Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Good morning Bandiagara! Goodbye Begnemato!

Early morning view of the Bandiagra Escarpment from the village of Begnemato.

I
awoke to the sound of a crowing rooster and chirping birds. The sounds of the country.

Through the mosquito net, I could see the large rocky outcropping of the Bandiagara Escarpment before me. It was barely 6am in the morning and it was a bright sunny day....not a cloud in the blue sky.


I rolled over just to lay in bed for a while longer. I had had a restful night's sleep but I was feeling so comfortable at the moment that I just wanted to stay in bed for a wee bit longer.

Our *bedroom* was in the direct path leading into the campement and so as I laid in my bed, I could see villagers walking back and forth getting ready for the start of the day. In the distance, I could hear a family coming to life...kids running around while breakfast was being prepared. Someone was busy sweeping the walkway.

Tall was still tucked inside his net.  He looked like a mummy.








The morning was too nice to stay in bed so I slipped out to wash up and get ready for the day.   The rest of Begnemato was just coming to life.  I could see small columns of smoke rising everywhere - signs of breakfast being made.  I wasn't hungry when I woke up but wandering by all the wonderful smells a I made my way to wash up got my tummy growling.



Perhaps it was just coincidence but the outhouses had the best vantage point to take in a view of the Bandigara Escarpment.

Since there is no running water in Begnemato, there are no sinks.  Washing up means using bottled water so you can pretty much stand anywhere to brush your teeth and wash your face.

Unfortunately, the best view was standing near the outhouses so I braved it and in return, I had a spectacular view of the Bandiagara Escarpment to distract me from the not so pleasant smells that were penetrating my nostrils.  Views of amazing rock formations everywhere. 

After getting cleaned up, I dropped off my toiletry bag.  Tall was still fast asleep.  I headed out to explore the village.  What would a Dogon village be without graineries?  Begnemato most certainly had its share of cute ones!


 If there can be such a thing as a sleepy, quiet village, Begnemato is it.  I wound my way up to where it seemed like most of the villagers live.  Families were congregating outside their homes to enjoy their first meal of the day.  Kids were already at play and there was chatter going on everywhere.  Though I was a complete stranger to this place, I somehow felt completely at home at that moment - reminds me of the days when I would have breakfast with my family on the weekends.


I strolled along the paths that wound its way through the village.  It seemed a bit rude to be snapping photos as people went about their daily lives so I pretty much refrained from taking photos.  Instead, I just enjoyed the walk.  The last couple of mornings in the Dogon have been wonderful - warm temperatures and bright sunshine - absolutely perfect for a morning walk and just the thing to get the appetite going!













By the time I made it back to my *bedroom*,  Tall was rustling himself awake.  Of course, I deliberately made a lot of noise so he had no choice but to roust himself up and out of bed.  His turn to get cleaned up.  In the meantime, I found our breakfast table and settled into my seat.  Before I knew it, a plate of donut like pastries was delivered along with a pot of hot water and sugar for tea. 

I waited for Tall to arrive before digging into breakfast.  Surprisingly, he ordered sardines for breakfast.  They were the canned ones in tomato sauce.  I love, love, love sardines.  I must have had a really greedy look on my face because Tall offered some tome.   Okay, sardines and sweet pastries does not make for a scrumptious combination but when in the Dogon, do as the locals do.  It was tasty.


One of Tall's friend joined us for breakfast and the two guys talked up a storm.  I never got the guy's name but he was very nice. 

It was such a beautiful day and I was feeling super relaxed.  I munched on breakfast and admired the views around me.  The guys' chatter turned into white noise and soon I was absorbed by my own thoughts.  Today is my last morning in the Bandiagara and as much as I am looking forward to moving on and back to Bamako, I'm also very sad to be leaving.

After breakfast, we packed up our belongings and with Tall and several of the villagers escorting us, we left the village.  It would be about a forty minute hike to an area of the Escarpment where we would meet back up with Peter and the car. 

We hiked up and down rocks and up and down the Escarpment.  Clouds were starting to  move in and I was hoping we wouldn't get caught in the rain.  Hiking up slippery rocks would not be enjoyable.



From a distance, we could see Begnemato.  I can't believe that's where I actually spent the night!


Just about the time we hit the 40 minute mark, Tall turned to me and asked me if I saw Peter.  I looked around and didn't see a thing that looked like an African man standing next to a white LandCruiser until Tall pointed my sight in the right direction.  After 40 minutes of huffing and puffing my way up the rocky terrain, I have to admit, I have never been so happy to see an African man standing next to a white LandCruiser.  We shouted and waved to Peter as we neared him.

We thanked the guys who had followed us. Yes....they had accompanied us the entire way from Begnemato.  Unbelievable.

Before I got into the car, I asked Tall to take one last photo of me which the Bandiagara Escarpment as the backdrop.

I've had an amazing time in the Dogon villages, seeing and experiencing things that few people, outside of Mali, ever get to do.  Truly, an unforgettable few days!