Thu January 03 2013  —  e-mail Manfred

Dogon country, Douentza, Hand of Fatima, Hombori and beyond.

Flag Mali Dogon trader, in his shop, traditional Dogon hat.

Saturday, January 31 2009

4 years, 6 months, 9 days

Hombori, Mali

About Travel Photography,
Colors of the World.

Manfred is creator of ThisFabTrek.com, travel photography, a travel blog and a photography blog (a journey from 2004 to 2013). 'I set out to see the colors of the world, always I try to capture the colors'.

Seeing, is understanding, so I report and photograph, but formost enjoy and live those different conceptions of life (all that TV [and the web] cannot give). I reject jealousy, animosity, bigotry. Be free!

Manfred in the desert of the Western Sahara

The mind, when pondering at night and always asked those questions. What am I doing in corporate wonderland of bank, university, office or church? Who is the other animal asleep deep inside, the thinker, punk, creative, or Indian, vagabond and healer, maybe artist, writer, photographer, traveler, globetrotter? Oh God, dare you to think. When I saw the lies, gambles and manipulations I follow the old dream and set out for the journey of life lived, the journey to see the colors of the world.

During years on the road I have taken the turns as they came along, and realized one thing: Only such a small part of the planet can be explored and such a vast land and sea mass will always remain unknown, to me; many swamps, jungles, deserts and oceans will never be traveled. But then I am father of twin boys, Daniel and David, my most important, and I show them some of the wonders and colors out there.

ThisFabTrek, Photography and Journey, the Stories from the Road and Life around the World, stopped in August 2013 after more than 9 years, Love and Peace.

Last vehicle.

G20, Chevy Gladiator.

Chevrolet Gladiator G20, The boys in Cordillera Blanca, Peru.
The boys and Chevy van, Peru.

The G20, the vehicle that came to me for the Americas adventures.

6 wheeled Land Rover.

Land Rover Defender 6x6
Link to Foley

The vehicle of the Africa adventures, a Foley 6-Wheeled Land Rover Defender.

Before, the MB307.

Manfred and MB307
Journey, Middle East.

The vehicle of the Middle-East and North-Cape Journeys. See all vehicles.

Daniel and David with nanny Aisha, the best we ever had, black African Woman carrying white twin babies, in Bamako, Mali.

Land Rover 65,662km

Trekking 442km

Ferry 1,650km

Train 2,358km

Other cars 68,809km

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"There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come." - Victor Hugo.

"What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it, to tell the tale." Living to Tell the Tale - Gabriel García Márquez.

"They never taught wandering in any school I attended. ... they never taught the art of writing a book, either. It's all so mysterious."
"Wandering is an art in itself. Wandering and writing don't mix"
"Writing demands commitment and if one thing your wanderer is allergic to is that very quality of commitment, for once one is committed he runs that very risk of failure ..." Wanderer - Sterling Hayden.

"Photography enables you to grasp a place first time round. ... Photography is a means of exploration, it's a vital part of travel, almost as essential as a car or a plane. " - Wim Wenders.

"The worst prejudice we acquire during our youth is the idea that life is serious. Children have the right instincts: they know that life is not serious, and treat it as a game..." , Egon Friedell.

"How far you gonna go. Before you lose your way back home" - Tryin' To Throw Your Arms Around The World, Achtung Baby, U2.

"If you want to be a hero well just follow me." - Working Class Hero, John Lennon.

"When I think of all the things I have done, I know that it's only just begun." - I love you, Lou Reed.

"One does not escape the Sahara - the Sahara let's you go or not" - Touareg.

"Planet earth is blue and there`s nothing I can do" - This is Ground Control to Major Tom, David Bowie.

"Glory for the crazy people/in this stupid world" - Ahmed Fouad Negm.

www.thisfabtrek.com > journey > africa > mali > 20090131-hombori

Crowning my 8 months stay in Mali.

Map: Bamako, Dogon Land, to Ouagadougou.

Download GPS (KML) track/waypoints.

