m getting some sun respite. It’s not all bad but it’s a sort of moody day of weather for a moody fella. Que Sera. It even had another weak attempt at rain last night. Yep it feels a bit like that. The road goes from rock hard dirt too inches of flour like dust and then some brand new sealed stuff that goes through what often feels like secondary jungle mixed in with some quite magnificent trees, many of which are Mangoes but despite it being nearly the season, I can see no fruit yet.
Had a spicy kick that one!
Last year in the south of here, the Trees were bending under the weight of fruit. I need some photos. Alongside the trucks bringing material for the new road, there are still plenty of “how on Earth does that still move” vehicles moving large amounts of charcoal around and stacks of nicely stacked firewood.
And whilst watching the world go by at Lunchtime.
The ladies continue to be quite remarkable and often have an axe balanced on there head and disappear into the undergrowth then return with large amounts of this firewood stacked in there heads. Strong ladies, but amongst the rumours they do all the work round here and that mathematically from my eyes looks likely generally, right now there are plenty of fellas working hard on the roadworks with picks and shovels. Still the order of the day would appear to be majority of fellas taking it easy outside the small mud hut villages. What do I do know? Assumption is very often wrong and generally suited for those who love to point and fill in the gaps that provide gossip, misinformation and temporary power for the weak.
See, super double friendly in Mali.
Yep, that’s the mood I’m in. I reckon In maybe 5 days I should be on the Cote D’Ivoire coast. Some R&R and maybe a swim would be nice. But you just cannot feel this way for Long in Mali and lunch is well, I don’t know what, but the lady shows me what’s in her bubbling pots. It’s rice with something quite tasty and a little bit fiery! They (because I’ve got some temporary best mates) can see it’s hit me a little bit, laugh like drains and there is me worrying about should I take photos, there are a few smart phones but mostly some sorta Nokia 3310 era with a camera stuff and I’m chuckling that I’ve been thinking careful Jackson, Africa ain’t a zoo of interesting people and perhaps I’m the exotic animal…
They were a bit nervous at first “but you did want the photo lads”.
Yep, it’s another tiny red dust covered town waiting for it’s silky smooth tarmac too arrive and perhaps only 1/2 way there and a typical horse and cart with a load of grubby lads on top of a load of I suppose charcoal perhaps all sub 10 yrs old and my arm and thumb is up and so are there’s as they pass. They have dived off and run over for a photo. Now a selfie with me is a step too far it seems but I’m saying c’mon let’s do a selfie. They are nervous as hell but now the crowds bigger and others are having a go with the camera and bang!
Very nice Lunch that cooked by this lady.
The horse and cart crew are full of beans and the nerves have gone. You just tell me how you can’t enjoy this. There is so much more small detail and just being with the Malian’s, well does it need noting how I enjoy this. And just down the road there is a sort of official road block, two oil barrels Painted red and white with string hung between them and the Mali flag. This I’m assuming is the passport control cos a bus is unloading it’s passengers and yep, under a tin roof are more of Mali’s biggest fellas with the AK-47’s and the boss with pistol holstered in very smart uniforms.
The sealed road starts and stops all day.
It’s lunch time and as is the Muslim law I’m invited and expected to dive in a join, all hands in the bowl but don’t forget, wash your hands! They have stamped me out in a nice little spare corner of an already mostly used passport page and I’m feeling a touch flat. Mali…. excuse the perhaps over-used travelers cliche, “People with fuck all will give you everything” and of course the reality is they probably wouldn’t mind a load of fuck all cos they don’t even have that.
Once you’ve had red there ain’t no going back they say.
I’m gonna miss those end of day moments when the ladies are wandering home with more wood and stuff on there heads, brightly colored outfits and every “bonsoir” gets a loud and smiling perhaps followed by laughing like drains “bonsoir” back.
Red dust shower no.87
The kids and I mean kids riding the Mali status symbol a motorbike or a clunky single speed (or even a fixie the other day) that’s too big and in our eyes fit for the tip, or the countless waves and thumbs out moments as they plod by on a horse and cart (and I sure as heck wouldn’t wanna be a donkey even with those beautiful eyes) but not once, as I have seen before, does it get a whack on its behind with a stick.
