Quick update from Mali

Anne-Claire and Haoua in Kayes

We’ve been on the road for the last few days, including about 21 straight hours yesterday ending about 3:30 at a little hotel that thankfully is a true oasis in the chaotic bustle of Bamako. Today, we head out to a Peace Corps Volunteer’s village about 150 km east of where we are now.

I have a couple more posts from Morocco to put up, and then a few from Senegal. Senegal was a terrific. It’s amazing what a little rain and a coastline does for a country. The trouble is, we’re not likely to have great access to internet, though if we do, I’ll try to get a post or two up. So, if you don’t hear from us for a while, don’t worry. Our plan – always mutable, of course – is to head to eastern Mali for a few days, check out Dogon country, then return to Bamako for a flight to Niger next week. Flying ended up being cheaper than the several days of travel and the visas for Burkina Faso at ~$100 apiece.

I’ll leave you with a picture of Anne-Claire and a little girl named Haoua, who was drawn like a magnet to us at our bus stop in Kayes a few hours inside the Senegal-Mali border and thought nothing of hopping up on her lap, to her mother’s delight. You’ll hear from us soon!

A Sole’s Rebirth

Just a quick blog to mark what I thought was the end of an era…after 5 years and 4 months of cradling my feet through 15 countries, of staying on when launching my kayak, and while scrambling around on the Lovejoy basalt lava flows and Monkeyface of Upper Park in Chico, my Chaco flip-flops finally gave a last gasp.

As I was walking through the streets in Chefchaouen, I felt a slight tug on the tongue between my toes. Upon investigating, the fabric pulled right out of the sole of the shoe, to the great delight of one of the vendors who just happened to be selling the fashionable pointy-toed men’s slippers in every possible color, alongside a selection of leather sandals. Convinced I’d never get a good price in such an obvious state of desperation, I hobbled past, telling him, God-willing, I’d be back later, and I retrieved my running shoes from the hostel.

Anne-Claire convinced me to try to have them repaired. And so the next day in Fez, I walked up to a cobbler – from what I can tell, they’ve got more work than they can handle – and in a couple of minutes he’d sewed the tongue back in, glued the top and bottom layers of the sole together, and thwacked it a few times with hammer for good measure. He waved off my first offer to pay, but ultimately took 5 dirhams (~60 cents) for his time.

I don’t mean this to be an advertisement for Chaco’s flip-flops. In my eyes, they made the unforgivable decision to replace the far-superior Vibram sole with a cheaper, less rugged version a few years ago on this model. Though the word ‘Vibram’ is barely legible on my shoes, I’m thankful to have enjoyed its benefits.

Slight Clarification

Ireland seems a world away from where we’ve just arrived, a little town called Chefchaouen in the Rife Mountains of northern Morocco, so it seems a little odd to still be writing about it. But I did want to make one thing clear about my last post on the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The Republic of Ireland did gain its independence from Great Britain in 1922, just after World War I. In my post, I alluded to Ireland’s full independence coming after World War II, in 1949, I believe. Between 1922 and 1949, Ireland was a part of the Commonwealth of the United Kingdom, but pulled out of that all together as the 5th decade of the 20th century was ending. That’s the independence to which I was referring.

I think I’ve got this right, though I don’t have any reference materials to check my facts at the moment. Feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email if there’s something that needs further corrections or clarification.