RainbowSYNOPSIS:  About the changes in the Sahel over the last month.  About a visit of the National Park and Museum of Bamako.  And about my final hotel and my rainbow departure.

40 days ago I looked out of the window of a bus for the first time, riding through the Sahel from Bamako to Segou.  Yesterday, I looked out of another bus window coming from Segou and the changes were striking.  Many people were out plowing their fields with pickaxes, or if they were lucky with ox-drawn manual plows.  Many fields were already stacked with seeds, and seedlings were sprouting everywhere.   What was almost uniformly sandy and yellow 40 days ago was now green and lush and getting greener and lusher by the day.

Some of the fields stood saturated with water.  Others had dried out already.  Puddles of water everywhere indicated that rain had come and gone; about a month late.   Hopefully, by the time the rainy season would be in full swing, another couple of weeks from now, there would be plenty of water.  Without it, Mali would suffer yet another blow which it would not likely survive.

I had chosen a small hotel in the Hippodrome area for my final night.  It was a little paradise:  The Comme Chez Sui Hotel.  Like the hotel in Mopti it was run by a French woman, Carolie.  Her English was perfect and we had been in regular email contact about my booking here.  But I met her only briefly, not long enough to find out more about her story.

There are 6 rooms lining a walled-in, secluded garden with lots of trees and a pool.  Above the rooms and the reception area is a spacious terrace which functions as bar, restaurant and seating area.  All furnishings are custom-made out of dark-stained wood.  And all accessories are made of white linen, such as pillows, bed sheets, table clothes, and lamps.   How she keeps them white over time is beyond me.  Trees are the only color accent.  I could not help but feel transported into a Japan-style Zen world of tranquility.

The start of the rainy season had broken the hot, hot temperatures which I had experienced 40 days earlier; it had cleared much of the dust, too.  I was tempted to fall in love with even Bamako – something I could not have imagined when I arrived.  But Bamako was livable after all.  I can only imagine how great it may be between November and February – the sensible tourist and visiting season.   I did not even need any air conditioning!

For my last day here I had planned to visit Bamako’s National Park and Bamako’s National Museum.  I took a taxi and found myself pleasantly surprised in a lush, manicured garden full of interesting trees and well-marked plants.  There was an herbal garden, a bamboo grove, newly-planted baobab trees.  There were freshly swept pathways leading to small food pavilions.  There was a zoo and there were architectural models of famous Mali buildings.

And as the central attraction, there was the National Museum of Art, with three main exhibits: textiles, prehistoric artifacts and a section of various African cultures and masks with videos showing festivals and dance ceremonies.  Granted, these are the kinds of displays we have equally or better at places like the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, or the DIA in Detroit, but I was happy to see them here in a climatized and well-kept environment.   All labels were in French only and photography was not allowed – these were two things I complained about in my guest book entry.  But this was definitely a cultural haven, a recluse for the citizens of Bamako which was worth a visit.

All that was left for me was to pack my belongings at the hotel and call a taxi to take me to the airport.  Just then, a light rain started.  No storm, no wind, just a bit of a drizzle.  And as the taxi took me out of Bamako the sun broke through again and we drove into a breath-taking full-bodied, full-spectrum rainbow arching over Bamako!  Leaving a deeply animist culture, I could not help but look for meaning in this sign of nature: had my mission come to completion?  Was it a sign of many more wonderful trips to come?   Was it just the native way of saying goodbye?

Either way, it was the most beautiful way I could have imagined to leave Bamako and it made me smile all the way to the airport.

Good bye, Mali.