So we arranged to take the last boat to Mopti before the festival on a day when nothing was going right. Marlies said it was an omen and there was worse to come but we went ahead anyway. Even at the last minute our boat decided it would not leave that day, but then another boat said it would leave immediately, so off we went
. We paid and headed towards the boat, large, wooden and flat bottomed with tarpaulin roof, black but decorated with a brightly painted motif. It was a public boat which normally takes cargo but this time it was just people. There were bamboo poles across the floor and we bought straw mats to sit on. It was very dingy and there was filthy water, spiders and cockroaches running about just under the poles. Marlies said she even saw a rat, we wouldn't have been surprised! We sat in there for two full days and nights, occasionally going up to sit on the roof which was pleasant in comparison but extremely hot.
There was a family running and living on the boat with two young children. Their lives consist of sailing up and down the river between the two cities, there isn't even room to walk about. Food was to be provided but this consisted of fish and rice cooked in the river water on a 'cauldron' in the middle of the boat, so we opted out and lived off nuts, biscuits and water instead. We saw hippos in the river which was really cool and some of the villages were amazing. There was no toilet on the boat, so we daren't drink too much until the boat made an occasional stop at night in a remote village. The children went between the bamboo poles - lovely!
Our arrival in Mopti seemed to be delayed later and later and then just as we were getting desperate to leave the boat, it broke down
. We were in a remote area and we thought we were really stranded. The main worry was that we were just about out of drinking water and with the temperature in the high 30s each day, we were concerned to say the least. Then a boat came by with German tourists on it who were on a painting holiday. We begged them to stop, waving our arms about and they said later they thought we were just waving rather enthusiastically! Honestly, we must have looked a sight shouting at them to stop! There wasn't much room but we said we'd sit anywhere, even on the roof, but we wanted to go with them. They agreed and how lucky we were. Three course meals, tents, matresses, drinking water! Marlies had said in the beginning that she didn't need 'those pretty little tourist boats with the fluffy seats' but how glad she was then. These people were so kind to us and they didn't want a penny. We went from one extreme to another, there was even a toilet on the boat!
We saw more hippos and the Harmattan winds which blow at this time of year and turn the horizon into a hazy blur. We arrived in Mopti the next afternoon, at the same time as our original boat which had been fixed afterall! In our hurry to leave Marlies had left her trousers on board and so we went back to the port later that day to collect them and apologise to the family for leaving in such a rush. We took them some oranges and found them in the slums next to the port
. It's like a rubbish dump and to see these small children playing and falling in all the mess is really terrible. It's a wonder they live past the age of five. When we got to the family we saw that the youngest child, Aly, of about three had been badly burned across his legs by boiling tea. Marlies delayed her bus to Gao and we went to the pharmacist the next day to buy some medication. However when we went back to the boat we saw the wound was really infected and the family had covered it in oil. There was nothing we could do so we convinced them to come with us to the hospital nearby. They agreed and we concluded our visit to the hospital by paying 20 dollars for his treatment which will continue until the boy is better, and a promise to the doctor from the mother that she would not return to Timbuktu today as planned, but she would wait until he agreed she could leave. All in all we were pleased we had ended up on that boat as it was a good experience, and hopefully we helped a little.
So now we have met back up with the truck, Paul was the first 'bus' out of Timbuktu with 12 new passengers to Mopti. Marlies will leave us again tomorrow, to eventually catch her bus and we are going trekking in Dogon country with a guide we met here in Mopti. He has helped us many times with Kev's trip to the hospital for a Malaria test and when we arrived last night without a tent, he found one for us. He has asked for nothing so in a way we are returning the favour and employing him as our guide. We will be trekking for 5 days through tiny villages and we will no doubt have more stories to tell.
Anyway, bye for now and take care all,
Kev and Sian.
Well here we are in Mopti - just!, after an eventful few days. After meeting Marlies again in Timbuktu in an internet cafe we all decided to try and get a boat (pinasse) to Mopti. We left the others in Timbuktu to enjoy the biggest Muslim festival of the year (I'll not mention 'fluffy' the goat here....). I can't remember the full story behind it, I'm sure those at home will know, but as Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son and at the last minute it was subtituted for a sheep, then all the adults here sacrifice a sheep each every year. We decided to avoid the bloodshed and seek refuge in the tranquility of the river Niger - Ha!