Manantali & Casper’s Cool Camp
On the advice of many Overlanders I make my way across to the tiny town of Manantali, to meet up with Casper and checkout his “Cool Camp” where he has setup a rustic campground on the banks of a beautiful river. It’s just downstream of a monster dam that is bringing development to the region, and the river flows crystal clear, absolutely perfect for swimming in the sweltering midday sun.
Casper spent ten years driving all over the world, and is a wealth of knowledge on all topics Overland Travel, especially West African Overlanding. He has become a real member of the community here, so it’s great to wander around town through the market with him. He is looking to buy a ring for his mother, and we wind up in the local jewelers house/shop. Gold mining is big business in this part of the world, and my ears perk up when I’m told I can profit at least a hundred dollars for every ounce I bring from this part of the world to the first world.
Of course, it means going to some very remote locations with pocketfuls of money, not typically my favorite activity.
Tourism took a dive a few years back when the war broke out in Mali, and Casper was getting a little bored, so he branched out and now also grows bananas, papayas and the odd mango and also repairs water pumps in the local region for free, because he can. The fresh fruit for breakfast is spectacular.
So far roads in Mali have varied greatly – major highways are sealed and very good, and I can sit on 60 mph for the first time in a long time. As soon as I turn off the major highway I’m back on extremely bumpy, potholed gravel and mud, still with a lot of water hanging around from the recently finished rainy season.