Mali: Sahel Journey
Bicycle Africa / Ibike Tours


Dispatch 10 - Djiguibombo

  Bicycling past Dogon village, Mali

The focus of the day was to explore the Bandiagara escarpment. This is the section of Dogon Country that is most written up in the guidebooks. A couple centuries ago the Dogon took refuge in the cliffs to protect themselves from attacks by other ethnic groups. It is suppose to be the "heart" of Dogon Country, though I am not sure that where we had spent the last couple of days wasn't more the heart. The area along the escarpment seemed to be so tourist-savvy and culturally corrupted that it has lost its heart.

Outside of Bandiagara, our handlers (a.k.a. guide) made sure we paid additional 1000 CFA per person fees when we passed through Djiguibombo, Koni Kombole, Telli and Ende. It didn't matter whether we actually went into the village itself; passing by was sufficient to trigger the fee. In most instances the fees we given to guide and we never were able to determine whether the village actually received the money. [According to the tourism official we met later, they money probably never got to the "village" because these fees aren't legitimate.] Talk about feeling like a mobile ATM machine.

irrigating onion crop with pump, Dogon country, Malipower pump irrigating onion crop, Dogon MaliA lot of this section of Dogon country seems to be bed-rock.  Anyplace that has the slightest amount of soil associated with it is planted in millet. Fulani cattle graze on the stubble of the harvested fields. If the soil is deep enough to till, there might be peanuts and wind-rows of hibiscus.  The most intense agriculture is around the largest water holes, where the dominate crop is onions.  It is noteworthy that in the second half of the first decade of the century, development projects started providing power pumps to help with the irrigation.  Gone are the scenes of the farmer walking to the water hole to fill two calabash and then walking through the garden broadcasting water until the calabash are empty and which point he need to walk back to the water source.  And so it went.  With the increase efficiency more land in under onion cultivation. I am not sure that there is food security in onions but the must be good money to be made.

The ride along and over the escarpment provides some of the most beautiful vistas and scenes of the tour so far:Road down Bandiagara escarpment

After we parked the bikes we walk in the "heart" of Dogon country, pausing multiple times to take in the extraordinary views. The villages on the face of the cliffs are all abandon now, but they are still a remarkable sight. And from the old villages you can look down onto the new villages which is it own unique perspective. Among these locations mosques, meeting places, traditional religion relics and sacred sites. In all of the village above and below the cliff are the signature, square, clay granaries, with the thatched peaked roofs of the Dogon people. Depending upon what material was in most abundance, houses, kitchens and storage buildings were constructed of stone or clay. Regardless, all of the villages had a compactness, coziness and human scale to them that creates a very nice and picturesque aesthetic.

If they could vote President Obama could
take Dogon Country.

Nice map of the escarpment but
farsightedly inaccurate.



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