Up and out by 7 to breakfast and Comanav office...Turns out ferry can no longer run on river to Mopti, water too low so we have to go to Mopti and get tickets for ferry to Timbuktu. Got a taxi and once again due to poor communications we ended up at Bani bus stop, not the main gare rotiere where we hoped to pick up the bus to Mopti. So 1 and a half hours later as we discussed plan "B"(it is now noon), up coimes an SUV with a white guy and driver...driver makes us an offer we cannot refuse(same price as bus) so we go for it! Hopping in the vehicle, Craig, the white guy a Canadian welcomes us to share gas or whatever...he is just from a conference in Bamako on Democracy and Development hosted by Mali, he works for Canadian govt.
As we drive and we talk our plans evolve wrt Craig's when we find out he is on a quick trip of his own to see some of the same sites we have in mind!!!
The driver who is from this area and is a Canadian Embassy driver suggests going to Djenne to see the mud mosque first and then on to Sevare where we stay the night at Mac's Refuge...Mac is from a missionary family and grew up in Mali in this area and now runs this great "Hotel", more like a Refuge just as the name implies...ON cost incl a great breakfast as we soon found out
For more on the conference see Google Community of Democracies, Bamako 2007
Great talking with Craig and thru him in French the driver, Seydou Guindo who gave us much insight into Dogon and sharing stories, thoughts, ideas during our driving about the area...we could never have hoped for better company and access to villages and guide!!!
Near Djenne and between Bamako and Segou the land changes gradually from rich agricultural growing millet, sorgum, watermelon, tomatoes, etc plus cattle to evolve into more rice growing the closer to the Niger and further away the Fula herders are more into cattle and goats in the drier regions. Right now they are beginning to move their herds towards the Niger from fringes of the Sahara to greener pastures across the Niger...the crossing is called Dewga and has taken place every year at this time for over 200 yrs.
Normally sometime end of Dec or into Jan depending on the level of the Niger R., tens of thousands of cattle gather with herders and family, a great festival and joyful time for all after months of being apart.
Since we left Djenne late our driver was in a bit of a hurry so we get a sample of Mali driving 80 to 90 mph in the dark meeting two wheel donkey carts and huge semis piled high with goods and people!!! Thankful that the road is smooth, no pot holes...