Well what can I say… wow!
The 11th, I drove from Kiffa to the Border between Mauritania and Mali. The road was a true nightmare! Forget a road with potholes – that would have been luxury! This was a pothole where someone once had dreamt a road could be built… but never did! On some stretches, it was obvious that they were/are building a new road – so they send you into the “m’bruss” (bush/offroad) while they pack some laterite down.
That said, the merc coped absolutely brilliantly and flew over everything without any issues. Sadly, the now clutchless Fiat wasn’t so lucky. We had just under 2000km to do before Bamako, but after some moral boosting, the Fiat guys decided they would try to bring it down to Bamako even without a clutch. In an attempt to save the fiat’s suspensions some hassle on the potholes, they tried driving over some sand… and instead of getting stuck, promptly flew up into the air. What goes up… must come down… and the radiator of the fiat promptly came undone and fell out of the engine bay. In doing so, the reservoir broke, and the screw top (which also contains a pressure release valve) broke. To fix this, Dave and Olly had a bag of cable ties from “Bosnian ‘Arry”. After a bit of fussing, the radiator was now secured… using a handful of cable ties (of which we didn’t know their ability to cope with heat…) and a broke tow-rope. Sadly, the car couldn’t move with a 10-cm hole in the radiator reservoir. Our first fix was epoxy adhesive, but this failed miserably. Next, we tried melting a tennis ball, the idea being to glue it into the hole. Unfortunately, the elf’n’safety people at Dunlop decided to make the balls flame retardant… So next, we grabbed a branch from a tree, and wrapped an inner tube around it a few times. A few globs of universal gasket, and we wedged it into the hole. This actually held all the way to Bamako!
Anyhow, back to the route… En route, we went through a village (Ayoune something). As I was in the rear, when I turned right at a junction the others were already stuck in a market (Serekunda style for those that have been to Gambia). While I waited, I decided to pop into the bakery and buy some warm bread… until Peter started shouting from the car…. Apparently, an angry mob was building around the other cars in the market, and several people were pretending to shoot guns at them. Somehow, they managed to get the clutchless Brava started, turned around and out of town before anything happened. Oh, and I managed to buy my bread in case you are wondering! (Although Pete wasn’t impressed).
Onwards, and through Mauritannia the gendarme checkpoints became more and more frequent. So much so that, in the last 2km to Gogui, we counted 6 checkpoints! At one of the checkpoints (around 100km from the border with Mali) we picked up an old gendarme, who was fascinated by zippers. In essence, after going through the formalities at the checkpoint, we got asked to give a ride to this oap in uniform. Ever helpful, we agreed, shuffled the bags in the back seat around and got him on board. While driving, he spent most of the time looking at Pete’s bags zippers, opening them and then closing them. He wasn’t looking in the bags… just the zippers! By the time we dropped him off, he had explained in a mix of French, Arabic and Touareg that he was a Touareg, he liked my watch, camera, car, shirt, trousers and just about anything else he could see and if he could have them. I did offer him a biscuit – only to lose the entire pack as he tore through them faster than anything. I offered him a second pack, which he decided to save until he got home “for his family” (though don’t tell Pete – I did this at a checkpoint while Pete was dealing with the fiches… and the biscuits were his… but at the end of the day, I’m sure the old gendarme needed them more than we did. Hopefully we made his day.)
Eventually at the border, we got asked to pay 3000 yogiohs (Oogiahs? Oogs? It’s an impossible to pronounce currency!) to leave the country. After some arguing, everyone paid up… and then I went to plead poverty and managed to get 2000 of them back from the guy. You gotta love Africa!
On the other side, we got asked to pay 15,000 francs for our entry visas… Problem was, I only had euros… and some people needed ATMs for money… So after 4-5 hours of chatting (they were VERY kind, and even started to cook chebougen for us) we got told we were waiting for the chief… and that he had gone jogging into the m’bruss as he was getting a belly. By the time the chief arrived, we had made friends with a young Touareg gendarme called Nok, who came with us (and brought his Kalashnikov) to Nioro (the next town south) where we could withdraw money, change money, and pay for our visas at the main police station. It turns out that this actually helped us leave the country, as the guy at Gogui doesn’t have the authority to issue visas longer than 5-days… but does so anyhow! You then need to go to the police station and get the 30 day “validated” (for a fee obviously). En route, Nok rested his chin on the muzzle of his AK… and then promptly eased my worried by showing me that the safety latch was on “safe” by putting it on “live” and then back again… “inshallah” we would make it out without anyone’s brains splattered on the car’s roof! (I wasn’t too keen on a sunroof either).
Anyhow, safely in Nioro, the police offered their back garden as a camping site for the night, which we gratefully accepted. That said, we headed to the customs office first, with Nok en tow, to get the last formalities sorted… or so we thought. The customs officer wasn’t as helpful as the police and promptly confiscated the cars saying they now couldn’t leave the customs compound… so we set up camp for the night in the customs compound. Nok at this point got a ride home, and got a multi-tool to thank him for all his help. Nok, if you are reading this, thank you VERY much! You were the most helpful official we met in Mali, to the point that if anyone does go to Mali through Gogui, look out for Nok! Thank him again for me, and bring him some Italian music (which I couldn’t find on my phone after he made us listen to a few Touareg dances he recorded with his family).
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.