There isn't a great deal to report about Kayes except it's a dusty, distant town in the middle of nowhere which hasn't been destroyed by the tourist trade – and that's not surprising, as there's not a lot going on. I spent my bonus rest day washing my clothes (which dried in under an hour in the dry desert air), writing, eating, buying train tickets, and hoping that I wasn't going to have to spend too long out here.
I did see one thing of note, though. After I'd successfully secured our tickets for the Bamako train, Steve and Oliver suggested we hop in a taxi to visit the nearby Chutes de Felou, a scenic collection of rapids on the River Senegal some 15km from town. I had nothing better to do, so after a bit of bargaining at the taxi rank, we found ourselves bouncing once again into the outback.
It took some finding – the taxi driver didn't realise we wanted the rapids, and stopped in the village of Felou where we had to persuade him to ask for directions and keep going – but what we found was a bizarre wonderland of water-eroded rock, forming a huge honeycomb effect across the entire width of the river.
It was frankly bizarre; we waded across a side stream towards the rapids, and found ourselves on an expanse of smooth rock, pock-marked with deep holes full of bubbling water and churning waterfalls. The river was low enough for us to be quite safe hopping around the rock, but it was high enough for the holes to be welling with dangerous-looking currents of green water. The effect of years of pounding river water was evident; the rock was as smooth as a baby's behind. It was distinctly picturesque, and the locals seemed to agree; one by one men wandered in from the dusty savannah, stripped off and soaped themselves down, jumping into rock pools to wash off the heat of the day while the women did the same thing further downstream. As local bathrooms go, the chutes were pretty spectacular.
This was good news for Steve and Oliver, who turned out to be camera nuts. They each had cameras that bore little resemblance to mine; the picture size on each camera was professional, the negatives being 4cm by 6cm, miles bigger than my standard 35mm film; the camera manufacturers were Russian or somewhere equally scary; and they appeared to be completely manual. The two of them took such care over posing their shots, using tripods and filters and waiting for the exact moment to click the button, that my more cavalier approach of snapping relatively randomly seemed wholly inadequate. I'd exhausted my photographic patience in ten minutes, but they were still setting up shots an hour later, when we had to return to the taxi. I was impressed; this kind of photography is truly for the dedicated.
Then again, that night, as I hammered away on my keyboard in the hotel bar, they sat there doing Spanish crosswords from a book. I guess their approach to photography mirrors my approach to writing, and vice versa; whatever, it felt good to know others have similar dedication to their hobbies out here on the road.