First stop was coffee.. Or what we thought was coffee.. It was condensed milk with a coffee hint! So sweet.. Our daily hit of calories in one! The decision was made to not go all the way to Bamako however head to Cool Camp in Mandeley. The road was insane, not for the faint hearted, hard going in the cars but we were rewarded with spectacular views.. Again my iPad does not do this place justice! Lots of motor bikes and everyone stopping to welcome us.
A journey that should have taken 2 hours took approximately 9 hours... It was tough going especially when our clutch went in the car. This provided a host of passers by a giggle however Rob, as per usual, managed to get us back on road fairly quickly! Arriving at Cool Camp, a campsite by the river owned by a man originally from Holland, was a welcome feeling! Quick dinner, then into tents to escape the flies and to have a early night before the drive to Bamako.
Driving to Bamako was another 7 hours of corrugated roads peppered with drive itself was ok, until we got into the centre when the clutch went again.. Watching Charles buying and trying to mime brake fluid to a local car parts seller was a highlight. Crossing rounderbouts was interesting, pulling away with no clutch was not charles idea of fun.. But we got to the Sleeping Camel at about 4, and settled down for beers!
The Sleeping Camel is an amazing place. In the centre of Bamako it is a Western campsite and a welcome break. Eating burgers (with bacon), we chatted to some guys who worked for the UN about Mali and their views. I did not realise what a presence the UN has here, staying at this campsite alone were many nationalities brought in for their expertise, training local people here in Bamako and in the north.
Day 2 and it was off to apply for a Nigerian visa.. Having heard they are like gold dust we didn't hold out much hope! We got there, watched A Team in French with the security guard, filled out some forms, gave in our passports, waited a while and were then told to come back the next day at 2. This was a welcome surprise! Getting back to camp it was car clean time.. Cleaning the red dust from the car took hours but the car is now back to normal.. (For a while). Later on in the afternoon the truck Oasis Overland arrived who we had met in St Louis.. The evening got rowdy, lots of drinking, chatting and laughter ensued! Again meeting and chatting to different people, some from the bus, some working for the UN made for a great evening!
We picked up the visa the next day, expensive but in th passport so all was good. Next day was Burkino Fassa, again another easy visa and same day delivery!