Mac drops us at the bus station and our names are the first on the list for the bush taxi to Bandiagara. Bush taxis and buses in Mali don’t have a set time schedule. They leave when they are full and full in Mali has a very different meaning than we might be used to. Full in Mali means packed like a tin of sardines.
We prepare ourselves for a long wait. It’s 8:45am and the sun is already getting hot. Phil takes advantage of some free time in the shade of the bus shelter to finish off securing The Ball’s net on to Andrew’s backpack.
Back in 2002, Christian and Phil carried The Ball in this net to the World Cup in Korea & Japan. It helps to keep The Ball safe and reduces the stress of those “Where is The Ball?” moments that happen nearly every day. Those moments of panic can be done without.
Two hours later and the minibus is full with 16 people, including three children, and we are ready to cram ourselves in. Our gear is strapped on the roof.
We take it upon ourselves to tell our fellow passengers about The Ball and one of them is so taken by it that he decides he must kiss it.
We arrive in Bandiagara and head to Hotel la Falaise to meet Mousa, our guide for the Dogon Country, and plan our solitary night in the region with him. Mousa is born and bred Dogon, and he suggests we spend our night in his village, Teli.
Phil sniffs out a game of football across the road from Mac’s. It’s semi final night of a local youth league.
The locals respond warmly to his approach and soon the teams are using The Ball in their game. As the sun sets it is more of a case of “dustball” than football.
As usual, we expect the unusual… during the game a donkey and cart cross the field but play continues uninterrupted.
With the light fading fast, play continues as the sun sets in spectacular fashion.
We are dropped off at our accommodation, Mac’s Refuge on the outskirts of Sévaré. It’s been quite a day thus far. Djenné had been all we hoped it would be and more. We’d even found transport and had fun travelling with 11 people and loads of luggage in a 1980s Peugeot station wagon. We have made new friends and they are happy to drop us off: door to door service!
Another bonus: we are sleeping outside under the stars on the roof tonight, with only a mosquito net separating us from the bright stars and the huge, clear African sky. Mac’s Refuge is not just any place. This little oasis in the blazing Malian bush is serving authentic Indian curry for dinner with ice cream for dessert. And tomorrow morning, pancakes with maple syrup, real muesli and home-made yogurt are on the menu. What a treat. And, Mac’s has wi-fi too. Here we are out in the middle of nowhere with all of the luxuries of home. Yes, we’re really roughing it out here in the Malian wilderness.
Mac is both an American and a Malian. Born to American missionary parents in Sanga, Mali in 1941, Mac spent his first 14 years growing up in Mali’s beautiful and famous Dogon region. After going back to the US for high school and university, Mac returned to Mali and has been here ever since. He’s a fascinating character and has a wealth of local knowledge, speaking two local languages like a native — well, in fact, he is a native. If you are vsiting the Dogon Country, we highly recommend that you stop off at Mac’s Refuge, tap into his local knowledge and enjoy the cuisine. But don’t be late to the dinner table, dinner is served at 7 o’clock if you are there or not. Don’t keep Mac waiting!