Mali: Sahel Journey
Bicycle Africa / Ibike Tours


Dispatch 1 - Bamako

  Niger River, Bamako Mali

bicyclists and other traffic on the bridge in Bamako MaliBamako is a full city, bisected by the Niger River.  The two bridges across the river can be congested for hours with a mix of pedestrians, bicyclists, taxis, vans, trucks and private cars.  There is decent space on the bridges for pedestrians and bicyclists.  It is better on the newer of the bridges but still not bountiful.  Increasingly the banks of the river are being barricade to the people and developed and restricted for tourist and the elite. There are still vestiges of the the traditional use of the river bank - garden agriculture and feeding the city. Of course the irony is, as the city expands it needs more agriculture, not less, and fresh vegetables are essential.

Street scene and market, Bamako MaliCommercial street, BamakoIf you get into the city early enough in the morning you can see the streets from the people.  But quickly enough the streets are full of cars, motorcycles, mopeds, carts, vans, taxis and bicycles, the side walks of full of people and vendors - well in fact they sort of overlap; car encroach on the sidewalks and people walk down the streets. The city seems full of purpose and is all surges and flows like blood through an artery, though here instead of red and white blood cells and platelets, the stream is cars, pickups, bicycles, mopeds, donkey carts, vans, taxis, buses, push carts and trucks. The air is also full of dust and exhaust -- and by noon heat. The smallest vehicles, the mopeds, seem to be the biggest polluters.

monument reflecting Sahel architecture, BamakoMarket and Grand Mosque, Bamako MaliThe reaction from our group split between excitement and chaos. Everyone sensed a lot of energy. People find it either stimulating or overwhelming.  This may be the first indicator of each individual's cultural baggage bubbling up -- it is not Kansas, but who is to say that it is not on the way to the Emerald City. For some it is on the way to Timbuktu (Tombouctou).


Click to enlargeTrying to interpret what I saw in the Bamakoise; few aggressively rushed or seemed focused inward, but almost everyone gave the sense that they had a purpose to there journey. They moved with easy and self confidence and were also relaxed enough to greet a friend or acquaintance, or make a new friend. At EVERY stop we made, outside the bank, airline office, post office, museum, market, mosque, if we stopped for more than a minute someone would come by and initiate a conversation. They found out a little about us and we learned a little about them. It is a city full of smiles.

Seen around town:

On the left is a statue of a soccer playing hippopotamus.  Every city needs one.

On the right is a bicycle for hire carrying at least five bags of onions.  What is on your rear rack today?

Food is always a good topic of conversation.  There is plenty of Europeanized menu items in Bamako restaurants.  In a more neighborhood oriented cook shop we had a delicious plate of
plate of beans, fried banana and barbequed meat, Bamako beans, fried banana, sautéed onions and barbequed meat.

Another, often interest stop in Bamako is the museum.  There is both a permanent collection of Malian cultural items and regular special exhibits.Art piece of a "bush taxi", Bamako


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