22-2  Hotel in Mopti-1_969x768SYNOPSIS:  A day of rest, planning, and internet catch up – more or less.  Another tubobum!

After three days in this tiny pirogue I was just as happy to be out of it.  We had arrived in Mopti as predicted after all.  The water levels were sufficient and only once were we in some sort of danger when on our  last night, the crew kept on going beyond dark because they wanted to reach a certain spot and therefore did not see the storm coming…  It started so abruptly, that is the wind all of sudden blew out of nowhere that our boat almost tipped over.   All along I had been skeptical at the assurance that this kind of a boat does not tip and had tied all of my belongings to the posts of the boat.    The sudden moves me made now certainly could have put some of our cargo over board.   The waves on the Bani River all of a sudden felt more like the open ocean than this shallow water.   It all only lasted for about 10 minutes until we safely reached the shore, but I was almost angry at the crew for having put us into this situation in the first place.   They could have stopped at dusk as they should have.  

Mopti presented itself as a buzzing port town.  Pinnasses and pirogues of all sorts and sizes and in various states of disrepair were going in all directions filled with either cargo or people.

I was glad that my hotel was about 1 km down river and in a quiet ramshackle neighborhood which once must have strived to become a wealthy suburb.  The name of my hotel quite poignantly was Ya Pas des Problemes, but it was quite obviously shouldering all the problems of the rest of the country.  A once thriving hotel described in glowing terms in my guide book had dusted over with neglect.  But it was operational!  A huge guy at the reception, named Blazer, for a change, greeted me warmly and was there to solve problems.  He even gave me a ride on his motorbike to the nearest bank to find out if I could exchange money. I am running dangerously low now. 

Mopti was on a ridiculous schedule of energy savings:   Electricity would come on (in Shahallah) at 6 PM and be turned off at 6 AM.   So much for a day of rest in an air conditioned hotel room…  The pool I had been looking forward to was of course empty and the roof-top bar as dusty as the rest of the hotel, but still had a refrigerator which during the night worked hard to preserve some luke-warm soft drinks.    It was so hot, that all I managed to do in the afternoon was to wash my clothes which had gone through some rough times on the boat.  It took me about as long to wash them as it took for them to be dry!

I was still washing clothes when Hamadou, my Mopti contact showed up!  How did he find me?!  Well, word goes around.  I was going to ask Blazer to call him later, but it goes to show that you really don’t need a phone in certain parts of the world.  Hamadou was a sophisticated English speaking guide with an international guide license (Mali actually initiated some sort of state-wide guide exam after amateur guiding had gotten out of hand during peak tourist times).   He was the only person I was able to find on line.  I had been emailing with him for quite some time from the States and he had been helpful, if cautious at all times.  He had been the one who said that the Bani River would be too low for a boat ride.

I was going to honor his help by contracting with him for the next stretch of the trip – a hike through Dogon County.  But he obviously had been discovered by others before me – most of his time now was spent with the military translating for them – during mostly night hours, when there was electricity.  But he had a crew of guides who worked with him and by the end of the day I had signed a ridiculously overpriced trip to Dogon Country.  I have to admit, that part of this overpricing is that you are constantly dealing with middle men and with unknown quantities.   Nobody spells out the prices for specific services, it’s always a “package” and when you change one part of it, as I tried to do, I ultimately screwed myself over since a new package miraculously was substituted which I guess, it is the deluxe treatment and it is what I experience all around me, the expectation that I somehow make up for the loss of all the business over the last 2 years…  I was very upset for almost the rest of the day and then resigned to the fact that my life overall will not change even if I overpaid $200 and that the deluxe treatment ultimately may just be again the right and only choice as my health and my energy level are deteriorating at alarming rates. 

Instead of recovering at Mopti in a climatized environment I spent most of the day on the roof top pampering myself once again with cold compresses (is that an English word)?  And who did I run into?  Another tubobum!   Another real tourist:  Chris, from Australia/Canada (another two passports type of a guy).  We had made the decision to come to this country for exactly (and I mean verbatim) the same reasons.  Except, that he had hoped to go mountain climbing and I was heading for the cultural attractions.   He had given up on his plan once he had hiked through Dogon Country (we are going in opposite directions) and I am happy to say that at half my age he was as low in energy and as beat by the heat as I was.   So we lounged around talking on that dusty roof top shadow of a restaurant.   It was great to exchange some of our experiences and some of our treats:   A muesli bar for tonic water, for example; a mango for some soap.   It takes so little to make you happy when circumstances are dire enough.   J

He was even lower on money than I was as he had relied on his master card for cash.   And as crazy as it is to carry loads of cash around as I do, it is way preferable to the credit card.  He has no chance between here and Bamako, likely the only place where his card is worth anything.  But he figured out that Western Union transfers are a great option and I might have to explore that as my cash is now down to the bills printed before 2006, only exchangeable on the black market.

