Mali

Sévaré to Djenné

Currency = CFA
£1 = CFA 1000
US $1 = CFA 520
1 Euro = CFA 656
March 2004

Bright and early .. well early, if not that bright .. emerging from my room, I noticed Lulu, sitting on top of the compound wall, surveying the scene outside. Having made her acquaintance during the previous evening, I gave her a reassuring pat on the head and wished her a very good morning .. which was almost my undoing. Either very grumpy first thing in the morning or disliking being disturbed whilst on guard duty .. she snarled and nearly bit my fingers off ! Later, whilst chatting to the other guests awaiting the call to breakfast, she suddenly appeared, laid her head in my lap and offered to shake hands, we were friends again.
Lulu ? Mac's sometimes friendly guard dog !

We ate an enormous breakfast of pancakes, muesli, yoghurt, mango and banana salad and various jams .. all Mac-made and delicious. Amadou's brother arrived half an hour earlier than scheduled and turned out to be a slight, po-faced individual with an altogether depressing attitude to life in general. Totally opposite to how Amadou had been on the previous day, who was unfortunately too busy to take us himself .. going on a mission to Bamako .. on the bus !

Factfile 24: 'Brother' and 'sister' are terms with many different meanings in West African society. "He is my brother" or "She is my sister," can mean the other person: shares the same father and mother, the same father with a different mother, the same mother with a different father; is a cousin, a friend from the same tribe / village / area or country .. or merely a person  of the same race or skin colour. If it is important to know .. and sometimes it is .. posing the question of "Same mother, same father ?" is the best way to find out and to show some understanding of African ways. A husband having up to four wives and many children with each, is quite common and with other relatives duty-bound to take over responsibility for any orphaned children of their own brothers and sisters .. it can often get very confusing as to  just who is related to who .. and how .. in their large extended families !

The deal we had arranged with Amadou was conditional on the driver being a good guide, the car being comfortable and .. above all .. reliable. We had spent some time negotiating his exorbitant first price of CFA 55,000 for the whole day, down to a less punitive one. But even so, we were suffering from being in Mali's main tourist area, with little choice of car hire.
Our driver, apart from appearing somewhat sullen and morose, spoiled his chances right from the off .. demanding the full amount up front, supposedly just to cover petrol and local taxes !

A 260 km round trip wouldn't cost that much for fuel .. neither would the most avaricious of officials demand all the remainder .. so we agreed, after some terse words .. on a lesser amount and for the balance to be paid at the end of the day. Not a good start !

Fuelled-up, we left Sévaré on the road leading back towards Bamako .. passing through the checkpoint on the outskirts of town without incident and enjoying the roadside views which we had missed in the darkness, on our journey of arrival. Flat areas of dry fields that would be planted with millet during the rainy season and the occasional rocky outcrop .. lined our route.

About 100 km from Sévaré we were stopped at a police roadblock. Alaghi and I had our papers checked and were asked for CFA 1000 each. This time it was an official tourist tax request from the Urbane Commune of Djenné, for help towards the maintenance of Djenné's fragile buildings, which .. with the issuing of an official receipt .. we were happy to pay.

Turning right off the main Bamako road onto an equally well-surfaced one that was raised somewhat higher than the surrounding fields .. we drove towards Djenné. Seeing fields and partial wetlands that evidently stretched all the way to Goa and which flooded and were planted with rice when the rains came. Passing herds * of grazing cattle, sheep and goats with their respective lone herdsmen, we eventually arrived at the ferry** which would take us over to Djenné on its island in the River Bani. As it was market day, others were already waiting.

To see these pictures in conjunction with reading their appropriate text .. read on until you come to a Link* then click on the thumbnail with the same number of *s

Roadside views

Herds*

Djenné Ferry**

Despite our monosyllabic driver .. who, if he could speak English as Amadou had promised, had forgotten most of it .. the car had been a pleasure to ride in, no rattles, with all its upholstery .. even a working cooling fan. Beginning to luxuriate in chauffeured comfort .. we should have known better .. as, cruising down to the ferry terminal, the clutch cable snapped !

Our driver, bless him .. who couldn't be blamed for this mishap .. looked somewhat concerned. We just heaved a sigh at having yet another transport problem, for which we seemed to have been jinxed throughout our journey .. and waited for him to come up with an idea to sort it out. Lo and behold .. I think this must have been Amadou's forethought, surprisingly there was a spare clutch cable in the boot .. although no jack or suitable tools with which to fit it. Getting the car onto the ferry to at least secure our place across to Djenné, seemed the best course of action. So car and driver stayed on top of the river bank to get a rolling start when the ferry arrived. Alaghi and I walked down to the river bank and perused the tourist souvenir stalls until it was our turn to get aboard. All went as planned until our driver tried to mount the ferry's ramps and stalled the engine. Many people offered to help push * .. so I took a photo !

Eventually our car was manhandled into place amongst the other vehicles, mostly fully laden horse-powered carts that had been separated from their horses, who were swum across the river channel. Cheaper than buying a ferry ticket and much safer for the other passengers.

To see these pictures in conjunction with reading their appropriate text .. read on until you come to a Link* then click on the thumbnail with the same number of *s

Tourist souvenirs

The push*

Ferry road**

The plan was for our driver to drive without the aid of the clutch into Djenné and get assistance to change the cable. Most drivers know that to drive without a clutch, one has to get the vehicle  moving, gently slip it into gear and keep moving. The Mali School of Motoring that our driver subscribed to, must teach things differently. Directing us to get inside, he revved the engine to full throttle, heaved on the gear  stick .. and tried to ram it into gear.
The inevitable grinding of gears followed by the immediate stalling of the engine, happened quite a few times .. despite entreaties and advice from all and sundry in the gathering crowd of onlookers, as to how to do it properly. Then the gear linkage broke .. Oh happy days !!!

Plan B took over .. we hailed a passing taxi. Alaghi and I squeezed in, despite it being full already .. our driver sat on  the roof rack and we set off for Djenné which was only a short distance away on a scenic ferry road** .. flanked with fruiting mango trees and flocks of goats.

Telling our far-from-happy driver that he had the rest of the day to get it fixed, whilst silently praying he would actually be able to do so .. we set a place and a time to meet him a few hours later .. and left him to his own devices whilst we explored the town of Djenné.

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