Timbuktu and Dogon Trails Fall 2005 travel blog

Breakfast with Retailers

On the Road Again

Gourds or Gourds?

Back on Top of Escarpment

Some of Porters Stuff

Our Porters

Yapo Yapo

Receiving Thanks

Fox Shrine

Fox Table

Leaving Sanga


Barrage 2

Salt Vendor in Mopti

Mopti Scene

Croc Skins Drying

Nail Maker in Mopti

Pinasse Shipyard

Shipyard in Mopti

Mopti Harbour

Pinasse Closeup

Ride Back to Hotel on Pinasse

Sunset Over Bani

Dossier: Final Day of trek; drive to Mopti After spending the morning of our fifth day trekking we arrive back in the village of Sangha. Then we drive to Mopti, a thriving river town, situated on three islands at the confluence of the Niger and the Bani. Definitely worth a visit is the market, sited at the water's edge. This delightful harbour town has been dubbed the 'Venice of West Africa', though in reality there is no comparison. The

afternoon is free to explore Mopti - you'll find traders from as far away as Timbuktu here to sell their various products and artifacts. The place is alive with colour and bustle, and among the fantastic commotion many traditional and tempting items are sold. The stalls offer wares such as local smoked fish, ready-made clothes or clothes to measure, blankets and colourful lengths of cloth, traditional wood carvings and object d'art, exotic spices and vegetables, fruits, reed work, and blocks of salt (once the most important product that camel caravan traders carried and once exchanged weight for weight with gold). Mopti's main mosque is also highly photogenic. Built across the causeway in the old part of town,

and constructed in the spiky and turreted Sudanese style, the mosque is finely crafted out of baked mud: it looks very similar to the one in Djenne, but is not as big. Unfortunately, non-Muslims are not permitted to enter.

Travel Notes: At breakfast the vendors set up shop around our table, so annoying. The French camping nearby are furious with us because we (the kids) had made so much noise so late into the night....the trails of eco-tourism! I feel great today and we have a lovely hike up the escarpment. When we get within an hour of Sanga, I am given the job of thanking the porters. Dao has instructed me and I have memorized my little speech: "Yapo yapo, birapo, birapo, e si dagou, ine fu, e ba, birapo!" Very impressive!

We come across a Fox Table outside Sanga. The divinator draws boxes in the sand and surrounds the sand with rocks. Each box represents a question someone has like, "Should I treat my mother traditionally or take her to a medical doctor?" In the evening after the livestock are in, the shaman lays out the question with little bits of sticks or pebbles and throws some peanuts over the table to attract the fox. In the morning the shaman interprets the paw prints. The family gives cloth, rice, millet, etc. as a thank you. The shaman, sitting up most of the night nearby drinking millet beer at the nearby shrine, makes a sacrifice of same.

Back at the hotel in Sanga, we have a cold (it really is) drink, collect our bags, get back on the bus for a 3 hour ride to Mopti -the first two being on sand. The hotel in Mopti is 5* by Malian standards - swimming pool, AC, running hot and cold water...wonderful. After a late lunch at the hotel some of us walk into town to the harbour and are literally accosted by salespeople. It is the worst chaos yet - very difficult to stick together, nearly impossible to rid ourselves of vendors. Gives new meaning to the phrase, "what is it about the word NO you do not understand?" I feel claustrophobic and try talking Hawaiian song lyrics to confuse them. We see the very primitive "shipyard" where boats are made out of rough planks put together with hand made nails. One fellow has a yard full of drying crocodile skins stretched on pieces of wood. We think we escape into the Bar Bozo, but it is one of those establishments that allow vendors; they pull up a chair next to you and go at it. It is the ONE major thing about Mali I do not like, and I hear most of Africa is the same. Fiona and I take a pirogue back to the hotel rather than deal with the crush of vendors. After a swim - so nice, a shower - so nice, a shampoo - so nice, I make it to the internet place just as they are closing but the nice man lets me fire off an email to Aly to let the family/friends know I am okay. Dinner is at the Sigui fairly close to hotel with capitaine (river perch) brioche (which gives me the runs). We do our essential wash laying it over the bushes outside the room to dry and resort our bags - what to leave here and what to take on 3 day river trip and then 2 days in Timbuktu. Sharing with Fiona.

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