June 7: Needless to say, I doze off soon after we leave. This time, the windows can open, so the ride is ten times better than the previous. After sunrise, I can’t really sleep anymore, although I’m dead tired. We live through the miserable series of police stops. We stop for a brief breakfast in Koutiala, and I have some bread with margarine. The ride drags on without much event. I watch the scenery go from a decent density of green back to the brownish sahel as we go towards San and then on to Mopti.
As we get closer to Mopti, Alan and I discuss our remaining time before we need to be back in Selibaby. It doesn’t look good. We finally come to the decision that we can’t visit Djenne and, to our great disappointment, won’t be able to go to Dogon country, which was really the point in coming to Mopti in the first place. So we’ll stay the full day in Mopti tomorrow before going to Bamako the following day.
Perhaps 40 or 50 km before Mopti we come to an overturned truck
that is completely blocking the road. Its cargo of mangos is sitting, now, in a big
pile next to the truck
. So our bus goes off the road to go around the dead truck
. Then we stop. Then everyone gets off. Oh great, I think, everyone wants to try and lift the truck back on its wheels. Instead, they’re just standing on the side of the road. We go join them, and I figure we all need to be out of the bus as it tries to climb the rise back onto the road. The bus is tall and top-heavy (with cargo) and cannot handle the mild terrain that a normal car could. It goes back and forth a few times. Finally, it approaches the road at an angle. It’s on the verge of tipping and I see the right wheels about to leave the ground. Fortunately, it made it back on the road.
In an hour or so we arrive in Mopti. It’s a good-sized town, big
ger than Selibaby definitely, but very dusty and brown. We get off the bus and are almost immediately greeted by “hello!”- a Malian trying to speak English. Great. I’m not in the mood for this. Turns out the guys name is “John” and speaks English very well. He says he works at the Peace Corps maison de passage in neighboring Sevare. He’s actually a genuinely friendly guy. So he shows us to the Bar Mali, the cheap
est hotel in town (3500 per person). We take a taxi through town and get our first look at the famous mosque, modeled after the original in Djenne.
When we get out of the taxi, it happens that we can’t simply walk down the 100 feet or so to the hotel because the police have closed off the street because of an impending soccer game (makes no sense to me). John tries arguing with a couple of the cops, but it’s no use. One guy has a rifle with a can of tear gas (?) loaded at the tip. So we walk around the block to the hotel. It’s a bit dark and seedy and reminds me a bit of the Hotel Islam in Bakel. It’s apparently also a brothel, so it also reminds me of the Battling Sike in St. Louis. We’re given a dingy little room with two beds and a decent ceiling fan. John asks us if we want to hire him to take a pirogue on the Niger River (running by Mopti) to a Bozo village for a night. We’re a bit too tired to make a decision, so he says he’ll come back at 8:00. We shower and relax a bit. Alan gets a beer and I get two Fantas from the bar downstairs.
At around 6:30 we go in search of dinner. We find nothing around the hotel/brothel so we go further into town and to the Niger River. We watched the boats for a few minutes. We see one that has a big
sail, apparently made of sewn-together rice bags. We go in a restaurant just across the street. A beat up place, but good food and nice breeze. We have chicken and really good fries. After, we walk back in the dark. Back in the room it’s 8:00 and John comes in, followed by a toubab. First we think he’s a PCV, but no. His name is Ian and has an accent I can’t place (later, I find out he’s from South Africa but lives in Phoenix). He’s a photographer and just got back from Dogon country. He asks if we’re doing the pirogue ride, and if so, if we could all split the cost. I tell him sorry, but no, we don’t have the time. Soon, somehow Ian and John start arguing (apparently, Ian knows “John” by, I guess, his real name of Mamadou). It seems that Ian checked on pirogue prices with someone else, and “Mamadou” couldn’t handle that. Anyway, it was a bit awkward for these two strangers to argue in our room.
Eventually, after their argument ended, Mamadou turns to me and asks something like, “so what will you give me for bringing you here today?” It turns out this “friend” is an asshole after all. I begin my own little argument with him. I thought you were being friendly, we never asked for you to guide us, you never said you were being a “guide”, etc. More ridiculous arguing. This guy is full of bullshit, but Alan gives him 500 and he leaves. Ian stays for a bit and we talk about his work, South Africa, etc. Soon we wish him well and he goes back to his hotel. Then we go to bed- our first comfortable sleep
...our litle truck & headed for the cheap
est motel we could find. $14.95 was the price and Rosevilla was the name. By day it looked just like a cheap
motel, at nite it turned into a sleazy Alberquerquian crack house. The parking lot collected the days trash and swirled it around. People came out in droves loitering in the lot. Ed and I became quite frightened. We parked under a light and checked on the car a lot. We checked in w/ Sandy and the other three has passed out from a tiring day ( we were too scared to sleep) so we gave them 'til 10pm to call w/ a plan for the night. When 10 pm rolled around w/no news Ed and & bugged out. We decided to go to the most likely club they would go to. It was recommended to them from the waitress at the high noon. She affectionately referred to it as the BO but it was actually called Beyond Ordinary.
It is an industrial club. Mostly kids dressed in all black & leather with bad haircuts. The front room had hardcore bands (actually 2 of them) and the both sucked. (Well the second one was OK. ) In the back was a Black dance floor for the latest techno-industrial hits. The walls all had chain link cages for the hot soul-train wannabees to strut their stuff. Upstairs was a little room w/a bar w/ couches to rest on & a big soundproof pane of glass to watch the dance floor. The bass was so loud that everything shook. Barely heard (due to sound proofing) but felt through every cell in your body. Once again, as has been throughout this trip there were young nubile beauties everywhere. & In case Coleen reads this: Eddie has touched ont one of them/ Neither have I, Mom. But looked and ogled and commented we have done more than our share! The others never showed so just before closing Ed & I worked up enough courage to go back to the hotel. The sign says nice clean rooms, but I think that they are joking. Oh well, hopefully we will make it through alive. In the morning we are on our way to Flagstaff to see Leah. Hopefully for a shower & a free place to stay.