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Mali

17th March - 10th April

Border Crossing Mauritania-Mali. If crossing the border at Gogui, the last chance you will have of getting the Carnet for the vehicle signed off in Mauritania is at the very sleepy customs post on the main road at Kobenni. The road from Ayoun to the border is very quiet with a good tarred surface all the way. The border crossing was very straight forward on the Mauritanian side; it took 5 minutes and cost nothing! The first hut you come to on the Malian side is the police post. Here passports are checked for the visas, the relevant page is then stamped and signed. Note that currently your visa begins the day you cross the border with the date written by the Mali border police underneath the visa; this was confirmed by the head of immigration in Bamako. The police chief tried to ask for 10 euros per passport; having learnt from the crossing into Mauritania and just in case there was some sort of valid charge, a 5 euro note was produced and both pockets emptied to prove that there was no more to be had. The police chief accepted the protestations of poverty with a smile, the charge was obviously bogus! Next was the gendarmerie post and a more brazen approach; included in the verbal iteration of what we had to produce was a ‘cadeau’ for the corporal! Slipping into the Englishman abroad mode: speaking loudly in English and, with a perplexed smile, asking why the Corporal thought we had come from ‘Calais’ did the trick!

Note that there are no money changing opportunities on the Malian border, nor are there any customs officials to stamp and sign the Carnet. Both can be done at the next town, Nioro du Sahel; the
customs post is at GPS N15 14.143’ W09 34.295’ on the edge of town and is the group of one storied buildings to the right of the Y junction where the main road carries on to Bamako. The bank is in amongst the buildings surrounding the main (and first) square you come to in town. If it is closed, the Pharmacie opposite the bank will change euros and ouguiya! The latter at a very bad rate. We know, we made the mistake of having spare ouguiya and it is not the most sought after currency!

Bush Camp.GPS N14 38.612’ W009 13.218’. We were spoilt for choice; thorn less trees for shade, good cover from the road and away from any village.

Diema to Bamako. We expected the tarred road to end at Diema. It didn’t, instead we were greeted by a toll booth and, after paying all of the equivalent of 50p, we were on the newly completed road to Bamako. As you are just about to enter the outskirts of Bamako, you will come across a major crossroads. Here there is a policeman and his directions will put you on the right approach to your campsite. Thus far, if we ever want to know anything and there is a policeman nearby, we ask him. It works a treat, with sound advice or clear directions the result.

Bamako. Le Cactus. GPS N12 32.177’ W008 02.751. On southern side of the river and on the western outskirts of the city. Cross the river by the more westerly of the two bridges and turn immediately right, then follow your nose for about 6kms. It’s not signposted until a sharp left hand bend some 3kms away; the next sign (also showing directions to the Centre Sportif), on your right, is where you turn right. A curates egg, we loved it and the Canadian couple who run it. Some may worry over no mains electricity, the water drawn from the well and the distance from the city centre. We loved its riverside location, the bar, the food and the peace and quiet. The owners have a good taxi driver on hand and there is always the very frequent ‘minibus’ service. The latter is an experience not to be missed!! The city centre has banks with ATMs; most, if not all, will only accept cards backed by Visa. The one that dispenses the most and in an air conditioned booth to boot! is the BSIM (Paribas owned) on the northern bank of the river and about halfway between the two bridges; its ATMs will dispense up to 200,000 CFA. There is also a garage that most of the expats swear by: Garage Phenix (223 6479), it is on the southern side of the river and, if coming from the north, best approached from the Martyrs Bridge. The directions are not straight forward and if you do need them it may be best to phone for an RV.

Segou. Hotel Independance. GPS N13 25.792’ W006 13.478’.On the Mopti side of town, on the right hand side as you leave town, well signposted close to the hotel. One of 2 run by Lebanese brothers, this allows camping and access to all the facilities, including a good sized swimming pool. The shower and loo are part of the pool complex, if you park against the pool wall you can (if your cable is over 10m) hook up to the electricity supply in the pump room.

Bush Camp. GPS N14 13.332’ W004 04.932’. About 30 kms south of Mopti off the main Segou/Mopti road.

Sevare. Mankan Te. GPS not available! If heading into Sevare from Segou on the main road, the b&b about 1km along the road towards the Mopti roundabout and down a road on the right. The b&b is signed on the right hand side of the main road, at the right turn for the b&b. Great b&b, the staff excellent and the English speaking German owner (Jutta) a star. It should be able to provide secure parking out of season and electricity hook up for one vehicle, high season will be more problematic. These constraints are no different from Mac’s Refuge, which we visited, but felt was too cramped, the pool water green and the staff underwhelming. So too did an American couple who also then stayed at Mankan Te! Beware the police post at the Mopti/Bandiagara roundabout in Sevare, we were stopped both the times that we went around it. Much argy-bargy, but in the end no ‘fine’: for not wearing a seat belt (receipt from local police station requested!) or for having darkened rear passenger windows (‘original’, thus manufactured with them!).

