Day 57: Djenne and Severe

Soutpiel Safari
John & Jenny
Fri 31 Dec 2010 21:51
Day 57: Friday 31 December 2010. Mac's Refuge, Severe, Mali.  N14 30.819 W004 05.987  Distance driven 130 km Total distance 10,112 km
We have topped the 10,000 km mark, this year! Only another 14,000 to go next year!
We are both feeling the heat and the dust and somewhat depressed by the squalor of Africa.  Everything is broken, everywhere is scruffy and polluted with plastic refuse. The roads are broken up, the trucks, the cars and the busses are all broken down.  The last two days we haven't seen the sun because of blowing sand and dust. We both have sore throats and are filthy with dust.  In spite of a comprehensive clean in Bamako the Land Rover is filthy again, inside and out.  Everywhere we go we are besieged by persistent vendors peddling their wares.  If we stop for a quiet lunch it is inevitable that within 5 minutes we have an audience standing around gaping.  No one respects our privacy. On top of that it is becoming a strain speaking French all the time. I have got to the point where if anyone else says "Bonjour, ca va" I feel like belting them! Still, on the other hand, it is often convenient to pretend not to understand and to claim not to speak French. I find I am playing that card more and more often!
We like to camp in the bush but most of the time it just is not practical.  To have any privacy at all we have to be miles away from towns and villages and we also really need the shade and the screening cover of large trees.  In practice it is very difficult to find such places.  The next option is a camp site but these are very rare in Mali.  Then come the auberges, some of which allow you to camp, but generally they won't allow you to cook and want you to feed in their restaurants.  If you take a room, it is generally less comfortable than our tent, the only benefit being a toilet and (cold) shower.  One way or another we are spending much more on accommodation and meals than we expected. Take tonight as an example - on the approach road into Severe there were frequent villages and the open spaces were very open, treeless and windswept.  Once in town we checked out a few hotels and auberges but on the whole they were scruffy and lacked either privacy or reasonable facilities. We ended up at Mac's Refuge, a rather nice little place with a nice bathroom/shower, where we have camped but they wouldn't allow us to cook but we have eaten well in the communal dining room and had a very convivial evening with  a crowd of Swedes.
This morning we had a tour of the ancient town of Djenne, a World Heritage Site,  where everything is built from mud. The town mosque is supposedly the largest mud brick structure in the world. In spite of being a World Heritage Site, the houses were hovels, grey water ran down open channels in the alleyways between the houses and raw sewage was discharged into the river where all the village women were washing their clothes and all their pots and pans.  It was on the one hand fascinating and on the other quite depressing.