The donkeys started braying at 4am and the cocks joined them soon after. I hadn’t slept brilliantly but at least I was cool and had no mozzie bites. It was blissfully cool this morning. I started packing up at 5 as breakfast was scheduled for 5.30, and we were supposed to hit the road by 6 west African time. So, we did pretty well heading out at 6.30.
While it had felt blissfully cool, the moment we started walking I started sweating, and didn’t stop all day. After an hour or so we arrived in lovely Soninghe, a tiny village with no road access. I went to visit the chief, and the various talking houses (togu na) where the locals resolve disputes….all manned by old men with pipes and wonderful wrinkled faces. We also visited a lovely Animist temple. I love how the muslims, christians and animists can all get along peacefully.
We strolled along the escarpment saying good morning to the women pounding the sorghum, one got me to have a go – it’s a decent arm work out.
After an hour we descended down a steep canyon and through a natural tunnel to get to the valley. It was stunning, like Utah but with a few more trees. I was lucky, most tourists aren’t agile enough to come this way apparently, it was steep, rocky and baking hot but worth it.
We stopped for an hour in Ende. Man caught up with his relatives and I climbed up the hill with a young guide to check out the amazing village wedged in the side of the cliff. The views were stunning and it was worth the baking heat to get up the big hill. Ende is a big village with road access, and you can see they are still hopefully awaiting the return of the tourists, they still have souvenirs shops.
A few women tried nicely to sell me some things but I politely declined…. given I am carrying everything myself I don’t want to add to the load. From Ende we set off up the valley in the baking heat along the cliff base.
By the time we had arrived in Yabatalou (20k from Djiguibombo) at 11.30 I had drunk 6.5 litres of water and electrolytes and was still thirsty…. not surprising given it was over 40 degrees. I poured a cup of water over my head, blew up my pillow and lay down in the shade to cool down and wait for lunch. Lunch is a long affair as they have to make a fire, and we aren’t in any hurry as Man doesn’t want to leave until 3 at the earliest as neither of us want to bake in the heat of the day!
Lunch was preceded by the wonderful local tea. It’s so strong I am pretty sure it is thoroughly cleaning out all my pipes, and so sweet it sets my teeth on edge. I find it amusing to share the same glass with everyone in the courtyard, and it is obligatory to drink three cups, I hope I am not giving them any germs!
Lunch was another good greasy salty pasta, just what I needed. Followed by another astoundingly good mango. Then Man sorted out a mattress on the roof in the shade and sent me off to lie down and do nothing for a few hours. Doing nothing still made me sweat :-).
We summoned up the courage to leave the shade at 3pm. Man had tempted me by talk of a colourful village market at Doundjouro, 2.5 k further on. It was fantastic. I got mildly freaked out by the stares at the beginning, and then realised it was my shorts that were causing the problem (even though they went past my knees) so I whipped out my head scarf and tied it round my waist to cover any inkling of my lady bits and the locals became much more friendly. After a couple of just ok meals, Man used this as a good opportunity to make sure we had a good dinner tonight. Fresh mutton! So fresh they offered to throw in the head too. Hmmmmmm. And some more mangoes.
Man gave me the option of a steep uphill climb to the top of the cliff to the next village, or an easier route to our eventual destination. Up the steep hill we went. It was a stunning well hidden path from the valley to the top of the escarpment through a narrow cleft! And Aindelou was worth the climb, a lovely red village!
From there we wandered through the surreal rocky landscape to the village of Begnimato. The village has three sections – christians, muslims and animists. And there are three towering rocks in front of the village to represent each religion. We stayed with Daniel the village chief in the Christian section. By the time I arrived I had already drunk 11 litres of water and was still thirsty. I had sweated so much that my tshirt was white with salt, and I hadn’t peed for four hours. Luckily Daniel sells coke, so I had two with salt thrown in which seems to have helped.
I had a chat to a few local women. Like much of the world the women here work harder than the men! They dont stop from when they wake up to when they sleep – carrying water, gathering wood to cook, managing the garden, cooking, cleaning, going to market. These women are as strong as oxen and I saw many of them breastfeeding on the go, while carrying substantial loads. The men here work quite hard too, and most men were busy a lot of the day, but the definitely had time to lie around drinking beer and smoking their pipes in the village talking houses.
Dinner arrived eventually around 8.30. The stew was delicious, the mangoes even better. By nine pm I was on a mattress on the roof ready to snore! I lay there watching the stars and the lightning far in the east and tried to ignore the donkeys. What an amazing day!
Begnimato, May 18, 2017