Friday, March 16, 2012

Mali, Segou, Dogon.

I recently embarked on a Eastern bound journey toward the land known as Mali. The time was right, as elections in Senegal were around the corner, and the company was ever better. Really, these two ingredients made for a glorious journey.

Marcy, Brian, Toby, Jen, Meghan, and I embarked on our journey the afternoon I received confirmation that my reading room project had been fully funded (thanks to you for donating). Leaving was the most difficult part of the journey but we did and watched the lovely sun set as we crossed into Mali. From here the travel to Bamako was easy as Mali seems to have transportation figured out.

Malian transportation consists of bus systems rather than cars. These buses have set stations, prices, regular departure times, and sometimes even serve snacks. Now, you have a better understanding of why this trip was so glorious. This bus system allowed for us to wander around until our hearts were content then pack up go to the bus station and leave for our next destination. In fact our first night in Mali was spent sleeping in a bus at one of these stations. Well some of us slept others choose to experience the night life before getting on the 5 am bus.

We stayed in Bamako for a few nights and met a few amazing PCVs from Ghana and of course Mali. All of which were traveling to the Segou Music festival, the main reason we came. Bamako again seemed more organized than say Dakar. There were trash cans, public soccer fields with grass, vietnamese street vendors etc... However, it definitely was nt as developed. None the less I throughly enjoyed experiencing Bamako's rich culture and tastey street food delights before again getting on a bus for Segou.

We had incredible luck in getting the last 6 seats on the bus and in sitting next to the people we did. On the bus we found three wonderful individuals, 2 from Brazil and one from France. All traveling to the festival. On the 6 hour bus we shared stories, music, laughed, ate and were merry. Our bus got a flat an hour outside of Segou so, we just turned up my radio danced (tried) the Brazilian Samba before a local Toureg man graced us with his 3 string home made guitar. We were now 9 and had no place to sleep once in Segou. Most would panick, I danced.

The first night in Segou we splurged and stayed in a nice hotel but arguably the next few days were even better sharing a room with 12 beds and 9 people on a boat outside of the main stage. Using ou rboat as a jump off point we throughly enojyed the festival and it's numerous artists. I didn't feel as pushed or pressured to buy things at the festival eventhough that was obviously the main goal of almost every Malian there. Instead, I enjoyed the music, made the sellers tea before hearing their pitch, and jumped in the river.

The festival itself was riddled with incredible artist from Pape Diouf to Salif Keita and new up and commers Sauti Sol from Kenya. Music didn't start till late afternoon and ended at 2 am. Needless to say we were a bit worn out as we headed into or 4 day Dogon adventure and gues what we were now 10 as the Ghana volunteer we met in Bamako decided to join us.

Dogon is famous for being the area in which people fled the Fulfulde people and tried to live in peace instead of converting to Islam. Dogon is a very beautiful, rocky, and spiritual place. Led by our guide Hasani, a.k.a "Big Boss Man" (he is easily 6'4 and 250 but very agile), we explored the ins and outs of 8 different Dogon villages. We learned about the perfect number 7, 60 year mask festival, and dipped into a little bit of Dogon life. Our hike ended on a cliff watching the sunset, flying paper airplanes and wasing the aches away with some cold beer. Really recommened doing this if you plan on comming to Mali.

Unforunately, this cliff was the beginning of the end of our special group of 10. The next morning we left our 2 Brazilians on the cliff and set out for Hassani's house. At the house we split again leaving the Frenchman and Ghana volunteer to go there own way. We became again the original 6 on a long journey back to Senegal.

The whole journey home took a little over a day as we only waited for the next bus to leave. Back in Kedougou we remembered our friends and Mali with a slide show of all 600+ photos we took. Then the elections passed and everyone went home. Really it was that simple and that glorious. You should see for yourself.