If someone had said prior to my visit that Mali's infrastrucure was basicly non-existent to support tourism, I wouldn't have grasped nor believed their advise. Presented with a list of possible "technical glitches" would have seemed quite absurd.

But now, after having traveled a bit a distance within Mali, the space between the dots for cities on the map having been filled in with surface traveled, things are different. What would have prepared me for the (one existing) flight from Timbuktu to be cancelled. Or cattle dung mixed with concrete, to patch holes in the radiator so that we could drive out of a remote ferry drop-off (as the only way to exit Timbuktu)?

Never a dull moment. The rainy season had ended just a month prior, and our guide had been away from Mali for a month, and the water had already dropped 1.5 feet. We were up at 5:00 a.m. for an introductory drive arriving in Mopti, home of the 2002 Africa soccer championships, ten hours later. Already the vegetation became sparse, and would become much more so. The only paved road was the main one, which left us with the red iron oxide filled dirt for our travel surface. Wind stirred the dirt creating a red iron oxide layer on everything. Temperatures were in the high 90's, causing a heat stroke for one group member and unfortunately, a repeat performance the next day. With the days ahead getting only hotter, climbing stairs and hiking the Dogon Escarpement, our group said good-bye to two members.

The markets in Mopti were organized within a city of shacks. The red earth giving a red color to everthing and with flies all over the food. Being a port city and having received shipments from Timbuktu years prior, it was fairly busy and not as poor as the other towns we would visit. This observation however, only comes in retrospect as the first impression was that of a city that had no money and most were homeless.


© 2002 MW Sears