Skies are harmattan heavy, dusty my roads, bone dry conditions, deep fine sand most of the trip north the Niger river, Bamako, Koulikoro, Sirakorola, Nyamina, finally Markala and down to Segou. I wipe the dust of my glasses every 10 minutes or so. In the back of the truck the layers of dust grow into little dunes. An arduous trip, a trek. But the African bush and sahel have me back.

Friday night in Segou. I get to see 3 local bands, the percussion is striking, Abdoulaye still performs with his kora ensemble. Soft is his griot like narrating in Bambara, which always starts with a Oualay Bilay, "Truelly I say to you"... or so. I have taken his picture 3 years ago. He knows that I know him, I slip him 5000, like his soft touch too much. Abdoulaye Tembale and his group Benradi.

18 Jan 2009 - Sevare, near Mopti, Mali.

Mali, Nionkoro mud mosque and 20 children.
Nionkoro, mud mosque.

I have a tire repaired the next morning, drive out of town, not far in the open bush and park. I need to get an idea of the state of my car. Inspecting U-joints, grease them, check oil levels. It's always the prop-shafts and U-joints that give reasons to worry, it seems. I am happy under my Landy. After an hour I am more confident. I should make it to Mopti.

Harmattan is here to stay. I follow the Niger river on its south bank, rice is harvested, in this interior delta. In the name of The River. A bit away from the stream lie the bone dry fields of the sahel. It is so hard to imagine that in only 5 month all will be green and lush again, even flooded. Waterlevels of the holy River will then have risen by som ten metres. Hundreds of kilometres of dust, fields of millet and stuff with herds of cattle on it now, feeding of the stubs, their droppings constituting the natural essential fertilisers.

Land Rover on entering Dogon Land.
Entering the land of the Dogon.

In Nionkoro I find an elegant mud mosque, to Djénné I only get after dark. I have been here before, need my quick walk around. Most hustlers have long called it a day, the lights go out, I have a beer in complete darkness. I drive on, set over the river and arrive in Sevare near Mopti. Anew I have concerns about tires and U-joints. So repair another tire and inspect my gear before I enter Dogon Country from Somadougou via Bankass to Kani Kombole. First stop Telly.

The old village of Telly, in Dogon Land, Escarpement.
Telly the old one in Escarpement.
Old village of Telly, deserted, Dogon graneries.
Telly, escarpement.
Dogon Graneries in given up village of Telly in Escarpement
The old part/graneries.
Old Telly settlement, graneries in Dogon cliff.
In the cliff.
Dogon village of Telly, 2 baobabs, the dunes behind.
Village of Telly.
New Dogon village of Telly, mosque. Woman and child.
Mosque, Telly.

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Enter Dogon Country/Pays Dogon, Mali.

Mali, Tellem mud granaries in Bandiagara Escarpment, Dogon child in Irelli.
Dogon child, Irelli.

A total of more then 7 months or so now in Mali and finally I get the long envied trip to the Dogon (wiki), a drive along the south side of the 150km Bandiagara Escarpement, some 50km of walk in Africa's most beautiful, nature pure scenery. And the Dogon have culture, history of some 800 years in the area after migrateing from the Mande country east of todays's Bamako towards Guinea, country that looks a bit similar, with some long streching cliffs, necessary migration because of population growth and wars and both.

A view from top of Bandiagara Escarpement down on dunes, Dogon land Mali
View from top of Cliffs

And even before - there were the Tellem, pygmies, in this area, - and for a long time in cohabitation with the Dogon people, the "red Tellem" people only known to Dogon tales and sculptured in figurines of wood and stone, assimilated or chased away. Tellem structures like granaries can be found amass, high up glued to the cliff's wall, their tales are still being narrated, words transmitted orally from generation to generation of Dogon while sitting in the Togina, secrets from ancestors' times about water, animals, plants, rocks and spirits, from elders to youngs. Togina, the square open meeting room, where justice is spoken, problems of water and women discussed, where one cannot stand up (in rage) without banging his head.

Dogon Togina.
Togina, casa palawer.