That’s a happy face that. But sad in 1 mile I’ll see the last of Super Mali.
Beautifully slow going here. You really have done me good Mali… You heart stealer and smiling country. The last 15miles to the border is proper dusty rattler, and who don’t like those moments. I reckon I could shit a rather nice red brick if needed and then bang… Just like that from rough as feck too smooooth with actual road marking and a BIG fancy road sign with mileage distances and stuff like that and a new Flag… Cote D’ivoire.
Just simply friendly in Mali with no catch. Just friendly. Fact.
I’m looking back longingly… But it’s a good fun border too start and much more organised. “Mr Jackson, we need to check your inoculation card and we need to inject you because of the dust”… Hmm, it’s not perfect English from my well turned out copper friend plus I’m not overly excited about having a needle stuck in me but let’s not be hasty eh Jackson?
You don’t see any signeage like this in Mali. Welcome too Cote D’Ivoire.
All will become clear. They are flicking through my yellow fever certificate and in a side office, the doc who is looking organised clean an official and a little English spoken tells me it’s Meningitis A&C. I have no idea if I’ve had this or not a no is not an option so for the princely sum of 2500cfa (about 3quid) the brand new needle and medicine and is in and out before I can say “Didier Drogba” because I’m certain he is Ivorian. Another fella who is happy too squeeze my entry stamp in the corner of a used page and bingo. It all feels rather nice here. Well that’s until some sort of Douane about 100m down the road who’s waved me over and gone ballistic just by his security barrier. I haven’t passed it, I asked where to go and then boom, he’s gone pop. 15 minutes of surely red in the face ranting in French leaves me a little annoyed. “Pardon Monsiour, Je ne pas parlez Francais”.
In the queue for my Meningitis jab at the Cote D’Ivoire border.
I’ve got Google Translate and use it too explain, but nope he’s not having it and nor am I. Anyway, it’s not the ideal start and Cote D’ivoire feels a lot more advanced, but by no means advanced, uniformed kids are heading home, didn’t see that in Mali, smarter scooters and yep cars, you don’t see much of that in Mali, oh yep and super smooth highway. The shops are Fuller, I can see dustbins and I just realized that I didn’t see Veg in Mali and the bright colors of carrots and stuff is quite stunning but that easy smile happiness has gone.. Just like that. Wow, I love a wave and smile and I also know sure as hell it’s not a god given right to get it back. Now, the small town like many is often far less friendly than the country folk as a rule.
But I’m slightly rattled. Wow, even the mud huts look far more organised and perhaps better built. Hmm if that the price of progress you can shove that where the Sun doesn’t shine. In Mali everyone equally has fuck all, perhaps that slightly more imbalanced look between have and have nots created some sorta status race. Ease that old brain, delve a little deeper into the how’s and why’s of this new country and find a little village, have a Coke and see if you can find the head man and you know what, out of town it’s a little more friendly. Breathe Jackson, one misunderstanding doesn’t make a decision on a countries people. So right now, I’ve had a coffee, found by luck an English speaker who unsurprisingly is an English teacher. He’s arranging a meet with the Village boss but can’t do it direct because he’s only been at the school here for 5 months and is still an outsider and speaks a different language. So his colleague who is from here is on his way to make that cultural bridge. I’ve asked him what’s the best thing about Cote D’Ivoire and he tells me avoid politics and be a courteous guest and all will be well. Sounds pretty straightforward to me. Still curious about what the Douane was so angry about… Hmmm.. Some things I’ll never know and who knows what sorta day he’s had, what’s going on at home or whatever. I’m too old for all that bullshit and we left shaking hands and I have heard a few times a lot of the old french colonies don’t like the English much. What I do know is Mali makes for the most enjoyable contact with great people even if we can communicate very little. Good on ya Mali and tommorow let’s see how the Ivorian’s shape up. It can only be good right?
And we’ve found the Village Headman, paid our respects and bowed a little. I’m parked bang in the middle of his Village. And a wedding is going on. Another day not without it’s challenges but that’s like any day in life…. And what a life!