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    Newsletter from Mali, West Africa (UK)


    The Welcome.

    No, it’s not that I’ve forgotten about ye’ non-Danish speaking lot. Not at all. But cycling here in tropical West Africa is quite a weary feat, and at the end of a long days’ cycling there simply isn’t a whole lot of energy left for documenting, note-taking, translating it all etc. Bear with me, the weary worldtraveller…

    Village, eastern Mali.

    West Africa has been an intense, hot, exciting, and often exhausting experience so far, 39 days and more than 2.000 km after my arrival in Accra, Ghana. Economically, the region is by far the most impoverished I’ve ever been to – a monetary fact somewhat contradicted by the natural lushness and seemingly evergreen landscape all around me. But make no mistake, ‘cos this is the end of the rainy season (roughly 3 months) that every year turns the otherwise stark and arid savanna into a phenomenally green blanket, so remote from my preconceived mental images of dusty West Africa.


    Cycling In West Africa.

    In terms of road quality, I’ve generally been positively surprised here. Some 95% of my chosen roads through Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Mali have been paved and I’m not complaining.

    Market in Mali village.

    In terms of temperatures, I’ve been equally surprised, but not quite as positively. West Africa is hot. Real hot. Just sitting under a shady afternoon tree – apparently a favored pastime around here – is hot, and that pedalling through the landscape on a fully-loaded bicycle is excruciatingly killer-hot goes without saying. Supplies admitting, I drink around 8-12 litres of liquid every day, and my main staple diet consists of mountains of plain rice usually with some sort of sauce (fish-, peanut-, tomato-, you name it-) on top. It’s definitely not gourmet, but it keeps me going, and at 0.30-0.60 USD a plate the budget rat inside of me is smiling.


    The White Boy In Black Africa.

    Thanks to the facts that a) my French tongue is practically non-existent, b) there aren’t many long-distance cyclists here, c) there are not a lot of blond persons here, d) there are practically no blond men here, and e) there is an infinitesimal number of blond, male, long-distance cyclists in West Africa, cycling is never boring. Never. Everywhere, all the time, I attract so much attention you wouldn’t believe it, and the energetic greetings come from all sides when I ride through the desperately poor villages made up of round and square mud houses.

    Koloko village, Burkina Faso.

    At very first the feeling of being this white boy in black Africa was quite exciting, but once I hit the next village – and the same excessive yelling and bonjours continued, making me feel like some weird circus act – the novelty had worn off, and the human roadside noise and clatter became a nuisance all too soon.

    The Attraction of the Day/Week/Month/Year...

    It’s not that I’m cranky or picky, it’s just that it totally destroys my natural line of thought, ruins my flow turning the pedals – and after 450 (to me completely aimless) bonjours and ça vas in a single day, you become immune to it all and start ignoring the lot, knowing that ignoring people is a huge social insult here as in most regions of the world.

    That said, I do love it here, and I strongly feel that the in spe Book of WT wouldn’t quite be complete without this African chapter that I’m living at the moment. Just being here, in West Africa, is a petite adventure every day. It’s not easy travelling here, and not speaking the official (French) or native (Barbera and many others) tongue makes every single transaction with the locals a challenge (and source of misunderstandings and laughter) to me, and God, have I missed those well-supplied North American A/C convenience stores! Can’t have it all, can we.

    The Oases.

    In between periods of non-communication and hardship of cycling, I’ve been lucky to meet and stay with a few fellow Danish and Swedish friends, which no doubt has been the social highlights of my time in Africa. Hanging out with like-minded souls, indulging in deeper conversations, and enjoying a rare bit of luxury has provided me with much-needed breaks, and these Scandinavian oases have seen me totally revitalized and recharged (mentally and socially), ready for the uncertainties of the winding roads ahead.

    The Plan.

    On a macro-scale, I just picked up my now completely full passport with a new Mauritanian visa, and will be leaving the Malian capital for Senegal (no visa required) tomorrow, and then follow the southern banks of the Senegal River, going northwest up to Rosso on the Mauritanian border, then straight north through the western fringes of the great Sahara desert, into Western Sahara and Morocco, where I’ll most likely spend Christmas and NYE. At the other side of the Gibraltar, good old Europe awaits me in the new year.

    Frontiere Mali, 15 km.

    The Au Revoir

    Au revoir and thanks for your support, ladies and gentlemen.

    Nicolai

    On the dusty, dusty roads of eastern Mali...

    On this day..

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    5 Responses to “Newsletter from Mali, West Africa (UK)”

    1. Brian Bikes Says:

      Keep the even flow…I’d be yelling on the side of the road too, if I saw the white lightning rolling through, blessings on the road, thanks for updating us couch potatoes

    2. Teun Says:

      Great inspiring story (again). Leaving for Mexico tomorrow. Not quite as exciting as your experiences at the moment but very welcome for us working class people.

      Enjoy your freedom!!

    3. Maarten Says:

      Hoorah for the white boy! Keep riding (and posting!) loving it…………………
      My collegue is originally from Mauritania and sends you his greetings! Let me (him) know if you need a place to stay or some help.
      Greetings from Maarten

    4. Mikaela Says:

      Hey there,

      Wow, this is awesome! I drove from London to Timbuktu in the summer and loved it… but now I am planning on heading back with my boyfriend for a good 4 months or so. We are both keen London cyclists and i’m exploring the option of cycling as much of our route as poss.

      Just wondering if you could offer any advice about cycling…

      I was hoping we might even be able to cycle from France or Spain (making the most of ferries and trains of course!).

      Thanks!

    5. Nicolai Says:

      Hi Mikaela…Thanks for the words. Reg. advice, I’m afraid you’d have to be (much) more specific here. Try fiddling around on this site, check Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forum if you have other questions – all the answers are there, really…

      Good luck planning,

      Nicolai

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