Trip Start Sep 29, 2010
159Trip End Nov 29, 2011
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Sure, Mopti doesn’t have a star attraction like the mosque at Djenne, nor a draw of elusivity like Timbuktu. What it does have though is authenticity. In many places, it is difficult to rub away the veneer that tourism has painted and really observe and engage with the society and peoples I, as an ironic tourist, encounter. Although there seems to be more people who own boats than there are actually boats, the hassle here is easy to shake off and is not unpleasant. Consequently, it is much easier to engage and converse with people with the sole intention of engagement and conversation; we shared guava with a fisherman and cassava with a salesboy
At the end of the day though, we were here to try and get on a boat downriver to Timbuktu. We arrived here on Wednesday afternoon to find that the public ferry, scheduled to leave here on Thursday evening, would, perhaps inevitably, fall victim to African time. When would it leave? Perhaps on Saturday, perhaps Sunday. Hmm. Spanner in the works, especially given Pete’s time budget. We spent much of the rest of Wednesday inquiring about alternatives which, it has to be said, did not raise optimistic moods. What out group (which had now swelled to five) wanted above all was a journey which was low in cost but high in memories.
It turns out getting to Timbuktu, even in the 21st century, is not straightforward. I for one am actually comforted by the difficulties and hurdles we encountered because, of all the placenames in the world which conjures up an idea of remoteness, it is surely that of Timbuktu. It will be a sad day when a journey to Timbuktu becomes comparable to driving up the M1, listening to the football commentary on the radio and knowing that your loving mother will have dinner ready for you upon arrival.
The next morning brought about, I’m glad to report, a turnaround in fortunes. Although we learnt that the ETA of the public ferry was put back further (to the following Thursday!), we found a cargo boat that would take passengers all the way to the port for Timbuktu, departing the same afternoon. We decided that this would be our mode of transport and our home for the next two days. Good decision…