I have been led astray by my bush guide too often to count.
At this time, as result of the Al-Qaeda related issues in Mali, our agency has a “Do Not Go Alone” security policy in effect. It is a bit stifling at times, but humanitarians here are a prime kidnapping financial target of various radical Islamic groups. I will spare you the details.
I had mentioned to Kone that I wanted to pick up some roasted peanuts while in the village. On the way home, he swung his motorcycle off the highway, and I followed him in pursuit. It was not a big path, but it was kind of, sort of a road.
We ended up in a small camp of people he knew. They did not have any peanuts ready, but they asked us to stay as the women would get right at preparing me the huge bag I wanted. We had a great visit with the men. We told stories, chatted, and I watched Kone “fix” an old man’s toe.
Seriously, nothing surprises me any more. Having seen teeth pulled with pliers, to a hot nail or wire put in a rotten tooth to burn the nerve, or in an attempt to kill the infection. The Malian bush medical system is brutal.
An elderly man arrived, and showed Kone the lump on the top of his foot, just behind his big toe. Said he had stubbed his toe very hard on a piece of wood, It looked like he might have dislodged it and it needed to be popped back in place. Then again it may have just been swelling and inflammation. How would you know for sure?
Anyway, Kone looked at his foot, He must have ex-ray eyes or something, as he saw something we could not see. Kone told the old man to hold on. Kone pushed down on the lump on the top of his foot with his thumb, and he started slowly pulled on the old mans big toe. The old guy begged for mercy, but got little, and was right out of his chair at one point calling his name. Kone did pull rather slow and mercifully the first time. He went at it a second time after more ex-ray vision examination.
I have to admit, the lump seemed to be smaller when he was finished. Maybe he did put it in place?
The whole scene makes me pray that I never, never EVER spill my motorcycle in the bush with him around.
I can envision it now, seeing him doing some amazingly painful things to my body, if swellings, or broken bones occurred. I shiver at the thought. I hope I get more mercy than that elderly man got with his big toe.
Anyway, I remember he got my wife and I lost once. We were in the middle of the Sahel, God only knows where, in the middle of dried up millet field and could go no further. He told us to take shade under a tree, and he went looking for the trail. I said to Lynn, you realize there is a 50-50 chance he has no idea where we are, to come back here. He might find the trail, but there is only a 50-50 chance he can re-find us. He arrived back after 45 minutes.
My peanuts were ready, and none too early. The sun was setting.
Of course, rather than take the “kind of” road back to the pavement, the one we came on, as is his nature, Kone asked if there was a shortcut to the road. They pointed out a direction.
Off we went in that direction, as the path grew smaller and smaller. We actually passed little open pits in the ground filled with short logs that would be covered in clay and set on fire, to slow burn, forming into a local charcoal for cooking fires and tea burners.
You have to keep in mind that Kone had my gift rooster hanging upside down from the mirror of his bike, with its feet tied together. The narrow path, with shrubs and trees on both sides, meant the poor rooster was getting the shit beat out of him. He started flapping his wings in protest, and it was then Kone had a little more mercy on him, and started to give bushes and trees a wider birth on the left handlebar where he hung upside down. My chicken would have been plucked alive. Poor thing. Gosh….
Finally, we heard a horn tooting behind us. The village people saw us leaving on the proper route, but taking a wrong turn at the first fork. So they sent a guy after us, so we would not get lost in the bush. He caught up to us just about when there was no more trail left.
Anyway, the rooster, and rightfully so, was quite sour about the whole thing. The guy led us back out to the real path and cut us loose.
We drove, and zigzagged. We actually drove right through the middle of a camp, as the trail only went through the middle of the courtyard. Kone passed through to an empty court. As I came behind him, a women stuck her head out of her mud cooking hut to see who it was driving through their courtyard, and there I was , passing through the five foot wide alley, by her kitchen door, as she stuck her heard out to look. You should have seen the surprise on her face to see a white guy driving by on a motorcycle and waving, two feet from her face.
We kept going, and finally got out to the paved road, Kone stopped and looked both ways, and said to me,
“This is not where I expected to come out,” and took off down the highway. I followed.
We do this a lot. We zigzag through these obscure bush cow paths, land in the most interesting and unusual places. At times, we cut off many miles. Other times, like today, we added miles, and arrive in strange, new places.
My partner in crime is like the wind, we say. It blows and moves, but you can’t say for sure where, or when he will come and go. You just ride on the wind’s coattails; it’s all you can do.
I cut him lots of slack in these bush wanderings. I have seen so many back regions because of his “leading”(I say that rather tongue in cheek).
However, I warned him not to ever try any broken big toe bush fixes on me, nor anything of the like. If he pulls on my broken toe, I’d probably end up kicking him in the head.
But you’ve got to love that smile.