News of our original presence in Bamako had filtered through the grapevine and an appointment had been made with a travelling dealer, who arrived with a bag full of
treasures* at non-tourist
prices. The rest of the morning was taken up with selecting many of his best items, friendly bartering and arranging to meet him when we next returned to Mali. Most of these items have been sold or are still offered for sale on AfricanTradeBeads.com.
It was a very foggy day**.. with the previous night's mist not lifting at all. Similar conditions evidently
covered an area right across West Africa as far as Dakar in Senegal, for two days.
Business done, we hailed a taxi and drove to the Kayes bus garage to organise our transport.
Hundreds of people were
milling around as we found our way through to the Kayes transport manager's office .. set in the rear of a very dark shop. His truck was travelling that day, but not until 6.00pm .. and as that would mean at least a 5
hour wait, we decided to see if there were any alternatives on offer. As is usually the case, other eyes had been following our progress and their owner had swiftly worked out what we would be looking for, approaching
and pointing us in the direction of a Kayes bound bus .. and the people, who he said, were running a new service.
Friendly, smiling and sounding utterly plausible .. they showed us around a fairly modern
truck-based unit .. quoting the same price of CFA 12,500 and saying that they would be leaving at 4.00pm, whether full or not .. even agreeing to my request to sit in the cab alongside the driver.
That day was to be the inaugural trip of their new service and we would certainly be well looked after .. and yes, the vehicle had just been fully serviced. Would we like to buy our tickets now, thereby reserving
our chosen seats and return at 3.30pm ? Despite our recent pleasure at the organisation of Bittar-Trans .. a sixth sense warned us both that it sounded too good to be true.
Declining to part with any
money, but promising to be back at 3.30, we returned to our waiting taxi, buying a replacement new, larger and stronger sports bag on the way ( CFA 3000
), as the zip had self-destructed in mine .. and went back to the Hotel Mande for lunch.
By 3.30pm, we were back at the garage. The truck was still there but there was no sign of
the people supposedly managing it, nor did anyone know anything about them .. apart from saying that the truck was certainly not going to Kayes, or anywhere else for that matter !
Luckily, we hadn't parted with
any money in advance towards what was probably a scam, so we returned to the original transport manager and bought two tickets from him. After seeing our bags safely loaded on top of the large horse box-looking wagon
that was to be our transport,
we wandered around the surrounding market***.. or sat in the shade trying to keep cool
with soft drinks and bottled water, whilst being entertained by a myriad of colourful characters.
Every other person was trying to sell us something. From masks for dust protection, to hats, gowns,
blankets, torches, food, drinks, fans and everything else that could be physically carried to a customer. A nice touch was the sales pitch of Buy one, get one free, from a young boy selling Chinese-made padlocks
.. I wonder which tourist he got that idea from ?
My camera unfortunately still with a smeary len) was busy as usual, recording the local flavour
and entertaining all the locals who wanted to be photographed. Watching as Alaghi stopped one man, who was walking by carrying nothing but a pair of scissors and turned out to be the local travelling chiropodist .. another man filling up large earthenware communal water pots, for everyone to freely help themselves .. and saying "No thanks" a hundred times over, to a constant stream of traders offering goods .. all passed the afternoon hours until we eventually departed sharp on 6.00pm
African time .. which was well after 7.00pm actual time !