Mali: Sahel Journey
Bicycle Africa / Ibike Tours


Dispatch 5 - Sofara

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bicycling on Route Nationale, Sevare MaliFinally a little serious bike. The riding in Bamako and to Koulikoro was seemingly so long ago that they feel like they were a different trip. The countryside is a patchwork of farms, villages, ponds and livestock. People walk down the road, sometime miles from the last village and miles before the next, but looking perfectly content, comfortable and at home. I suppose they are, but I can't guess where that home specifically might be.

In the villages the kids play. There is no play ground equipment, no physical toys and no sports equipment, but the play goes on. Occasionally a boy might have a stick and a wire hop to roll along. Just by stopping and buying a soft drink a conversation with alight on you as well.

Waiting for cross-traffic on the National Highway, MaliMidmorning we pass Hamdallay, which is a shadow of what it must have been a century ago. In the 19th century, prior to the arrival of the French, when Segou was powerful and practicing traditional religion, this was the center of the Fulani's immerging Massina Islamic Empire and a center of Islamic education at the time. It challenged the animist and spread Islam around this region of the Sahel. Currently it is not even labeled on most maps.

Sharing a ride on a tandem, Mali One of four mosques in Sofara, MaliLeaving the highway and a mile down the road are the charming tree lined streets of Sofara, our destination.  Adding to Sofara uniqueness and character is it physical location at the confluences of Fulani, Dogon, Bella, Songhai and Boza ethnic groups. They communicate with each other in the Bambara language.

Women selling in the market, Sofara MaliFulani - Peul men, Sofara Malidonkey cart, Sofara Mali Women selling in the market, Sofara Mali



A short little walk around the village took several hours after we got done visiting, examining and asking questions about: the three mosques (each with it own distinct congregation), a factory making chairs for schools, pottery factory, still/winery, the market, shops, family vegetable gardens and the house of a wealthy man. In between we observed the paces of village life; buying, selling, fetching water and fuel, preparing meals, transporting farm produce by donkey and people, kids playing and neighbors meeting and Women sell in the market, Sofara Malisharing the news. It is a fascinating and friendly microcosm.

Of course the day ended with another beautiful sunset.  We had a choice of locations for sleeping -- most people chose the roof.

Addendum: It may depend upon how you see progress, but the quaint tree-lined, dirt road  through Sofara has given way to a broad, bare, paved road. We were told that before the project there was a town meeting and the town's people were given a choice.  They chose to have the trees removed in town. 
There are still some trees along the approach road into town, but the town center a significant chunk of shade.

Also new in 2009 was the President Obama pagne (printed cloth) clothes.



Tasting the goods from the local beverage factory.


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