Yenndouma. GPS N14 33.289’ W003 14.507’. As you enter the village on the piste from Sanga/Banani and having passed the well to your left, the gateway to the location is almost in front of you. An open, fairly flat courtyard. Basic shower (bucket and large mug!) and long drop loo, but both are perfectly acceptable. One of buildings, on the left, overlooking the courtyard is an auberge, the owner offered to provide drinks, etc.

Youga Na. GPS N14 33.289’ W00314.507’. Not in Youga Na but just beneath the mountain village, on the plain with well on right as you approach from Yenndouma/Sanga. Le Patron really courteous and thoughtful, also a good guide. Same basic but acceptable facilities as Yenndouma. Drinks and food available.

Douentza. Campement Hogon. GPS N15 00.348’ W002 56.993’. Well signposted on the eastern side of the town, it is off the main road and down a road on the right- if travelling towards Gao. The owner will allow camping, space permitting. Good ambience and birds for birders. Facilities reasonable, if functioning! Good food and massive portions! The ‘Guides’ can be a little pushy but soon get the message.

Timbuktu. Auberge/Guest House Caravan Serail. GPS N16 45.864’ W003 00.590’.
Well signposted from the outskirts, the auberge is off to the right of the main road and the turn signposted. After you have turned off the main road, go past the ‘power station’ on your left next left and first right. The auberge should then be in view. Camping no problem, electricity hook up possible, but not easy. Parking is secure and the facilities good, also rooms and roof top beds. Great atmosphere and good food.

Piste to/from Timbuktu and Douentza. The main piste from Douentza to Timbuktu is corrugation hell, and you may want to consider only using it once. As the route to Goa north of the river was not an option due to Tuareg activity, we decided to bin Gao and took Jutta’s advice to Douentza via the following simple, but scenic 2 day route south of the river that is possible during the dry season: Cross back to the southern bank, retrace your route back to a very small village called Mare Mare, now on your left and about 15 kms from the ferry point. Go beyond Mare Mare by about 2kms and a new sign (ignore the rusted and battered one you come across first) that will show on your left indicating the left turn onto the piste for Aglal (shown as Arlal on the Michelin map) and signed Aglal, the piste runs off at about 10 o’clock from the main Douentza one and can, if windblown sand has covered the track, be tricky to pick up. The piste is then easy to follow and the route is as follows: Arlal, Mandiakoy,( we bush camped hidden amongst low growing palms at GPS N16 48.972’ W002 14.925’) along the banks of the Niger to Gourma-Rharous, then take the piste that runs south east to join the main Douentza/Gao road to the east of Gossi at GPS N15 52.286’ W001 14.285’.

Bush Camp. GPS N15 26.220’ W001 24.636’. To the west of Gossi and just off the main road, hidden behind a thicket of thorn trees.

I-n-Adiattafene. GPS N15 38.438’ W002 09.117’.
If you are interested in seeing the elephants in the Reserve de Douentza and are in the area of Hombori in late March/ April, then a visit to the village of I-n-Adiattafene at the heart of the reserve is necessary, here you can pick up a guide. Ask in Hombori for the piste to the village (and check that the elephants are in situ) and expect to take about 2 hours to get there. The piste is sandy but well marked. We returned to the main Hombori/Douentza road via the well marked piste that the villagers call the Boni piste and is shown on the IGN map of Mali. A much better piste and expect to take about 2 hours.

Bankass. Hotel Nommo. GPS N14 04.341’ W003 31.501’. Not a hotel but a mix of campement and auberge. Entering the village from the north west, carry through until you see a sign for the hotel on the right, turn right and after about 800m and just after a rather tatty campement/night club on the right, another sign showing a left turn. When we were there it had only recently opened and there were a few teething problems, but the young patron is keen and very helpful, the staff and the food good, so it is worth a try! Camping is no problem, parking is secure, the facilities are good and electricity hook up is possible.


Burkina Faso
10th - 18th April


Border Crossing Mali-Burkina Faso. The last chance to get the carnet sorted is at the customs post on the southern side of Koro, absolutely no problems and very efficient staff. The same applies to the Malian border police post. Once over the border there is a bit of a drive to the Bukina Faso border post at Tiou , but again no problems and the staff most helpful. We had got our visas in Bamako, at a total cost of some 45,000 CFA; a German couple got theirs at the border post with the minimum of fuss and at half the price. We live and learn! From Ouahigouya the road to Ouaga’ is tarred.

Ouagadougou (Ouga’). Hotel Ricardo. GPS N12 23.446 W001 31.639. Having entered Ouga’, stay on the main road and turn off left immediately before the barrage (lake like area of water), after 200m take the first right turn and stay on this road until the hotel is signposted on the right. Picked from the Bradt guide, camping is fine in hotel car park; not able to get electricity hook up, our cable was too short! The facilities are good and you get free use of the 30m pool! May be a bit too pricey for some, we were won over by the lure of the pool and free wifi!! It is also close to the Ghanian embassy and the owner offered their driver and car to get us there.

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