“Garrett! Do you remember me? I am your first friend in Tombouctou!”
~Salek, Ishmael, and Beekeepa, separately
Intercultural jam session. © BY GARRETT PALM. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Editor’s note: Correspondent Garrett Palm recently traveled in West Africa, volunteering at the Festival Au Desert. This is the third installment of his story. Read part one: Travel: Green tea and music videos in Mali, and part two: Travel: Along the Niger River. More photos at Palm’s Flickr feed.
Tuareg gather at the Festival in the Desert. © BY GARRETT PALM. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Story and photos by Garrett Palm
Arriving at the port of Korioumé outside of Tombouctou was a shock. The boatmen all told us different times for our arrival. We pulled in a few hours before any of their guesses. The plank of wood over the muddy bank bowed under our weight, after 30-some hours of being well-fed with capitaine, a local fish straight out of the river, served with beet and potato salads.
One other penasse pulled to shore at the scraggly port, consisting of a few mud huts. Three other Westerners waited for their driver (they were early, too). I approached them to ask where they were from — Southeast side of Portland, Oregon. I called over the other Portlander on our boat, owner of a world music record label. They were part of a group of eight from Portland, including a family with two young kids in kindergarten and first grade. So far, every American I met in Africa was from Portland.
Why does Portland have its people everywhere? Brooklyn, where I recently lived, is full of Oregonians. We all love our home and talk about how we miss it, so we weren’t driven away by boredom. Portland just produces people who are curious about the world.
The moment we got off the penasse the hard sell began. Craftsmen came straight to every white face, holding up jewelry or hats, asking what you think a good price would be. There was some of that in Bamako, and more in Mopti, but it was non-stop in Tombouctou. The vendors do not accept “no, merci” for an answer, no matter how many times you repeat it. (more…)
Filed under: tourism, Travel | Tagged: Africa, Festival au Désert, Garrett Palm, Mali, Sahara, Travel, World Music | 4 Comments »