I fell asleep in the camper van as we drove to Mopti from D’jenni. Well I soon woke up from all the commotion and craziness of the city as soon as we hit the busy streets of Mopti. The guys wanted to find a place where they could possibly pick up a part for their van. The street we were driving was basically 2 lanes with people walking on both sides and sidewalk vendors too. But soon there became more people and 1 lane for vehicles. Then after a block or so there wasn’t even a vehicle lane as there were so many people on the street. I think it was the main street of the city and we thought it was Market Day but later found out that this was a normal day on the street as people just crammed the street trying to sell or buy goods cus there weren’t actual brick and mortar stores (sort of like the rest of world has online shopping well Mali basically has on street shopping). Well it got to the point where we couldn’t drive any further so somehow Adrian managed to turn around and we headed back the way we came.
Of course in Mali there are always people on the look out to assist u for a token fee (although they claim they are only trying to help u). So this one dude on a motor bike asks what we are looking for and we tell him an auto parts store or garage. Well we were headed the correct way but there was an easier route to get there. Well as it turns the place he took us had to check another place for the part.
So in the mean time we checked out a couple places which this dude took us too. However I had the name of this one hotel that was supposedly to nice and popular. So we found this Ne Pas Problem hotel and it appeared nice. The guys could camp outside the back door as there were guys sort of hanging out there 24 / 7 so there would be no problem with their camper. I managed to negotiate a bed in the dorm for about $12. It took me a while in Mali to realize that hotels, auberge were not cheap as one would think for the quality of the place. But what could we do but there was no one else in the dorm plus I got a couple of ceiling fans to keep it a bit cooler to sleep plus keep any mosquitos away too. There also was a swimming pool to cool off in which was a real novelty for me in my hotel price range. But apparently the guys had stayed at a couple other places that had them. There was also a rooftop restaurant which had fairly good food but at a higher price than I had been paying. But I found out later that there were no other real restaurants in town. Hell in all my travel through Mali this was probably the only real restaurant I encountered (including the capital city Bamako). So anyway we took advantage of the pool to cool off cus it was so dam hot. Hell we were there on Easter Sunday so Adrian and Bruno boiled up some eggs and painted them. It must still be a big thing in Switzerland to paint Easter eggs cus I haven’t seen that in Canada in years. Most people in Canada just buy some type of Easter egg/chocolate than go thru the hassle of boiling your own. But hey they seemed to be enjoying it and adding a bit of Easter to an otherwise bleak Easter.
We found out later that this was a popular hotel for French and other European vacationers wanting to head to Timbucktoo or Dogan Country without being exposed to the extremes of the country. In other words in a 2 week vacation (a trip that some of us took 2 months working our way by bus or car thru a few countries) they flew to Bamako then either flew to Mopti or took air conditioned vehicles to go to Timbucktoo and Dogan Country. I don’t turn my nose up at these type of tourists cus they may lack the vacation time we have to travel time. However judging from their appearance and mannerism I think even if they had 6 months they would still do a trip the easy way. I guess I’m a firm believer of getting the real feel of a country by the heat, dust, smell, noise, insects, buses, food, etc like most locals do. However there have been a couple time in Mali when I’ve almost felt like ignoring my principles of travel its been so fucking hot, dusty and my sinuses and asthma have bothered me. But shit I preserved and made it like I e had planned to do.
So when we got to the hotel we ran into a couple of people who offered us transportation to Timbucktoo since the road or lack of one would make driving the camper there although it had 4 wheel drive it didn’t have the high suspension of a real 4X4. We could also take a 4 day trip on these small boats (the water level was too low at this time to take the regular boat) to Timbucktoo. But judging from the heat a 4 day trip by those small boats with little sun protection would be a mistake. The local 4X4 bus transportation was a better choice but it a iffy in that they would only leave once the bus filled up. So that could mean waiting in the hot sun for a large part of the day waiting for potential passengers. We were told these buses/trucks had basic seats where passengers were crammed in and your ass could feel every bump on the road. There was also a ferry that had to taken after the all day ride and it only ran until about 6 pm. So if the truck wasn’t completely full until noon or later or broke down as has happened frequently other travelers had told us. Well a person could spend a long hot day waiting in sun for it to be repaired. Or spend the night by sleeping by the side of the river after missing the last ferry.
So after weighing our alternatives we decided to splurge for the only time in Mali and take a real 4X4. This was slightly more but we managed to have the 2 Swiss guys, myself and 3 Italians to split the cost of the vehicle to drive us both ways. I didn’t mind cus going to Timbucktoo was the main reason I came all the way here.
So we got to spend one night in Mopti before going to Timbucktoo. We then spent a couple days after returning later from Timbucktoo and also after I returned from Dogan Country.
I could sum up Mopti as a noisy, dusty, hot, polluted city similar to Bamako but a lot smaller. The Niger River ran thru the place and had a busy port there. There was salt shipped down from Timbucktoo, goods going to Timbucktoo and Dogan Country. The river was a busy place as people swam, washed themselves and their clothes, used to water small crops, probably used for drinking water plus for fishing, etc. It was the life blood of Mopti and probably all of Mali! Hell if it wasn’t for the Niger River probably the entire country of Mali would be a dust bowl and be blown into the next country of Niger (oh with the Niger River the country of Niger may not exist either or be called another name). Actually it amazes me that there could be a large river like that running in this dry country. But apparently there are some large hills in the country of Guinea west of Mali that are the source of the river. It is obviously fed by the rains during the rainy season and collect in these hills to feed the river all year. There’s also the Senegal River that also starts in the same hills but runs west into Senegal. While the Niger river runs east through Mali into the countries of Niger and ends up in Nigeria.
Mopti is the gathering spot for any tourist activity that takes place in eastern and northern Mali. So we managed to negotiate a ride to Timbucktoo for the next morning.