Nigeria Behind, Bamako Today, Timbuktu Ahead

I left Lagos the day before yesterday. I was supposed to go on a flight to Bamako on Cameroon Air, but it got hijacked to Ouagadougou by some Cameroon national sports team. So, instead I took a flight to Abidjan, spent another night in the transit hotel at the airport.

Abidjan, Ivory Coast

Then I begged for the promotional rate on an Air Senegal flight to Bamako this evening.

Bamako, Mali

Now, I’m back in Bamako, mosquito territory. Luckily I’ve still been popping the malarone. This time, I snapped some pictures of the beautiful Hotel Djenne.

View From Balcony Outside My Room, Hotel Djenne, Bamako, Mali View of Second Floor Wing Outside My Room, Hotel Djenne, Bamako, Mali Stairwell Art, Hotel Djenne, Bamako, Mali

Second-Floor Rooms, Hotel Djenne, Bamako, Mali Ceramic Pot With Cool Designs, Main Corridor Downstairs, Hotel Djenne, Bamako, Mali
Statue in Main Downstairs Corridor, Hotel Djenne, Bamako, Mali Statue in Main Downstairs Corridor, Hotel Djenne, Bamako, Mali Statue in Main Downstairs Corridor, Hotel Djenne, Bamako, Mali
View From Main Downstairs Corridor to Front Entrance, Hotel Djenne, Bamako, Mali Rear Salon, Hotel Djenne, Bamako, Mali Front Entrance, Hotel Djenne, Bamako, Mali

I managed to dine on another delicious vegetarian meal at the amazing Restaurant San Toro accompanied by an almost hypnotic kora duet.

Tomorrow morning, I will scout a way to Timbuktu for the Festival in the Desert.

Twisted Fingers and Banged Thumbs in Abuja

January 3, 2008, Embassy of Niger, Abuja, Nigeria

The guy arrived after I waited three hours for him (see January 2 entry). He looked at my passport and told me the DRC Chancery in Abuja usually only handles U.S. Citizens who have a multiple-entry instead of a single-entry visa to Nigeria. I explained that I couldn’t return to Nigeria, so didn’t need a multiple-entry visa, that I would enter Congo from another country entirely. He told me to wait while he supposedly called someone who apparently told him it would take a week to obtain the visa. So, rather than showing my anger, I just thanked him and said it was too bad I probably wouldn’t be able to do my research in the DRC. Then, I left. They had told me it would be easy to find a taxi, but I didn’t see any. I tried calling Folly – who I had already paid 300 Naira for taxi’ing me around and waiting a couple of hours at the Chancery before sending him away – but he didn’t pick up, so I went to the end of the street and luckily found a car to bring me back to the hotel.

Over the course of the rest of the day yesterday, my anger gradually faded into a fairly deep depression. I realized that unless I got my visa for the Niger the next day, that is today, I wouldn’t be able to travel through Niger to Gao and Timbuktu in Mali in time for the Festival of the Desert. I would have to try going by plane to Bamako and, if there is still time, to go to Timbuktu, although probably not to Gao. Another possibility is just to go to Bamako to take the flight from there, or perhaps from Accra, giving me time to try again for a visa to the DRC.

Snafus on the Way to Accra

I boarded the Air Senegal flight in Bamako worried because it left late for Abidjan. That meant that I and several other guys missed our onward flight to Accra on Air Emirates. The following Emirates flight to Accra was in two days! So I opted to purchase an Air Ivoire ticket (because they wouldn’t accept the Emirates ticket) and to seek a refund for the Emirates flight later on. I ended up spending the night on Air Senegal’s dime at the airport hotel in Abidjan. The Abidjan airport is quite nice and modern. I met a couple of women there, as well as a creepy guy who tried to scam me as I was eating my dinner, also paid by Air Senegal, as was breakfast the next morning. I actually managed to get a lot of work done on the book since I had no distractions in the airport hotel, then during the eight hours after checking out and before the departure of the Air Ivoire flight.

I felt quite triumphant boarding that flight, despite a nasty airline employee who told me that the yellow rice sack I used to carry my excess luggage was not aesthetique (esthetic). She forced me to pay to have the sack wrapped in plastic and check it in rather than carry it on. OK, so I finally arrived in Accra and – guess what? — my bag checked in at Bamako hadn’t made it to Accra, despite several possible flights on which it could be sent.

After getting the runaround between three different lost luggage counters, I managed to file a report. I also noted the sign on the way to baggage claim that said (paraphrased): “Pedophiles and other sexual deviants are not welcome in Ghana. If you have come here to engage in such activities, please leave.? I felt warm and welcome all over, especially since I had heard recently from Andre about the Ghana government arresting a British citizen who was found with pictures of him having sex with a man in Ghana – who was apparently also arrested. The more I think about it, the more it seems like a sting operation or an attempt at extortion. This, and a prior incident in Dakar left me feeling not at all sexy, and I remained that way, except for fantasies about foreign travellers, even until today.