Xmas Day on the banks of the Niger river.
Before leaving Bamako we all fitted new tires, well I fitted my spare rear that Fraser Wolley kindly gave me back in Banjul and the the other lads got hold of some good second hand ones as well, amazing what you can find out here, and during the process one of my tire levers went missing, I was not happy, whilst of course Amys bike will make it to South Africa on her tires! Also we managed to get our Nigerian visas ther as well which had been a big question hanging over our head, where the bloody hell to get them as its supposed to be very hard but we got them with very little hassle, still everyone tells us we are mad to go there and that its the worst place in the world....all a bit daunting really but time will tell hey.
We left Bamako Xmas eve and headed north and camped on the banks of the Niger river for the night, a nice day riding but for Dereck he complained of heavy stearing, we all thought nothing of it.
Xmas day was spent negotiating some sandy tracks on our way to Djenne, the famous mud Mosque, the going was slow with Derreck having more trouble handling the KTM. We finally reached a good road and all stopped for a drink and here we dicovered problem number one......Leo spotted something sticking from Derrecks tire, holy shit it was my tire lever, no wonder he had trouble controlling his bike he had a 300 mm tire lever in his front tire, so merry Xmas to me I had my lever back but poor Dereck had 2 huge holes in his newly fitted front tire!!
Merry Xmas Robbo one tire lever in the front tire of a KTM!
We got it patched up best we could and used zip ties to stop it from opening up more, on we road and spent Xmas night in the middle of a huge claypan in the middle of Mali, we had german meat and spaghetti for dinner.
Djenne Mud Mosque
Boxing day was spent with a quick visit to the Djenne mud Mosque, quite a specticle and then another camp in the bush near an old dried up river. Sunrise saw problem number 2 with the KTM, a quick engine oil check found the engine to contain more like milk than lubricating black oil, his engine was full of oil!! And I must add Honda still going strong. With nothing we could do onward we road changing his oil out as often as we could but there was a huge problem somewhere. Before heading to Timbuctou we pulled the head off and it looked as if the water pump seal had gone so Dereck left his bike in Douentza as Leo, Amy and I road to Timbuctou and Dereck via 4WD. The road was awful, the worst sandy corrugations I have ever seen but if it was easy why would we go to Timbuctou hey!!
We took the ferry accross the Niger to put us in Timbuctou, where the dust blew and gave us a real sense we were in the middle of nowhere, met Feltus, a South African chap there flying survey planes over the Sahara who gave us a bed for the night in his house which was fantastic.
We headed south again the following day and camped the night in the desert, the next day we picked up Dereck with his KTM still full of water and headed for Dogon country, which is an area in Mali where the people have very unique villages in high on a plateau, like nothing else in the world. On our way was problem number one with the BMW, a bearing failured on the shaft drive, but of course of all people to meet in the middle of the dusty desert was a Frenchman called Frank who was participating in an ultra marathon, and he only had one leg but the best thing was he was a motor cycle mechanic, anything is possible in Africa! Using a HONDA wheel bearing he was able to replace the BMWs broken one and see us on our way. New years eve was spent, alcohole free but with enough dust and wind during the night to make us wake feeling like we had had a huge night on the turps. Took a walk into the heart of the Dogon peoples villages and was amazed at the ancient worlds we saw, by mid afternoon we decided to get a move on, after going only six Kilometers disaster struck again in a big way, Leo's drive shaft casing completely broke in half after hitting a dip on the track.....that was it nothing we could do would get us going now. But have to say the Hondas are still going strong.
So the only solution was to seek help from a village nearby in the form of 2 donkeys and a cart which took the BMW to the following town the next morning, quite a laugh loading this great machine of a BMW onto a donkey cart in the middle of Mali! From one town to the next we managed to lift the BMW and KTM via utes and trailers all the way to Ouagdougou, yes thats right such a name exists, its the capital of Bukina Faso, pronounced Wag-a-doo-goo.
Its never a dull moment out here, the challenge is simply getting from point A to B, A been London, B been Cape Town. Its not easy thats forsure but as Feltus said back in Timbuctou...¨in the end it will be alright and if it aint alright its not the end¨.....so so true. This is Africa and tomorrow is another day.