25th of June, evening, Essaouira after the concerts. Rachid Taha is still in my ears, - and still I go on about his miserable guitar player. Rock music, the guitar in your face, loud and aggressive, but such is not this one. And that I watched El Kasri instead of the Pat Metheny/Gnawa fusion attempt the night before.
But really who cares. I should be happy after all, - and slowly I cool down with a beer and satisfaction with those last few days sets in. Never before I have been that close to musicians. And more important I enjoyed doing photography here.
Evening after the closing (Taha) concert. The (old and new) friends gather at our Merc 207 which has done a great job serving as vehicle, hotel, living room, kitchen ...
There is Hamza and Greg from last year's Ouarzazate and Essaouira days. Fouad (Ouzoud just a month ago) and his girlfriend Hinde from Belgium, Marcell from Israel who we had met in Imilchil this year. Of course Hasna's sister Sanaa, Mustapha from Rabat and his friends, "neighbours" in Essaouira, friends who we have shared one of those legendary cous-cous that Hasna prepares so well. And many others.
The next day, still in Essaouira we buy a lot of music, Gnaoua, Arab and Fusion stuff, still not enough to cover the variety of what we have heard these last 4 days. Gaâda Diwane, Metheny still missing. Essaouira is golden for African music fans.
Long after lunch time we leave for the north in our Mercedes 207, via Safi and then home, to Hasna's parents, who we want to spare any unwanted publicity at this stage.
Back down south, Taghazout/Nouakchott/Bamako.
From 5th of July on we are indeed on our way back down south only to stop in Taghazout north of Agadir, to meet my oldest and best friend Michael from Vienna. Since childhood, - someone has got to be your oldest friend.
For 25 years friends, but he is just a day older then I.
Further down via Tan-Tan, Laayoune, Dakhla we drive from the 7th onward. Now it is just the road. Jour et nuit.
We have another rendezvous.
The 10th in Nouakchott. Auberge Sahara.
And it works. The last confirmation of the 10th in Nouakchott is at least 3 weeks old. But it works.
We arrive on the 9th in the evening, pretty much miss all the real goals of the legendary Italy/France World-cup final.
And: "It would be so cool to meet Nico and Julie here". On the 10th before 10 in the morning they are here. Joy is great.
All we manage are some fare-well pics from the 12th. Better then nothing.
Oh Jaaa. Nico and Julie were the friends who we met in Essaouira and Agadir last year, they went to Mali to organised the Segou, festival sur le Niger. We had a great NY 2006 with them. Then the festival itself in Feb this year.
Nico and Julie subsequently travelled Ghana and Burkina Faso, our 2 main destinations for this year.
And now Nouakchott, they're on their way home, we're on our trek back down south.
Where will we meet again?
12th afternoon we go east.
The desert glows, colours of white and shiny white, later less bright.
Sandstorms hound the country. Is it the Harmattan?
But the good 207 rolls and rolls, who would have put that much trust onto him when we set out in Vienna nearly 2 month ago.
Later, past Kiffa and really fast the scenery changes from pure sand desert, to a bush here and there to sahel and savanna.
And soon after we turn right south at Ayoune El Atrouse, all around is green, the rains have arrived, lakes aside the road prove.
We are on our way to Mali.
On 14th the evening we arrive in Niore du Sahel and feel immediately comfortable. All those people that sit outside in evenings engage you in talk show you whereto find this and that, a beer and a telephone card.
No fear all is still too common. We are back - home.
Douane and Immigration as before, the friendliest people around. No hassle. A policy or their nature?
On 15th we take the challenge of this trip, a rough track, some 200km between Nioro and Diema and Didinier. Really it is Diema to Didinier that should cause us some minor problems. But teaming up with French couple Didier and Anni and daughter Camilla in their Toyota Land Cruiser soon proves a very good idea.
Is this really the last major bit of unsealed road? Construction of a proper highway is under way. Then in 2 years we should be able to go down to South Africa all on sealed roads?, I am not sure. Certainly this is the last bit till Ghana, Ivory Coast or Nigeria.
Camping in Mali / when the rain comes...
Better get back to the dirt road, at least closer to the road. In case the down pouring gets us stuck here we could get help easier.
Heavy rain, this time of the year could ground us for days.
But lucky we are, the rain does not hit us hard. The morning is bright. We continue our journey.
Maybe I should mention that in the middle of the storm I drive the MB207 into a big hole. But thanks to Didier's Tractel tool (Greifzug - it's originally German and I have always wanted to buy this gadget for myself) we pull it free. The 207 is no 4x4 or 6x6, I should not forget this.
It has been a good idea to team up. That should cost me a beer or two or ... once we get to Bamako. My pleasure.
Dimanche à Bamako / return to the Land Rover.
A song by Malian blind couple Amadou and Mariam. Sundays in Bamako. On Sunday the 17th, after more then 12,000km with the MB207 we have reached our destination. And we are happy to be back.
Les dimanches à Bamako. Dinner in Le Relax, a Lebanese trendy restaurant where everyone passes by. We have seen it before and we are still loving it.
The 22nd of July 2006, the 2nd anniversary of ThisFabTrek is a no-event. I am too busy. And in evenings too tired. All concentration and energy is diverted towards one thing: The repair of the 6 wheeled Land Rover.
In Bamako, work on the Land Rover starts pretty much straight away. Peter our friend, 28 years in Mali, Consule d'Autriche à Mali, provides us with a pair of great Malian mechanics, Issa and Sidiki, people I will learn to trust.
The list of what we accomplish is long: Timing belt and some new seals and rollers, new gaskets where the water pump connects to the engine, calibration of engine.
6 new shock absorbers, checked all the breaks and hub bearings.
New rubber bushes and bolts for all the links that connect the axles to chassis.
Fit a new steering ball joint, and steering damper.
Remove all 3 prop shafts, seals need replacing where they connect, one U-joint as well.
Reweld both fuel tanks and the water tank. A new fuel pump in the back fuel tank is fitted.
Reweld and exchange parts of the exhaust (always a bit tricky, it stretches over 2 rear axles).
Adjust all doors and locks so that they actually close again. Hue.
"You have a lot of courage" Sidiki admits. I enjoy these 3 weeks with Issa and Sidiki much and my understanding of the Land Rover improves considerably.
In the end we drive the Land Rover some 40 odd kms, for the first time after some 5 month. Wow! This feels good.
Malaria and other discoveries
In these 3 weeks Hasna and I always say: "we could not be in a better place, Apart from Issa and Sidiki, the 2 mechnaics we enjoy a pool, the garden with big Mango trees and exotic birds, 2 dogs and 3 turtles, AC-room, lunches always at Thierys' the French man, a friend of Peters', always good French food prepared by Fili, and all the noble advice we get ...".
Just in the shade under the vehicles there is no mercy from the mosquitoes. It's the season again and Malaria has me quickly this year.
Also Hasna is suffering and we both are being treated.
But when Hasna simultaneously discovers she's pregnant with twins the picture changes.
Malaria and pregnancy don't go well together. A number one killer in Africa.
This requires some change in action.
We fly back to Morocco on 6th of Aug and further back to Vienna on the 12th.
The metallic black tropical birds, 4 or more in the upper branches of the Mango trees continue their babble.
It rains/it pours in Bamako when we leave the Land Rover for the 2nd time. The trip Vienna to Bamako and back of nearly 3 month has ended.
We have a plan.
One day I know for certain I'll be back.
But for now we have to do a couple of things properly.