Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Back On The Road Again

True to form I left home in a disorganised, last-minute hurry. The evening before we had our family Xmas dinner and gift-unwrapping - a good thing too as I received several presents from Santa that I had ordered for the trip. Although it did lead to me staying up past 2am putting music on my new mp3 player (a luxury I didn't have on my last trip).

So once I managed to crawl out of bed I started throwing my stuff together and then into the rucksack (once I found it that is - which, in itself, was a mini crisis). Things weren't helped much by having the electrician round. The full ramifications of his presence weren't clear to me until the electricity was cut off meaning the shower wouldn't work (personally I'm not too fussed about that sort of thing, but I felt sorry for my neighbours on the plane). In the rush I'm sure I've forgotten something, I just hope it's not too vital, although, to be fair, even when I'm not rushing I forget stuff. Actually I was quite impressed with myself when I arrived at the checkout and found that my rucksack only weighed 12.5kg, and that includes my tent and sleeping bag.

For me the most stressful part of travelling is the first bus ride to the airport - I keep worrying about getting there on time and have visions of the trip being over before it even begins. Once on the road (metaphorically speaking in the case of planes, trains and boats) however, all concerns melt away and are replaced by the excitement of diving into the unknown. My first taste of the aforementioned came quickly as we arrived in Casablanca and I awaited my connecting flight to Bamako. The architects of the newly extended airport had been inspired by the film Field of Dreams: "if you build it, they will come". The departure hall is easily large enough for a jumbo to land in and you feel lonely as you wander from one departure gate to another, footsteps echoing in the ether. Our plane was packed with Malians returning from the Haj, swathed in flowing robes amd clutching various souvenirs from their first ever trip abroad by plane: Arab keffiyehs, kitsch memorabilia and, most of all, bottles of Zam Zam water. Unfortunately for those unused to flying the plane was considered like a bus with wings, to be piled high with any and all junk immaginable. Many were told to leave behind excess hand luggage (which did not go down very well) and so the gangway to the plane was littered with all manner of pilgrims' flotsam and jetsam.

We did, however, finally manage to take off for Bamako. I had the very good fortune to start talking with an English student who was returning home for Xmas (his parents are missionaries in Mali) and so offered me a lift to their place and let me kip until the morning when they took me into town. I was indeed lucky as 4am is never a good time to be wandering around a town and country you don't know. Anyway, more on Bamako and my first impressions of Mali in the next post.

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