20 days in SENEGAL-MALI, august 02

Kind of travel: me and a girl in a wholly independent travel

When: heart of the wet season in 2002

How I moved: mainly by collective taxi, bus, minibus and plane

Where I slept: in cheap hotels.

What I liked: the widening of my point of view that I got from this travel, the sunsets and the fried stuffs sold by locals in the street

What I dislike: the anger and the fakeness of people, the impossibility of trusting somebody, the hotness, the catastrophic status of the country, the unbelivable prices of the shitty accomodations, the beaches, Dakar, the gare routie' in Dakar (Pompie'), the taxi drivers, being called "tubab (white)"... did I mention about the people?

What you do need: an endless patience or maybe just more money than I had


JUNE 02: OK, summer is coming I wanna travel. This would be my first travel after one year spent in one of the wealthiest country in the world: Sweden. Now I wanna see the other side of the token: Africa. What about crossing Senegal, up to Mali, and trying to reach the Dogon tribes? OK I like, I'll do! But mainly  I wanna meet  people, speak with them, try to understand something of what it means living here: in short try to widen my point of view. There's only one way to get this: travelling with their public means of transport, trucks, carriages, a wheelbarrow, whatever I can find.



AUGUST 02: punctured by a bunch of needles for the vaccinations, bought my supercool mosquito-net and filled a jerry car of insect-repellent, I was ready to leave. I don't think I could be able to describe my impressions in the first hours of Africa: the colors, smells, sounds...... it has been too impressive, almost shocking. I had no doubt, the travel was worth even just for what I saw, smelled, heard moving by public bus from the airport to Dakar.



AUGUST 02: punctured by a bunch of needles for the vaccinations, bought my supercool mosquito-net and filled a jerry car of insect-repellent, I was ready to leave. I don't think I could be able to describe my impressions in the first hours of Africa: the colors, smells, sounds......it has been too impressive, almost shocking. I had no doubt, the travel was worth even just for what I saw, smelled, heard moving by public bus from the airport to Dakar.


In 20 days I left from Dakar to east crossing Senegal. I slept  in Tambacounda and reached the Malian border at Diboli . Then I arrived in Kayes to get the train to the capital Bamako. My staying in Kayes (the hell), buying the ticket, getting that bloody train and travelling for 17 hours, definitely has been my hardest, strongest and most impressive  travel experience. Then, from Bamako, I followed the Niger river up to Mopti. I walked three days in the Dogon area, sleeping underneath my mosquito-net on the muddy roofs. And then, the  way back to Bamako dropping by Djennè. No way I would had passed through Kayes again, hence I got a flight from Bamako to Dakar. But my money were over, so I lazed on the coast, resting my bones. 


At the end I was enthusiastic of the travel, of the experience; I felt I've really widen my point of view, that's the window through which I see the things around me. I've seen a tough reality, but that belongs to this world, and somehow is related to me.

But I cannot leave out to say that I've been disappointed by the people. Every time I trusted them, even in the small small things, where there was nothing to earn. I've felt racism to me, hostility, anger or simply a lack of hospitality. In 20 days I've not found a  Malian or Senegalese helpfull and nice person, maybe I've just been unlucky....... This is not a revenge, I'm not encouraging you to skip this country, I never regretted this travel! On the opposite it has been great, but what I was looking for, I mean the contact with the people, is what I really missed despite my efforts.



Funny stories







In the way from Dakar to Tambacounda I decided to travel by taxi de brousse, I mean a pegeout 505 where 8 or, even, 9 people are " comfortably" sat in. Inside the car is just the frame, nothing softer than a steel bench to lean your butt. No more than two slim people can sit in each row, unbeliveble, but they manage to press  3 fat people. Of course there was no room for the legs, and I had to crouch till my jaw leant over my knees. What about the temperature? uhm....consider 8 sweating people in a small car without ventilation with an ambient temperature of about 40-45 degrees.....I would say pretty warm and stinking :-)) But the top of the top was when the woman in the front row began to eat some strange fruits, a kind of dirty apricots and thinking to throw the licked skin outside the window, was throwing them in the face of my girlfriend. After 8 hours travelling in such conditions we got in Tambacounda, it has been tough but funny!




