February 10, 2012

by Stephen Jan in Nioro, Mali


With the accelerator cable broken, our gas pedal dangled lifelessly under the steering column. The ambulance wasn’t moving anywhere on its own and getting it to a mechanic wasn’t going to be easy. NewYears

For once, we had a stroke of luck. This “luck” came in the form of the generator powering the customs station breaking down. I woke Tuesday morning to the sound of Malian mechanics hammering and tinkering away at the broken generator. I strolled over and asked them to check out our car after they were done with his current task. The fix took about 30 minutes and cost 10000 Malian Francs (20 dollars).

The Nioro customs station is a small, 5 room, concrete brick. Buses, lorries, and cars of all types are parked out in front. Stray goats hang around the premises gnawing on grass and leaving piles of shit for people to admire. There is no running water. Behind the generator are three toilet stalls. I recall seeing the worst looking toilet out in Kazakhstan on the Mongol Rally 2010. I think I found the foulest smelling toilet here at the Nioro customs station.


Basic toilets are holes dug into the ground. They get pretty disgusting but they can accumulate only so much shit before it’s full. Here, there is one large, open air, concrete chamber collecting sewage from all three stalls. It brews the most disgusting smell I’ve ever experienced in my entire life. The stuff that wafts up packs a serious punch.

This will be day four at the Nioro customs station. What are we waiting for? We are waiting for the recipients of the ambulance to clear customs paperwork for us in Bamako. Once that happens we can move on from here. Frustrating? absolutely. The wait has been pretty miserable. To anyone who has complained about spending a night at an airport, try this place.