Here my ramblings on the month of July 2013.
The beginning of Juli started wet. At the end of June, 60 mm of rain fel in one night, a few days later another 15 mm dropped from the sky. When the rains start, Mali changes like magic. First of all the dry heat of 45 degrees celcius changes to a humid warm 32. Everywhere things start growing. It really jumps up from the ground, its amazing. Lots of African grass and weeds shoot out, within a night. But there are apparantly also lots of insects in the ground that have been waitting for the first big rains. The most notable is the big winged fly, I have no idea what its official name is. After the first rain, they dig themselves out of the ground with thousands upon thousands. they fly around in the early evening, I assume looking for a partner. They fly like drunken bombs, into your nose, ears, into your shirt or coffee. Sitting outside is not possible. After they are done, they loose their wings and disappear into the ground again. In de morning, under each and every light, you can clean up thousands of little wings that have fallen off. The process repeats itself after every major rainfall although the first time is the worst.
Also notably present are the bats. With all these flying insects they have a fieldday, or a fieldnight. Lke kamikaze they fly around. I have had a few fly almost against me, luckily near misses all the time since an accident with a bat in my face does not sound appealing.
Speaking about animals, I have decided to do something about my dog. Its a fine animal but he is gone to much. Some days I do not see him at all and then some villager tells me he saw my dog 3km further down the road, looking for females or fighting with other dogs. I have tied him up for a while but that was not to my liking, nor the dogs. Giving it a lot of thought I decided to apply an African solution, mostly found with mules or cows. You see it in India as well. I tied a rope to his collar and at the end of the rope I tied a piece of wood. Hij can now move around freely but handicapped because the wood is slowing him down. At first it seemed to work but after a few days he was used to the wood and was seen at Dialakoto, the piece of wood following him as a shadow. But a heavy shadow. So I took of the wood and attached a bigger piece. That also worked for a few days until he left for one of his adventures. He did not get far though, the wood got caught in some bushes. I only found out because i heard him wailling in the distance. No idea how long he had been there, but it wil teach him a lesson.
Soo end well, all is well? Not really, because after a few days he lost the wood and left with just the cord trailling him. I am sure he had a field day. So I bought a chain and tied that to the wood, but even that he managed to break. Now Ihave attached a real heavy chain with a smaller piece of wood. That did the trick altough I had to rescue him a few times because the chain wil catch easy on any bush or rock. Let see how that goes.
The hippo’s have struck again. I thought I had every place wel closed but they found a new place to exit from the water at night. The night of july 5th , probably one, hippo strolled around the garden, taking his time and taking his food. A bite from a banana tree here, some ocra plants from the garden, all the time leaving huge foot ptints. He squashed some melons and fed on some grass, left a load of shit as a thank you. The weirdest thing is that he got to 20 meter from my house. The dog never barked (or I never heard him) and that is a bit of a scary thought.
I assume you know which animal in Africa is the most deadly, which kills most people. No its not the lion, nor the elephant or snakes. Its the Hippo. I think he can chew up a person pretty good and pretty quickly with his huge mouth. And they can run fast as well. The thought that me, sitting on my terras at night, watching a movie or so, could by eye in eye with one of these monsters is not appealing, I am not sure if I would survive.
Juli 10th gave some rain, after a very dry week. It was also the start of Ramadan. For me not a problem but the avarege man here will not eat or drink during the day. Very hard in the heat, and I assume productivity will go down a bit.
Haven’t seen any tourist of clients in the month of July up to now. And now that the rainy season is about to get serious I expect nothing. So decided to start building my own wall to battle erosion. Have had some estimates from locals but they are asking me to much. Might as wel do it myself. The wall will be build with rocks taken from the surroundings, i shall place a pillar every 5 meter. Have found a huge pvc pipe wich will be used to construct the pillars, building the wall itself with flat stomes and mortar shouldn’d be to hard.
The elections are up and coming. Its notable, since there are 28! candidates for president. There is not a lot of political knowledge in the nearby village but everybody will vote. I asked him on who he will vote. On IBK say full pride. So I ask him why he will vote for this man. Wel, everybody in the village votes for him, is then his answer. Ofcourse my next question to him is then: But Boly, you vote because you agree with political views of a candidate, not because of what other people vote. So what doesthis IBK do, where does he stand for, what are his views on the future of Mali and how to get there? But, as you can gues, Boly has no idea. He claims that IBK is a wise old man, not a young hot head. If I try to explain that Mali needs a new kind of politician and not the same old farts who created Mali’s problem in the first place, Boly remains silent. So to tease him I say, why not vote on a women, there are a few woman candidates. Never, he burtst out, Mali will never have a woman for president. Woman are not intelligent and should take care of the children and the household. Mmmm, Mali still has a long way to go.
