Tuesday, February 08, 2005


Sunday morning I woke up feeling pretty good, and had a great Mac's Refuge American breakfast of whole wheat pancakes and fruit and yogurt.

An Ohio mom who was visiting her Peace Corps daughter had rented a car and driver for the sojourn, and they were heading out to Djenne after breakfast. I hitched a ride, so to speak.

It took an hour and a half on the main road to get to the Djenne turnoff, then another half hour to the town with the famous mud musque. We got there and... were all somewhat underwhelmed. For one thing it was surrounded by a wall and then the town of total old mud houses crowded around it to boot. I guess it photographs well.

The sad thing is that this is just about the cultural highlight of West Africa. If you go trekking in Nepal you put up with a lot less discomfort and you end up seeing the Himalayas. Here there's no reward for all your suffering.

And I was beginning to suffer, feeling weaker by the minute. As we headed back to the main road I started to have trepidations. So that when I was dropped off at the junction I only half jokingly asked the lady to contact my wife in a few days to let her know the last time I was seen.

It was now high noon and I had assumed that buses and taxis would be going by all the time. I was wrong. It wasn't dreadfully hot, but I was, sitting there quickly realizing that here I was with absolutely no safety net in any direction.

Finally a private car came by. I flagged it down and they stopped. I begged them for a ride and they obliged, heading off at top speed for Sevare with me sitting in the closed window back seat.

Many years ago my daughter had a pet longhaired rabbit that we kept outided in the winter in the cold sunlight. One freakishly warm day in March it was up in the eighties and we were out there in our t-shirts playing badminton when all of a sudden we all went, 'The rabbit!' We ran over and the poor thing was gasping and gasping away. We couldn't save it and watched it die a few minutes later.

Now I was the rabbit. As we rode along I had no idea whether my internal thermostat had already broken and it was all over for me. I had to wait a couple of times while, it being West Africa, the car broke down and they set about fixing it. Then it took fifteen minutes once we got to Sevare for them to find the hotel.

Finally at 2 pm I was in my little adobe room, with the overhead fan turning and me desperately trying to breathe. Around six hours seemed to pass and then the fever broke a little. I looked at my watch and it was 3.

Well, at least I know what malaria feels like now. It's not just that your body's hot, your whole being is. It's semi-delirious, and the chills occur because of the broken thermostat thing.

Anyhow, at three thirty Mac came by with some salt water to drink, and at four a nice Malian doctor came and took my temperature, which was now down to 102. He gave me the pills to take, and by dinner time I was unwoozy enough to eat.

It's now Tuesday afternoon and I'm mostly recovered, feeling like a 19th Century explorer resting at the oasis and getting his strength together for the final push. On the one hand, the bright lights of Ghana--West Africa's 'success story'--beckon. The idea of nice cold banana milk is so appealing.

On the other hand, here at the compound I can get wonderful approximations of real food, and there's a steady stream of interesting travelers to talk to. Of course, not a single one yet has been crazy enough to take public transportation anywhere in West Africa.

Oh, and yes, I've promised my wife that I'm never, ever, ever again going to do anything remotely stupid, rash, or foolhardy.


At 12:48 PM, Blogger KappiahatChicago said...

I have been following your journal for sometime now, due to the fact that it is tasty reading and written from a unique angle, one that anyone with interest in humanity can appreciate. My one advise to you when you get to Ouagadougou is check out and take the STC bus to Ghana. It has enough comfort to make the trip more enjoyable. Most taxi drivers know where the station is, that is if the travel guides do not mention it. Or ask people at the Ghana Embassy. I live in Chicago – but originally from Ghana, twenty years removed.

At 9:39 AM, Blogger Charles Darwin said...

Foolhardy? What about the rest of the trip? We will see, eh?





(song from the 60's E-D-A)

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