After our night under the stars and burning half the driftwood on the beach we headed back up north to visit some friends of friends in Diouloulou in the northern part of the Casamance. Their names are Jean Bernard and Jean Augustine and they are Catholic priests who are working very actively in the area.
When we arrived at 10:30 in the morning we were immediately given a huge warm welcome by Jean Augustine and welcomed in, given seats and a nice ice cold Guinness was thrust into our paws. Such a great way to be welcomed if you are Irish!
The rest of the day was much the same as we enjoyed fantastic hospitality and beers with good company punctuated by a much needed siesta to recoup for the evening. In the evening we were joined by Jean Bernard who has been working in the area for a very long time and has a wealth of experience. It was great to spend the evening with the priests and some of their friends, including an old German Frauline who had been working in West Africa for many years. By the time we made it to bed that night the spirits were high and we were both shocked that you could have so much fun with priests!
We decided to leave the next day for Mali as unfortunately Jean Bernard was going to be in Guinea Bissau for a couple of days and we wanted to get the wheels rolling again after having spent way too long in and around Senegal already and we really needed to make some progress again if we were ever going to see South Africa this year.
So the next morning we were up just after dawn to once again load up our bikes and get on the road, but not before a hearty breakfast with the priests once again. It was only about 24 degrees Celsius when we left in the morning but by the end of the day the mercury was touching over 40 and it was getting really humid! Incredible how as you go inland the temperature just rises and rises.
The scenery changed too, from the green lushness of the Casamance to a much drier dustier landscape. The red Africa soil that was mostly covered by the trees and rich green bushes of the Casamance was uncovered once again and more and more Banyan trees started to appear – big silver bulbous shapes with no leaves but whose bodies store up so much goodness and provide shelter for smaller animals that live in and around them. This is part of the joy of traveling through such an amazing and diverse continent as Africa, as the scenery and people changes so much from place to place.
We managed a pretty formidable 700 km day including crossing the border into Mali but it was a long hard slog on all sorts of road that varied from tarmac to intermittent tarmac to dirt to dust a foot thick and back up to intermittent tarmac before hitting some decent tarmac again closer to Mali. We even rode through some drops of rain near the border with Mali, which just served to send the humidity even higher!
By the time we pitched our tent somewhere off the road just after Kayes in Mali we were both soggy messes in the heat but had made great progress and just crashed out in the tent feeling satisfied to be in a new country.