Mali pt. 2 // Burkina Faso!

The road from Bamako to the border with Burkina Faso was long, undulating and probably the hottest yet – often requiring having a little afternoon sleep in roadside restaurant shacks. Our days were long and repetitious: morning, hot, rice, staring kids, sleep, hot, cooler, tent, bed. We were excited to reach Burkina Faso and the surprisingly tropical feel to the forested south-west was a welcome break from the scorched brush of the highway.

We’re very grateful to have received a few donations for the compost toilet already! Please visit this page for more information about how you can help with a sanitation project in southern Ghana.

The usual crowd of inquisitive children

The usual crowd of inquisitive children

A nice camping spot under a tree

A nice camping spot under a tree

... with a scorpion under Mike's tent!

… with a scorpion under Mike’s tent!

After 4 long, hot days slogging from Bamako to  Sikasso, the last big town we'd visit in Mali, we were exhausted and filthy. After a long stressful search through busy, polluted streets we couldn't find anywhere cheap to stay. A last thought - "lets try at that Catholic Mission!" Turns out one of the Fathers there, Jean-Baptiste, had met us at one of the breakfast stalls on the way. We flopped on large comfortable sofas  while Jean poured us glasses of ice cold water from a jug. "Your room is being prepared" he said. We sat, knackered and dazed, surveying the wonderfully kitsch Christian ornaments and posters that post -colonial Catholic missions do so well.  Another smiling priest arrived, opened a bottle of wine and poured us two large glasses.

After four long, hot days slogging from Bamako to Sikasso, the last big town we’d visit in Mali, we were exhausted and filthy. After a stressful search through busy, polluted streets we couldn’t find anywhere cheap to stay. A last thought – “let’s try at that Catholic Mission!”
Turns out one of the Fathers there, Jean-Baptiste, had met us at one of the breakfast stalls on the way. We flopped on large comfortable sofas while Jean poured us glasses of ice cold water from a jug. “Your room is being prepared” he said. We sat, knackered and dazed, surveying the wonderful ornaments, holographic posters and other paraphernalia. Another smiling priest arrived, opened a bottle of wine and poured us two large glasses with ice cubes. Our room was great, after a cold shower and a change into cleanish clothes we descended to eat dinner with the priests. Rice, green stuff, “To” (like polenta), and a whole chicken with chips. It really was like on a film where a weary traveller ends up at a strange house to find they are expected and a fantastic feast is waiting. We gorged, and then gorged on mangos before going to bed for a long, excellent sleep. 

Something Waterfall

The Chutes de Farako. Running a bit low now as it’s the end of the dry season. 

It seems that most occasions, but particularly marriages, are accompanied with crazy processions of honking mopeds wheeling around the town.

It seems that most occasions, but particularly marriages, are accompanied with crazy processions of honking mopeds wheeling around the town.

Ladies panning for gold and doing laundry

Ladies panning for gold and doing laundry

We have reached Burkina Faso! Here we turned off the tarmac highway to head through the tropical forested southwest.

We have reached Burkina Faso! Here we turned off the tarmac highway to head through the tropical forested southwest.

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This is actually fairly small on the spider scale

This is actually fairly small on the spider scale

GIANT MILLIPEDE!

GIANT MILLIPEDE!

We visited Sindou Pics, an incredible formation of eroded sandstone.

We visited Sindou Pics, an incredible formation of eroded sandstone.

Zak has bought a traditional vest thing.

Zak has bought a traditional vest thing.

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We went on a boat ride to see some hippos on Lac Tengrela. Sadly our camera died just as we got up to them - hippos are enormous!  Some nearby kids were splashing around in the water, but the hippos didn't seem to mind. On our return to shore the boat man surreptitiously crafted this necklace from a water-lily for Alice, she has since become his boat wife and Zak will now continue the journey alone.

