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AFRICASIAEURO - Travel : Niani - Mali 
Beyla to Kankan, Savanna

Night in the Savanna - Mali border

Departing from Mandiana customs check point in the afternoon, we leave  the now familiar surroundings, the 'Customs Office' featuring 2 hammocks, 2 raw cast concrete benches, all covered by a roof with skillfully intertwined twigs and branches of  few remaining Neem trees.


II leave behind a sum of 3000 U.S.Dollars, representing the sum that was agreed upon with the officials to release our vehicle.

We head for
Niani at the Malian frontier, with the intention to reach Burkina Faso the next day, where I hope to catch a flight to Paris and Prague in the Czech Republic.

To my astonishment I find the road in much better condition than the ones I got used to since entering Guinea.

At 40-50 mph seems almost like a highway. A few checkpoints on the way, nothing spectacular, the usual 'pay 'n drive' method works well here. 

The scenery has changed into Savanna now. Grasslands and scrubs, solitary Baobab trees, no more the dense tropical jungle.

Life in these areas is dreadful, no running water, no electricity, as in dark ages. People though can adapt to any condition that is put upon them.

We reach Niani at night close to 19 p.m. My fuel is close to nil. My only hope now lies with Niani, the border town must be having fuel.
What I finally find is not the usual filling station. After crossing the town, which is not much of a settlement, I am directed to the 'station'.

I can not, somehow, forget this scene; it is another milestone on a long road through Africa. I find a petroleum lit grass hut, a crooked set of timber serve as poles, a straw covered roof.

Gasoline is stored in mere beer bottles, 0.7 ltrs, lined up in a row on front of the 'gas station'. If it were not for the acute shortage, I would laugh at this, but now I realize I have no choice, for after Niani there is a 100 miles nothing except bush and unknown territory.

To fill the tank requires 50 bottles of 'beer' gas, its price almost double inflated to the normal rate. I do not even want to look for food, for I know I have to continue to Mali tonight. 
Finally I leave, with an unforgettable memory.

The evening brings some cool air, I sense the mighty river nearby. And when reaching a  bonfire which is lithing a place near the main road, I recognize the Guinean border guards who camp here.

To describe it would take another chapter, however, this is the entry / exit point and I must say the guards are the friendliest I ever found in Guinea. 

The exit stamp in my passport, I carry on, the dark road passing through the middle of the bush, beside the river. Driving carefully in the dark, against my mentors advice, focusing  on the rough road ahead of me. The  Sankarani river, a tributary to the mighty Niger .

The Sankarani seems more a vast lake than a river. Floating gently, majestically, slow.. Its waters feed the mighty dam that supplies three quarters of Mali with electricity, the Barrages de Selingui

By all dimensions a gigantic project here amidst the vast wilderness. A premonition overcomes me, driving a mere 10 mph. Suddenly, the road ahead of me is no more visible, the high beams touch an empty space.
A bare concrete structure stands in the dark where once was a bridge crossing a creek beneath. The bridge torn away by torrential floods, it stands 6 meters over the creek that floats beneath under it.

I maneuver the car back till I find a diversion, leading to the creek's bed.

Any  kind of vehicle would find it difficult to inch through the riverbed, somehow I manage to cross the surprisingly shallow waters.

After leaving the riverbed, the road turns left and leads into pure grassland. Bumps and holes shaking car and driver  to the brink. In the distance a see a shimmering light, a line decorated with obsolete plastic carrier bags in all colors, indicating a further check point. 


Niani - Bamako Road

At first no one is in sight, in the middle of the Savanna.It seems like a clandestine checkpoint, one never knows in this desolate place.

I blow my horn. It is 20 hours and there is still a lot of headway to be made. After a few minutes a customs official appears and informs the border is closed for tonight.

The yellow uniform indicates the Malian customs. It takes a lot of effort to convince the official to let me pass that night, indicating some pressing business in Bamako


After consultation for which he disappears back into the dark,after a shortwhile he reappears and removes the rope that serves as a barrier. He directs me to a shelter build from grass, roots and pieces of logs.

He vanishes into the hut, my papers in hand, and I wait. 5 minutes, 10 minutes. After 15 minutes I follow him and see three customs officials inspecting my 'international yellow vaccination card', passport and international driver's documents lying next to it.

The notorious question with regard to my vaccinations comes next, which I confirm. Something they must find, and in my case they ask me for a valid 'Vaccination contre Meningitis' as you guess right the vaccination against Meningitis is what delays my departure. Another hoax in order to extract money.

5000 CFA change their hands and the 'Fulani' road is free to carry on through the night.

next episode : night in the bush  

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Moringa, Travel and work on three continents


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