Saturday, 17 October 2009

She Says – Holy Singing Bats Batman!

15-17 October
We headed for Mopti, having pretty much already decided to stay instead at Séveré, at the turnoff to Mopti, to have a bit more quiet and keep away from the expected hassle. This meant missing our first chace to see hippos but we know we’ll find them later! We both woke pretty tired yesterday morning, and by the time we travelled the couple of hours up to Séveré, Xander was getting exhausted. Little did I realise that I was exhausted too, until we eventually collapsed inside the luxury of Mankan Te B&B, run by a lovely German woman and wonderfully filled with local artwork (expensive but worthwhile - 26,000CFA per night, about 38 pounds). We had decided we needed a few days to disconnect from travel, to catch up on rest and things, before heading off on our trek. Xander hasn’t been sleeping well and it’s been showing each day; I’ve not been sleeping great either and the previous night’s poor fan cooling left me tired. We arrived in Séveré to find every second hotel advertising internet and/or wi-fi connections – brilliant! A few days’ resting with the net at our fingertips to help us sort out a few concerns – our GPS mapping programme had spontaneously decided to stop working a few days ago, and we are concerned about travelling through Nigeria, whether it is safe and if we need an armed escort as has been suggested by travel warnings and a fellow traveller we met in Nouakchott, or if we should ship from Ghana to Gabon. It turns out the mapping program problem was due to one of the map layers we used for Morocco, thank god for the net and fixes! We’ve got some advice from other travellers who have recently been through Nigeria and are considering our options, but several people have gone through without any hassles at all (damn those frightening government travel warnings!).

We finally got to see live African music - by chance we ate our dinner in the B&B’s associated restaurant and being a Friday night, they had a live band! We struggled to stay up and watch them, but they really hadn’t got going by the time we left. The meal was nice and the company was good. We had our meal early, then sat with the B&B owner and two girls working for the UN World Food Programme. It was interesting to get a chance to talk to people working here on aid programmes, after seeing so many signs about the many programmes of support that are going on in the country. We’re now feeling a lot more refreshed and ready to move on to the next big item on our to-see checklist – the Dogon country!

I have to note that the sweating bucket loads and eating street food diet is working very well :-) We’ve been eating in a delightful small Senegalese restaurant here, such tasty local food instead of Westernised restaurants. Everywhere we travel in Mali, we pass fields growing sorghum and millet, huge plants crowding right up to the roadside. Occasionally there are rice paddies, but these are mostly closer to the Niger River, e.g. around Djenné. And of course the ubiquitous flocks of sheep, goats and cattle. Horses are now very common, more so than donkeys, and seem to be fairly healthy – nice change.

And as for the title of this post, I am absolutely thrilled and amazed to have my best bat experience ever – singing bats!!! Small fruit bats are hanging in the trees in town at dusk and singing their hearts out! Going by the large white patches I could see on their shoulders and stomach, I think they may be epauletted bats. They hang in the trees, flutter their wings, and produce a sweet honking sound that is somewhere between the calls of a bird and a frog. At first I thought it was insects till I saw the flutters of wings, then put two and two together. We went out again tonight with the video camera to capture this amazing sound. I’m thrilled to bits, it’s the last thing I ever expected to see/hear!!!