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Published: January 4th 2007
Happy New Year! So 2007 may be well under way but I've only just found a cyber cafe at last and recovered enough from the festivities to write anything!
I hope everyone has had a great few weeks, I certainly have. I loved Mali, it is definitely one of my favourite countries so far, although two days in Burkina Faso is making me love this country too! Everyone is so friendly and happy and generous, despite these countries being some of the poorest in the world.
Well I doubt I'll ever get another chance, so I was very pleased to find out we were going to mysterious Timbuktu for Christmas. To be honest it's not so mystical, just a sleepy, dusty town in the middle of nowhere at the end of a very bumpy dirt track, but still a perfect setting for a great Christmas. Our trip leader, Jeff, went out of his way to make sure we had a fantastic time and he slaved away all day preparing a feast, even managing to cook lasagne on an open fire! Highlight of the day was after our cooked breakfast, when Santa turned up with his elf helper and a
Brenda in all his glory!
our beautiful, respected and responsible driver!
huge sack of presents. We all got to sit on his lap and were given goody bags and our secret santa presents. There were some hilarious gifts in there. Brenda(n), our driver, spent the day prancing around in a very fetching peach belly dancing outfit and Jeff galloped around on his broom camel! My very unfortunate secret santa had had his bag stolen earlier in the trip and was stuck in Bamako replacing his passport, but some of the girls had put their heads together and I was presented with a bottle of ketchup cleverly disguised as 'Frankie's make it less spicey sauce'! When there was a break in the cooking and party games I went outside and introduced the kids of Timbuktu to bottles of bubbles. The first time I blew a stream of bubbles they screamed and ran away - I thought I was going to be run out of town! But then they realised they were harmless and were all crowding around me wanting to have a go themselves, it was very funny seeing their faces!
After Timbuktu we went to Dogon Country and spent three days trekking along the escarpment to various villages, including the
fantastically names Djiguibombo (pronounced something like Jiggyboombo!). It was so nice to get away from the truck, but not so good to realise just how unfit we've all become after such a short time! The walking wasn't particularly difficult but it was 44°C! The Dogon people used to live in mud huts clinging to the cliff faces and it is only very recently that they have moved down to the base of the escarpment. Unfortunately this move has coincided with considerable tourist interest and their traditions seem to be rapidly disappearing in the rush to cash in. It was an interesting place to visit but I do wonder what impact our presence is having. They are also famous for their wood carvings and mud cloth blankets, I only resisted leaving with my own weight in souveneirs because I would have had to carry them all out myself!! In fact you'd all be very impressed, I actually had the smallest bag of everyone in our group!
Another first for me as 2006 ended...we bought two sweet and innocent little piggies at market and watched as their throats were slit and they squealed their last breathes. Sorry, not a pleasant description,
Dogon meeting house
The ceiling is really low so that people can't fight when they come here to discuss problems in the village.
not a desperately pleasant experience, but one I'm glad I've had. Being here is making me face up to where our food comes from, and despite what you'd think if you lifted the floor of the truck, food does not all come wrapped in plastic from Tescos! Plus the hog roast was perhaps the most delicious meat I've ever eaten when we stuffed our faces on New Years Eve! What didn't help was lots of Gin and dancing round the camp fire afterwards!
It's also tough, especially at this time of year when we're all being so frivilous, to see people who have so little. It's amazing the things people cherish here that we think of as rubbish. For instance, kids on the side of the road are delighted if you give them your empty plastic bottles and jam jars, and take the skins of your watermelon and suck off the leftover flesh you'd think nothing of throwing away. It's definitely making me appreciate what I have more.
Too much partying, meat eating, sun and dust storms have taken their toll and I'm now recovering from a cold and wishing for home comforts more than ever! The Harmattan
New Years Celebrations
Dan, Me, Beccie and Luke
wind is blowing sand off the Sahara and for the past few days the sky has looked very similar to what I imagine it looks like back home. I'm certainly looking forward to getting away from the dust and into the tropics soon.
I'll put photos up when I get to Ghana in a week or so as I'm hoping they have better connections, there's plenty for you to have a laugh at! Missing you all fxx
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