27-Dogon Country Mosques-14_815x768SYNOPSIS – Moving forward in Dogon Country.

Note:  The images were processed after I left Dogon Country, therefore I have grouped them thematically now rather than following the day’s events.  Today’s theme:  The Mosques of Dogon Country.

Step by step and sip by sip, today mostly had to do with endurance.  My system had calmed down and I slept more than 9 hours despite the violent wind which once again brought sand into the mosquito net on my roof top bed and sand into every crevice of my face.  It takes getting used to waking up with a sticky, sand-covered face  and pretty much being sticky all day no matter how much washing you do.

Between 6:30 and 11:15 AM, we walked 15km; down into shady canyons, up onto sunny plateaus, onward over rocks and gravel, over sticks and stones.  If you had told me that yesterday, I would not have believed that I could have walked this much.  15km is no sweat, but 15km in 35 degrees is.  We passed through two villages before reaching Degedege’s home village, our final destination for the day.  There was no path, but Degedege was on track as every so often, when we reached an impassable point, a stepping stone had been placed or one of those typical Dogon ladders made out of a two-branched tree, had been fastened.  One thing is for sure, without a guide you are lost here.

Life on these plateaus seems easier than life down in the valleys.   When there is a lot of rain, it simply washes off the cliffs and creates huge waterfalls, which increase the muddiness in the valleys even further.  I am told those falls are spectacular sights you can observe during the peak of the rainy season.  Imagine a 150km cliff which pretty much turns into hundreds of falls interspersed by dry areas.  At this point, just before the rainy season I can only observe the many black spots on the wall which indicate the flow of the water.

We finished our visit of Begnimato yesterday by a stroll through the Muslim quarter and then the Animist quarter.  If I had not been told that these are three distinct groups of people I would not have been able to tell.  Aside from the little church and the minuscule mosque nothing, at least on the outside, distinguishes these parts.

The hosts of the Auberge cooked a wonderful meal of fried potatoes, bananas and goat meat.   Too bad that my system was not yet stable enough to take this in.  I tasted just a bit of everything.   It was delicious.  My rooftop bed could be reached only by a Dogon-style ladder.  That is a tree trunk cut with small steps.  With my long dress and without practice it is hard to climb.  I realized how I got lucky once again that during my night of distress I had “real” steps to get up and down.  Today it did not matter.

Just before we reached Degedege’s home village Nombori, he suggested that I park myself once again under a mango grove rather than going into the village for the midday break.   That was just fine with me.   This grove is not as remote as yesterday’s and I soon had some surprised shepherds stare at me and a few kids crowding around my computer.  Too bad I don’t speak at least French.  A few goats and sheep as well as a cow also were not far; so there was an ever changing little crowd that did not seem to get tired to watch me either eat, sleep or type this blog.

Degedege’s grandfather is 109 years old and the chief of this village.  His second wife of now is only 60!  His first wife ran away after he did not grant her a divorce…  But Degedege said that nobody talks about that.  Private affairs such as this are off limits for discussion for the younger generation.   Degedege mentioned that many people don’t know how old their parents are or how they met, etc.

I have noticed before that people here seem to age really well.   In the Middle East I often observed that women my age looked 20-30 years older than I would have guessed.  Here it is about the opposite.  Women who I think are my age, are actually much older and even the oldest still are active and often do back-breaking work.   The men on the other hand, especially the older ones, are usually seen relaxing under their togunas, the places in the village set up with 8 or 9 poles and a thick thatched roof for various functions:   judgment, the elders, or special ceremonies .

As we walked across the plateau we passed some man-made wells which had been dug deep into the ground and were used for irrigation.   As I was at times dragging my feet today, I had to think of the women of some of these villages who used to have to walk 9km each way at 4AM every day, to fetch water before international aid made the digging of local wells possible.  In fact, almost every village we crossed had either wells or schools built through international projects.   Water is life.   Schools are the future.   Even though there is a well now in Begnimato, one well really is not enough.   The women still have to walk from all the corners of the village to just one source of water.   Because water is scarce the wells are usually centers of village activities. The kids are playing in the cool compounds and many women are there talking and fetching water.  Often they walk in lines back to their quarters all balancing huge buckets on their heads.   This is a great sight, but the women do not appreciate being photographed.   They certainly are defenseless at that moment, and I respect that.

I am ready to sleep off the rest of the afternoon watched over by all the boys and girls, shepherds and animals.   I will pretend I don’t notice.   And I am looking forward to visiting our next village, Nombori.  More tomorrow.

Good night.