12th story: From Dakar to Bobo Dialasso (23.03.05 - 10.04.05)

On March 23rd we returned back to Dakar carrying a lot of spare parts for the bikes as well as a few new gear parts . We spent the first days getting our bikes in shape again.We had to replace a few worn out parts and we finally had to air our hydraulic brakes as well. Luckily this was much easier than expected. Afterwards Hendrik had to stay in bed for a few days because he got a cold – the change of temperature and climate of the last days had been too much.

We finally hit the road on March 29th. We had already realised that the temperature was much warmer than before our departure to Germany. Biking we realised how hot it really was: Franzi nearly fell off her bike at noon the first day with a heat stroke, we had 45°C + in the shade! But worst of all was the front wind, it was more like a hot hair blower. This was definetely the hamatan blowing from the Sahara. We spent the next four hours sweating under a tree. At 4 pm it got cooler so that we could start biking again. We made it to Mbour, the next biggest town, where we stayed at the Coco Beach Hotel. Since they had a nice pool we decided to stay an extra day. The following day we set off rather early further inland. This day it seemed even hotter, so that we had to stop at 11 am after 40km on the road. We spent the next six hours in the shade of a little church. Once in a while Hendrik went to the next “store” to get cool drinks. At 5pm the heat was reasonable to start again. In the evening we wanted to stay at a church but they didnīt have space. Luckily we managed to find a quiet place outside a village for our tent. This was the first night for our new Merlin 33 tent from The Northface, since it was so hot we only used the tent without the fly.

The same evening we realised that it was simly too hot to continue cycling. We also didnīt want to spent half of the day sitting under a tree doing nothing. We were also very much afraid that Hendrikīs insulin might get too hot even in the thermos bottles. Therefore we decided to speed things up a little bit in order to avoid the extreme heat. We took a taxi to Tambacounda since we knew that the train from Dakar to Bamako stops there. We were right, the train was supposed to go the next day but nobody could tell us at what time. Theoretically the train departs at 11pm, but practically it is more like 1 or 2 am. They put our names on the waiting list. In the evening they told us that the train wonīt depart before 3am. They also told us that the train will take nine to eleven hours to cover the 180km to the border since the tracks were so bad. Since we didnīt feel like spending the night at the train station and gettimg on a train with two bikes and all the luggage in the middle of the night, we decided to spent the night at the hotel. We took a taxi the following day towards the border, which took only two and a half hours.

There was no problem at the immigration leaving Senegal. We had already organised our visa for Mali in Mauretania. Nevertheless the immigration officers wanted 2000 CFA (about 2,50 €), but since they were unable to change Franziskaīs 10000 CFA bill, we didnīt have to pay anything. It was only 100km from the border to the next big town in Mali, Kayes. Since there was more demand for transportation than offers, we had to buy nine tickets in order to have enough space for our bikes and all the luggage. This trip was rather adventurous since most of the way was rather bad sandy piste and the car was beyond german safety standards...
We reached Kayes at 3pm. We didnīt pass the train from Dakar on our way!

We went to the train station in Kayes since we knew that there were additional trains from Kayes to Bamako. We were lucky, there was a train the same day at 8.15 pm. All tickets were sold out of cource, but for an extra 25% of the regular ticket fare we could buy two tickets for second class at the black market. Our bikes and most of the luggage, sewn into a gigantic empty rice bag, had to go separately in the luggage waggon. Hendrik was at least able to manage to put our bikes into the luagge waggon himself. Afterwards we could take a shower for free in the hotel accros from the train station. We were allowed to board the train at 6.30pm when it was still light outside which was good because there was no light in the train. The train was an old French one, at least 45 years old, which had not been cleaned ever since. We were lucky and managed to change to the first class sleeping car. This was real luck because only half an hour after the scheduled departure they noticed that there was no locomotive for our train! The locomotive finally arrived at 11pm, but it took another three hours before we finally set off. At 6 am we had not made much progress. Soon we came to realise that we wonīt make it in 10 hours. Indeed it took us 25 hours to cover the 500km! This was quite a trip, extremely hot, we went up and down, left and right all the time because the tracks were so worn out, nevertheles this was a real adventure: At each stop hundreds for “flying” vendors came selling everything you can imagine. The scenery was rather boring, it got a little bit greener after crossing the Niger and towards Bamako, though.
Our bikes and the luggage had survived quite well and we were more than happy to sleep in a real bed again when we arrived in Bamako on April 4th.

Against our own expectations we liked Bamako. The city seems to be one whole market.
One time we had a rather bad encounter with the police, though. We were on our way to our hotel, when a horde of police men tried to chase some illegal street vendors away. All of a sudden the boss of them thought that Hendrik had filmed this with his photocamera and especially him beating up people. Luckily Hendrik had not taken any pictures, but we couldnīt convince the police men at all. They wanted the film and couldnīt understand that there was none because it was a digital camera. They stopped us from moving on with their riot sticks and wanted that we wait for their big boss. We just continued on, they followed us, finally is was pretty clear that the boss wonīt come and they allowed us to go. What a way to treat tourists!

We managed to get our visas for Burkina Faso as well as for Ghana in Bamako. We took the bus to Sikasso on April 9th and continued by bus to Bobo Dialasso in Burkina Faso on April 10th. Here we were told that it is normally rather hot at this time of the year but that it was indeed extremely hot this year!