Dogon country to Burkina Faso

Trip Start Oct 01, 2002
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Trip End Aug 08, 2005


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Flag of Burkina Faso  ,
Thursday, February 27, 2003

We have had a pretty eventful time since our last entry. On the 15th we left for Dogon country in the south of Mali. After a hectic morning, getting a reluctant Marlies a malaria test (as she was feeling quite bad and planned to bus to Gao in the east of Mali), Kev running around on the back of Ibrahim's, (our friendly Dogon guide) moped trying to change money on the black market, and Sian arguing with the campsite owner as he attempted to rip us off, we eventually set off for our 5 day trek in Dogon country at around lunchtime.

Arriving in Bandiagara for the start of our trek at around 4pm, it was still quite hot and dusty but the walk across to the escarpment and then down the cliff face was pretty spectacular. As we walked into the first village at the base of the cliff the sun was setting behind the baobab trees and the mud brick mosque and we noticed a complete lack of electricity and telephone wires. Dogon country has been completely cut off from civilisation and development but has recently started to adapt due to the number of tourists visiting. In fact the Dogon people, and the pygmies who lived here before them, built houses into the cliff face and only moved down in the 70s when the wild animals started to disappear. It is a land that has been untouched and the people are very traditional in their ways with ritual stilt dances, wooden carved face-masks and doors and animist beliefs (spirit worship). Unfortunately it is now becoming more touristy.

Our porter took us for a tour round the village explaining everything in sign language, as he was deaf and dumb, but it was an excellent tour. The night was very warm so we slept on the roof of the chief's house, watching the stars and the full moon between the branches of the baobab trees. The next morning we set off in the heat and after negotiating our way past the 'cadeau' kids and traders, we walked for 8km along the base of the cliff following a dusty track to the next village. Here we climbed up the cliff face to walk through an old village built into the cliff. It was amazing, houses and granaries built partially on stilts and tiny pygmy houses carved into the rock face, stretching for hundreds of metres. Another dusty 8km trek brought us to a colourful market town where we started a steep climb back up onto the top of the cliff, to another village with amazing views of the sahel below.

After dinner and watching the moon rise we settled down for another night on a rooftop. Unfortunately it was a bit colder and quite windy so at around midnight we relented to find somewhere more sheltered. As Sian stepped onto the tree-trunk 'ladder' to climb down, she lost her footing and fell, about 8ft, head first onto a rock on the ground and also hurt her back and hip. A local man and some American peace-corps workers, also on a trek, came to our assistance and with a mixture of traditional and modern methods made Sian as comfortable as possible until morning when we could arrange transport out of one of the most remote villages on the trek. By morning Sian was just about up and limping, and as the others set off to continue the trek, we set off to meet our taxi, some 2km away. Sian, walked, crawled and was carried to the road, also needing to climb up a rocky cliff face in the noon-day sun. Upon reaching the road, we found that the taxi had broken down and so we waited over 2 hours until we finally set off on a very rough road to the hospital in Mopti......again!!!!

The service in the Mopti hospital was very good for what you may expect in Africa and after a sewing up Sian's relatively minor head injury that night and a few X-rays the next day, the doctor could only prescribe rest, which isn't exactly easy in an African hotel. When the truck arrived back to meet us in Mopti we were more than ready to leave Mali and our bad luck behind. Mali has been a land of contrasts, full of wonderful sites, culture and people, that can be either really friendly and expect nothing in return, or try to take advantage at every opportunity.

Within a few miles of entering Burkina Faso on the morning of the 20th, the dry terracotta coloured landscape of Mali was transformed into lush green paddyfields and trees. We journeyed to Bobo Dioulasso, a nice town, with a good camp-site that served excellent pepper steak for less than two pounds. Alex, an Australian writer for the Lonely Planet joined us for a while as we headed for Banfora, driving past fields of burning sugar cane to a series of high waterfalls where we all bathed and looked out across the landscape as the sun set. That night we were sent to sleep by a deafening frog and cricket chorus that stopped as soon as the cockerel cried out. The next morning Paul, John and Will posed for 'calendar' shots by the waterfalls as the locals watched in amusement. On the way to Ouagadougou John managed to navigate us to an excellent camp site at the edge of a river, where the next morning and throughout the day, herds of wild elephants appeared, crossed the river, drank, played and covered themselves in mud. It was amazing, they were less that 10 metres away and were wonderful to watch. Dragging ourselves away from this idyllic spot, Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso was next. Paul negotiated our way through manic traffic in the centre of town and we ended up camping at Hotel Ok Inn, where we have been spoiling ourselves and spending the heat of the day relaxing by the swimming pool and eating very well at the local roadside stalls for less than a pound. It's a bit on the hot side, around 40 degrees but frequent visits to the pool and lots of fresh strawberries are helping us get by!! Sophie and Tijn have reappeared after some Burkina adventures and have been staying with Alex (Canadian who left us in Bamako) who is now running his aunt's restaurant here in Ougadougou.

Yesterday, (25th) we went to the Ghana embassy for our visas and then on to an arts and crafts fair where we wandered through loads of stalls selling countless African artefacts and touristy souvenirs, we refrained from buying but talked to one local over our first African Guinness, which was........different. Sian is getting better each day and has now had her stitches removed by an apparently very experienced John. Our plans for the next few days will be to relax by the pool, enjoy the warmth, food and sample a film or two from the international film festival currently on in town. On Friday we depart for Ghana and English speaking territory, at last!!!!!

Anyway, take care all,
Cheers
Kev and Sian
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