We arrived first in Bamako, the capitol of Mali. We knew right away we weren't in Kansas anymore, you can bet on that. First things first, and it was off to the market after Erin spent a morning haggling terms with our driver for the trip to Dogon and Djenne.
We picked out some fabric to make a skirt for me, which was done on the spot while we waited.
Most of this clothing comes from thrift stores like Goodwill which are bought up in bulk for pennies then shipped to places like Bamako for sale for cheap.
Our first stop on our tour was to Djenne, home of the world's largest mud mosque. It needs to be recrepped every year (new mud applied).
This one is a little hard to see but this is a Koranic school. The little boys are studying from tablets which you can see against the wall
After Djenne, we made a very quick stop at Boungel to drop off some of our bags. The villagers were anxious to meet us but Erin held everyone at bay as we needed to make the journey to Songha for the night and prepare for our hike into Dogon country. Banu met us at the car and gently knelt down in front of us in respect. Then we were off to Songha, a village perched at the edge of an escarpment along which there are many Dogon villages. We met our guide Amassagou Dolo and made plans for the hike.
By looking at the map, I was concerned at to how far this hike was going to go, I really couldn't hike too far for too long, but Erin assured me it was only 7 kilometers over 3 days, so how hard could that be? Well,, it started out pretty easy as we walked through a valley and looked up the cliffs to see ancient Dogon dwellings abandoned long ago and burial caves with stacks of bones.
Then we walked through a cleft in the rocks and at the end, I got the surprise of the day.....
There were some anxious moments clambering down these rocks. It was literally straight down. So much for an easy hike. About half way down we met these two women climbing up so they could do some shopping. When we met them they were naked from the waist up but when we wanted to take their picture they covered themselves up. These women climbed effortlessly up this escarpment. We found out that children do it every day in order to go to school, sometimes twice in a day. It was also very hot, over 100 degrees F.
This is looking back up at where we had started from:
These structures are the graneries and store houses. From the village looking out over the desert you can see where desertification is threatening all of this part of Mali. That's sand in the distance and the border to Burkino Fasso is not far off.
One of the most interesting structures was the Togona. It was a council house of sorts, where elders could sit and visit as well as make decisions about the village. If there was a contention between villagers, the problem would be brought to these elders and they would make a decision.
In the picture below you can see the different "levels" of villages from modern times back up the cliff where they lived hundreds of years previously for protection from raids.
Next stop: Boungel and the big party!!