We went on a boat ride to see some hippos on Lac Tengrela. Sadly our camera died just as we got up to them – hippos are enormous! Some nearby kids were splashing around in the water, but the hippos didn’t seem to mind. On our return to shore the boat man surreptitiously crafted this necklace from a water-lily for Alice, she has since become his boat wife and Zak will now continue the journey alone.

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Mali pt. 1: The Manding highlands and Bamako

We entered the southeast corner of Mali, finding ourselves in the Manding highlands which was a welcome change after the scorched flats of southwest Senegal. Mango season has begun here, so we stuff our faces daily on cheap (or sometimes free!) mangos. After an eventful few days we found ourselves in Bamako, a dirty, hot and hectic city which we have come to really like. Either way we have no choice but to stop here for a few days while we await some slow African visa business.

We have also started raising funds to build compost toilets in Ghana, in support the fantastic work of UK charity Dream Big Ghana. This will go a small but significant way towards helping communities with no alternative to going to the toilet in the bush.

Please visit our donations page for more.

Misty cliffs in the Manding highlands as we entered southeast Mali

Misty cliffs in the Manding highlands as we entered southeast Mali

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Alice was struck down one night by a sudden bought of horrible sickness. The next morning, too weak to cycle. We jumped on a bus to Kita, and sat at the back where evidently no one else wanted to sit. A flap in the floor was loose, rising up in gusts of hot air revealing rushing tarmac and spinning drive-shaft. I wondered what would happen if the loose floor fell through the hole and got snarled in the axle as heat from the engine wafted up my trouser leg.

Alice was struck down one night by a sudden bout of horrible sickness, the next morning too weak to cycle. We jumped on a bus to Kita, and sat at the back where evidently no one else wanted to sit. A flap in the floor was loose, rising up in gusts of hot air revealing rushing tarmac and spinning drive-shaft. I wondered what would happen if the loose floor fell through the hole and got snarled in the axle as heat from the engine wafted up my trouser leg.

A happy traveller

A happy traveller

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Rock art in some caves in Mount Kita

Rock art in some caves in Mount Kita

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We found where those Christmas shoe box things end up!

We found where those Christmas shoe box things end up!

After two attempts we have established that the men with clippers in shacks labelled something like "Big Boyz Cutz" who call themselves barbers, are not not necessarily very good at cutting hair.

After two attempts we have established that the men with clippers in shacks labelled something like “Big Boyz Cutz” who call themselves barbers, are not necessarily very good at cutting hair.

This concrete giraffe was just one of the animal menagerie on show at this bizarre guesthouse in Kita.

This concrete giraffe was just one of the animal menagerie on show at this bizarre guesthouse in Kita.

THIS is where cashew nuts come from. The top bit is a cashew apple, with a sweet tangy juice and a strange rubbery texture.

THIS is where cashew nuts come from. The top bit is a cashew apple, with a sweet tangy juice and a strange rubbery texture. The nut sits in the grey blob underneath.

Sneaky camping amongst someone's cashew trees.

Sneaky camping amongst someone’s cashew trees.

A train!

A train on the Dakar-Bamako line!

The all important afternoon lie down.

The all important afternoon lie down.

We reached Bamako.  Not sure what this train was about but we liked it.

We reached Bamako. Not sure what this train was about but we liked it.

Koras

Koras

A horrifying array of decomposing animal parts in the 'fetish' section of Bamako market - including Eagles, Turtles, Monkeys, and pretty much everything else.

A horrifying array of decomposing animal parts in the ‘fetish’ section of Bamako market – including Eagles, Turtles, Monkeys, and pretty much everything else.

We lodged at the eccentric but lovely Catholic mission opposite the cathedral, with balconies overlooking the bustling street, a lady selling palm wine, and the continual sound of hymns with djembe accompaniment.

We lodged at the eccentric but lovely Catholic mission opposite the cathedral, with balconies overlooking the bustling street, a lady selling palm wine, and the continual sound of hymns with djembe accompaniment.

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The Niger

The Niger flowing through Bamako