Our sadest moment


I have no idea how to convey the next day and every word I write is hurting my heart, but there is no other way to convey the information, so here we go.


We left Bamako in high spirits, excited to get to Senegal and Dakar, the Western most point of Africa. We heard the roads are good, at least on the Mali side, and decided to do a few bushcamps on our way until we get to Senegal 2 or 3 days later. We said goodbye to our new found friends Renate and Reinout after showing them the inns and outs of Stan and discussing all the little “protection” trinkets, collected on the way and given to us by fellow travelers.


The road was indeed one of the best we have had on the trip since Namibia and the going was good. I took over the driving and the road changed drastically just after the town of Kita where it turns into gravel. I was still driving and unfortunately I cannot remember exactly what happened …..all I know was that I lost control, started skidding all over the road, tried to over correct and the next minute I felt the car turning, skidding and rolling. We ended up on the other side of the road with the car upside down and the 2 of us hanging in the air tied to the car by our safety belts. Thank god we were wearing these as there is no doubt that they saved our lives; we would have been thrown out of the front windscreen and crushed by the car.


How do you convey the pain of the realization that your action just ruined your dream, the fear that the love of your life is injured, the scene of the world turning upside down whilst your only home is rolling (a scene that is still repeated in my mind night after night), there are no words, but there are also no words to describe the thankfulness and joy when you realize that we both got out of the car alive. That we still at least had each other if nothing else. Those few seconds when we comforted each other in eerie calmness whilst the car was rolling must truly be godsend. Stewart was a pillar of strength as we crawled out of the car(he on the drivers side as his side took the worst blow) and realized that we are in the middle of nowhere with no cell phone reception. My back was injured and we had no idea of what to do next, To make matters worse, the skies opened and the rain came pouring down, tropical African style. To try and stay calm,we tried to get valuable things out of the car and the rain and Stew loosened the few screws that still kept the roof rack attached to the car. We knew immediately that the damage was bad, very bad.


I finally cracked when the only person who arrived with his bike was unfortunately not a typical example of Malian hospitality. To this day I still have no idea what lesson there is to be learnt from this, but he was the most unkind person we met in a long time. We were still visibly shocked by the experience and all this guy did whilst we were trying to explain we need help, was to point his finger into Stewarts face  screaming” You, you,MONEY MONEY!!” Over and over and over. He wanted 100 000CFA (About R2000) on the spot before he was prepared to call for help. All I did in return was shout “Bad heart, bad heart” Well, we had no option but to pay, at least we got him down to half the amount specially when we realized that he was only prepared to get a truck to turn the car over and then leave us there. I am not sure, but I think the rest of the guys that arrived  spoke to him and he agreed that the truck could tow us the 30 odd kilometers to the nearest town.

 Getting ready to be towed to Bamako and the bathroom in our"abode"

We were towed to a place that once , many years ago was a hotel but has since downgraded substantially to a whorehouse. There was (once again) no running water, no window panes, no mosquito net and 1000’s of mosquitoes buzzing away, used condoms on the floor all over the room, the walls covered in dirt and bedding that I cannot describe. At least it was safe and there was nowhere else to go. The only option we had as we had no contacts in Mali, was to phone the Tamana Hotel in Bamako where we stayed as we remembered that a staff member could speak English. We got hold of him, he contacted the Lebanese owner of the hotel and he came back to us with an offer that he can arrange for a truck to transport Stan to Bamako for an amount of R8000! That was absurd and after arranging with the owner of the brothel to bring someone that could speak English, out interpreter helped us to arrange with a local businessman transport to Bamako at half the price.


After a sleepless night, our “tow truck” arrived in the guise of an ancient taxi! But believe it or not, he did the job, we loaded the ruined roof rack and tent on the roof of the taxi, attached the towing pole and off we went. The trip of 250 kms to Bamako was not easy as Stan had a much lower profile since the accident with the result that Stew could not sit up straight behind the wheel and to make matters worse, we were covered in insects, dust and all kinds of “flying things” when we finally arrived.