Mali


12 December 2008 - Dogon Country - added by Roxy

We'd heard from a number of our fellow travellers that the most outstanding thing about Mali is how friendly the people are. We were not to be disappointed. I have never met such a friendly and open bunch of people in my life. For example, when we drive through most African villages, the children tend to smile and wave, normally while asking for cash (... or for T-shirts, pens, bicycles, Songololo etc.), but they're friendly enough. In Mali though, when you drive around, anyone and everyone you see will smile and wave at you. If you were coming straight from London to Mali, you'd no doubt find that kind of behaviour exceptionally creepy, but we loved it, even if our arms soon got tired from the amount of waving we were doing!

Whilst in Mali a definite must is a visit to Djenne, a World Heritage site due to its incredible mosque, the largest mud structure in the world. We arrived the day before the Tabaski celebrations, which mark the beginning of Eid-al-Adha, an important festival in the Muslim calendar. On the day of the celebration everyone wears new clothes, the men go to prayers on the morning, and then return to their families where they slaughter a goat and have a huge feast. Arriving the day before Tabaski had its pros and cons. A big con was that we didn't get much sleep. Beefy Songololo was too big to get into the camp site, so we ended up staying outside on the street. What we didn't know at the time was that we'd be kept awake virtually all night by the local tailors who were doing an all-nighter to complete all the new clothes for the morning, and had huge sound systems blaring music to help them through the night! That combined with what felt like millions of goats bleating... goats that somehow knew they had less than 24 hours to live and had a lot to say on the matter! So after a night of little sleep we got up early to see the stunning mosque at sunrise, which truly was a highlight of the trip so far!



While viewing the mosque our guide invited us to watch the morning prayers. So off we trotted, following all of the boys and men to the site of the prayers. I'd expected it to be quite a solemn affair, but I was surprised to see that while some of the men were lined up and kneeling on the floor, loads of other people were just mulling about doing business deals, smoking, fighting etc. Then all of a sudden the Imam was preaching, and before we knew it, he was finished (not before the microphone broke of course!) and he slaughtered the first Tabaski goat. Masses of people charged up to the slaughtered goat to try and touch its warm blood and smear it on their faces (apparently this is good luck!), Steve almost passed out, and we left... it was a fascinating morning!



Our next stop was Dogon Country, another must on a visit to Mali. The Dogon are a community of people who are noted for their complex culture and their unique villages built right into the sides of cliffs. We arrived with our guide Mohammed at a stunning Dogon Village where we were to camp. The evening was spent with Mohammed psyching us up for our challenging hike in the Dogon Country the following morning. He told us a story of how, on one similar hike, a Japanese woman found the journey so arduous that she actually lay on the ground and begged Mohammed to just leave her and let her die right there. "It's my time to die Mohammed!" Mohammed ended up having to go to the nearest village to find a few strong guys who could carry the Japanese lady to safety! Well, with a story like that, I was slightly apprehensive about the hike, but kept quiet and proceeded to carbo-load as if my life depended on it!

We woke up the following morning, had some more rice for breakfast, and then headed off. We walked for 5km on beautiful flat terrain to the next village. At the village we had a break, being told to sit in the shade and have a drink to ensure that we were hydrated for the next leg of the trip. An hour later we left. By this point I was seriously prepared for the physical and mental struggle that would follow. We then walked to the base of the mountain, had a brief 20 minute climb up to the cliffs for a tour around the old Dogon village, and then walked back down the mountain. We then had lunch for 1 hour and were told that we should sleep for 2-3 hours to regain our strength, by which time the temperature would have dropped sufficiently to allow us to continue. We obediently went for our nap.

I carried on drinking loads of water to ensure that I wouldn't dehydrate. Then, unfortunately, I needed the loo, which is never a good thing in these situations. After ascertaining where the loo was, I headed to the spot behind the wall as instructed, and cautiously approached the hole in the ground. As I neared the hole though, I saw what looked like thick black liquid coming up from it! I had let out a shriek and jumped away. I nervously approached the hole again, and again the thick black liquid came out! I then saw that it was the thickest, nastiest mass of flies that I have ever seen - I bolted!

