Travels in Mali

Me and my mom have been too busy even to look at a computer for the week she has been here. We went to Mali, hiked through the Dogon, had some eventful busrides, and floated around on the Niger river on a boat.

Okey- I should slow down, but when the stories are piled up like this, I just dont know where to start. I will start with busrides, the sweet and the sour and the wild. My mom compaired one truck (that we got a ticket to ride in at a bus station) to being inside a rock polisher. While she said this, I was busy with my eyes closed, imagining that I was in a chopper flying low over a jungle. The soundtrack of the things slamming around on the roof of the truck made it a realistic little daydream. Another van that we were squeezed in was the local commuter bus for about 23 older, jolly and toothless yokels who were coming back to their village after selling things in the city. They comfortably squeezed in together and laughed at us the whole way for being afraid the door would fly open under the pressure of so many bodies.

We arrived in Mopti, Mali, after a strange stopover night in Ouiugia, (yes, this is a differant town from Ouaga) near the border, and then a border crossing that included played checkers with the boarder guards. I was so excited to be back in the town, having left it and some good friends last April. There is a pottery village inside the city where I spent 3 weeks earlier this year. Good cheer all around, and I have changed my plans to spend a couple weeks there in March, befure coming home. The clay comes streight from the river there, and it is the only pottery town I found last year where people had invented a pottery wheel. The wheel spins by using oil in between two bowls. They are slippery enough, that with a steady hand you can make a pot, while with the other hand you spin the wheel. They use a glaze that is made of orange sand from a differant part of the river. The people are wonderful there too, and I came with some Raku glaze that we can experament with when I return next march.

Sadly, Mopti was a hungrier town then the one I had left 6 months ago. The french government has decided Mali is not a safe place to travel, and the result is a lot of empty hotels and desperate shopkeepers and guides. We were trailed by people offering us boatrides, and aggressive guides. Who can blame them really, their work is gone. Usually, Mali has a healthy french tourism industry, and it is completely dried up. But it didnt make it expecially plesant for us walking around the town.

Mom had found a wonderful guide, on the way up to Mopti, who we called to take us to the Dogon, the famous area of Mali that cliff dwellers still live, and you can explore anciant ruins and hike miles of beautiful trails and bluffs. We spent four days hiking though dogon villages, and I was surprised at the lack of fellow westerners there. I am usually pretty cautious about human tourism, i’m weirded out by looking at really differant people and taking pictures of them, but people were friendly and gentle and it didnt really feel like that. We met just the right number of international people, a few groups a day. Everyone being afraid of Mali had a positive result for us, apparently. It was a life changing and beautiful place, and a peaceful way to pass several days. I will think about those electricity-less villages while living in the city bustle of Ouagadougou.

We returned to Ouaga today, and hit the ground running. I went back to the people at my work, tried to intimidate them into getting things done for me before my mom leaves, and then ran around town, saying hello to everyone. The pace here is a hustle compaired to the villages, and we are back in it. I am on vacation from making things for two days more, until mom takes off, but I cam feel responsabilities enter my life again. My community is a socially demanding one, and requires a lot of drinking tea with everyone and conversations. I am happy to be home, though, and feel cozy in my little room again. (but I want my mom to never leave)

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Travels in Mali

  1. Shaun Hubbard

    Maria, what wonderful and exciting adventures! I’m so glad you mom is there to share them with you! Love, Shaun

  2. Brett Poirier

    Nice reporting and always appreciate the various insights you offer into both personal and practical situations over there. Awesome that mom Liza could join up with you for two whole weeks there! I do not know a stronger mother-daughter bond than you two….Love from Pt Reyes!

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