Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Day 9 Dogan Country

Day 9: A hike through Dogan
Warning... The Dogan are a people (tribe) that live in Mali. They had the strongest culture and it was the most fascinating part of the trip to hike through their area. Therefore we had to take as many pictures as possible. I did my best to sort through them, but the days we were in Dogan country will probably have a few too many pictures. Skip through if you must.
Our first stop was to visit the Hogan (chief) of the village. The Hogan of our local guide's village is currently 115 years old. They never take a bath because they are only supposed to be licked clean by a snake. It was very difficult to understand some of their culture and customs because everything is "magic" or "secret".

Some of the sacrifices brought to a Hogan's home to place in the holes in the wall.
This is Devennie almost brushing up against a sacred wall. We had to be very careful where we walked and what we touched because we were not Dogan.

These men are to answer the questions of the village. I believe they call them the soothsayers. They draw a board in the dirt and then place peanuts on it. During the night foxes come and eat the peanuts and the next day the soothsayers read their tracks.
Looking closely, you can see the windy road we had to drive up on.

We were there during the dry season so they were harvesting onions. The men harvest the millet and the women harvest the onions. Pretty much if you are a man during the dry season, you sit around. As you can see, the women are still responsible for their children and watering acres and acres of onion fields by hand.
Then they take the onions and mash them up while kicking them back into a pile. They then form them into little balls for cooking. Daniel wanted to help with the onion mashing.
This is our guide, Ogotemelou and his mother. She took a quick break from the onion field to come say hello to us.
The Tellum people, a group of people who were driven out by the Dogan, used to live in these cliff dwellings super high up. Now their homes are used as burial tombs for the Dogan people. The white stuff is some sort of sacrifice. (They still do human sacrifice in this area but the details are all secret.)
Just taking a quick breather. We hiked a total of 15 or so miles this day in around 100 degree weather.
The rocks outline the family courtyard and the little huts are where they store things.
I just wanted to show that this wasn't just easy hiking. This was scaling along cliffs and up and down all day long.
Isn't this a cool pictures of Toby?
Going up into another village.
Each village had one of these structures built for the elders of the village. If they had a matter to discuss, they would meet here and figure it out. The ceiling is low so that if some one's temper got the best of them and they jumped to their feet, they would hit their head and know that they needed to calm back down.
Some of the older Dogan homes at the base of a cliff. The newer homes are built a little bit lower.

Day 8 Oh so car sick

Day 8: 10 hour drive to the Dogan
We were up and in the car by 6am in order to catch the ferry out of Timbuktu. The people acted like it was 5 degrees and were all sitting around shivering. Here is a family hanging out by their house at 7am.

The kids all wanted handouts. The closer we got to the Dogan area, the more the kids enjoyed getting our old water bottles. (above) Besides, that was one of the things our guide told us we could give them. This shot is obviously before I started getting sick. (below)The roads were still decent and we hadn't gone off on our "short-cut" yet.
We stopped for a break about 4 hours into the drive to get gas and cross the only normal looking road for hours. We watched the women gathering for their local market.

I ended up sitting in the front seat so I could handle the ride, and here is what Toby is doing in the back! Can you believe he is sleeping through this?!
The whole country is flat but then all of sudden you see this huge escarpment in the distance. It was amazing to see because of how different the rest of the country is.
I just want to take a minute to tell you how absolutely amazing our driver was. He drove through sand, water, rock and anything else you can imagine. At the end of this tedious day, he drove the car up the steepest slope you have ever seen a road on and deposited us safely at our hotel in Sangha.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Day 7 Shopping in Timbuktu

Sunrise on the desert. To get to where there are no trees or vegetation, we would have had to ride camels for 2 days straight.
Toby took this picture. Isn't it cool?

On the way back to Timbuktu, we stopped to see how some of the people in the desert lived. This is their home. What do you think?

Back in Timbuktu, we went shopping. This man is pounding metal pieces into wood to make it more decorative.

Daniel wanted to buy a traditional robe. He ended up getting one tailor-made for him.


Look at all of those flies!! No wonder we weren't allowed to eat much of the food from the market!
Just a cool picture.

Day 6 Timbuktu and the Sahara Desert

The day started out with a tour of Timbuktu. This is a picture of the ovens used by the women to do the cooking. Their bread is a flat, round bread that is actually pretty good. How would you like to have an oven like that?
The kids were never very clean. I just wanted to get a picture of one of the kids in the city with the typical shirt only attire.

Here is a cradle. Can you imagine putting your baby into one of these? Next to it is a wood frame for the mother's bed with a straw mat on top to sleep on. Looks comfy huh?

After the city tour we went outside of the city limits to meet our camels. The best part about riding a camel is getting on. What a ride!

Toby and Daniel had a hard time riding their camels due to the fact that they kept sliding forward in their seats. I just love the black turbans. Afterall, you can't go into the desert without a turban.

I was officially the BEST camel rider of the group. You can ask anyone. I guess I was born into the wrong country or something.
This is Devennie and I riding off into the sunset.

We pulled into our camp out in the Sahara Desert just before it got dark. The little tents in the background are made of camel skin and are where we got the priviledge to sleep.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Day 5 Chirstmas

Christmas morning. Santa still found us even though we were in the middle of nowhere!

Another welcoming group waiting for us at a village.

We got stuck in the reeds because the wind was blowing so hard. It took awhile to get out and had us a little worried for a while.
At a village just outside of Timbuktu we stopped to visit a market.
Our guide told us it was unsafe to take a picture of the guys with swords. Of course Toby took that as a challenge. They guy with the teal turban on the right has a sword.

We landed in Timbuktu and caught up on some laundry while enjoying a relaxing afternoon.

Christmas dinner!!

Day 4 Christmas Eve

On Christmas Eve we woke up early and loaded back on the boat.
Here we are enjoying some sunshine on top of the boat while pondering the important things of life.
Everyone spoke French, so once we got past the language barrier we really had fun with the kids.
One of the bigger villages we stopped in had foosball (little foot as they call it) so of course Toby and Daniel had to show off their skills.
I asked one of the ladies if I could try holding her bucket of water on my head to see how heavy it was. It's heavier than I expected. How do they do that?!
Here I am having fun with the kids and admiring the very cool hairdos.
Okay, this post has a lot of pictures of me. Sorry! But I wanted to show what it was like in the different villages. I pretty much had a group of kids surrounding me everywhere I went.
The houses were all made out of these mud bricks so you could always see bricks drying out around the villages.
That night we once again camped along the river. We read the Christmas story from the Bible as well as a few more holiday stories.