There are lots of election posters, which is not strange with 28 candidates. It is likely that there will be a second round after a week or two. And its interesting to see this election fever African style. Once in a few days there wil be some political party visiting Manantali. A big collumn of cars comes down the hill, honking their horns. People in the back of picups, shouting and singing and waving flags. they come to a standstill on the football field which is also the market. Huge speakers are unloaded, chairs are setup and locals are treated on posters and flags with the party’s candidate. Sometimes food is served and I cannot escape the feeling that sometimes money are gifts are changing hands. After the speech, loud musicc which is of such bad quality echos around the village. Even I, 2 km further on, can hear it clearly. After a few hourse the cars leave town to visit the next village, leaving behind a festive feeling and lots of garbage.
Half of Juli I had two tourist visitors. Two motorbike riders from France. Nice chaps who rented one of my huts. They did not carry anything but some spare parts and some clothes. So send them into town for their evening meal, i coocked them breakfast the next morning. The left rather late during the day, around 12, due to a heavy thunderstorm. They wanted to take the direct road to Keniab. This road, al piste, is normally quite challanging, but after the downpour it will have been quite hard. They left in good spirits but I wonder if they ever made it.
I wanted to visit Bamako before election and before the start of the heavy heavy rains in august. Then some of the roads wll be impassable. But it had been raining already a few times and i did not fancy getting stuck in the mud. At the third week of Juli it had not rained for a week so I decided to gamble. I eas going to take Boly and Sindefing, the latter a biy from the village nearby who wanted to visit his big brother in Bamako. Fine with me. Normaly I do not like to take people but my selfish reason was ofcourse that if I did get stuck, three would be better then one. So on the 21st I drove to the capital. The road was much better then anticipated and I had no unwelcome police stops, so arrived in Bamako at 3 pm. Called the brother of Sindefing that he could come and collect his brother. But the guy( I know him as a dipshit) started giving all kinds of excuses, but finaly agreed to pick him up. Arriving at my hotel he told me he really did not have much time, his job, his blabla. So got a little frustrated and told himto take his brotther and get him back before wednesday morning 7 am, that is when i will return to Manantali and if the guy is not there, i will leave without him. Again lots of grumbling, cannot, no time and other arguments but i stuck to my demand and finaly he agreed. Since it was Ramadan but Boly was allowed to eat, I decided to take him to Amadin, a local not to bad restaurant. Boly cannot read or write so we decided he wanted to eat chicken. I ordered chicken with fries for him, steak with fries for me, and two vanilla milkshakes. A real treat, both for Boly and me. It took a while for the food to come and Boly could not get his eyes of the TV, that stupid box is so intriging for him. I understand, they do not have TV in his village so all these images are like magic. When the food came it was nice, even the fries. On a previous occasion I send them back. Boly was strugling with his fork and knife and his half chicken. I assured him that even we in Holland eat the chicken with our hands, that made things a bit easier for him. . But I had finished all and he was still playing with his chicken. I could sense something was wromg but he would not tell me. The waitress took the plates away, his still 3/4 full. I was a bit upset, and tolds old him so. You are leaving like 5000 francs on that plate, its a waste of money. On leaving the restaurant he told me, food without rice is not food. Peasant!
Boly is ofcourse a very believing Muslim. His whole live revolves around Allah. Not only praying 5 times a day, but his whole believe is so strong that it is sometimes difficult to cope with. I have respect for his religion and his believes but travelling with him can be difficult, sometimes hilarious.
He has to pray at 5 in the morning so I had put my earplugs in since we slept in the same room. When I saw him praying again in the afternoon, I noticed that he was praying the wrong way. His behind was pointing towards Mecca. When I told him so he was upset. I have no sense of direction in this big city he stammered and promptly started to pray extra long to make up for his mistake.
The previous evening he had asked me if he could borrow some toothpaste. No problem ofcourse and i pointed towards my suitcase where all my stuff was. Found it a bit weird since he has a set of teeth that would give nightmares to a dentist. The teeth he has left are black and point in every direction posiible. I could not imagine him brushing his teeth daily but did not give it much further thought. .
The next night he again asked me for some toothpaste and when he came back from the bathroon i noticed that he had not only borrowed toothpaste but also my toothbrush. So all these days he had been brushing his black stumps with my brush. jack, decided to donate him my toothbrush and buy a new one for myself that instant.
My visit to Bamako went well. Found most of the things I needed, even a handpush lawnmower. A little broken but fixable, it would be extremely handy during the rainy season when weeds and grass grow like mad. I can perhaps even start a little lawn for myself.
The trup back to Manatali was again uneventfull. No annoying police checks and the road was still in reasonable condition. Arrived back home at 4 pm. The same night it rained incredibly. 50 mm. I wonder whatthe condition of the road is now. Its probably undrivable for a few days.
Found a great website for overlanders. www.wikioverland.org is an initiative of an Australien who didCanada to Ushiaia a few years ago and found it a good idea to get info for overlanders online. Everybody can add and edit info like any good Wiki site. It is already two years in the air but he is having a hard time finding overlanders who want to take the time to add info. So come on guys, help him out, add some info on his site, its a great initiative.
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