I woke up at three a little bit chilly, and I didn’t have a blanket so I grabbed another mattress and chucked it on top of me and went back to sleep until five. After breakfast of mango jam, laughing cow and bread we wandered along the stunning rocky escarpment to Konshugo.
This is a bit the conundrum of the Dogon – the landscape on the top of the escarpment is incredible, wonderful rocky formations and mini canyons everywhere with hidden features, but the downside of taking the literal high road is that you don’t get to see the cliff itself with the wonderful tellum houses clinging to the side. Walking in the valley gives you that and it is flat, but the path is sandy and hot and without the endless views over the plain. We are doing a good job of mixing up the two….
After an hour and a half along the clifftop we reached Dourou – a large and not particularly lovely village, but we stopped to chat to a few locals and then walked some more through the surreal rocks. We eventually started the descent to Nombori. It was hot and I was struggling to concentrate. Unbelievably it was hotter than yesterday. As I was navigating my way down two ladders hanging on the hillside thinking ‘shit this is a bit steep’, Man put things into perspective by telling me this is the route the village women take to come up to the market carrying at least one child and with a 30kg load on their heads. Yup – time for me to harden up.
We reached the bottom and I had to have a shade break. I’d had the umbrella up since 6.45am, but I needed both hands on the way down the hill and by the time I reached the bottom I thought I was going to melt. Even the locals aren’t moving much today! Most of the men we are passing are horizontal in the shade even at 9.30am (of course the women are still working). Ten minutes of sitting, and my core temperature had dropped below 100 and I was ready to go again. We took it ‘deggy deggy’ (Dogon for slowly slowly) and ambled along the side of a dried up river bed with beautiful red dunes on one side and the red Dogon cliffs on the other. Beautiful.
We made a couple of my friends along the way who treated us to some baby mangoes. We ate as we walked with juice dripping down our faces! Honestly the mangos at home don’t taste anything like this. It is almost enough to stop me dreaming about ice or cold drinks (not quite).
We made it to Komokani around 10.45 and decided to stop as the next village is an hour away and it is already baking. I had two warm cokes with salt mixed in and a litre of electrolytes and lay down in the shade. They are experts here at figuring out the coolest place to rest, so I am on the roof under an awning with a mattress. Luxury, although I am still sweating buckets lying completely still.
Lunch was more mutton, but this time with couscous. It tasted great but like most meals here was pretty gritty, and there were lots of bone hunks! After a bit more lying about sweating, we managed to rouse ourselves out of the heat stupor at 3.15 to head 4K to the market in Tereli.
The market was lovely, but I must confess that the most exiting thing about Tereli was that it had a fridge and so I had my first cold drink in three days. A coke and a sprite in quick succession. I hate coke, I never drink it, occasionally having a Coke Zero if I am super thirsty, but here it works magic to keep me hydrated and not thirsty if I throw some salt in. The chief of Tereli spent a good 20 minutes trying to persuade me to have kids…. his logic being that we all need someone to leave stuff to. I told him I wouldn’t care when I was dead, which he found extremely perplexing :-).
After chatting with the locals at the market in Tereli, we headed off to Ireli. It was a long 7k on the sandy track which made it feel like every step took twice as much effort as normal. Ireli is also an exceptionally long village, and it was 2k from the beginning of the village to where we are staying – it felt like a long way at the end of the day :-).
Ireli is perched on a hillside, with the new huts cascading down the hillside under the ancient cliffside houses that the Tellum used to live in. The houses are carved out of the side of the cliffs in ridiculous places and they used to climb down ropes from the cliff tops to get to their front doors. It is really stunning. The only downside is that as we are at the bottom of the hill, as I wrote this I had a large group of kids standing up the hill, on a rooftop looking down on me, chanting ‘ca va, la bonbon’ (basically asking for lollies) for a full ten minutes. There are upsides and downsides of being the lone tourist…. sometimes the attention is lovely, sometimes (especially when I am hot and tired) it can be a bit overwhelming.
We stayed with the Chiefs son in a lovely large compound which actually had a tap with hot water to wash in – amazing. A couple more salty cokes, some delicious couscous and even more mangoes later and I was ready for bed.
However it was a bit of a challenge deciding where to sleep. The sahel winds had whipped up a sand storm off the Gondo plain and it was impossible to be outside with all the dust, we were also possibly expecting some rain, but I just couldn’t bear to sleep in the room as it was a baking hot sauna. So, we waited it out in the chiefs living room which at least had a breeze until 8.30 when I really wanted to sleep. The room was still a furnace so I took my chances on the roof with the dust, but left all my stuff in the room as the chief was pretty sure it was going to rain. I had to stop writing on the roof as couldn’t see anything with the dust howling in my face and getting in my eyes.
May 19, 2017 Ireli, Mali