The Sévaré bus garage was at the end of a side street in the middle of Bamako .. no special facilities .. just a large bus with its roof rack partially loaded, sitting in the middle of the road.
Tickets at CFA 6,000 each were bought and we sat in the shade, eating oranges and drinking cold bottled water .. not anticipating a long wait, as we had bought the last tickets available.
Numerous large and heavy boxes, sacks of goods, our baggage and 5 or 6 new motorcycles were loaded on top of the bus .. covered in nets and securely tied down, whilst we waited.
Ever-ready to snap an action picture,
I noticed with alarm that my camera batteries were running low. No problem to get some more, with the amount of small boys selling batteries by the hundred .. so I bought some which looked like genuine Duracells, but had
slightly different ends. CFA 600 for 4 .. a bargain ! My bargain buys didn't last long enough to open the camera properly .. and turned out to be Duracons or some such copy, with the same colours but a slightly different name. Of course, the young scamp who had sold them to me was long gone .. and the sudden realisation dawned that I was not in an area of the city likely to stock genuine brands of batteries and was heading into the countryside, where they would be even more scarce. With the fabled delights of Djenné and Mopti to record for posterity .. panic ensued !
My saviours arrived in the shape of two small boys, who had been watching events from a distance. Knowing full-well the predicament I was in, they offered me some different batteries from their selection and
stood by as I tested them .. by taking their photograph. Just CFA 500 for 4 this time .. a better price and better batteries .. as a reward I bought two of their African fans and gave them the dud batteries .. no doubt to be recharged and resold at a later date.
At last we were given the signal to get aboard and as our names were called we scrambled aboard to try to find a seat. As usual .. the outside temperatures were well over 40 degrees C
.. whatever the inside
of the bus's temperature was, I dread to think. As we tried to find two unoccupied and adjoining seats, I remembered some wise words of advice I had once read:
Beware of older-style buses that have non-opening
windows and air-conditioning that ceased working a long time ago. Guess what we were sitting in ?
Everybody was literally dripping with perspiration .. some of us frantically waving African fans to try to keep cool .. but to no avail. We just sat and the sweat poured out of us. The engine started, we
moved forward one metre .. there was a loud crunch and we stopped. Confusion reigned until we were all ordered to pick up our hand-luggage and get off again. This time I didn't need to ask what the problem was .. it was
perfectly obvious. Our transport was leaning at a peculiar angle to the perpendicular, one side of the rear suspension had collapsed !!