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Published: June 23rd 2017
Geo: 14.4804, -4.19001
We made our way from Djenne to Mopti to start our journey to Timbuktu. Mopti is the typical launch point for all those lost souls who think that you have to visit Timbuktu at least once in your life. The options for getting there are numerous. You could fly (not only is this notoriously unreliable, doesn't this miss the point of Timbuktu??), drive (we're planning to drive back, but the mystic of Timbuktu demands a more time consuming adventure to get there), take a public ferry (again, very unreliable and based on the one we saw, the only thing holding it together was the rust), public pinasse, or private pinasse. Not only is the private pinasse far less crowded, you control your own journey and are able to stop in villages along the way that would be bypassed by the public variety.
Done and dusted- everything arranged (although we‘re not sure who else will be on the boat), we ventured out to explore the notorious harbour area of Mopti. Mopti in general, and the harbour area in particular, can be overwhelming, so much so that a number of guide books suggest staying in Sevare- a nearby but much quieter village.
I have no idea why they do this- the harbour area is a must-do for anyone who is looking to jump start all their six senses at once. The area is part market, part loading or unloading dock, part meeting place, part terminal, part workshop, and many other things rolled into one. Although you certainly couldn't blend with the crowd, the people-watching was outstanding, and DH and I made a game out of trying to name the various foods, spices, and medicinal products that the harbour-side vendors were selling. This was also my first attempt at using my new mini Polaroid printer to print a couple of photos directly off of my camera. It's not the fastest print job ever so as the photo finally starts to make an appearance something of a friendly mob scene has gathered around us and it was difficult to get the photo to right person. The buzz the picture created was fun to watch as it was raced around to all family members- the picture quality itself isn't the greatest but it does seem a bit of a fair trade for sticking a camera in someone's face. I ended up with some wonderful portrait
shots as a result.
We also saw the other side of tourist photography when a caravan full of tourists bullied its way into the harbour area, a Tilley's-clad posse of zoom lens empowered gringo's jumped out, and, never venturing more than an arms length from the vehicle, blasted off a number of shots, jumped back in their vehicle, and raced away. The locals seemed as perplexed by this as we were- I'm not sure if it was a safety concern but we spent hours in the area and were treated hospitably the whole time. Even DH is starting to pick up on the various French language greetings.
The only malfunction we experienced was on the way back to the hotel when a truckload of guys intercepted us to tell us that it would not be possible to go to Timbuktu tomorrow (I have no idea how they found us on the darkened streets of Mopti). But given that there are ‘no problems' in Africa, we could do a trek through Dogon Country first (which we wanted to do anyway) and the boat ride to Timbuktu would be possible after that- guaranteed…maybe. The guide to Dogon Country just happened to have 3
people leaving the next day and we could join them. Since we wanted to do this trek anyway (particularly Tibra who was still stowed in the dark recesses of DH's backpack) and you need a guide for Dogon Country, combined with the futility of a rational argument in Africa, we agreed to a new plan and made our way back to the hotel (great name for a hotel in Africa-“Ya Pas de Probleme‘😉.
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