Refa-Mali-arizing Ourselves with Bamako

by | Feb 2, 2022 | Camping, Fail, February 2022: Mali, Mali, Serendipitous!, Way Way Off the Beaten Path | 0 comments



After breakfast in Segou, we made an early start back to the capital of Bamako.

Mali is one of the few places I know of that requires a negative PCR test for COVID-19 to leave the country (within 72 hours of departure). So in preparation for our departure out of Mali, we drove directly to the National Institute of Health for a 25,000 cfa PCR test.

For our tests that were performed at 3pm here, we would receive our negative results the next morning at 6:54am.



After our tests we had a quick lunch and took a trip to the banks of the river Niger where we saw where and how many of their boats are built.



Truly off the beaten path. I think our guides stuck this in the tour at the last minute.



They do most of the construction during lo tide, and then wait until high tide so boats automatically end up on the river without having to be carried.



We then embarked on a sunset cruise on one of these very boats.



Why sit in the boat when you can lounge on top of it?



Once the sun dipped below the horizon we stopped at an island to enjoy a night of camping.



What other capital city in the world can you just decide to build a fire anywhere and camp for the night unannounced?



Now we’re off the grid; one of those moments when you realize you have created for yourself a brave space where you don’t know anyone no one knows you, you don’t speak and can’t read any of the language and where nobody can easily reach you. You only have yourself.

And that’s another kind of freedom where uninterrupted creativity meets limitless abandon.



After a camp dinner we turned in for the night at around 11pm to the sounds of nature all around us:



We woke up the next morning at around 7am, quickly broke down our tents, and headed out for our ferry ride back into the city.



After settling in with a quick breakfast back in the city center, we then drove an hour out towards Sibi and Manding country.

This is where the Mandinka people — an ethnic group descended from the 13th century Mali Empire — call home.



Here we began an hour’s hike into the wilderness.



On the way we stopped for a photo at Kamadjan Arch, a beautiful natural and historic stone arch that served as a meeting place for soldiers, war councils and people of great intelligence all the way back in the 13th century.



Around the site are other historic places to visit, including sacrificial caves and the ‘consultation cave.”



Once we arrived, we were treated to a Dogon mask ceremony.



This is where the elders of the village dance while wearing their very sacred Dogon masks to chant away bad spirits.



After an hour with the Mandika people and a lunch in their nearby town of Sibi, we then resumed our tour of Bamako by visiting the bustling ‘Rose Market’, a massive open air market where you can haggle furiously with the locals and pick up a wide variety of local goods to bring home!



Then we walked around the National Museum of Mali – With a collection of items 10,000 strong, ranging from traditional masks and costumes to textiles, old photos and many videos, this is a great place to dip your toes in Malian culture.



Afterwards we once more drove by the BCEAO Tower/Africa Tower, the tallest structure in Mali at 80m (262ft) in height, and built to evoke traditional banco (mud-brick) style and take inspiration from some of Mali’s greatest treasures.



After the tower we drove over to the grand, marble Malian Independence Monument:



By this point we were all sweaty and days from our last shower. So taking up a few rooms for an hour back at Hotel Tamana, we freshened up before a final farewell 7pm dinner at a nice local Malian bistro restaurant in Bamako. And then at 9pm we headed to the airport for our return home and foregoing the onward trip to Burkina Faso because of the ongoing coup that was happening at this very moment.

I also find it very odd that this is the first capital city international airport that has “opening hours” in the middle of the day. Actually, there’s a lot of odd about this one.

For example, they would make us wait in line and not let us in until 9:15pm for a 1:45am flight, after which they let the line turn into a blob pandemonium at 9:15pm, and then became very very strict in making sure we had our COVID-19 tests, that we had filled out a health declaration forms for Turkey, that we had onward tickets from Turkey back to the USA before letting us even reach the check-in desk (even though we were not sure how that would concern them), and that they did not want us to carry so much mosquito repellant on us and therefore confiscated all but one of my bottles of repellant at security.

I don’t understand any of it either, but as long as you let us fly out, I’m game.



I know serendipities happen often but now it’s getting to the point where I can’t go anywhere without running into someone I know. It’s midnight at the most random of airports in one of the currently least visited countries in the world, and all of a sudden I hear: “Calvin?!”

The last time I saw you Linnea was in 2009 back at our alma mater! She just so happens to be the Joint Operations Officer at the MIMUSA UN Peacekeeping Mission to Mali, based in Timbuktu. And of all the times to fly out on her R&R week, she would choose tonight, on my flight, sitting in the same row.






- At time of posting in Bamako, it was 29 °C - Humidity: 13% | Wind Speed: 8km/hr | Cloud Cover: sunny


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