And countless mystic, sacred places and substances, medicines, fetiches, animals' skins, issued curses entour these stories. The Dogon till today are largely animist, though other's claim "today we are all Muslims". Some are Christian. The plains below the Dogon escarpments were initially all densly forested with lions and elephants roaming, forcing Dogon and Tellem alike seek shelter in the caves of the cliff. Knowledge how to survive is a well garded secret.

Balanzan, Faidherbia albida
Balanzan, Faidherbia albida (wiki)

After centuries when slave traders and their African accomplices and Islamic jihadis chased the Dogon, this region has become Mali's most important tourist attraction. Dogon are distinctly friendly, to each other, their children and wives, which manifests itself through countless rituals, greetings, ceremonies, and something we would like to call women's rights.

Dogon Millet.
Millet.

They're hard working farmers, when the rains come in May all the now dusty plains become fields of millet, peanuts, beans, - and since recently rice. Onions, tomatoes, aubergines are cultivated all year round, irrigation permitting. The cliffs have many places where the water remains abundant even during the dry season. Most Dogon are self sufficient by definition.

Such is the complicated and enigmatic, to the Westerner so charming but only in bits graspable (hi)story of the Dogon.

Balanzan, Faidherbia Albida, type of Acacia, Dogon Land
Balanzan, Faidherbia Albida.
Two huge baobabs, dry milet fields south of Dogon Escarpement. Blue sky.
King of trees. Sacred trees. Baobab.

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Telly, Ende, Guiminie.

Village of Ende as seen from top of Dogon Escarpement
Village of Ende from top.
Dogon hunter and rifel, his straw load, on descent from cliffs
Hunter and straw for cattle.
Another Dogon man fetching straw from top of cliffs.
Another one fetching it from top of cliffs.
Old Dogon in his shop, Artisanat in Ende village
Old Dogon artisanat vendor.
Old Dogon in his shop, Artisanat in Ende village
Painting by Matt Ridgway.
Dogon trader, in his shop, traditional Dogon hat.
I buy a stone figurine from him.
Dogon Land Children
Dogon Land Children
3 faces of Dogon boys.
3 Dogon faces.
Dogon boy, face.
Dogon face of boy.
Group of Dogon children, village of Guiminie, Mali.
Curiouse Dogon children.
Dogon faces.
Dogon faces.
Dogon kids.
Kids, all over me.

My guide Omar tells me. He is one of 4 advisers to the elders, also sits with them in the Togina, listens and writes down their stories. He is also a relais person, in the village of Guiminie, meaning the medical connection. Children seem all well up, non really sick, dust all over the faces, no mal-nutrition, get their vitamines regularly, just the runny noses of winter. In Sahel normally the saying is you need survive the first 3 years. In general Dogon for its value re tourisme is well taken care of dispensaries, maternities, schools.

Returning from the walk to Dourou I wait for the meal to ready, Omar prepares it himself, his wife is outside under the balanzan with the other women, grating millet, she had just given birth to their second child. There is an old Janome sewing machine, inherited from his father, Omar is a tailor.

While I write 30 or so children, keeping a respectful distance of 3 meters, play a game, sit all in a half circle, older girls count their feet, touching shin after shin, some rhyme. Now Omar comes chases them away. A sure sign dinner is ready.

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Harmattan and the Dogon Cliffs.

Harmattan. Dogon Escarpement near Guiminie, Mali.
The cliffs, falaises.
Village of Guiminie, Dogon Escarpement, Mali.
Village of Guiminie. Falaise in back.
Bandiagara Escarpement Dogon Country near Guiminie, Mali, Palm Trees, Harmattan.
Harmattan, Palm Trees, the escarpement.
On top of Dogon cliffs, Harmattan haze.
On top, hazy.
Village of Guiminie, Harmattan thick skies, Mali
Harmattan thick skies.
Dogon cliffs, baobabs, old abandoned village.
Cliffs, baobas, harmattan, abandoned village.
Elder Dogon shows me water source in Dogon escarpement.
Sacred, all year water source in escarpement.

