May 18, 2010
Hotel: Ya Pas de Probleme, Mopti, Mali
Today was our shortest transport day so far... we only planned to go as far as Mopti today to arrange our transportation to Timbuktu
for the following day. We walked to the gare routiere around 7 AM, finding a minibus almost ready to leave. Unlike the one we had taken from Ouahigouya, this one had individual seats, although cramped. But it was only a short distance, barely more than an hour, and the road was paved all the way.
Mopti is one of the main towns in Mali, it's on the river and has constant boat traffic up and down the Niger river.
Hotel rooftop restaurant, Mopti, Mali
It's possible to get a boat from here to Timbuktu in the rainy season, it takes 3-5 days. We planned on taking a 4WD from Mopti to Timbuktu, which only takes 6-8 hrs. We arrived in Mopti by 8:30, walked into town and an ATM, surrounded by new 'friends'. Usually normal people won't come up to you on the street; if someone does most likely they're trying to sell you something or be a guide. Mali was the worst place for these touts on our trip.. annoying but still pretty tame compared to Egypt! We walked along the river up to our hotel, we were checked in and done by 9AM! What a relief, after our long transportation days to finally have a down day. We had breakfast in the rooftop restaurant, there were two other groups of tourists here, the first ones we had seen in quite awhile.
We walked into town, down the river again and around the market area where they sell slabs of salt brought in by camel from the mines 500kms north of Timbuktu.
The market area is a chaos of sights, smells (stinky dried fish) and sounds. We had a Fanta in the bar overlooking the boat builders shed where we ran into the group of girls we had seen at the hotel. From there we walked over to the Sahel style mosque; these are the mud-stick adobe style found throughout Mali and west Africa. We next went to the place where they sold the 4WD tickets for the next day; taking a wrong turn one of the 'friends' helped us to find the right place but then wanted payment. We decided to buy 4 seats for the three of us, the back seat of the 4WD so that we would have a little more room.
The rest of the day we took things easy, just walked around town a bit more then had dinner in the hotel restaurant. Tomorrow, Timbuktu!