Leaving back from Bamako (Mali) to Dakar (Senegal) I decided to fly to skipp the endless, tiring, shocking travel by land I had in the opposite way. First of all which is the air company who runs this service? AIR MALI....uhm...should I trust? no choise I've to. One entire morning to buy the tickets and then ready for flying. The plane was an old airbus, not that bad, I've travelled on worse stuffs. After one hour during  the descend to Dakar, suddenly, maybe for a loss of pression in the cabin, the oxigens masks fell down and it was panic! I wore my mask and started breathing into, but it didn't work, the shitty plastic ballon in front of it didn't inflate. Everybody seemed not really aware of it and went on breathing in it. The most thrown into confusion was the stuart who was frozen by the panic and was trying to breath into a passenger mask, instead of taking his oxigen cylinder and help children. After one minutes I realised it was possible breathing without mask and then.....I started   getting pictures of the funny scene, don't miss them in the photos section. In ten minutes the plane landed at Dakar airport and the crew announced it had been an exercise!




I went to Pompiè (la gare routiè in Dakar) to find something to get in Joul-Fadiut. When my taxi entered the gare, as usual, lot of people start running back shouting.... I asked about a taxi de brousse to get in Joul and they said me that there were no taxi de brousse heading in such way and I had to take a minibus. A guy took me to it and said me it'd have been left shortly. Obviously I didn't trust him so I asked to the owner insisting about confirming the schedule. He confirmed me the minibus would have left immediately to Joul; I paid and I sat inside waiting. Ok I was happy, I was in the shittiest place in the world without having problems! I had been waiting  refusing continuosly the stuffs people tried to sell me, one hour, two hours...and after more then two hours I was still in that stinking "steel box" waiting like a dumb and sweating like a fountain. I get angry to the owner but he didn't mind about my complainings. It was hot and stinking and I was feeling swindled. Besides while sitting I realised I paid more than the double of the normal fare. At the end the "steel box" left slowly and while exiting Pompie' I saw there was a taxi de brousse under the destination sign where it was written "Joul"....shit...a triple cheating!!!!!!!!! "Ok, but at least I'm on the  way", I thought. After some   hours driving, the "steel box" arrived in Mbour (30 Km from Joul) and they pushed my luggages down. It was the end of the minibus trip!...WHAT !?!?!? I paid the double to take a mean of transport worse than the taxi, waiting hours and arriving in the wrong place!?!?  Many people were around us asking for some money for the other minibus to Joul. Me and my girlfriend were getting really nervous and started yelling.   My girlfriend freaked out throwing her bag against a car and shouting as   crazy. I was afraid the situation could turn in a riot, but a guy came (I think the owner of the first minibus) and gave us the money to prosecute our trip to Joul on the minibus that left immediately. At the end we arrived there but, my god, that effort!!!!


Travel tips



      It's not a very cheap country!!
      Never trust people about schedule!!!
      People calling you TUBAB!!
      Learn some wolof words
      Use  local guides
      If travelling with your partner
      Avoid last seat row in taxi de brousse
      Definitely people don't like to be photographed
      Don't trust mail system!



Mine has been a low budget independent travel, without renting any kind of private mean of transport, but just using the public ones and without any support of tourist agencies. If you gonna do another kind of travel (medium/high budget travel by agency) you could have wholly different experiences, or my impression could sound strange to you
Remember I don't speak french; this didn't help.
Finally consider this travel took place in the 2002 summer; everything changes, things better or worsen, so check it out!



Italian citizens don't need a visa, just a valid passport. On the plane you'll be asked to fill an entry form....bring a pen!;-)
No compulsory vaccination for italian citizens. Considering from Senegal I was heading to Mali I got vaccinations for:
-yellow fever
-hepatitis A/B 

Besides I got Lariam pills to prevent malaria. I didn't have any particular side effect due to Lariam as it's said, left out some depression after the last pill back from the travel...I didn't figure out if the depression was for Lariam or for the end of the travel or just a psychological influence. Anyway I didn't commit suicide ;-)

The currency is the CEFA and the change ratio with euro is fixed to 1000 CEFA=1.52 EURO, hence nobody can really swindle you, left out obviously for the "commission".
I experienced two times the frightful street change without bad consequences, nevertheless I don't suggest it
The most common problem with money is to recognise the kind of note just from the size as they're often unreadable.
Forget using an American Express card throughout the country.

I'll list just the main stuffs:
(it's necessary when you sleep outside, or to be set inside the rooms. I did it several times and in the morning usually I heard the mosquito buzzing outside it!!)
-mosquito repellent spray
-mosquito repellent burning stuff
-a flash lamp with batteries change
-a good knife... to eat mangoes ;-)
-water containers
-water purifier pills
-trekking shoes
-long linen pants
-something to dry your sweat



It's not a very cheap country!!
Even for a low budget travel like mine it turns out to be as expensive as Spain. Forget travelling with less than 15 euro/day, unless you don't travel walking, sleeping on the side of the road and eating bread ;-),... maybe if you are french speaking you'll be more skilful than me bargaining

Never trust people about schedule!!!
I've had  bad experiences about people reliability  concerning schedule (and everything else). They simply lie.

