What Next?

After a rewarding, and weird, trip through Africa, a major sailing voyage through Asia Pacific is the next adventure.  Learning to sail, buying a boat, and making meaningful passages will make days-long sept-place rides look like child's play.  At least that's what I'm expecting.  Keep tabs on Adam Wible and Ian McHenry in this yachting adventure: http://yachting.adamwible.com.  Upgraded mirror of this site at: http://www.adamwibleprinceton.com.  http://www.adamwibleprinceton.com/what-next/.


Post mortem

For the curious - some brief statistics from the trip.

Photos and videos are below:

Total trip days: 42
Days with shower: 22 (52%)
Average daily spend per capita: $73

Kilometers traveled: 8,354
Hours in transit: 221 (9.2 days of 42 days = 22% of the trip)
Average transit speed: 38 km / hour

Morale Chart (links to daily posts)

Spend by Category ($USD)
Food & Drink1,007466489538%

Spend by Country ($USD)
CountryAmountVisaNon Visa
Guinea Bissau1798099
Sierra Leone301191110
Burkina Faso67840638

Transportation Breakdown ($USD)
public shared40338023
public taxi703436
private fee1,9201,92000
private fuel79979900
private extra54553492


Leaving Africa

Day: 42
Location: Yoff, Senegal
Weather: balmy but breezy = 28 degrees C
Health: good
Accomodation: Alitalia flight
Price, room: 0K CFA
Shower: no
Morale: 5
Total spend: 28K CFA

AW: After sleeping in and taking one last pass through the market in Bamako, we hopped a minibus to Colaba, and then a taxi from there to the airport. There were some very relaxed formalities, and then we had a smooth 1.5 hour flight, in a venerable DC9, with a bumpy landing in Dakar. Compare to 36 hrs (or never) by bus and 50 hrs by train, with the plane costing 4x and 2x respectively, and it doesn't seem like such a raw deal.

For old times sake we decided to kick back at the Hotel Cap Ouest, a short walk from the airport. It seems to be under new management with a flurry of improvements and more guests. We also had a farewell beer with Momo (he insists that it's no problem, despite his genuine Muslim beliefs). He brought carvings along to sell and was wondering if we had any spare currency on us (nope).

We did learn one interesting thing: evidently the renter had passed the Pajero (it was the Rob and Momo show at this point) on its way back to Dakar from Kaolack, seeing it running in ostensibly good health, which makes it more logical that he didn't suspect much and asked only for 15K CFA. Momo told him we had done Saint Louis and Lac Rose before swinging through Saly down to Kaolack and back up.

According to Momo, the problem turned out to be a cracked bottom cylinder that was caused after the second head gasket was installed. The car evidently gets warmer with a new gasket, and we failed to completely change out the water for fresh cold stuff in the morning, and so caused the third major overheat. If true, that would be news to me, but who knows.

Tonight we again saw people running for fitness on the streets at night and realized that we hadn't encountered recreational exercise (other than for children) since leaving Dakar.

Then we said goodbye to Africa and walked to the airport.



One last day in Bamako

Day: 41
Location: Bamako, Mali
Weather: hot = 37 degrees C
Kilometers: 100
Hours: 3
Health: good
Accomodation: Auberge Lafia
Price, room: 10K CFA
Price, water: 500 CFA
Shower: yes
Morale: 5
Total spend: 257K CFA

We bought our plane tickets for tomorrow, 3 PM to arrive in Dakar at 5 PM. Our flight will be at 1 AM the following morning from the same airport, so we will bum in the airport until it is time to board.

Today we had a schawarma, some ice cream, went on the internet, and then went out to the bars. Can you tell we're done with Mali?



A failed attempt to return to Dakar

Day: 40
Location: ?, Mali
Weather: hot, partly cloudy
Kilometers: 100
Hours: 16
Health: pissed
Accomodation: Sangue Bus, mat in village
Price, room: 0 CFA
Price, water: 500 CFA
Shower: no
Morale: 2
Total spend: 3K CFA

AW: We arrived at the bus station as requested at 7am, expecting the bus to leave at 8:30. It did! 25K CFA each in a massive "aircon" bus - what could go wrong? We planned to arrive in Dakar a full day before our flight anyway.

