Saturday, 24 October 2009

She Says – Dogon Country, I Want To Stay!

23-24 October
We’ve been having a rest day today, not only getting over our trek but to get things sorted out like camera downloads (I think I’ve taken about 400 shots over 5 days…) and to get all our washing done. I spent about 2 hours this morning washing our clothes and bedding, but it could have taken longer if I hadn’t had a little helper! I decided the best thing to do was wash in the river with all the local people, especially seeing as it would take a lot of water and effort in the auberge, and anyway, everyone else was down there doing it! Feeling a little nervous, I carried our big bucket of laundry down towards where I thought a suitable spot was – near others to be social, flat enough to get good access to water and pounding space, not too close to anyone else. As I approached my spot, a boy smiled at me from the other side of the river and pointed to the spot I was heading to – excellent, I had chosen the right place! I set up my tub of soapy water and got started, when the boy crossed over and started helping! At first, I thought he was just showing me what to do, but he kept grabbing laundry from my bucket and washing it, even when I said thankyou and it was ok in my limited French, but he wouldn’t be deterred! In the end, we got through the whole load together, and while I scrubbed my tough-to-clean long sleeve shirt, he rinsed everything out. In the mean time, some girls came and sat with us, obviously waiting for the spot to do their washing, but I think they thought I was a bit funny. Most people seemed to accept I was washing and thought little of it – well, I think so, I said hello to a few women, but got rather focussed on my work till the girls arrived! It certainly works extremely well, pounding onto the rocks, scrubbing tough bits across the rocks and sand (that shirt has never looked better!), then rinsing in running water. Unsure whether the boy, Mahmadou, was expecting payment or just helping me, I had decided to make sure he got something for his help – it was very hot and it was 2 hours of hard work – and to ask Bouba at the auberge what was appropriate, a soft drink or money and how much? I managed to get Mahmadou to come up to the auberge with me, where he met Xander, then waved and left! We got him to come back, especially when we mentioned ‘sucrerie’ (soft drink) and his eyes lit up. Obviously that was quite a treat, and at 450CFA a bottle I’m sure it’s not a treat he gets often (less than a pound for us, probably half a meal for him). Duly paid for his excellent work, Mahmadou disappeared for a while, and I later saw him back where he started. I think he must have been doing laundry for other people to be able to leave and help me like that. I don’t know, but he sure made my life a lot easier!

So the last day of our hike was tough but good. Neither of us slept well, due to a warm night without wind. Tiemo had stayed up all night and Xander was tired, so at least I wasn’t the only one walking slow in the morning! A young man who sometimes helps Tiemo with equipment portering joined us. We had some light rain the night before, and clouds built up again in the morning and it was very muggy. We started with a quick visit to Nombori’s old village, still in use as a sacred site so we couldn’t visit much, then on up the escarpment through a tough valley to Idjeli ‘at the top’. We followed a stream down through a forest laden with mango trees, and visited the pools of fish that are sacred and can’t be fished, to the lower part of Idjeli (‘Idjeli over the river’). The village was really pretty, but unfortunately it started raining heavily when we arrived and it wasn’t really possible to take photos. It’s a shame as the buildings are mostly built up the hill and it was a very small town. We sheltered in a small restaurant and had drinks while it bucketed down. Eventually we had to hit the trail again. We headed back along the flat but sandy track to Nombori, admiring the cliff face from a different angle, reaching the village at 11am. There were Tellum houses all along the escarpment, amazing. By the time we reached Nombori, the rain had stopped and it was very muggy. The rain had made the sand slightly easier to walk across, but not much! We had a quick break, said goodbye to Tiemo’s friend, then it was on up the steep cleft we had come down the night before. It wasn’t as tough as expected, especially when the occasional breeze came through, unlike the morning’s hike, which was tough going. We made it up with only two stops, one for a snack break, another for rest. After that it was across the flat to Douro for lunch. It was market day, so we went to the goings-on and try some snacks – hot peanut mush with bissap/hibiscus leaves, and cooked water lily tubers (like potatoes mixed with sweet potatoes, tasty with a bit of salt). The market was amazing, so many colours from all the women’s clothing. We didn’t take cameras, though the shots would have been nice! Somehow it felt obtrusive to photograph the people going about their business. I have to note that we never wanted for anything on our trek. Tiemo not only crammed us with food at mealtimes, but always made sure we had snacks of peanuts, biscuits, watermelon. This is good, as I had noted I need to keep up my food content and he certainly made sure of it! While at the Douro market, he paid for all the food we tried, and he always made sure we had plenty of water to filter whenever we needed it.

At 4.30pm, our car arrived, and we spent a very bouncy hour travelling back to Bandiagara. We all went off for showers, and Xander and I set up our tent on the roof to keep cool. After dinner, Tiemo came back. We paid him and gave a tip, which he complained was too much but we thought was too little. He gave us a fantastic experience we’ll never forget. He mentioned doing another trip on Sunday on our bikes, so we’ll see if he’s back for drinks tonight and whether it will cost or if it is just as friends.