As I was sitting and typing I could tell that the sky in the far distance turned a dark brown.  It was only 4 PM and that should not happen.  It turned out to be as violent as I have ever seen one, similar to the ones I experienced in Iraq where I thought I had accidentally put on sun glasses in the morning…  The winds were howling, the trees bent and broke, and metal window shutters smashed against the windows.  It was cathartic!  And in the wake of the storm came the rain!  For about 20 minutes it gushed down like there was no tomorrow.  This must have been one of the first rain storms for Mopti.   The rainy season is just starting here.  And the change this rain brought was phenomenal:  The air smelled fresh, the temperature dropped by at least 10 degrees and everything seemed clean.   This was very similar to the storm I had experienced in Djenne, but there it was the middle of the night and the storm drove me off a slippery muddy roof into my stuffy, hot room.   Here, I could experience the beauty of the rain – the kids were dancing in the street and it was just the greatest thing to have.

Needless to say that it messed up the scheduled arrival of electricity.   And then we only had 1.5 hours of it, neither enough to post nor enough to cool down sufficiently in my room. So, I left the lights on and worked through the night as the electricity kicked in for a couple of hours at a time – not exactly restful, but productive at least. 

I am trying my best to keep this blog going.  Believe me, it’s not just for you – so don’t feel sorry for me.  🙂  It is for you AND for myself.  If I don’t write, I will forget.  So much new is happening every day that it literally jumbles all in my head unless I put it on paper.   And you all, with your loyal following keep me on track.   Thanks for reading (especially through the nasty hacking period which affected some of the images and email notices).   Thanks for your comments!  I look forward during my internet windows to reading them.   I think of you all bent over your morning coffee, in your offices, or at your home desks.  It is comforting not to be alone.

And with those thoughts in mind posting as much as I could, catching up on emails, and working on some of my images, at some point in the morning hours, I finally fell asleep for good.

Good morning.




8 comments so far

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  1. It must be really difficult to get the blog going. The quality is not lacking a bit, despite your circumstances. I think I speak for all of your readers and followers when I send you a heartfelt THANK YOU for introducing us to a facinating country that few of us would have the courage to visit right now.

  2. I am thankful for your posts! I truly enjoy reading them – generally in the mornings with my coffee at the library after a workout at the gym! I have often wondered how you are able to make posts with the places you travel… while I’m on my summer vacation, you make me feel like I’m off on the trip with you – thank you ET!

  3. P.S. That rain storm sounds absolutely wonderful…like almost a spiritual thing!

  4. I don’t know how I missed this day…for some reason I went right to Day 23. I don’t want to miss a word of what you say. The sentence about your “health and energy level deteriorating at an alarming rate” caught my eye. I know you will take the care needed to ensure that you remain well…at least well enough so you can complete and enjoy your trip. As you pointed out, anyone, even someone younger like Chris, would find the heat sapping the energy out of their bodies. The question I have is: have you ever, in all your travels, been in a place like this!!!!! Extraordinary conditions…conditions I am sure that those of us sitting at desks in our AC cannot even begin to fathom. You have amazing vitality!!!
    Take care, Elisabeth…

  5. I look forward to my morning break and your blog. It brightens my day and I feel a bit more worldly for reading it…I have actually asked a coworker if he knew where you were and we now have the most awesome discussions! CeCee is from Malawi however he knows all about the places you have seen and he is excited to add to your story!

    Thank you for bringing the world to me it allows me to dream

  6. Add me to the sunrise sect of loyal readers, though this morning I had to skedaddle to take my daughter to the dentist–no cavities! So the coffee and travel log waited until 10:30am, I’m so glad you’re back in WiFi territory. It has been hot and humid here, though nothing like the conditions you’re encountering. I pray that you will keep the wonderful and engaging posts coming. I gave a synopsis to my not-so-computer-literate mother yesterday who asked me to explain what a blog was. I promised to go with her to the senior center next time I visit so she can read it firsthand and oooo and aaaahhh over the photos like I do (her dialup service at home is too slow for her to log on otherwise). Glad to hear you met up with another steadfast tourist.

  7. You are encountering so many challenges each day, yet hanging in there somehow. Wish there would be some way to give you a helping hand be it a cold beer to some cash printed since 2006.Your blog is wonderful for you have the gift of writing, plus many other gifts that travel with you on these unbelievable journeys.

  8. Your assessment of my morning ritual regarding your blog posts is spot on. I read every morning your new post while drinking my coffee. I am in awe of all you are doing and wish you well. I am looking forward to when you are home though…