Published: January 19th 2012March 14th 2010
The next afternoon we started the Dogon trail- the main reason for my booking the trip after reading about it in a magazine, and I was not disappointed. Dogon country is pretty much wide open space occupied by tiny little villages that still follow a very traditional way of life, they vary between being Muslim, Christian etc, but there's no animosity between any religious groups. The start of the walk was probably the most comfortable and most attractive, we only started at 3pm so it wasn't so hot, we began by clambering down a steep and beautiful red rock gorge down to the valley below, with awesome views down to the village we stayed at that night where we witnessed, and as always, took part in our first dance ceremony before climbing up to our rooftop beds to stare at the stars crawling across the sky, getting used to first of many nights watching soon familiar constellations, and talked until the early hours.
The following day was a 15km trek through what was pretty much desert. Still beautiful with steep rock cliffs on either side and with little kids constantly coming up to hold your hands and/or sell you stuff
(I got a wooden slingshot: Zelda-style). That second day was also where we saw the Dogon mask dance when we stopped for lunch for the hottest part of the day, it was really cool with really bright purple pink and blue naturally died and made outfits and old intricate traditional masks, all representing a different animal or detail of the culture which was also reflected in the dance each did, i.e. snakes, buffalo, the elders etc. That night I went to bed early with a bit of sun stroke, writing the entry below in my journal, before another night under the stars with bats flying close to the rooftop, and early up the next day for more walking.
"Are they shooting stars or bats? Tiny bats flitting and flying this way and that through torchlight and reflections of the candles on the dinner table. The now familier constellations turned topsy-turvy since the night before. Little bugs dive kamikaze-style in front of the head-torch, jumping away from my scribbling pen.
My sore shoulders, raw chest and aching back feel relaxed and rested, leaning up on my elbows on a soft, ripped, and dirty mattress below my thin silk sleeping bag. I'm now only vaguely aware of my blistered toes and sandpaper heels after todays 15km trek.
People talk around and below me on the ground beneath the roof, I'm let kindly alone to my thoughts. Only those tiny black and green flies disturb me, landing rudely on my page... I resist the urge to squish them with my pen tip.
I'm peaceful, as always, in this wild and beautiful place. My stomach is nauseous and my head occasionally aches. I'm tired. Nothing affects my contentment after a day holding children's hands, greeting locals, watching foreign village dancing and taking step after step through a desert landscape, surrounded by awe-inspiring red-orange rock and the upside-down baobabs. England seems so far away."
The final day began with a tour of a village we slept in where they showed us the tombs high up in the cliffs where they buried their dead. Bodies were wrapped, and then pulled up there with rope, it was impressively high, who knows how the living got up there in the first place. From the ground you could just see the skulls and bones and crypts. The last part of the trek was a little less walking but
with a pretty exhausting climb at the end up a super steep cliff/mountain rock (and/or relatively steep rocky hill). Ice cold fanta and a beautiful view at the top made it of so worth it and a perfect end to an amazing three days.
A day or two's drive later, we were up in Segou for a longboat ride to a pottery village, after a slight mishap with the boat (it, um, sunk) we hopped aboard a new one and were on our merry way once more. The village was impressive, they took all the pottery they made to the middle of the village where it was put into a communal kiln, made just of piles and piles of hay, which the women (who else?) collected and put in place, encasing the pots, before being set alight in a huge flame. It was pretty awesome to watch, especially with all the village kids holding our hands and the hot smoke all around.
After a few nights in Segou we said our goodbyes to GP and made our way back to Burkina Faso, to Bobo Dilaso, the second city, which was fairly hectic, and not
all that safe- a typical African town. Another really cool market, plus a wee trip to the 'Sacred Fish Pond' which was not as exciting and mysterious as it sounds... We were told to buy a chicken before hand to sacrifice , which our guide was throwing around a bit on the long hot walk through more rock and desert, to get to the pond. I'm not a big fan of animals being killed for no good reason for starters, but I object a lot more to playing with it like a cat toy for the sheer pleasure of watching it get more and more agitated. I ended up taking it off our guide and carrying it for at least the last part of the way, I may also have named it Graham (mistake). Once there, we pretty much just saw Graham get ripped to shreds and get fed to what were basically catfish that had got used to being fed meat. I was not blown away, and I must admit I was pretty grumpy on the way back, more because we hadn't anticipated that we'd be walking so much and we'd run out of water a while back, and
were all uncomfortably dehydrated. That night we went to a restaurant run by nuns who sang Ave Maria to us after we ate, the sound of which was beautiful enough to have me fighting back tears, followed by a drum night in a bar in town. I ate my first Steak Tartare at the restaurant, in Africa's third poorest country, what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger, right?
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