We made it to Bamako Oct 23rd.  After spending some days sleeping in huts at the hiking place, we decided to splurge on this 5-star hotel.  So, we feel refreshed and human again.  The trip from the hiking place out here was unpleasant – I ate some street food that I don’t even want to describe here.  The word mucilaginous is just the start of it.

Then, we actually procured a yellow fever vaccination card from the taxi dispatcher in the last town in Guinea.  It got us through the border with no problems.  Our driver was the craziest and fastest driver we’ve had so far.  At one point a kid threw a pebble at the car as we drove by and he stopped, threw it in reverse, backed up at high speed before coming to a skidding stop, and got out of the car to go spank the kid with a thin branch from a tree (I know beceause he came back to the car with it).  Then he roared off again, snapping his fingers to the Malian music he was blaring.

  
The hiking itself was very cool.  It is a wide green expanse called Guinea’s Grand Canyon.  It reminded me of the costarican island used for Jurassic Park, but spread out over a huge rift valley and dight with villages on the wide, flat plain of the floor.  We did one hike called chutes and ladders which was described by our guide as “Guinea’s AT in one day”.
 
Bamako is a cool town, bustling and vibrant, although also polluted.  There’s not too much to see or do here, though.  We’re just eating well and going out at night.  There is a Thai place here that we went to last night that is absolutely delicious.   I think we might go back tonight- part of Andrew’s contentment with the known.  There’s also supposed to be the best live music in West Africa here in Bamako.  We hope to see some tonight.  Last night we ended up in a dance club after the bouncer lied to me (and in French too!) that there was live music inside.  It’s hot here, but not awful.  We’re staying in the air/con and by the pool. 🙂

We went to Bobo-Diallasso from Bamako.  The border crossing was a model of efficiency and the cashews that we bought from a young girl there were the best we’ve had so far.  (There are cashew vendors everywhere here.)  In Bobo we stayed at the Le Zion hotel which is way out of town.  Bobo itself is a smaller, sleepier version of the capital-we saw the sights in a few hours of walking around.  The Le Zion bathrooms were roach infested; I’m talking horror-show levels of creepy-crawlies.  Other than that, the place was nice enough.  The food was pretty good too.  I had a Nile perch lasagna and Andrew had a lamb tajine with honey sauce. 

We went out to a remoter corner of BF near Mali and Cote d’Ivoire the day before yesterday to hike in the “otherworldly” Sindou peaks. It was a long drive and the peaks themselves were nice enough, but not worth what we had to pay (which included a driver-guide, a hiking-guide, park entrance fee and lodging in a thatched roof hut) . Then, yesterday the guide took us out to a “village troglodytique” where the locals had built some houses high up in a sort of cliffside as protection from a war in the 18th century. We were surprised that there were some other white folks there; French of course.

On these small roads we pass locals- the women are beautifully dressed and carrying things on their heads, the men are smoking or carrying farm implements or on motos, and the children universally smile and wave and shout “toubab! toubab!” which means white. The kids love to get our empty plastic water bottles, which is kinda sad.

Anyway on the way back from the cave village, the driver went tooo fast over some rocks in the road (it’s a dirt road through rice fields and other sorts of fields, a lot of cashew trees) and he punctured the oil pan.  He was going to try to fix it, but we needed to get here by last night, so we started walking. We did about 10k in the very brutal sun (and some shade from the trees). Then we arranged to get motos to the next largest town.  We got into a heated discussion about this with the hotel proprietor, then the hiking guide.

Finally got on the way on the back of two new scooter driving by the “professeurs” of the local school. Made it into Banfora just in time to catch the bus into Bobo-Diallasso. That bus was really nice; all new and with air-con. Waited in Bobo for a while to catch the much less comfortable bus to Ouga. Had cous-cous that came with tomato sauce like the woman said, although she failed to mention the two chunks of meat that were sitting in the sauce. Andrew believes that there are two and precisely two chunks of meat in any dish that you order here, perhaps by law.

The bus pulled into Ouga late last night and we took the worst taxi imaginable through the dusty streets. They seem to prefer flourescent tube lights here- many places have them outside on poles.

People out here in West Africa love Barack Obama. I’ve met several people who have told us that he is “president of the world”. They sell t-shirts with Barry and Michelle on them, bags and belt buckles with his picture on an American flag background and the guy next to me on the bus had an obama wallpaper on his cell phone. The guy should run for president here, I tell you.

Now, we’re  in Ougadougou, Burkina Faso’s capital.

We’re off today to go towards Mali, we need to be in Mopti, Mail, on Thursday to catch our boat to go up the Niger to Timbuktu. That cruise should be a nice combination of relaxation and travel.

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