Monday, January 21, 2008

Mali: Part 1 of I'm not sure how many parts

I'm back.. sort of. I am stuck in Praia now for almost a week because there is no boat and the flight we tried to take this morning to Sao Nicolao had one spot and neither of us (when i say 'us' i refer to myself and the girl from Sao Nicolao i went to Mali with) was willing to back down from wanting that lone seat, and so, we sit here for a few more days till we can finally head back home.

But, you didn't come here to hear about the transportation woes of Cape Verde, you want to hear about Mali. What can i say, the culture of Mali is a mixed culture form the 12 different tribes that currently inhabit the land, with the Bambara, Bozo, and Taureg being the main peoples. With that culture, comes music, comes art, comes a sense of unity with their past, etc, etc.

The trip starting by befriending some French people in Cape Verde. We were flying to Dakar and had to stay the night, and we had the name of a place that was outside of Dakar. We asked a few people how to say this or that in French, and then I went over to those two younger people and talked to them about how to ask for vegetarian food and stuff. Well, we started talking and then their friends they meet in CV came over and ended up offering us a place to say in their flat in Dakar... and they spoke french. Soooooooooo, we stayed with these people in Dakar, they helped us get a taxi back to the airport the next day and we were off to Bamako. At least after the two hour delay.

Arriving in Bamako, we realized we still couldn't speak french. And we didn't have visas to get in. As PCV's, we were kinda hoping to slip on through, play the Peace Corp card, but it didn't work, so we had to buy visas' Then after some 'negotiating', we got a taxi to the Mission Catholique. All catholic missions generally accept travellers to stay so long as they have room and do not have visiting clergy there. some are more run for travelers while others are not. Where we went was more for travelers. Anywho, we got there around 11pm, the Sister let us in only after a Malian guy who spoke English alerted us to the fact that he has a restaurant across the street and he serves vegetarian food. interesting. We ended up just getting a grande Castel, and then spelt. during our beer drinking, we spoke with some guy who insisted that we head to Djenne on Sunday so we could be there for the market on Monday. So that's what we did. Got up, and went to one of if not the most insane bus station i have ever been to. People were everywhere, stalls, food, noises, colors, when the taxi pulled into the area guys ran alongside the car yelling things, twas crazy. The taxi dropped us off at the bus, we got our tickets....and then waited for over two hours. and we had to pay extra for our bags, or perhaps because we are white. not sure. Anywho, we finally left and about 10 minutes later we were stopped again for about 20 minutes as the bus had already broken down. This would end up being one of MANY stops. There are checkpoints of sorts all over, where soldiers pretty much make drivers pay them to let them continue along, there are speed bumps in lots of places, where little villages have been set up and the bus will stop and people will start hawking their goods, mostly food. Sometimes they came on the bus, yelling whatever they were yelling, sometimes they'd run along the bus knocking on the widows. If you even looked at the item, it was assumed you wanted one and most likely many as anyone selling the item then came to you to buy it. They sold papaya in bags, peanuts, muffin things, water in bags, water in bottles, juices in bags, yams, eggs, fish, dried and on bread, bananas, and other such items. While sometimes you didn't want to stop and wait, when you did want something it was oh so nice to simply have someone come to you on the bus and sell it to you.

We eventually made it to djenne, at midnight after a 10 or more hour bus ride. Thing about the bus dropping you off at Djenne is that it doesn't, it drops you off on the main road about 10km or more away from Djenne. This was not part of our general knowledge at the time. So when we stepped off the bus, in the pitch black, we weren't quite sure what to do. Thankfully there were some Japanese around.

.....To Be Continued....