The Pictorial Story of a Voyage of Discovery taken in March 2004

Serrekunda to Kolda

Bamako City 2 3


Bamako to

Kolda to
2 3

Sévaré &


Sévaré to

Conakry to Mamou

Djenné 2



Mamou to

Sévaré to

Kankan to Bamako

Return to

2 3 4

A round trip from Serrekunda in The Gambia to Sévaré and Djenné in Mali.
Look out for the many thumbnail pictures and
text links to click on.

For the past 15 years, I had listened to and read .. fabulous tales of ancient civilisations, markets full of treasures, the lovely people in some parts, the supposed dangers in others. Marvelling at the fabulous pictures of Guinea Conakry and Mali in such publications as Angela Fisher's superb book Africa Adorned and many others .. it was high time I found out the realities and saw these sights for myself. The way we travelled was not easy, nor the way that I would recommend to anyone of a delicate disposition. We were pretty much exhausted by the end of the 3 weeks ..
but it was an experience I would not have missed for the world.

This travelogue is not a definitive guide to travel in West Africa .. but it is an accurate  description of the local African way of travelling throughout the region at that time. Locally known as going by 'taxi-bruse' is not the easiest way by far, but in my opinion, it was the best way to really experience the sights, sounds and tastes .. and to see the peoples and their cultures at firsthand.

I have included many photographs, the journey times we experienced, prices that were current at the time and many instances of the incidents which routinely can .. and did .. occur along the way.

 I hope the following tale will both entertain and be of interest to those friends who have requested that I write it .. or even be of possible use as a rough guide for some of you who may suffer from similar masochistic tendencies .. and want to attempt it for yourselves !

Again, as in the preface to my
Kiffa Trip .. a message for those who might think about immediately starting to pack their bags and heading off for similar 'Fun in the Sun'. .. which is even more important for some of the areas we covered on this trip, although if you read all the way through ..
I think you will have a good idea of what this particular 'fun' involves !

 I am well used to travelling 'bush-taxi' style, but for those of you who plan their holidays with meticulous attention to detail and timing, need regular baths, clean & comfortable travelling conditions, air-conditioning ( in temperatures often up to 55 degrees C ), regular meals, recognisable food ( as mother used to make ), constant supplies of clean water, electricity and fresh clothing, have no knowledge of the French language or any of the countless local dialects, cannot converse without speaking, are worried about having all the inoculations advisable for protection ... and cannot survive without a tourist rep. on call 24 / 7
Think again !
You may be able to fly, in 'sumptuous comfort', to some of the larger places mentioned ...
but you will most probably not enjoy the same experiences, will see little and will likely miss out on meeting the real local people in their own quality ( not quantity ) environments.
This .. for me .. was the major attraction of my travelling in those days.

 For any other masochists determined to risk life and limb on a similar trip .. I have added a few Factfiles and Updates, which I hope will prove useful. Good luck, you will surely need it !!

The Original Plan

To travel from The Gambia to Mali, onwards to Burkina Faso and the Upper Volta region -
to explore these culturally historic areas of West Africa, which were previously unknown to me.

To obtain my necessary visas entailed either a trip from my base in The Gambia to Dakar in Sénégal or to Conakry, the capital city of Guinea. So the original plan was to obtain a visa for Guinea in Banjul, travel to Conakry .. my first visit to this country .. for the Mali visa. Then get the visa for Burkina Faso in Mali ... and see where we ended up in the 3 weeks or so available..

My previous voyages of exploration into new countries of West Africa have either been  attempted alone or with a personal friend who had no knowledge of beads or the bead trade,
but who could help with the many totally different local languages which would be encountered.

This time I was lucky enough to have my long-time friend Alaghi with me. He was originally responsible for introducing me to the Trade Beads of West Africa .. and in a carefree moment had volunteered to be my guide over these routes, which he regularly travels in the course of his business. I did warn him I would probably tire him out .. naďvely he didn't believe me !!

He is an experienced traveller, bead expert and a devout member of the Hausa tribe: a Chadic-speaking people of Nigeria and Niger, intensive farmers, famed craftsmen and whose  traders are found throughout West Africa. His knowledge, remarkable fluency in English, French and at least 10 local languages, his memory of place names, routes, times, prices and the 1001 things one needs to know to survive this type of semi-nomadic lifestyle, are amazing. Especially as he is unable to write things down or read signs, books or maps for reference .. literacy abilities which most of us are fortunate enough to be able to take for granted.

Our plans changed, or changes were forced upon us along the way .. but we survived and enjoyed some fascinating experiences .. the debt of gratitude I owe him knows no bounds.
Na gode ( thank you ) my friend.

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