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Stress in the Sahara
Mopti (Mali), July 17th 2000
It is sweltering hot. We sit in a small hut on a bush taxi station in Mopti, a Malian city in the Southern part of the Sahara. We sit and wait for transport to the city of Djenné, which is a three-hour drive of Mopti. For the transport on these routes you are dependent on the bush taxi. These are old Peugeot 504 s, frequently as pickup that can take up to twelve passengers. Most of them are reduced to nothing more than a chassis, body and a smoking engine. Oh, and the bush taxi only leave when it is full. All in all a very uncomfortable way of traveling. In Europe we would submit a complaint at the carrier, whereas in Africa we find this a romantic way of travel, for which we gladly put our life at stake.

In the meanwhile we wait already for an hour or so to leave with the bush taxi. The driver already promised several time that we leave as soon as possible. Our luggage is already lashed on the roof of the bush taxi so it seems that he sincere. However, we still don’t see a lot of other passengers. However, each time we ask him when to depart, he says without any doubt: “soon”.

We take a seat again on the big trunk in the small hut that serves as ‘waiting-room’ for some of the bush taxis. It is almost noon, the sun is extremely hot and a place in the shade is essential. It becomes less crowded on the bush taxi station. The local market comes to an end and most people take a rest under a tree or other shady spot. Not an ideal time to get the taxi filled in our opinion. However our driver proves to be a good actor and keeps telling us that we will leave soon. In theory that is possible if he thinks that he will be able to pick up up passengers underway. Supported by this idea we keep the patience and take a seat again on the trunk.

Halfway the afternoon our patience is gone. We know that it has no sense, but we are stressed. We want leave now! Still after a couple of weeks in Africa, we still did not find the rest to stay relaxed. We have only four weeks in West Africa and want to see as much as possible. We go to the driver and threaten him that we will retreat ourselves as passengers if we do not leave now. It does not work and we ask him to take down our luggage from the bush taxi because we decided to stay another day in Mopti. The driver refuses. He is not happy because he does not want fifty percent of his revenue to walk away. After he refuses again, we start unfastening the luggage ourselves. We have to become pretty angry to convince him to let us go.

More than five hours after we took our first seat on the trunk, we leave the bush taxi station to go in search of a hotel. At the end of the day, just before it gets dark, we make a stroll to the bush taxi station. The bush taxi to Djenné did not leave to that day because the lack of enough passengers. Tomorrow is a new day, with a new chance.

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