Our driver Banya turned up on time and we headed for the town centre in search of more camera batteries .. as those purchased in Bamako had been well-used in Djenné. Mac's advice to try the
Mini Prix proved correct and thankfully I found some newly date-stamped, genuine Duracells at CFA2000 for 4, the first we had seen on our travels since leaving Bamako.
Before heading out to
see the Dogon villages, we visited Baba Cisse and his Farafina Tigne shop in Sévaré, spending some time looking at the magnificent collection of beads and artefacts in his
museum. I forgot to ask if he was related to Aly Cisse .. but the Cisse family certainly seem to have the monopoly on bead and artefact supply in Mopti and Sévaré.
We left the day's itinerary
entirely in the hands of Banya .. knowing that we would need more than the one day we had left to completely explore the Dogon area .. but gave him fair warning that I would be leaping out of the car to take photographs
at every available opportunity.
This I did, taking many pictures of the typical roadside*
scenes of trees, buildings and animals.
Having taken a different direction out of Sévaré from the Bamako route we were used to .. and heading happily through the countryside on a good road .. he
suddenly veered off to the left and drove carefully down a bumpy laterite track towards some rocky outcrops.
"Where is this?" I asked .. "Songho" said he," You will see some wonderful sights here !"
Overcast at the start of our journey, the sun was now shining out
of a clear blue sky .. with gangs of men 'repairing' the road .. in actuality making it more bumpy than it had been .. and flocks of animals sheltering under trees .. it was perfect weather for taking pictures**
We drove into a car park on the edge of Songho village to be met by some local guides.
us to enlist the help of one of them to show us something special, but declined the invitation to come with us .. preferring to rest in the shade for a chat with his friends. Getting very hot by then and having
forgotten to bring some bottled water with us ..
we tried to buy some cool drinks. But the only ones available were warm, as there was no electricity in the village to power anything to cool them with. No problem, a
quick stroll round here and cold drinks will be available in the next village, we thought .. and declined to buy any.
A BIG mistake !
Factfile 27: Temperatures can climb to over 50 degrees
in this part of West Africa, which must sound horrendous to those people more used to a moderate climate. However, if you drink plenty of liquids .. preferably not alcohol which concentrates very much faster in the blood stream .. and indulge in as little physical exertion as possible during the heat of the day, life is not unbearable. Early mornings or late afternoons are ideal times for what unknowingly we were about to attempt. 11 am on a clear day with no water and the sun burning down, is not !
Pointing out the two rocky outcrops***
rising on each side of the village, our guide asked which one would we like to look at first. At the one on the left we would be entertained by traditional
dancers and singers .. hoping for a less touristy experience, we chose the one on the right !
From a distance it didn't look very high .. but as we arrived at its base, instead of walking around it, our guide
headed up into a steep-sided mountain with the agility of a mountain goat. Dutifully we followed him, not knowing what we would see apart from a good view over the surrounding area. Neither breathing more heavily than
normal nor slipping on the shiny rock faces, despite wearing very worn plastic sandals, he set a fast pace. We must have been an amusing sight. Alaghi, who had never climbed anything steeper than a flight of
stairs, in a European-style suit and his best leather shoes followed by a severely out-of-breath me.
Two weeks of inhaling copious amounts of dust had given me what is known in The Gambia as
a fresh cold.
In common with most of the Toubab travellers we met, I had a head full of catarrh and a streaming nose .. not best suited to any form of exercise in severe heat.