Bushcamp Land Rover in front of Dogon falaises/cliffs, Harmattan think sky.
Bushcamp, thick Harmattan in morning

No moon shine these nights, moon goes down when sun goes down. Freezing nights. No stars either due to Harmattan (wiki) and it seems it is here to stay. Roads are sandy, dunes, need deflate my tires. When I drive into Tirelli one tire goes. Also my little shitty air compressor breaks. I need to get out. But not yet. Also the skies break free. First blue in weeks.

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Tirelli, Sanga.

Dogon plateux, my guide.
My guide, huge steps.

Walk from Tirelli to Sanga, again we climb the plateau. My guide Amassamou walks ahead in huge steps over the black basalt. I follow. I like the walk. Some onion plantation. Sanga is not worth coming, a bus discharges of its load of American tourists, all well beyond 70, all in kaki, all the water bottle attached as told.

Narrow alley in Sanga, two kids play in dust. Dogon Country.
Sanga, alley, dust, kids.
Lane in Sanga, bicycle. Dogon Land.
Bicycle. Unwritten rules.
Sanga, 2 Dogon women, with head load.
Encounter. Heavy load.
Sanga. Dogon woman, baby on back, carrying heavy head load.
One waves goodbye.
Sanga. Dogon woman front, basket on head, smiles.
Get my picture.
Onion fields on top of Dogon Escarpement near Sanga.
Onion fields, near Sanga.
Water remains in collection reservoirs on top of Dogon Escarpement for many month into the dry season.
Water all dry season.

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Children on school path up/down Dogon Escarpement.

Dogon School children.
The young.
3 first graders, school children, Dogon land.
School is out.

Kids in primary schlool find a school near-by.

Second graders may have to make their way from one village to the other, this often means climbing the falaise - every day. Does keep them fit. Some however are not being sent to school like the girls of the Peul shepard in Tirelli. Peul often look after the cattle of the Dogon and settle in the dunes.

Dogon children Tirelli, school path up cliff.
School path. Every day.
School childer, Dogon Land, walk up and down cliff every day.
Older.
30 Dogon School children on top of Bandiagara Escarpement, near Tirelli.
So many.
Peul children in Dogon land, on dunes, Cliffs in background.
Kids, from Peul shepherd.
Peul/Fulani kids in Dogon land.
Cold morning.

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Irelli.

Dogon boy, in front of old Tellem and Dogon settlements in Dogon Escarpement, Irelli.
My boy, Irelli.
Irelli, Tellem and Dogon graneries/houses, in Cliff/Falaise.
Tellem and Dogon.
Tellem houses, Irelli. Dogon Land.
Tellem in Cliff.
Irelli Dogon graneries. Falaise.
Graneries and les falaises.
Irelli, Dogon Land.
Irelli, Dogon Land.
Dogon graneries, cliff, Irelli.
Dogon graneries.
Tellem, pygmy graneries, in Dogon escarpement.
Tellem/Pygmy graneries.
Tellem/Pygmy houses/graneries.
Tellem.
Two Dogon boys, Irelli.
My boys. Irelli.

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Koundou, 3 Yougas walk.

Dogon Land, walking/trekking. Young baobabs, millet stubs, acacia. Blue sky.
Setting out for another trek.
Early morning, Togina in Koundou, woman fetch water. Dogon Land Mali.
Koundou Togina.

Early morning, bright, Harmattan is a forgotton plague. I team up with Rosalind, 66 for the walk to the 3 Yougas. Youga-Na, Youga-Dougourou and Youga-Piri. From Koundou we set out over open field, young baby baobabs greet, then a quick climb over cobble stones to Youga-Na. Too early for a drink. So further on to Youga-Dougourou and into the canyon which narrows more and more as we climb higher. With the help of Dogon ladders (cut of one trunk of a tree) we succeed climb out of the gorge onto the black moon like table top surface of the cliff. It is indeed the best I have done in Mali.