The AC turned out to be more myth than reality; a way to describe the frame of the bus more than anything. We did get lucky with the seats though - it wasn't totally full so we had 2 each. Despite a few hang ups and one 45 minute stop, we were moving and happy until the bus ground to a halt at 10:30 AM.

While the pump caused the bus to stop the passengers couldn't help but notice the oil dripping out of the gearbox - it was spattered all over the left side of the bus. The driver says it isn't a big deal, we will just refill it later. He tried to start it one last time, and the radiator exploded and then the battery died (both of them). The mechanic eventually arrived and swapped out the spark plugs and fuel pump. Gasoline was spurting everywhere while they worked out the kinks, yet he continued to chain smoke. We told them it was insane to be lighting matches and smoking while dripping in gasoline, but did not manage to influence behavior.

The complete inability to control or influence anything is now a familiar feeling, but it never gets easier.

The mechanic was pretty efficient in fixing his piece, but he did exhibit a classic single minded, blinkered approach. He didn't look at the oil or the radiator. We had specifically discussed concerns about the border crossing and he told us he would be escorting the bus all the way just in case. As soon as we were moving he was gone.

15 minutes after that the bus was broken down once again with oil pouring out of somewhere new. The driver explained that he had sent his helper back to Bamako and he would return with a new bus because this one was shot. He would be back tonight and we would do the 350 km to the border at night to make up lost time.

By 11 PM we were pretty sure he wasn't coming back that night, so expected him in the morning. By the morning the whole situation sounded rotten after the company hung up on a call after we inquired after the new bus and then the answering machines were on. We made the choice to bail.

With ground options rapidly evaporating, we decided to head towards Bamako in a minibus, and would flag the new bus if we encountered it on the way. We didn't. When we got to Bamako they hadn't sent a bus, nor had they sent a mechanic until mid-morning. They took so long to find 50K CFA for our refund as we fumed outside that the last viable bus option left without us. I guess we will be flying.

The following is a summary of the timetable for a fairly typical west African mechanical problem:
08:30 departure
08:45 stop
08:55 leave again
09:50 stop
10:30 start
10:50 stop - engine problem
15:30 mechanic arrives in Mercedes
18:50 bus starts, mechanic drives off
19:07 bus breaks down with massive oil leak
06:30 wake up and harass driver
07:20 jump ship and head back to Bamako
08:30 2nd car with mechanic leaves Bamako to meet bus
09:25 we changed minibus for Sept place
09:45 we arrive Bamako
09:50 reach bus company office, ask for refund, boss is called
10:15 last chance bus with another company leaves while we wait for boss to get cash back
10:45 we extracted our refund

We will take an Air Burkina a flight for 102.5K CFA each out of necessity to reach Dakar in time for our flight to Paris.

We have no idea what happened to all the other people in our bus - good luck to them. Aside from physically threatening driver (satisfying, but not helpful), none of the passengers (ourselves included) could come up with any viable plan to put pressure on the bus company to deliver some form of customer service.


Killing time in Bamako I

Day: 38
Location: Bamako, Mali
Weather: clear
Kilometers: 0
Health: just fine
Accomodation: Auberge Lafia
Price, room: 10K CFA
Shower: yes
Morale: 6
Total spend: 50K CFA

Today we did a few things:

  • Used internet
  • Lunch at a Senegalaise restaurant, bad yassa poulet
  • Went to the crappy pool at Azalai Hotel Salam for 3K CFA each
  • Fancy french dinner at La Campagnard
  • Drinks at casino, lost 10K CFA in one go at roulette

Killing time in Bamako II

Day: 39
Location: Bamako, Mali
Weather: overcast
Kilometers: 0
Health: Guillaume has a sore throat, so he wore his scarf
Accomodation: Auberge Lafia
Price, room: 10K CFA
Price, water: 500 CFA
Shower: yes
Morale: 6
Total spend: 45K CFA
Song of the day: "The partisan but he's got to know", Swan Lake