People calling you TUBAB!!
You'll hear almost everybody calling you TUBAB, it means white man. To me it doesn't sound so friendly, at least don't smile thinking to be greeted!

Learn some wolof  words
I experienced that to learn some wolof words as the greetings or "no thank you", "please","how are you?", really made people more helpful, also when you ask about their pronunciation you'll see the joy of the people while they explain you...and remember, a greet doesn't cost  a thing

Use local guides
Getting a local guide is often the best way to avoid bothering people but the risk then, is that to be stuck in a turistic root.

If travelling with your partner
If you are travelling with your not-married partner always lie saying you are married, also to the policemen, and especially to the border guards. You are not obliged to have it written on the passport!

Avoid last seat row in taxi de brousse
They always pushed me in the last seat row in the taxi de brousse, even if I was the first to enter in it. I argued but never won. It's so uncomfortable, definitely you'll travel hours leaning you jaw on the your grabbed legs knees

Definitely people don't like to be photographed
I've traveled in several countries with a very small camera and I've always been respectful and kind taking pics of people, but I've never had as much problems as here. Sometimes I had really to flee from yelling people, expecially in the market...

Don't trust mail system!
I really wanted to avoid my 30 postcards to being lost, so I brought them personally   to the airport. "Incredibile dictu", even putting them in the mail box 50 meters far from the planes, after 1 month just 13 (out of 30) spoilt and dirty postcards reached their destinations




  2. PHOTO

  3. TIPS



Usually I try to avoid the big cities but coming from the airport I didn't manage and I had to stop in Dakar. Definitely I cannot be enthusiastic of a damned humid, hot, polluted and crowded  place.  I cursed the night I slept there for the black-out that, stopping my ventilator, made me melting in the bed. In particular I recommend you to visit "place d'Independence", you'll be charmed admiring the caos everywhere while someone'll be stealing your wallet ;-)
In Dakar you can find also nice stuffs such as the markets, but worse of the ones you'll find everywhere throughout Senegal. Frankly I strain to spot a good reason to visit Dakar, especially the "gare routier" called Pompie, that is one of the worst places I've never visited I'm my life (read: freaking out in Mbour). I have also been in the national museum...I'm not able to express opinions about it, sorry. Anyway everyplace has, at least, a good reason to be visited... hence to find it out could be one of this, good luck...   ;-)

PS: don't miss the story about the adventure to reach Dakar from Bamako flying with AIR MALI company (air mali sucks), and Tambacoundai by taxi de brousse (pressed in the taxi..)



-Don't be cheated by the taxi drivers! Don't pay more than 4000 CEFA (08/2002) from the airport to downtown!

-I suggest you to avoid walking during the night. Streets are unlit...definitely not the safest place I've been

-If you're going to get the train to Bamako you have to buy the tickets one day in advance.

-Watch out in Pompiè and don't be discouraged when you'll be there; it cannot be worse in Senegal



Joal Fadiout


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  3. TIPS



Joal Fadiout is one of the tourist highlight in Senegal; despite the crowded buses of the organised tour coming in the morning and staying one hour (as they're having a trip at  the zoo), I think it's worth visiting it. Fadiout is a cute village, a kind of labyrinth   built on an island by mud and shells where local sell fresh fish. I particularly liked the long wooden bridge that connects the island to the mainland where locals are used to gather.
In the late afternoon the low tide  shows the lively sandy seabed where  guys play football and  hundred of people pick up shells.
What I really recommend you is to see the frenetic coming of the fishermen at six o'clock in Joal harbor. For sure you'll be the only white person and you'll feel embarrassed, but it'll be amazing.



-It's not that easy to reach Joal-Fadiout from Dakar by minibus. Read what happened to me (freaking out in Mbour).

-Don't miss a trip by horse cart in the surroundings of Fadiout watching how hard is to cultivate such places.

-I slept in Relè 114 in Joal and I appreciated the kindness of the family who runs the place and invited me for lunch twice.

-Don't visited what is said to be the biggest baobab of Senegal few km far from Fadiout. It's not that special and it's crowded of bothering sellers who are waiting for you!!