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Rolling, Rolling, Rolling on the Niger River

A close up of a pirouge


After nearly a week of R&R in Bamako, staying at a very cool hostel, The Sleeping Camel, Shawna and I jumped on an “air-conditioned” (cough, cough) bus and took the 9 hour ride to Mopti, launchpad for Dogon country trekking and Niger River cruises.

We did really want to get to Ghana as quickly as possible, but in the same sense it would have been ridiculous to race through Mali without taking in these highlights. Mali is an incredible country, and if Ghana is anything like it…I am in for a treat.

Laundry day on the shores of the Niger


and don't forget bath day!


The Niger is not only an extremely important source of water for everyday things like swimming, bathing, and laundry….but it is also a vital transportation route for people in the area. It is the principal river of Western Africa. In Mali the river runs from the Guinea-Mali border, all the way North to Tombouctou before flowing south through Niger and Nigeria, about 4,200 kms in total!

Locally around Mali, we saw pirogues (traditional fishing boats) and pinasses (a pirogue with a small motor) taxi-ing everything from motorcycles to salt to people from one village to another.

Our day floating on the Niger was an incredible way to tour these villages, and as suspected one of many very humbling experiences we have already had in West Africa. For us first-world Westerners, this would be an unimaginable existence. But, despite only the most basic needs being met, the smiles and warm greetings we received from the people living within the villages gave the impression that they lacked nothing at all.

The day was roasting, and Shawna and I were so thankful for the cover on our pirogue which provided us with shelter from the Malian heat. Abiqui, our guide, cook, and driver, was incredible (he even let me have a go at driving our pirogue – awesome!). His “petit ami”, 12-year old Omaru made sure we were well looked after as well, and helped with bailing out our craft (yikes!) when necessary or docking it when we went to walk through one of the villages.

Our assistant captain, Omaru!


We left the shore of Mopti at 9AM and did not return until sunset. We had an incredible hot vegetarian lunch, made for us right on the boat, and spent time in three villages along the river. All this for 25,000 CFA ($50 CDN) for the two of us. We thought this was amazing value for such an experiential day.

If you are spending any time in Mali at all, the Niger River tour (launching from Mopti), should be on your list!!

Our parking attendants! How cool are these guys??!


Shawna....peeing. Seriously.


Our driver, guide, and cook, Abiqui


Yeah alright, so it wasn't quite as easy as I thought....


Village life


The Niger at night

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2 Responses to “Rolling, Rolling, Rolling on the Niger River”

  1. Rawlco Sheldon January 12, 2012 at 8:17 pm #

    It’s interesting that you are in Mali but your boat driver had a Cote D’ Ivoire (Ivory Coast) shirt on! I lived in the Ivory Coast for 3 years as a kid and travelled to Bamako, Mali on occasion as my parents were missionaries. Looks like you guys had a great time!

    • Skott January 14, 2012 at 4:36 pm #

      I can’t even imagine what a crazy childhood that would have meant for you, Sheldon…. we have talked about how insane that would be to raise kids somewhere in Western Africa…your parents must be very cool people!

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