Yesterday we left Atar, Mauritania for the next country on our list: Mali.
We flew from Atar direct to Bamako, the capital city with several million people living there. While enroute there was nothing to see but sand, sand, and even more sand. The flight took over six hours. Other than the occasional tent camps there was nothing to see while enroute.
So we were happy when we approached Bamako, where the radio came to life again.
Because of the current political situation in Mali, the United Nations are omnipresent in Mali and its airspace. There even were a couple of Dutch pilots manning those UN planes. We switched our radio frequency to 123.45 to have a chat in our native language. Most of our fellow flying Dutchmen could not believe their ears at first, when they heard our registration.
After landing at Bamako we met Erik from Special Air Services Mali. SAS Mali is a large turboprop operator in West-Africa, flying personell to the mines throughout the Western Sahara. Erik had a lot of interesting stories to tell about operating in this fascinating region.
Bamako is a large and busy city, but we have found our little oasis in a small bed and breakfast in the middle of town. From there we went to explore the city by one of the many bright yellow cabs that drive around. They are in very bad shape, and once you experience how they are driven, you understand why. The roads are total chaos.
We then decided to explore the city from a more convenient platform, as we took a boatride along the Niger river through the city.
Bamako is a fascinating place. People are dressed in bright coloured clothing, and everything seems just a bit more friendly than in Atar. However, a lot of things kept reminding us of the political situation in Northern Mali. The French embassy was heavily fortified, and the United Nations had taken the largest hotel of the city all for themselves. We regularly met European soldiers and policemen, involved in various missions.
We enjoyed our short stay in this country, but we will have to leave again tomorrow. We will fly via Bobo-Dioulasso in Burkina Faso to Accra in Ghana. Stay tuned!
We have left Europe, and this time, we won’t be back anytime soon. As we flew from the Canary Islands to Atar in Mauritania, all we did see below us was sand, and an occasional herd of wild camels.
After a while the scenery became more diverse, with large rock formations and vast canyons. We flew as low as 300 feet over all this beauty, to enjoy it as much as possible. But then the sand came. It went straight through our fuselage, and reduced visibility quite a bit. We decided to climb to see if we could get above it. We had to climb to 7000 feet to regain normal visibility again.
After landing we had some stressful conversations with local authorities, as they tried to explain to us we were not allowed to land on the airport.
Thanks to the assistance of some local Dutchmen we were soon allowed entrance to Mauritania nevertheless. The Dutch took us with their SUV to a fantastic oasis where we spent the rest of the day relaxing.
Today, we visited the market in Atar, an old mining city, and enjoyed some local food and culture. This afternoon we will fly with some of our hosts around a spectacular crater, about 70 miles from where we are now. After that, we are promised some barrels of Avgas to fill up our airplane for the flight to Bamako tomorrow. We will be bound for Mali in the early morning!