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Mark Moxon's Travel Writing

Mali: Marmalade!

A crowd boarding the ferry Tomboctou
When faced with the chaos of boarding a ferry on the River Niger, don't panic, just remember the magic word...

Heading out into the chaos of West Africa can feel like going into battle. You might want to do something relatively simple – buying some toothpaste, checking out boat timetables or tracking down an internet café, perhaps – but in some places simply stepping outside your door is asking for trouble. Touts appear out of thin air like mischievous pixies, dancing round you like overacting extras in Les Miserables; the traffic throws clouds of noxious gas into your face, making you feel as if you've chain-smoked a whole packet of Liberté cigarettes; and when you finally find the shop, office or café you're looking for, actually making the purchase can be like playing chess with a blindfold on. It's not designed to be easy, living in the poorest area on Earth.