Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Bamako in the Rainy Season

So, after my lovely holiday in the UK, it was back to work. Not Dakar, as before, but back to Bamako. The Funding Coordinator job fell vacant again, so I was asked to come back, and despite mixed feelings (short version: more interesting job in Bamako vs amazing quality of life in Dakar), I agreed.

The good news is though, that in the two months I've been away, Bamako is transformed. I realise the moment I arrive, stepping out of the aeroplane and waiting for the wall of soul destroying heat to hit me... not feeling it... taking a cautious step forward... still not feeling it... and practically skipping as I realise that that's because there is no wall of heat!

Where before it was 40 degrees, now it's in the high 20s or low 30s, which feels fresh in comparison - even cool enough to run outside. The rain is frequent enough that there's less dust. And the hills surrounding the city, which before were barren, brown and shrouded in dust have erupted in green. The little gardens near Oxfam's new guesthouse are pushing up vegetables like no tomorrow. And above it all, the sky is still blue, except for the few days when it rains, when it's grey and dramatic.

So mostly it's warm and humid and sunny, and sometimes the clouds gather and the heavens open. And when the heavens open, they really open - great pelting raindrops that soak you through in seconds. There's not much to be done except wait it out - umbrellas are pointless against the force of the rain, taxis all leak and don't have windscreen wipers so it's not a good idea, and fun as it is to frolic 'Singing in the Rain' style, walking would be a disaster - not only would you get soaked, but flood-induced electrocution is one of my new fears, and more realistically the raging torrents down each street mean that it would be easy to fall into the drainage ditch - which wouldn't be much fun.

And so, when it rains, Bamako shuts down. The other day we were out in it trying to go to the market, which was anyway closed (though now I know what Bamako will look like in the early stages of a biblical flood, which is always interesting, so the trip wasn't wasted), and passed a flock of motorbikes huddled under each bridge, allowing just a small space for cars to squeeze through. That car was more or less solid from the top down (just a couple of drips) and had a windscreen wiper, but the water was rising steadily through the floor, even when we weren't driving through mini lakes, so I was glad to get out of it.

Once the rain stops though, it's glorious. 20-odd degrees, crisp and fresh. And surrounded on all sides by green. It's something I could get used to, but sadly I won't have the chance - this goes on till mid-September, and then the heat starts again.

For now though, the transformation is total - not something we see in our green country, where it rains all year so it's always green, and dust is a rarety. I think this is why after all this time and all this packing, I still love travel - this is a side of nature that I've read about, that I understand in theory, but which I haven't really experienced before, and which, experiencing it, takes me by surprise by how literally miraculous it feels. 

No comments:

Post a Comment