December 20, 2008 GMT
Mud and Mopti

The route to one of the World Heritage sights, the Mud Mosque at Djenne, was interesting as it incorporates a 'roll on roll off' ferry. I love taking ferries. Dunno why? It must be a boyish thing of anything mechanical that can be incorporated into a trip, then the more the better. The ferries themselves are a strange affair. A simple flat deck, a control/steering tower to one side and hand raised/lowered ramps front and rear. Looking reasonably new and with my interest in engines I sought out the location for the noise of the beating thumping diesel, powering the boat along at a steady 3 knots, to look up from the inside to the water and see what could have been the remains of the previous ferry! Ha, that'll explain the new looks of this one.
Something else I found out, I never saw anybody pay for the ferry services, only me! I was the only white guy on the ferry at the time and being polite I never questioned but kept it in mind for the return trip. But then again, less than two quid for a ferry and the bike being a terrible swimmer I paid up without much fuss making a mental design for a high speed flotation pack for the bike...!

The short hop over the river, dash to the town of Djenne and the opening of the market square for the mosque wasn't the best of eye openers. Actually the town is scruffy, unkempt and the only catering for tourists to see the Mosque is the touts, hankering you as soon as you arrive in the town till you finish and leave. Sometimes as the touts can be annoying they can be really distasteful in their services too. I've spent lot of time in countries of other faiths and religions and no matter what my thoughts are about them I still respect their rights to be respected themselves. So when it says on a bloody great sign outside the World Heritage Mud Mosque in Djenne, 'No entry to NON-MUSLIMS' then it means as it says! When touts offer to get me inside for 5-20,000cfa depending on my bargaining skills should I be inclined and then say the money goes towards the mosque, I know damn well it isn't but into his pocket. I'm not religious, more agnostic but if I were of any faith, I certainly wouldn't lie and use it to my advantage to line my own pocket. Shame on them!


Anyhow, after a brief stay at 'Chez Babas' a cheap and cheerful establishment in the centre of town I opted to head off and go to Mopti on the road to Timbuktu. A well travelled tourist trail with being overtaken by local maniac driven 4x4's full of 'whites' and scant regard for sharing the road with a biker and strange quizzing looks from the 'whites' as I waved to them feeling a strange sense of wanting to say 'Hi' when you see fellow foreigners on a far away trip. Their sense of possible aloofness or maybe even jealousy to my way of travelling differentiates us immensely so I can understand their strange looks a little. They flew here, I rode, I feel elated and knackered, they just feel knackered.

Mopti, a town that serves as a land/ river junction. Traders of times gone by barter with traders of modern times for the best prices/services and deals from each other, passers by and tourists alike. Ceaseless trading on land and in the water, families bathing and washing laundry next to the boats loading and unloading cargo from the trip north to Timbuktu. Market stalls full of everything from cheap Chinese 'Joakley' sunglasses, a 14mm spanner I'd broken, to cast off seconds piled high from European clothes charities and my favourite... Mutton street vendors! These used to turn my stomach in disgust, vowing to Peter never to each street meat. I did decide to change my mind and give it a try and the chunks of greasy mutton, cooked for hours and tougher than a pub full of Glaswegian hookers spiced up with some unidentifiable sweet powder and salt. The jaw ache after eating 500cfas worth makes a better alternative than vegetables left soaking with bad water in some café, just waiting to turn my stomach inside out for a few days! Plus there's always some kid I can give the remainder to and make his day.
Staying at Hotel 'Ya Pas de Problem' in Mopti I came across a British couple who were on their honeymoon and a Dutch and Canadian couple on vacation. One of the things about heading to Timbuktu was the fact that I had already been to Kathmandu and would have been the first person I know that's been to both. That dream has been going on for 3 years and was shattered not once, but twice by the British and Dutch couples who's husbands had been to Kathmandu and had just returned from Timbuktu the day before! Bummer but I suppose the closer I got to 'Tim' then the chances are somebody would have been to 'Kat'. Still quite a sense of achievement I was looking forward to
I moved out of the 'Ya Pas de Problem' as I fancied the quiet of Sevare, a small town 12kms away, whom Peter had been telling me about it's quietness and chance to rest after the hustle and bustle of Mopti and the sellers. So off I left and moved into the Hotel 'Maison Des Artes'. A lovely, quiet, peaceful place where I was well received by the owner Kay. A wonderful British lady who provides a refuge for weary travellers to recharge their batteries, have a good natter in english plus she speaks perfect french too and for me to do some maintenance on the bike. It was nice to be told a price and not feel the need to negotiate for what you may or may not get. Kay immediately had my trust as you would with a dear aunt. Her husband, Amadou, a Malian Chasseur d'Animiste was a fountain of enthusiasm for help with the bikes and a greatly respected man in his own right.


Things were coming together with the boys. Peter was just leaving 'Maison des Artes' to go dogging, Sorry, I meant down to the Dogon Country, Mark was shortly arriving from Senegal to meet me in Sevare and Migos bike was coming together when the parts arrived from Europe. So all I had to do was chill and wait for Mark! Aaaaahhh..!

Posted by geoffshing at December 20, 2008 01:49 PM GMT

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