. In wet season the town becomes an island, but it is dry season now. We needed to cross the river on a small ferry and the truck got stuck in the wet sand coming off. It was a minor inconvenience and the locals helped out. We circumnavigated the town in less than an hour, looking for a hospital, this time to get Kev a malaria test. Unfortunately the lab doctor was on holiday indefinitely and so we had to wait until Mopti. Otherwise, the walk around was nice except the narrow streets have thin channels in the middle of them, into which runs the raw sewage from the houses through broken bits of drainpipe sticking out from the walls - delightful.
We left Roxana and Richard in Djenne and arrived in Mopti on 6th Feb where Kev finally had his Malaria test which proved positive, so now he is taking medication and not feeling that great. On the way to Mopti , we stopped near a small village as we could see a white mosque from the road. After a short wander we (all except Kev) arrived outside and the chief of the village offered a tour around it. It was interesting and quite unusual as they usually do not allow non muslims into these places. The locals entertained Kev with singing and it was a pleasant interlude in the journey.
After just one night in Mopti, as we will visit again, we set off for Timbuktu
. Sophie and Tijn have taken a short break from the truck and have travelled on to Burkina Faso and we travelled to Timbuktu with Tim and Pascal alongside in their landrover, 2 guys we first met at the Zebra Bar in St Louis. We bushcamped peacefully in the middle of the Sahel and arrived here yesterday (8th). We crossed the Niger on a ferry, loading the truck and the landrover on with a group of camels, it was quite surreal!! The town here is pretty unspectacular, small crumbling builings and narrow streets in the middle of the desert but not too far away from the green banks of the Niger. In contrast to the buildings, there are some really ornate doorways and windows. It's not as toursity as you might expect an infamous place like this to be. There are a few guides offering trips along the river or into the desert to visit Tuareg camps, and a couple of basic hotels and retaurants, but that's about it. We passed a sandy yard where children were chanting in their 'Koran school' and supposedly saw the well from which the town derives part of it's name. Tom (meaning well) and Bouctou the lady which lived here centuries ago. Bizarrely there are also shrivelled, skinned cats hanging from the telephone wires, apparently because they eat the cats and the chldren throw the skins up there afterwards...
Since arriving in Mali we have noticed just how poor the people here are. They are very friendly but many children are just dressed in men's tweed jackets rolled up at the sleeves and obviously donated to organisations like Oxfam a long time ago. They pull along trucks and cars made from old milk powder tins with wheels cut from the soles of old flip flops.
Well that about sums thing up for now, we hope to take a boat ride along the Niger back to Mopti but we'll have to see.
Hope all is well with all and we'll sort pics out for the entries soon as we are having a few problems with slow computers.
Kev and Sian.
Bamako was quite nice although Sian didn't get to see much of it. A hot, dusty, friendly capital with monuments erected for the African Nations Cup held there last year. The riverside was really nice, small farms (tiny plots), boat builders and drum makers. We left on Tuesday 4th February and said goodbye to Marlies who is heading off her own way. She only got on for a couple of days in Fes and that was nearly 2 months ago! Roxana and Richard have joined us for a couple of days heading to Djenne. We bushcamped on the way and arrived in Djenne on the 5th. The town has the largest mud building in the world, an old impressive mosque. They used to let visitors inside until some insensitive French photographer took pictures of scantily clad models in there. Anyway, it was a really nice town, incredibly hot and dusty with small dilapidated stalls which sell just a few things each. We ate lunch on the street, fried sweet potatoes for about 10p and slept on the roof of the hotel, no mosquitoes, only loud donkeys which bray in the night as though they are suffering a slow death