Today we did a few more things:

  • Bought a couple souvenirs
  • Used internet
  • I smashed my toe on a rock laying in the middle of the floor at the main post office. Superficial damage.
  • Got fancy dessert: profiteroles, ice cream, creme caramel


A day of nothing

Day: 36
Location: Bobo Dioulassi, Burkina Faso
Weather: nice, no rain
Kilometers: 0
Health: worse than yesterday, better than two days ago. Guillaume is slipping down the slope with a cough and sore throat.
Accomodation: Le Zion
Price, room: 4K CFA
Shower: no
Morale: 6
Total spend: 64K CFA

Nothing happened today. Seriously.


Return to Bamako, fight with Keita

Day: 37
Location: Bamako, Mali
Weather: cloudy and cool in the morning, hot and clear by Bamako
Kilometers: 550
Hours: 7
Health: very tired, not clear why exactly
Accomodation: Auberge Lafia
Price, room: 10K CFA
Price, petrol: 550 CFA / lt
Price, water: 500 CFA
Shower: yes
Morale: 6
Total spend: 91K CFA

AW: The interesting part of the trip is now behind us - we will now simply work our way to Dakar for the flight out.

A brief review of mileage:

  • Mopti - Timbuktu - Mopti: 817 km @ 49K CFA = 11.9 lt (6K CFA) per 100km
  • Mopti - Dourou - Ouagadougou - Gorom Gorom: 870 km @ 63K CFA = 12.9 lt (7.2K CFA) per 100km
  • Gorom Gorom - Fada N'Gourma: 430 km @ 28.3K CFA = 11.0 lt (6.6K CFA) per 100km
  • Fada N'Gourma - Ouagadougou: 231 @ 15.3 = 11.5 lt (6.6K CFA) per 100 km
  • Ouagadougou - Bobo Dioullassi: 361 km @ 29K CFA = 14.4 lt (8.0K CFA) per 100km
  • Bobo – Bamako: 646 km @ 41.5K CFA = 12.6 lt (6.6K CFA) per 100 km

The 14.4 comes from our partial use of the AC, in conjunction with straight 120 kmph between Ouaga and Bobo. This indicates at least a 1.8 lt/100km impact, which is about a 14% degradation in performance, so it is about as expensive as we always thought. Diesel averaged 500 CFA/lt in Mali, and 600 CFA/lt in Burkina. This was a 6 cylinder 1.8 lt truck, so you can imagine that this would be even more painful with a V8 Landcruiser (maybe 15 lt/100 km).

We left Bobo at a leisurely pace in the morning, paid a 2K CFA fine at the border due to the expired papers, and continued on to reach Bamako at 4PM. After dropping off Modibo's gear at his place in the northwest of the city, we washed the car to help the stink and hope to make a favorable impression on Keita, the owner.

We were preparing for conflict, given that we were returning the truck 2 days early (there just isn't anything left to see!), and thus were hoping to save 90K CFA in addition to the 16K we should be reimbursed for bribes due to his bogus paperwork. At a rental agency, this is standard customer service, but we knew that we would be presenting Mahamadou Keita (the guy who rented to us) with significantly less revenue than expected. We didn't anticipate the intensity of the fight ensued.

Keita wouldn't hear anything of it, telling us to take the car and drive it around for 2 more days, despite our veiled threats (what if something happens to the car? No really, let's say something happens to it, then you'll feel stupid right?). Tempers started to flare with neither of us gaining any ground.
  • Against us: the hand written contract promising the 435K CFA remaining - we had negotiated on a per day basis, but totaled it at 13 days to make sure he understood and would accept far less than half up front.
  • Against him: the decent, logical, and precedented concept that renters pay the agreed amount by the day, regardless of the exact number of days.
We finally offered to pay the chauffeur for 2 extra days, while he asked for only one of the 2 days. Still not good enough, we offered 15K extra and paid it.

Then, in what would prove a terrible decision, Guillaume followed my lead and walked out, expecting Keita to suck it up and leave us be. Plus I had secretly nicked the contract with the copy of Guillaumes passport, which he tore up as we walked away. Instead, Keita emerged a minute later, screaming that he needed the paper, and that he was calling the police.

