Bamako, the time of the festivals is over.
5th of Feb, Segou's festival sur le Niger is closing with a slightly hazy sunset. Still all that music and the impressions of those past days on my mind Hasna and I drive to Bamako, organise a Visa and flights.
We then spend another week in Segou, before saying Good Bye to Nico and Julie finally. Hard, but we have a plan to meet again in Africa before July. Friends will be friends.
In Bamako we meet Peter Klein, the Austrian honorary consul. In Africa for the last 26 years he has seen them all coming and going. He's the one who managed to stay on and survive. But he cannot leave, can't get loose from (the drug) Africa. "You either hate it (leave while crying), or you love it. I belong to the second species - unfortunately."
Unfortunately because Africa is constantly trying to take it back from you. You can make a lot, it lets you do anything, but to reap the benefits, take the money and leave is not something accomplished easily. "I had a 12% stake in a furniture company in Ivory Coast. It burnt for a week and a half, was all on TV."
But Peter Klein is a survivor and a knowledgeable expert of governments' and business practices in West Africa. He has made a name for himself aiding at liberating hostages in Algeria (he knows all the local officials), and (even more recently 2005) aiding evacuating Austrians in civil war stricken Ivory Coast.
"I stayed more then a week in that big deserted hotel. The shooting raged outside. Two Belgians tried to persuade me to come with them to the airport, I declined. They are still missing today". He gathered all fruits he could find and hid under the ceiling of a toilet. "Just went down to pee."
I like Bamako
"Bamako is a bordel" Fodil (back in Senegal) has explained us (he wanted to say mess/when the French say bordel they have mess on their mind), "like India" he added and he knows India well, spends 3 months there every year, for the last how-many years. "If India will be like Bamako I am going to love India" I conclude for myself.
Bamako has everything from luxury villas, fancy restaurants with wifi access, Lebanese fast food joints, to tumultuous markets, vast, chaotic, unorganised it seems, messy, smelly canals and you can only wonder what it'll be like during the rainy season when the water does not flow through because of the rubbish that has been accumulated. (But maybe they clean away the rubbish just before it starts raining in July).
I should be back by then.
But most important Bamako has extremely friendly, peaceful people. Mali is a no-crime zone, we know.
It is here in Bamako where I realise that despite what everyone says development is taking place, has had an impact already. There is a large (this is relative) number of educated people, computer literacy, universities, a respectable street network with traffic lights that work, banks, travel agencies, mobile phones, (LAN) internet cafés, .... The future for Africa is not so dark (but I have always been thinking this).
Vienna 26th of Feb
Via Tunis (a great, relaxed town with an enormous souk covering all the surroundings of the big mosque in the old town city centre, and we stay away from touristy beaches that Tunisia is so famouse for) we fly to Vienna on 25th of February. I have been in Africa roughly a year. And - I feel I have inhaled enough African air, - I got hooked by Africa, I want to return asap.
But for the moment here is a lot of work to be done. More then 5.000 photos (Essakane to Segou) are there, most of which I have not had more then a glance at yet. Cameras and lenses need cleaning. The auto focus stopped working many times during the festival in Segou. And the CCDs (digital imaging censors) inside the S3s have spots all over them.
It'll take me a while to digitally clean all those images as well.
And I need to buy some more hard disk drive (HDD) space.
So this is Vienna for me. Hasna decides to leave me soon for her relatives in Paris.
And I am still curious whether she will return, and we retake to the road together.
Vienna 07th of March. Ali Farka Toure has died.
Ali Farka Toure, Mali's most prominent musician has died. Just weeks back from Mali, this mornings news strikes particularly. I have been late by just a year, as he had played the Segou Festival sur le Niger on its first edition in 2005. Markus James who we saw in Essakane at the Festival au Désert, near Niafunke, Toure's hometown, writes an obituary remembering Ali.
Vienna, 19th of April
I have pretty much finished the festival pages and reworked the whole site. Still I have improvements on my mind, but maybe I keep them for a later point in time (such as Christmas in Ghana).
For now it is really enough, I sat on a desk for way too long, I am longing to go back to Africa.
So I will organise what I want to take with me (spares, tools, HDD, electronics), buy a van/bus/transporter and drive back down to Bamako, where I have left the Land Rover.
Vienna, 07th of May
Hasna has rejoined me here in Vienna (after some 2 month in Paris).
We have decided to redo the FabTrek together, or better, now the FabTrek show is gonna be staged by two, a man and a woman, a Christian and a Muslim, a European and an African.
Hmmmm - so this becomes this.
Let's see how that works out.