The next stage of this mammoth hike was another 4km stint to the next village. We then had a few drinks (with Mohammed drinking gin in his beer) and went to bed. And that was it! After all that bollocks about the difficulty of the hike! So, for anyone that doesn't like exercise, the hike that we went on will suit you perfectly! The villages truly are incredible, the huts built up on the sides of the cliffs overlooking the most incredible vista of the plain below.



The next day we headed off to Burkina Faso, taking a shortcut Muhammad showed us that would lead us directly from the Dogon villages to the border. It was a very sandy piste and I was convinced we would get stuck, but Steve was in his element, and to his credit before we knew it we were back on the main road to the border. Mali has truly been a highlight of the trip thus far.



Comments:

1 .
Hello Brother and Roxy! Merry Christmas and happy new year to you both. Sounds like you've been having a ball, as usual! Cheers Doug
Doug - 29 Dec 2008, 12:16
2 .
Hi, Roxy - sounds like you are doing just fine up there. Merry Xmas & have a wonderful New Year. Thinking of you & wishing you safe travels. PJ, Julian & Daniel
Julian Harvey - 29 Dec 2008, 18:55
3 .
Dear Rox and Steve A the Angels continue to watch over you we wish you compliments of this Season and all the very best for 2009. Well Done Grandad is GREEN with envy!
Jenny/Michael Harvey - 1 Jan 2009, 11:58
4 .
Fancy not having the stomach for some Tabaski blood dots put on your faces - I think you would both have looked rather fetching - as does the bod in the photo!! Best wishes for the next aprt of the journey and have a great 2009! love mum
folks - 1 Jan 2009, 16:51
5 .
Fancy not having the stomach for some Tabaski blood dots put on your faces - I think you would both have looked rather fetching - as does the bod in the photo!! Best wishes for the next aprt of the journey and have a great 2009! love mum
folks - 1 Jan 2009, 16:51
6 .
Hi Roxy and Steve - we missed you at a big gathering of the clan at Aberfoyle. 28 Rileys/Kitcats and Herberts. Have at last got broadband so will be living your trip with you lots love Chrissie Rolfe Ryan and Brendan
Chrissie kitcat - 2 Jan 2009, 13:04
7 .
Hi Roxy and Steve - we missed you at a big gathering of the clan at Aberfoyle. 28 Rileys/Kitcats and Herberts. Have at last got broadband so will be living your trip with you lots love Chrissie Rolfe Ryan and Brendan
Chrissie kitcat - 2 Jan 2009, 13:05
8 .
lori and roxy - Happy New year... this year i wish you the the fastest queues, happiest memories, the greatest adventures, the most efficient border posts, the finest cuisines, and the safest journey. Daz
daz - 2 Jan 2009, 23:08
9 .
Hey dudes, I've finally had time to read your blog and catch up on your news. Wow, what an incredible journey you okes are having. Your blog puts ours to shame in the adventure stakes - while we've been yoga-ing in India or surfing in Sydney, you've been bartering with border control and peeing in fly-infested bog holes. Yish. Good on ya. All the best for the rest. Lots of love, Giffs
Giffy - 3 Jan 2009, 6:13
10 .
Hi Roxy and Steve, Just wanted to wish you both Happy New Year. Keep save and enjoy your adventure. xxx Caro and Josh
Caroline - 5 Jan 2009, 13:56
11 .
Rox and Steve, Happy new year! been thinking of you guys lots recently. hope you are doing so well. Looking forward to the next instalment!
Rich - 14 Jan 2009, 0:34
12 .
What a mammoth expedition! Your adventures are never-ending! Fantastic. Safari njema. Look forward to an update. Love Cindy Coster (friend of the Fossils)
Cindy Coster - 19 Jan 2009, 21:00

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