We talked to the commissioner to call his bluff, and the guy sounded reasonable, but suggested we come into the station to solve this. Keita was infuriated (the shredded contract didn't help), yelling that we thought we were dealing with savages. We got in the car to go to the police. I apologized for the walk out, and he immediately called off the trip, eager to cancel his bluff and demonstrating the extent to which this was a matter of personal pride more than business.

He dropped us off at our hotel (no doubt to continue the battle, claiming that it was supposed to be 14 days so we had shorted him two. Guillaume eventually got it through that there are 24 hours in a day, and he finally gave up. We didn't trust him and would remain a little paranoid that he would be back for some reason or another.

In the end, we had to pay our own bribes, and we gave Modibo a 12K CFA tip, but we did wiggle out of the 90K.

GB: Not fun. I mean we have enjoyed the tough bargains here and there, and learned a lot in general, but this was just bad. Keita is essentially a nice guy, but a completely irrational businessman. As a result, the conversation leading to the walkout was among the most frustrating that I have ever had. No arguments, but in the end though, once he caved on the police threat, he became a benign opponent.

I guess the one lesson learned is that if you bring in a 3rd party to rule on a conflict, you want to make sure that your version is the first that makes it through. As I started explaining the situation on the phone to the commissioner I could hear him warming up to the poor tourist being coaxed into overpaying for 2 days of rental he does not need (story was of course conveniently sprayed with positive comments about our behavior, the car's status etc. Which in some cases may have been slightly optimistic). Keita heard him warm up too, which brought him to yank the phone from me to begin explaining his view of the situation.

So the trip comes down to this. It wasn't graceful and we aren't proud of it exactly, but we did free up 90K CFA to blow in Bamako. If that's not a noble cause, I don't know what is.


Ouagadougou to Bobo Dioulasso

Day: 35
Location: Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso
Weather: beautiful
Kilometers: 350
Hours: 4
Health: feel strange, but not bad
Accomodation: Hotel Le Cocotier
Price, room: 5K room, 1K Modibo mat
Price, petrol: 558-578 CFA / lt
Price, water:
Shower: yes
Morale: 6
Total spend: 131K CFA

AW: We had real espresso and white yogurt at a street stand this morning which was pretty delicious. I had already taken my third Cipro, and my stomach and general health had already improved to the point that we could rule out Malaria. The symptoms of Malaria are pretty vague, I think: headache, achy joints, fatigue, upset stomach, fever, and vomiting. Basically, live in fear because you're not going to be able to distinguish it from a respectable hangover.

We went to the market, which had burned down in early 2003, but was due to be rebuilt very soon. In fact, the only thing that had changed is that vagrants were now using the charred structure for a toilette. While it was unlocked, the locals claimed it was illegal to enter, and that it hadn't been rebuilt because the government sucks. We treated Modibo to Senegalese food (his first time), greased the crank shaft, added oil and diesel, and drove to Bobo on more great roads.

Given that it was a Friday, we were obligated to party; Le Tharkay was rumored to be the best place in town. Sorry to say that these may have been the worst looking women in west Africa, and that's not even considering the dental side of things. It was a pretty hectic party, but the street food after (brochettes with onions, garlic powder, butter, and pepper sauce in a roll) was the highlight, at least until the heartburn in the morning.

GB: We got to Bobo after a fair but of driving, and started looking for our hotel, which we expected to find on the "place de la Revolution". Yet when asking around, we were met with looks of bewilderment, amused smiles, poor attempts at making up directions, or when we got lucky, confessions of ignorance. Only once we had been stopped by a cop for an orange headlight did he tell us that people here call the place the "place de la Mairie".

He guided us to the hotel, but only after he extracted a 10K bribe from us by threatening to impound the car. Now, we would normally not say no to an offer to park the car under police surveillance for a minor fee, especially if that would give us a chance to not give in to a corrupt police officer, but since today is Friday, the car would have been stuck until Monday. We paid the bribe and added it to Keita's tab.