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Mr Cam And The Mud builders – The Tenacious Travelers

Mr Cam And The Mud builders

August 26, 2010.Cameron.0 Likes.0 Comments

Location: Djenne, Mali, Africa

August 26, 2010

The party awoke after a good night’s rest ready for the new day’s adventure. The hotel had a pool; now as some of you may know Mr Cam is very fond of the water so he took a dip before they headed out to explore Mopti. They had gotten to know Hamidou a bit better and he was going to take them to see if they could obtain transport up the river Niger to Timbuktu as this would dictate the timeline of their adventure. So, they set off out on the streets of Mopti

Mopti is a large port city on the river Niger and is alive with river traffic coming and going. Some carried people other goods, all had brightly coloured flags flying and slipped over the muddy water off into the distance. The office for the ferry that had chosen was long the bank and they reached it to long after setting off.

The boat was called the Comanav a ferry that traveled up and down the Niger in Mali. It was not in the port and was scheduled to arrive on Thursday and leave in the evening. CJ arranged passage for the three passengers with the two women in first class and Mr Cam staying in second. The first-class cabins only had two beds and, so they decided to squeeze three in, this also lower the cost as the three split the total cost. So, with their transport arranged they went to discuss the terms of their trip to the Dogon country with Hamidou.

Hamidou was an interesting man, tall and thin, he was a Muslim and when they had first meet he was dressed in a robe. He came from the Dogon country and had been guiding there for 15 years. He spoke English and French perfectly and a little of a handful of other languages for the various tourist groups that came his way, this was of course not to mention the local Malian languages he knew. He had an answer for most questions and always liked a good joke.

So, for of them sat around a small table writing down what was included, the price and so forth. After some discussion and haggling a price was shook upon and they had their guide. They had settled on three days, two nights in the Dogon. They asked a few more questions from Hamidou before parting ways.

Mr Cam and his companions set of to explore more of Mopti. The river brought all number of goods to Mopti and so the banks played host to the markets for the various goods that float up and down the river. They walked past baskets of spices, dried leafs and stacks of salt, these came from the middle of the Sahara to Timbuktu by camels and then floated down the river to be dispersed to various destinations. The whole place brimmed with activity of the boats being loaded and unloaded and deals being discussed.

They walked into the old district of Mopti to look at the the large mosque. A large grey building very sterile with it strict straight lines, it lacked the character that other West African mosques had Mr Cam thought to himself. With the mid day sun beating down upon them they retreated to the hotel to have a cold drink and the rest of the day was spent relaxing.

6:00 came quickly and the party arose to trudge off into the rising sun in search of transport to Djenne. Djenne is an extremely old town on the banks of the Niger, located about two hours to the west of Mopti it is famous for its mosque which is said to be the largest mud and stick building in the world. So, at 7:00 the trio sat in the station waiting for the van to fill up, so it could leave. But this was not to be for some time and they found themselves waiting six hours before the doors were closed and the van departed. The journey took longer than expect with diversions to pick up people, drop of goods and say hello to relatives but finally they stepped out into the main square of Djenne with the mosque rising before them.

As with Mopti they were immediately swarmed by guides and had to fight through the crowd to get some space. The settled upon a young man and their tour began with the mosque first on the agenda. It was a large building and it was impressive seeing as its main ingredient was mud, but it was like the Mosque in Mopti with its flat ridged walls that seemed more like cement walls than anything else and it did not grab the imagination. The character of the rest of the town made up for its supposedly great landmark. The whole town like the mosque was made of mud, the library; the schools, the food stores and the house were all mud with some buildings reaching three or four stories.

Mr Cam and his friends wandered the streets taking in the cracked facades, the intricately carved window shutters and the styles of mud bricks. They could not help but fall in love with the place and when they reached the roof of one of the taller buildings they looked out across the fast village of mud bathed in the warmth of the setting sun and it made the whole ordeal worth it. They were shown some bogolan artwork which consisted of cloth decorated by dying it with mud, bark and various other compounds which produced all manner of designs. CJ bought a few small pieces before they had to return to the central square to catch the last bus back to Mopti. They reached home a few hours after the sun had set, tiered from their long journey but still taken back by the sights they had seen.

As Mr Cam lay down that night he closed his eyes on the last day of the 25th year of his life, for tomorrow he turned 26th and set forth for in search of Timbuktu.

Categories: Africa, Mali

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