March 17th: Had nothing to do today besides organise the guide. That was easily done so we spent the rest of the day
around the piscine. The evenings meal was Moroccan cous cous with a stewy meat topping and, as can be expected, was absolutely brilliant.
March 18th: We were all anxious to get going early this morning. We were heading to the Dogon country, which,throughout this whole trip, has been one of the more eagerly anticipated excursions. After picking up our guide, Ogo, and having him organise some kola nuts we were off. Ogo is actually quite the little smarty, he speaks a little of just about every language, he's extrememly organised, and really clued up about the Dogon culture (he himself is a Dogon). The Dogon country is a thirty minute drive from Macs Refuge. On the way there we stopped briefly at a point that Ogo explained to be the starting point of the Dogon country. Up until the stop Johan and I had worn our seatbelts. Unfortunately, after the stop we forgot to put them back on, and, as lovely lady fate would have it, 100 metres down the road we passed some police. All we heard was the whistle before noticing the policeman ushering us to the side of the road. Fortunately I had enough time to quickly yank mine on, Johan on the other hand had to drive, so he wasn't so fortunate. They came over, took his drivers licence, and began explaining the infraction and penalty. This was the first time that Ogo proved just how useful he is. He had seen us getting pulled over and came rushing to our aid. He nattered on in the Dogon tongue, him and the policeman went to one side, nattered some more, there was some gesticulating, and then two cigarettes changed hands. That was it! Problem fixed! And here we've spent entire days, and many Euros, trying to overcome such infractions, and here he does it with two cigarettes! Anyway, problem solved and we continued our drive through the Dogon country.
March 16th: Today, after an amazing pancake and french toast breakfast, We were at a loss for things to do. We intend to
go to the Dogon country in a day or twos time but need to organise everything with the guide first. So, what eventually
transpired is that Pat and Sarah went in search of an internet connection while Johan and I lounged in the pool and watched
movies. It was some good down time in preparation of the trek ahead. In the evening the supper was of an Indian influence.
We had a similar soup starter, for mains we had an indian curry with a selection of toppings, and for desert we ate a slice
of papaya. Once again, I was so stuffed I could barely move, so I went to bed.
March 15th: We went to the Fombori village, and like mister Jerome said, it was absolutely worthwhile. After walking
through the museum and looking at all their ancient artifacts we were taken for a walk into the mountain alongside the village.
It was amazing. The sun was still low in the sky and the heat wasn't yet unbearable enough to impede the walk. Half way up
the purpose of the walk was realised. What we found were gravesites. Apparently what the Fombori tribesman do is bury
their dead in the mountain rockface and surround the gravesite with mud, leaving a window just big enough to view the
dead. The graves were simple, yet the way these people revere their dead, and place them in such a manner so that even
in death they can survey the landscape, was beautiful beyond description. We could sit and watch the goings on
of the villagers daily lives below us. People were drawing water, women broken into groups surrounding the village were
beating grain in large mortar and pestle type vessels, and the herdsman were overseeing their cattle. It was all a sight to
behold, and I could understand why they would want their dead to continue their watch over them. There could be no greater
peace than this.
March 14th: Once we were packed up we made our way for Douentza where we had heard about the legendary eccentric frenchman, Monsieur Jerome and his campsite "camp Jerome". When we got there we quickly learnt that the stories weren't myth. Mister Jerome is indeed quite eccentric. He's a very interesting guy and has many tales about his exploits, specifically his guinnes book of records trip from Algeria to Cape town in 8 1/2 days! At 4pm he abruptly stopped the conversation and told us all to go shower, which we did. I hope it wasn't because we smelled. Afterwards he sat with us, offered us beer, and told Johan that, due to his history in the medical profession, he knew it was fine for Johan to have his first beer in three days despite his meds. However, as soon as Johan had gulped it down he decided to inform him he was screwed and shouldn't have been drinking with that specific medication! He then organised for us to visit the neighbouring Fombori village the next day. This is apparently one of the most noteworthy sights in the area, so we gladly took his advice.
Afterwards we continued north - westwards where we saw the Hand of Fatima (which we completely missed on our first
passing) and Hombori Tonda, which is the highest point in Mali. The sights were spectacular, and once there we discussed
wether we would continue on to Gao or turn back and head for Sevare where, we had been informed by Jerome, we would
find Macs Refuge. Thanks to Jeromes advice about Gao not being a worthwhile excursion we turned back. One other thing
that Jerome had informed us of was that we HAD to be at Macs Refuge by 7pm in order to partake of his supper table.
Apparently Mac is world renowned for setting the best table in Mali. This was a big enough incentive to have us screaming
down the route at 100km/h, not even slowing for potholes. We got there with 45 minutes to spare, settled in, had a beer,
took a swim and headed straight for the dining area. We weren't disappointed. The meal this evening had a Mexican
theme, and consisted of a spicy lentil soup starter, Taco mains with a selection of fillings, and a ice cream and fruit sorbet
desert. We could eat to our hearts desire, and we did. There was so much food in fact that you could feed another 3
Johans and James' four times over. My stomach hurt afterwards and I had to retire straight to bed.
20th March:This morning, after climbing down from the Begnematou mountain village, we headed to the neighbouring village to collect our cars which we had left there overnight. Once there our full hatred for Coudou accomodating touristic idiots was realised. Some git had given the little buggers their much desired bics (the pen), and, they had used them to practice their numbers down the sides of the cars! One thing I did take note of is that they do really well until they hit the number 6, after that things just go pear.
My Dogon fetish ring desire was recognised today as well. I have been searching high and low for one of these and,
they have avoided me the whole time. Only after the entire days tom foolery did Ogo decide to inform me that the rings had to be handed on from a loved one. Well that was it then, my ring dream shattered just like that. Or was it? Apparently not. Ogo quickly rushed off without another word. We continued to relax at the "Le Hogon" campsite bar. After a few more beers, and starting to feel just a little sozzled, he returned. He walked up to the table and handed me a rolled up paper package that at first held a scary resemblance to a little known green narcotic. My first reaction was bluntness induced shock and a bit of stuttering, and a lot of hoping that no-one had witnessed the handover. However, when I un-wrapped it my worries were greatly diminished. It was the ring! He had gone off and collected one for me, and on top of this act, he wanted absolutely nothing in return for it! I immediately purchased two beers and used the ring to open them. Well, to be completely honest, I managed to open one bottle and nearly broke my finger on the second attempt. Ogo man, for that gracious act I love you like a brother! In a totally non-gay pleutonic way of course (I know how that isn't acceptable amongst Dogons). The rest of the evening became quite interesting. Sarah adopted a somewhat unhealthy fascination towards the European - long drop conversion of a sunken porcelain loo (um...that sounds wrong, lets just say she really liked the concept of it) Pat hit his three beer limit and passed out in his tent. Johan and I slept on the campsite roof which, we soon learnt, was situated alongside a piggery. I wasn't too surprised then when I had a dream that I was trapped in a pig sty being chased by a horse sized pig beast.