I'm going to start with a little geography, if you already know West Africa, please bear with me. When I first told people I was going to Mali, I found myself hearing things like: 'You mean Bali?', 'Mali, where's that?', 'You're going to Malawi?!' ... right continent, but no. I'd have to explain to people where is it, but after climbing the Tour D'Afrique, it's easier to just show you ... THERE IT IS!
Beg, steal and bribe. The list of events leading to the access of our desired location.
I'd been told it takes two weeks to adjust to a hot climate, but having been there for longer than that already, I discovered you don't get used to the heat, you just get used to being too over-heating. I'd also discovered some more interesting, things whilst in Mali, like how to bribe..
It was the middle of a hot, dry, dusty day and I was sweating like a Brit in sub-Saharan Africa, when we first saw the Tour D'Afrique. It was standing tall in the centre on one of the busiest roundabouts in Bamako, the capital of Mali.
For a small price it was possible to go up this monument to a round room near the top. This room had windows showing a panoramic view of Bamako. Not wanting to see the view from behind glass in the room, a visible hatch on the ceiling was very inviting. We found that asking could only get us so far, after that it was down to our wallets to do the talking, and with the right wallet, the desired effect is almost a certainty. For the small sum of 50cf (66 pence/1 dollar) a ladder was soon sourced from the security guard.
It took a little adjusting to get used to being in a country where Police will pull someone over for the sole purpose of taking a bribe, earning more money in order to pay their bills. A country where giving or receiving a bribe is a normal part of the daily life.
Before closing the hatch behind us, the ladder was dragged up. Using the ladder to climb higher ... I'd like to think we weren't seen while doing so, but that would be a silly assumption.
Out of curiosity a night time visit was in order, this time no bribe was needed, we simply grabbed the ladder and ran up the stairs, although when his shift finished, the guard came up looking for us, only to find the hatch closed, no ladder and no one in sight. Not finding us there, he searched the stairs and in the lift, while we lowered the ladder then ourselves down from the top of the monument. He soon returned with a long iron rod, and with a friendly smile escorted us off site. I cant help but to wonder what he thought we were getting up to while we were up there? And more importantly, what was the iron rod for?!
Thanks to Dan for the adventure!