May 08, 1998

Mali: Dogon Patisserie, Mopti

Nice little place - good snacks and decent coffee.

I fear this journal isn't all it could be, but I'm not really devoting enough time for more than a dry factual report.

Nice few days in Bamako - day wandering around on my own, wading in the Niger, walking way east to air-con expat bar w/black leather & tuxedoed waiters, Peace Corps base with military entrance and barbed wire. Returned and nursed my sunburn. Next day, Nick was sick with heat rash, so Tim & I hung out at "Bar Bat," a tin shack under bat- barnacled trees by the river, and sipped Coke & beers for the afternoon. Went to the jazz club at night after a few beers with Mohammed, heard a kick-ass version of "Little Wing," ate a kebab, went home.

Next, found THE ENGLISHMAN'S BOY in the mission library, played cards and read until Brian(!) showed up, engaged to a different Mauritanian woman than the one he'd left for. Following day, out of money, about to get a Visa advance, when word of the truck's arrival reached me through our now well-developed Bamako grapevine. The Filthy Dozen showed up, and we three reacted with deserved smugness. Off to a nice hotel with a swimming pool, where I pretty much swam, tanned and drank for two days, until we headed out to the road again.

Camped outside San night before last, and it was a pleasant night before we noticed a few flickers on the horizon. Eventually those developed into the most oh-my-God, pull-out-all-the-stops, Steven-Spielberg-eat-your-heart-out storm I have ever witnessed: two or three lightning flashes a second dancing around us for almost two hours, raindrops hurled so hard they bruised, wind that blew our tents down like tumbleweeds. We huddled in the truck (and occasionally went out to revel in it) until it passed.

Yesterday, off to Djenne. Bold plans to take a riverboat to Mopti fell apart after a 5K walk through the sun revealed a completely dry riverbed. Djenne feels like it just stepped out of the 16th century: mud-brick buildings, narrow alleys and archways, open sewers, wide dirt market spaces, and the towering mud mosque above it all. Saw an albino girl with milk-white eyes (sighted) and very pale blonde-green hair, a freaky sight anywhere but especially in Djenne. Wandered the town for an hour, did the cafe thing w/Tim-Naomi-Ali-Ang-Heidi-Andrea, made our way home under moonlight - only half full, too - so brilliant I could read Lonely Planet by it. Trees rearing against the sky like H.R. Giger nightmares.

Termite mounds, two-toned goats, and twenty bird's nests to a tree. Staple shopping with Wendy & Mike. Fanta Citron, a marvellous invention. Wrestling with mosquito nets. Blast of heat outside Nouakchott.

Tomorrow, Bankass: next day, Dogon country.

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