I hadn’t really thought ahead since I didn’t plan on arriving in Mali late at night alone, so when I walked out of the airport – it hit me. How was I going to get to the hotel? I had no idea what a fair fare would be in a taxi, or even if the taxis were safe. As usual, before I even got out the door someone approached me trying to get me in his taxi. Since there was no formal taxi queue or price list posted, I just went with it. We agreed on what seemed to be a very fair price (since I knew the hotel was quite a ride away, and we were off.
No problem at all since the roads were empty late on Sunday night, and we arrived at the Radisson Blu gates after maybe 25 minutes. Yes, I said gates. If you remember in the news ten or more terrorists attacked the Radisson Blu Bamako in November, 2015 and took more than 100 hostages. Well, the hotel had to close for a bit after that incident, but was up and running barely a month later. There are now huge walls around the hotel, and cars are not allowed to enter. Pedestrians are dropped off just outside the walls, and you have to go through airport style metal detectors and have your bags x-rayed to get in. No problem at all, and soon I met up with Ian in the lobby.
Quick check in, and off to the hotel’s bar/cafe for a quick snack. Caught up on things of a few Flag beers and as had become our tradition in the Central African Republic snacked on a croque madame as well. Made some loose plans for the morning, and was off to sleep. The AC was super cold in the hotel, so managed to sleep a very solid 9+ hours.
Woke up and went down to see the pool area:
The hotel appeared to be majorly empty, which probably isn’t a surprise given the fact it had been the location of a major terrorist attack just six months prior. It felt plenty secure though, so there was really no need to worry. Grabbed some breakfast since it was included, and although it was nothing to write home ago, it was a pretty solid buffet with eggs cooked to order. Given the location, no complaints at all!
After grabbing a bite, we asked one of the guys at the front desk the easiest way to get a taxi, and he walked us out the front gates to one of the local taxi guys who hangs around. Negotiated a good price with him for a two hour city tour, and we were off. First stop was Point G. Point G is a residential area in the hills above Bamako, which is supposed to feature great panoramic views of Mali:
Apparently the vantage point even had its own fitness area…which was in use by…nobody:
Looking out over Bamako:
After Point G, we went to try and see the Grand Mosque. Unfortunately, driving up to it is extremely difficult, so we parked as nearby as we can and our driver led us to the mosque on foot. Unfortunately, it was closed for prayers, so we walked around it outside the gates trying to find somewhere to get a good photo of it. There was nowhere with a good angle, due to the fact that all the streets around it were a giant market. We walked through all kinds of small passageways in the market and got very surprised looks from all the locals. I guess it’s not every day two westerners walk through the market in Mali!
After the short city tour we had to get ready to head to the airport. Agreed on a price for the trip to the airport with the driver, who was more than happy to have the business. He took the “long way” to the airport so we could see a couple of other “sites.” First up was the Monument de la Paix, or Peace Monument:
After we crossed the King Fahd Bridge, built by the Saudis we came upon a buffalo statue at the Place de Sogolo. In the local Mandigo lore a princess was turned into a buffalo to terrorize the population. King Kone Sakaran offered a reward to hunters who ultimately shot the buffalo and they were allowed to choose among many girls for a wife. They took Sogolon Koné, the ugliest of the women, who the place is named after. Obviously I missed something in the story…
Got to the airport, things weren’t terribly chaotic, and check-in, security, and passport control were a breeze. There were three lounges in the one-room departure haul, and the first one said it was for business class passengers only when we tried. She suggested we try the next one. I decided to give her my United card, and see if we could get in as a Star Alliance Gold benefit since we were on Ethiopian. She had no idea, but offered to go check. About 10 minutes later she came back, and said yes, please stay and you can have a guest. Finished a couple of beverages, and soon it was time to board.
On the walk to the plane we saw an Antonov 124 Heavy Lifter on the tarmac, and with a window seat I had a perfect view to get a picture of it:
Ethiopian flight 909
Bamako, Mali (BKO) to Dakar, Senegal (DKR)
Depart 15:05, Arrive 16:55, Flight Time: 1:50
Boeing 767-300, Registration ET-AMG, Manufactured 2000, Seat 11L
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 94,641
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,284,166
*shudder* coach…and not just any coach, coach on an Ethiopian 767, which must be some of the nastiest, dirtiest, poorly maintained aircraft ever. At least this one didn’t shudder and make all kids of awful noises like the last one I was on! Good view of Bamako and the Niger River after takeoff:
a small snack was served, with the typical mystery sandwich…which I took a pass on. Two things scare me on planes: mystery sandwiches made who knows how long before serving and shrimp. At least the mini bottle of wine and Kit Kat were tasty!
Short flight, and all things considered not totally awful in economy…I lived to tell the tale!
It had been an all-too-short visit to Mali, but due to the fact that most tourist sites like Timbuktu are off limits due to terrorism in the area, and the delays from American Airlines, I was happy that we’d made the most of it. Just three countries left to visit! Next up: Dakar!