August 30, 2000
Traveling in Bamako is definitely a unique experience. The levels of technology and who/what you meet while on the road are fascinating. In just my short walk to the school, I encounter many different things. There are a few paved roads in Bamako, but most, especially the side streets, are red dirt. They contain potholes or gullies which are created or enhanced by the intense rain that is occurring this time of year. The potholes fill up with rain, making huge malaria mud puddles that both pedestrians and motorists work very hard to avoid. If the hole is too big to avoid, sometimes tires and junk is thrown into the pit, reducing the depth and perhaps making it possible to drive over. Walking on foot is much less bumpy than by vehicle, but then you have to deal with the dust, mud, and vehicle exhaust.
The most common vehicles here are bicycles and mopeds. They seem to be the easiest to maneuver through traffic, around potholes, donkeys, or whatever is in the way. If it's a car or truck, it's definitely a
4WD. Good shocks and ability to sustain the conditions of the roads are a must. Public transportation includes either a yellow taxi or bright green converted Peugot 504 and 505s. Those green bachés are very cheap, and deservedly so. The drivers erratically make themselves through the traffic, are filled to the brim with people, and often don't even have a door. The people don't seem to mind. Many are entertained by passengers who drum away on their djembe, or they begin singing and clapping. Expats tend to have a SUV-style vehicle and most have hired drivers. While air conditioning is not always present, an extra tire is a must. Changing tires alongside the road is a very common occurrence.
Regardless of what type of transport locals take, they can often be seen with animals (dead or alive), produce, or goods piled on top of the vehicle or clutched in the hands of the two-wheeled driver. This makes the roads a bit more "colorful" but not always for the feint of heart.