Old man, Dogon basket maker.
Dogon basket maker.
Old Dogon woman, cotton spinning,
Cotton spinning.
Tellem graneries, cliff, Youga-Dougourou, pays Dogon.
Youga-Dougourou, Tellem graneries.
Narrow path, a gorge up mountain, Youga-Dougourou, Pay Dogon, Mali.
Narrow.
Rosalind and guide, The Yougas walk, view from top of cliff, Dogon Country.
The 3 Yougas walk.
View from top of cliff, Dogon land, The Yougas.
View from top.

The devil has painted the plateau black, in summer it must be hot like hell. Boots would not be enough to prevent the heat from the rock burning through the soles. This comes to my mind. And I think of a beer which we find shortly after in Youga-Piri. Mali can not get much better.

Youga-Piri, Tellem graneries in cliff, Dogon Land Mali.
Youga-Piri, Tellem stuff.
Youga-Piri, Dogon Country.
and more

The walk was it, to me this Dogon Land after 7 days cannot get any better. The worries about my tires are back. Next morning we take the road to Douentza, beautiful. Driving like on eggs. At 30k max. No air in the tires, as my compressor is out of order, really so are the tires.

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28 Jan 2009 - Douentza, on the crossroads, Mali.

Again I have grease in my hair, what great mechanic I have become over the years, hate it. The same U-joint, gives more and more reason to worry. 2 tires repaired. They're getting old. How long can I wait till start replacing them. Will I make it to Ghana?

Pays Dogon wasn't clean clean. But countryside is always cleaner. Douentza, we are back where rubbish piles up in back streets. Douentza at the crossroads, Peul (cattle herders, so proud to have been the first to embrace Islam), Tamashek (Touareg/Tuareg, proud warriors and camelriders, from the Sahara), Dogon (so honest, hardworking, every yesterday white in Bamako still prefers a Dogon in the house) and Songhai (from the old empire that dominated the region around 1600), all are here, since 1985, since the great drought, since all the Peul cattle died, since the Dogon fields lay in dust. Douentza is a melting pot of many ethnic groups. Peul number the most, Dogon own more businesses.

It is 3 in afternoon, no need go to the internet, it doesn't work at this time, doesn't work much at any other time, mobile phones don't work at night. After the early afternoon work on the Land Rover I have a second Castel beer. Talibe kids glance in by the door, recite Allah, seeking alms, a meal, a dime, a banana. Talibe, disciples in Koranic school or just beggars depending how we look at it are a Malian/Senegalese Islamic phenomenon. And I cannot give to all, all the time. Evenings when I eat I buy two extra plates of beans that my street restaurant lady shares out between them. These youngsters never had a choice. Poor parents, many Peul, give their children away, to the Marabou, islamic religious leader. He however may already have a great many kids to take care of. 2 hours talib, education and 10 hours of alm seeking, those who survive are entitled to learn read and write.

When I came to Douentza I have dug out this Dogon intelligencia, suck out what he is prepared to tell me. He claims that in Burkina they have stopped this/disalowd it. Since Thomas Sankara (wiki), he says. Entering Burkina I would see as many Talibes as in Mali, maybe more. Sankara's times have long passed.

This great, magnetic African leader, in one line with Patrice Lumumba and Kwame Nkrumah, not undestood by the West, not given a chance, loved by the people, but out of his time, ground by world politics of the time, always wrong times anyway in Africa. Sankara was assassinated by his brothers in arms, on French behest. Thomas Sankara had only 4 years to make his half-revolutionary ideas work. Now his name is remembered as Che Sankara throughout Africa.

In Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina later I would walk Kwame Nkruma Avenue and large sized wall paintings in an outside cafe would figure them all, lined up, Lumumba, Nkrumah, Guevara the real one, King, X, Sankara would be missing, no wonder, but Obama woud be there instead.

Douentza on the crossroads, what raises the concern level really is the latest kidnapping of 4 tourists and their African driver near here, on road to Niger(news24). The Tuareg rebellion is closing in. This is still a bit away, but also not so far away. 400 ks? Soemthing moves from East to West over the savanna/desert. Sudan, then Chad, now Niger's and Mali's northern regions pretty much no go zones, but attacks/abductions spilled over into the central/southern parts recently. So-far we are still happily touring in Mali, but for how much longer. New travel warnings on Mauritania warrant a nocomment.

