reaching the main road one of the van's tires decided it had enough
and went flat. The only criterion for replacement is whether or not
the tire is structurally intact. Not to worry as the driver flagged
down a passing bus which loaded us up and carried on within minutes
of our breakdown. The ride to Mopti was relatively smooth but sitting
around in Djenne for close to seven hours waiting for the journey to
begin did not do much for our morale. Each subsequent bus ride in
Mali seemed to siphon a little more life out of the both of us.
2011 (December 2010) –
We were advised to get up early in order to catch the bus running
from Djenne to Mopti. As
we were also told we would most likely have to wait for the bus to
fill up we slept in and arrived sometime around 7 am. This was just
in time to watch people pack into a bush taxi headed for Mopti. It
was also at this time we discovered that we could have purchased a
ticket for said taxi at a nearby office the previous evening. Oops.
We only had to wait another five hours for a small van to acquire
enough passengers to proceed ('enough' meaning jam packed). At least
we met some interesting Peace Corps volunteers that helped counter
the ennui a bit.
when we disembarked in Mopti neither of us was in the mood for the
fusillade of touts (Taxi?
Pinasse? Dogon? Hotel?)
that began their assault the moment our feet touched the ground. I
felt a little like tearing out a gob of hair and screaming,
"AHHHHARRRGHBLAAAAAHFLEEEEEEOOOOOOH!!!". Leslie, an
exceedingly mild-mannered female, appeared as if she might start
swinging. We managed to negotiate the onslaught and make our way to a
hotel with the help of a local guide….that gave us his card…..and
offered to guide us to Dogon (Days later when I ran into this
gentleman again he demanded that I return his card in light of the
fact that we would not require his services). After getting a room I
was standing in lobby-type area talking with another Malian
gentleman…..that gave me his card…..and offered to guide me to
may seem like a callous unfeeling insensitive bastard in regard to
local entrepreneurs trying to make a living but they are relentless
to put it mildly. And for good reason. Many of these folks are
desperate. Too much supply. Too little demand, most of which comes
from fairly affluent folks who have prebooked the entire journey
leaving little for those offering their services ad hoc. It can be
difficult to watch at times. What can you do? I honestly don't know.
Avoid Mali altogether? Throw money at people like a Pez dispenser?
There is no real answer which can make the situation so troubling. I
often feel pangs of compunction followed by bouts of frustration but
have to remind myself that I am human. Who knew?
|Water level is much lower in this imagery|
was research time. We interested in another Niger boat trip in this
area and we wanted to head to Dogon at some point….probably. The
more we read about Dogon the less enthusiastic we became. In fact
enthusiasm was becoming a scarce commodity. We also had ATM issues
that augmented anxiety levels (keep in mind that neither of mine
functioned so I had to borrow vast sums from Sugar Mama. Authors
note: She prefers Leslie as an appellation).
arranged for an afternoon pinasse excursion to nearby villages with a
man we'd met the previous evening. We assumed he would be piloting
the craft but this was not so. Instead he had a man for the job, a
man that spoke nary a word of English and was as excited about the
journey as I am about mashed potatoes.
we went. Although the boat had an engine and the engine was running
our movement was testudinal at best. In the beginning this made sense
as we received a close of view of the frenetic bay area where we saw
all manner of people and goods being stacked on large pinasses for
extended river journeys. But then as we pulled away our velocity
remained steady. We probably could have swum faster. I found this
perplexing as I thought we were headed to a village down river. I was
right but down river meant 'just across the river from Mopti.' No
need to rush, right? I can't be sure if this is normal or a way of
saving petrol. We managed to talk him down a bit on price and
considered this might be the result of our efforts. Who knows? This
basically means that the two and a half hour trip was only two and a
half hours due to our pace. No other reason. Yes.
we arrived at the village it felt a little like we'd entered hostile
territory. It was not the friendliest bunch of folks. We felt like
intruders which apparently is exactly what we were. It was clear that
our chauffeur was not from the village and knew no one there. His
presence was as unwanted as ours. A young woman approached and
requested I take her photograph. Actually, demanded
more like it. I was hesitant because I had an idea what was coming.
She persisted. Here's my dramatization: "Mister.
pose with smile)
I did a dramatic recreation of her behavior and then erased the
pictures from my camera. Onlookers found that quite amusing. After a
short walk through the village (we might as well have been walking
through someone's house) we decided we'd had enough and returned to
the boat. I cannot say I blame the villagers for this reaction.
Imagine how you would feel if someone brought strangers to your home
to have a look around and provided no compensation whatsoever.
Awwwwwkwaaaard!! I half expected someone to scream, 'Get'em!'
followed by a healthy ass kicking.
climbed back aboard and tore out of there like a snail on Splenda. We
were supposed to visit another village but declined that option in
light of our previous experience. We did manage to enjoy the sun set
over the water so it was not a total loss.
|Photo by Leslie|
|Photo by Leslie|
|Sign in the bathroom at an upscale restaurant. Translation: Please piss in the bowl|
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'Love me or hate me, but spare me your indifference.' -- Libbie Fudim