- 30 March 2000
- Hotel Relais
- 401 KM
- 66351 KM
Woke and went to breakfast – bread with butter and jam and Nescafe. No eggs or fruit were in the kitchen. Leaving Kayes at 9 a.m. temperature was 34 C. Then drive to Kita – perhaps the roughest day of driving we’ve had thus far – over horrible piste (dirt path) and then even worse hills, valleys, rocks and sand. My sunglasses protected my eyes, but still I had rings of dirt visible around the glasses. My bra straps by the end of the day were dark brown even though they began stark white in color. As the day progressed, I learned to dread the white sand we crossed, since it was feather-fine and filled the car unlike the more compact red dirt we covered.
At one point we reached a ferry, which took less than five minutes to cross the river, and to our delight, the boat was on our side of the river and departed as soon as we boarded. The slight speed of the boat offered a much-needed breeze. As we crossed a couple of boats passed us that looked like punts, but are called pirogues in this part of the world. Young boys, on both pirogues we saw, used long poles to paddle the boats with several passengers from one side of the river to the other. After crossing I dipped my hands in the water and wiped my face. Pure delight.
From here the piste was much better, but turned to washboard as daylight ended with 60 kilometers ahead of us before Kita. As we passed villages lit only with candles, we slowed to avoid hitting people and children. At times the corrugated road made us slow to almost 20 kilometers per hour. Finally we increased our speed to 60 km “making the ripples feel like we were driving on carpet” according to Andy, our African hand traveling in the GWagon. No carpet that I know ever felt like this, but we were able to drive faster, cover ground quicker and not shake the car or trailer any worse than driving at 20 km per hour.
Once in Kita, we found Hotel Relais owned by Ben, a middle-aged African. Again the lodging was in bungalow-style, but no where near as nice as we’d had the last two nights in Kaolack and Kayes. There was a ceiling fan in our sitting room and a well-meaning air conditioner in the bedroom. Electricity ceased at least once an hour. We found one hand towel in the bathroom with a showerhead and only one nozzle for water. With the shower turned on it almost poured into the toilet. We were sure the sink would fall off the wall at any moment. A large hunk of dark brown soap sat in a plastic dish. As I showered in the cold water, I noticed red liquid – colored from the dirt of the day – pour down my body. The shower felt like liquid pleasure. I used the hard towel to dry and put on the same horribly dirty clothes (tomorrow would be as dusty as today so might as well wear the dirties again) before going to find the restaurant. Jim still had not returned from parking the car, but I could wait no longer for food.
I found the restaurant and ordered a cold beer. Jim walked in and joined me. I ate riz au sauce – a typical Mali dish of white rice with a sauce resembling brown gravy with carrots, potatoes, onions and a little beef to season. Jim ate capitaine (a type of African fish) and frittes. Around 10 p.m. I went to bed exhausted. The bed, by the way, was dirty and I felt sand and dirt under my body. I got up, put on a T-shirt and placed the small, damp towel under me. Jim asked how I knew the towel was clean? I didn’t but it felt better than the sand. I slept like a board on the towel all night not wanting to touch the sheets. I could have kicked myself for not taking in my own.