I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Mali, and it is with reluctance that I finally pack up the Jeep and wave goodbye to The Sleeping Camel in Bamako. I have made some great friends here who I will dearly miss.
I once told a friend the worst part about traveling is continually saying “goodbye” to new friends. He flipped that around and said the best part is continually saying “hello” and making new friends.
I’ll go with the later.
I move South, aiming for the small border at Manankoro in the extreme North West of Ivory Coast. I know nothing of the road or the border, and as usual I vastly overestimate the distance I will cover in a day. Dusk approaches when I’m still 30 or so miles from the border, so I find an old abandoned side road to camp for the night. It’s peaceful, though stiflingly hot and humid. I have put in a 7 hour driving day to cover less than 200 miles.
In the morning I arrive on the Malian side, hand in my paperwork for the Jeep, and somehow miss immigration and don’t get an exit stamp in my passport. I hope that doesn’t matter too much. The minute I arrive at the Ivory Coast customs a few men introduce themselves as “the authorities”, set up a make-shift table in the shade and start a negotiation. They explain they are officers (though they have no ID, uniforms or guns…) and are conducting and important medical check. After verifying my Yellow Fever vaccination – which was required to get the entry visa in the first place – they say I must have a meningitis vaccination. If I don’t have one, they can give me one for $50 USD, they explain, while showing me a random box of needles filled with clear liquid.
Of course there is no way I’m going to let them inject me with anything, and I know it’s a scam, though it’s still fun to see their obvious disappointment when I produce my vaccination booklet showing my up-to-date meningitis. Reluctantly, they let me head to Customs.
The lone lady working there is extremely friendly, though she insists she must have the approval of her boss before she can write out a temporary import permit for the Jeep. I wait a couple of hours, and amazingly she prepares lunch for me, a deliciously spicy rice-with-sauce combination. An hour later when the paperwork is done (without a call from her boss) she says the paperwork is free, though I can give her a gift for the food, if I like. I’m quite certain she delayed on purpose to then “sell” me lunch, though it is delicious and I’m happy to pay the usual price for it. The paperwork I get for the Jeep is only a temporary hand-written copy, and I’ll have to go to the head of Customs further down the road in the bigger city for a computerized version.
Dan Grec has set out to drive his Jeep Wrangler for 2 years and 80,000 miles in a circumnavigation of the African continent, solo.