Dogon Trek Tireli To Sanga, Nov 17, 2007

Trip Start Sep 19, 2007
Trip End Jan 05, 2008

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

After the dance is was another long hike to Ireli village for our second night in Dogon land.  At least in Ireli the beer was well chilled and there was much time to enjoy them and re-hydrate after the long hot day before dinner was served very late.  Our guide through Mali (Grandpere) saw to it that our Dogon meals consisted of things westerners like us would find palatable, in this case chicken with sauce over spaghetti.  The Dogon country meals were actually a pleasant surprise, especially after Dave's warnings to us about their awfulness from his experience as a passenger on our same tour four years earlier. 
We all slept out in the open again on roofs of the buildings around the courtyard that form Ireli's tourist center.  A hot wind blew down the escarpment that night, whipping up a great deal of dust and suffocating me as I came to realize my respiratory condition was probably a sinus infection rather than just a cold.  In the morning I began taking the antibiotic I brought along with me for such situations. 
In the morning we were taken on a guided tour of Ireli village, including a close up look at the cave dwellings carved high into the cliffs.  The caves were the home of the Tellem people, the previous inhabitants of the region the Dogons drove out in the fifteenth century.  The Dogons continue to have extensive legends about the Tellem cliff dwellers, a people whom they refer to as Pygmies.  The caves now serve the Dogons as burial grounds where immediately after a death the body is wrapped in cloth and hoisted up into a burial cave in the cliff face. 
Another very interesting feature of all Dogon villages we passed through is the Toguna House.  These are open wood and thatch-covered structures usually decorated with relief images of masked dancers that serve as meeting places for village elders. 
It was another long walk on an excruciatingly hot sunny morning to our final trek day's midday break stop, and the herds of little begging Dogon children were becoming more than I could take.  As I was trekking that morning I was constantly met by little children all screaming at me, "Donnez moi un Cadeau!' and "Bon-Bon, Bic, Bado", it took me a while in deep thought before I figured out that Bado meant bottle.  Now what is it they do here with all those empty bottles and aluminum cans they collect from trekking tourists?  But I also began to realize there was material for a song in all this and began singing to myself as I walked (as I am inclined to do)
"Everywhere I go,
People want a cadeau.
Why they all ask me,
I really don't know!"
Chorus:  "Bon-Bon.  Bic.  Bado." 
Earlier that morning a couple little kids in Ireli really lucked out in the cadeau department when I tossed them down my two small inflatable camping pillows.  Although the pillows still inflated, they both gradually lost air over a couple hours, making them now useless for sleeping with.  I have no doubt the children could have a lot of fun with them, though. 
I was quite amazed by the level of poverty in Dogon country, even in this area which is clearly on the tourist trail and consequently receives a substantial infusion of tourist cash.  Most people in Dogon country look like they lead a completely subsistence living.  I remarked previously about how neatly dressed most urban Africans are and about how resplendent the market women look in their spotlessly clean, bright-colored dresses.  In Dogon Country, though, many people (especially children) were dressed in virtual rags. 
Our three day trek finished with a steep climb back up the escarpment from out lunch stop in Banani village at the bottom to Sanga at the top where we were me by Dave and Daphne.  The road back to Bandiagara was only 45 km in distance but was appallingly bumpy and took over three hours, the kind of "Real Africa" type of a road periodically blocked by cattle herds and washed-out bridges over streams amidst a scenery of thatch-roof mud villages and women walking along carrying huge tubs on their heads.  This is what I expected all the roads in West Africa to be like. 
Dave had organized a group dinner of beef brochettes, salads, and french fries out of kitty money that night at our auberge and the cold beers again went down very smoothly after another long hot day.  From the sound of things it seemed like the party went on late into the night, but after a couple nights with little sleep I skipped the festivities and turned in early.  This is, of course, if you could call what I did "turning in" in our African-style dorm accommodation of long rows of mattresses each enclosed in a mosquito net on the Auberge Kinsaye's stiflingly hot covered roof.

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