In Dogon land I picked up Rosalind, 66. 6 days ago. First gave her a lift, she walked on her own. Then we walked sections together, she has more power then I. Rosalind, English living in Scotland has travelled the world from Everest to Antarctica like not many. She's going east now.

In Douentza we eat well, and cheaper then in Dogon Land which charges touristy prices for touristy food, a nuisance, but what can you do. Douentza means street food, chicken in juicy sauce, fried chips and plantains, potatoes and ragout. And beans, 2 plates to the talibes. Bismillah.

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Getting to Hombori and hand of Fatima.

Douentza mountains, Dry millet field, Acatia.
Douentza mountains.
Peul boys, Douentza mountains. Acacia. Dry millet fields.
Peul boys. Dry millet fields.
Mountain range  north of Douentza
North of Douentza
Desert mountains, Mali, blue sky and clouds. Acacia.
Desert mountains.
Acacia in desert, dirt road around mountains north of Douentza, Mali.
Acacia.
6x6 Land Rover, desert mountains north of Douentza.
Land Rover.
Rosalind Cooper and Land Rover north of mountain range near Douentza, Mali.
... and Rosalind, who hitched aother ride.

The drive from Douentza to Hombori around the mountains to the north and then between Boni and the Hand of Fatima to the south of the main road is one of the most magnificent I have undertaken since in Africa. Like crowning the crowning. Amidst a half circle of red volcano structures that rise some hundreds of meters from the savanna plains. Monuments shaped by millions of years of winds and sand.

Dogon boys on bicycles near Boni, Mali. Ouro Nguerou.
You can take my picture because we talked.
Rocky mountain, Ouro Nguerou, south main Douentza, Hombori, main road near Boni.
South main road. Ouro Nguerou.
Tamoura women, slaves of the Peul.
Tamoura women.

To me this is Mali and it cannot get any better. Such enthused I buy a few beers too many that night. From midnight on I suffer from one of the worst diarrhoeas ever. Food poisoning, the Senegalese, A Hombori street restaurant institution, the meat, left over liver from lunch, what ever. Or is it just a heat stroke. It is getting hot so very rapidly. Still early in year. Sun's banging down, no mercy from 8 a.m. onwards. We have moved north-east. Sahara is close.

Hand of Fatima, Rosalind, me and Land Rover. Mali.
Near Hand of Fatima.
Me, in front of Hand of Fatima. Hombori, Mali.
Evening.
Shadow of me in front of Hand of Fatima, Mali, taking pictures.
Taking pictures

After two days hanging in the robes, sleeping in the shade where I find it, this is my final good bye from Mali, la main Fatima, the setting moon, at Campo Espangnola. In total while on the Fab Trek, I have spent some 8 month here in Mali.

Twilight, Hand of Fatima, Acatia.
Twilight.
Nighttime falls over Hand of Fatima, moon shine, and stars.
Nighttime, my goodbye from Mali.

I leave Hombori next morning, crossing desolate border country, left to its own devices, no one cares about the people here but Allah maybe, out of reach of NGOs and governments. Left with the heat and dust, the brains burnt out these shepherds are left with medition and prayer. Still in Mali, exact border is unclear, I take two elders on board, they hitch a ride when I ask for the road, we follow the route of donkey cart trails through broken trees and scrub to Djibou. A foolish, funny lot. They seem to joke all the time. Funny Comics. No conversation is possible. They don't know how to unscrew a bolt when I need change a tire, that virtually exploded. Where from?

They're happy with the ride, I am with their guidance. In Djibou I get rid of them, otherwise I never find the customs here. Next morning after repairing 2 tires I ride to Ouaga.

Here I repair two more tires... 7 or 9 in 3 weeks since leaving Bamako... Now I definitely change them more often then my underwear.

Ouagadougou is lively, friendly. What will it bring to me? Fespaco will be on soon, the biannual African Film Festival, whose name and reputation has lured me for those past 3 years.

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