Mali: Sahel Journey
Bicycle Africa / Ibike Tours


Dispatch 2 - Koulikoro

  Vegetable gardens along the Niger River, Bamakl

Vegetable garden, BamakoLeaving Bamako it is surprising how fast the city ends and the landscape becomes completely agrarian. Even before we leave the built up area open spaces are used for vegetable gardens.  Not long ago these areas probably were completely rural.  Today they are now being enveloped by the city.


Fishing from canoes, Niger River, Koulikoro MaliOur route parallels the Niger River. Where you can see it, if you look carefully, you can see a current, but mostly it looks like a long narrow lake. Few boats on the river have motors. The canoes seem to prefer to stay near the shore where it is shallowest and they can pole. Sometimes they were clearly crossing river, providing a connection between villages on opposite shores. Mostly it is not clear where the boats are coming from or going.

Upland from the river, where the land is flat, there is miles and miles of sorghum. It is very ripe at this time of year so the tops bend over heavy with grains. Some are whitish, some yellow and some red, distinguishing the variety of sorghum. Less common are fields of millet. The stalk is similar but the head is very different. Every few miles there is a village, but in between there were plenty of well worn roads and tracks leading off into the farm land suggesting that there were a lot of villages and hamlets in the area that we weren't seeing. Where the land is more rolling, within a few hundred yards there is a stark difference from the troughs and crests. The lower lands generally being lush and green and the "hilltops" (a few meters higher) were thinly vegetated and desert-like in many places. It is amazing the difference that a little longer exposure to moisture makes.

bicyclists waiting in KoulikoroAmerican Cola, MaliThe cycling destination is Koulikoro, the up-river terminus of the Mali river boat service when the water level is high enough, roughly September through November.  Taking timeout from waiting for the boat to start loading, it is nice to stroll around Koulikoro.  Every walk brings a different set of experiences and images: This time the camera spotted a beverage called "American Cola,"Girl bicycling, Koulikoro Mali Gravel business on the bank of the Niger River, Malischool girl, Koulikoro Malithe gravel selling operation on the bank of the Niger River, extraverted students on their way home from school and a young girl bicycling back and forth -- don't know if this was for our benefit or a regular afternoon activity for her.  She didn't seem particular interested in our presence or our bicycles, so the later is more likely the case.

River boat, Niger River, Koulikoro MaliA little after dusk we boarded the boat that would be home for the next two days. Most of the passengers are Malian. There are four class of service: first with two people per cabin, second with four people per cabin, third with about twelve per cabin and forth which is the open lower deck. As every size and shape of bundle was carried aboard, local entrepreneur added a festive air to the activities with the candle lit business; some roasted meat or corn, others sold biscuits and candy, assorted dry goods or drinks.





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