Day 61: Back in Bandiagara

Soutpiel Safari
John & Jenny
Tue 4 Jan 2011 16:20
Day 61: Tuesday 4 January 2011.  Hotel and Camping Tagoma, Bandiagara, Mali.  Distance driven 0 km
Days 59, 60 and 61. Trekking in Dogon country
We have just returned, pretty exhausted from a three day trek in the Dogon area.  We left Sunday lunchtime from Bandiagara in a Toyota Coaster bus with 8 others from the Sleeping Camel in Bamako and our Dogon guide, Assigue. After a 2 hour 25 km ride over a rough track the bus dropped us on the plateau at Dorou where we were greeted by a band of villagers all carrying head loads on their way to the weekly market at Nomgiro.  We engaged a few as porters and then we walked 3.4 km down the sandstone escarpment to the village of Nomgiro. Both the scenery and the descent were quite spectacular.  That evening we stayed at an "encampement" in the village and slept on mattresses on the roof of one of the buildings.  After dinner the villagers put on a local dance for us but, frankly, I was too tired to enjoy it and dropped off to sleep in spite of the drummers only a metre away!
Next day we walked 16 km, mainly on the flat, along the bottom of the escarpment, visiting several Dogon villages on the way.  The escarpment, or falaise, is quite spectacular, being 400 km long and varying in height above the lower plain from 250 to 700 metres. The rise is vertical.  Above each village there are the remains of Tellem habitations built on ledges in the sandstone, access to which is by vertical climbing using ropes.  Many of the former Tellem habitations are now used by the Dogon for burial of their dead.
We made several stops for cold drinks and lunch and in the afternoon passed by a large muddy pond swarming with crocodiles at Tireli!  This is a sacred site and the crocodiles are not only protected but fed daily by the protectors.  We finished the day at a beautiful encampement at Ireli and again slept under the stars.
Today we walked only about 7km but this included a vertical ascent of the escarpment about 300 metres in 35 degree temperatures which was again spectacular but pretty exhausting.  Luckily the bus had found its way to the top and brought bus back to Bandiagara where we had left tje land Rover in the shade at the Toguma campsite.
This has been an absolutely fascinating few days and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience an ancient culture dating back 3,000 years BC. 
Tomorrow we are off to Timbuctoo - Tombocto - there are numerous spellings, but the place is legendary!