|Sometimes the simplest of tasks can feel like an adventure. After whiling a way a few days in Bamako we decided we'd head north. The day before our planned departure we learned that it was advisable to book a bus ticket in advance. So that afternoon we hailed a taxi to take us south across the Niger River 6km to Sogoniko - to the gare routiere for long-distance buses.
As the taxi pulled into the station touts spotted us, yelled and started sprinting. They disappeared behind a cluster of shops and reappeared as we made a turn and pulled up near a ticket office.
Evelyn, the driver and I spilled out of the car with determination and headed for the ticket windowdoing our best to ignore the touts. Wrong ticket office.
The touts overheard our driver inquiring at the ticket window for us and so now knew our destination - Mopti. They pointed and waved forward. We got back in the car and drove in the indicated direction. The touts sprinted on ahead. It was too hot for running. The hottest day yet for us in Bamako and the sun was high. It hadn't rained in 2-1/2 days.
Why were these guys running so hard? What did they have to gain? We knew the price for a ticket to Mopti and were dead set against paying anything more.
A hundred meter down we pulled up to a concrete bunker with a window opening in the front and a doorway around the side. A small crowd of men were practically climbing over each other at the window vying for the ticket seller's attention.
The taxi driver approached the window on our behalf and managed to get us special attention. (Sometimes I think they pity foreigners in these situations.) We were directed around the side and into the small concrete enclosed room. We were quoted the right price and bought two tickets for the next day's morning bus.
Back outside the touts raised a stink with our driver. One in particulara short man with bulging muscles and sweat pouring from his browaggresively demanded a commission from the driver. He stood so as to prevent the driver from closing the car door.
Evelyn and I slipped into the car from the opposite side. The tout's ire wasn't directed towards us. The driver relented, handed the tout a 500cfa note and started the engine. The tout demanded more. He was fuming now. The driver turned off the engine and returned the tout's angeryelling back in his face. He was bigger than the tout but didn't have the tout's aggresive nature.
The driver said a final word, re-started the engine, and hit the gas pedal hard peeling out in the dirt. The tout clung to the still open driver's-side doorswung at the driver but missed. The tout stumbled forward and there was a loud blow as his fist slammed into the back of the car.