I have two more days in Mali. I have had two of the most amazing weeks of my life, doing things I never thought I would have the chance to do, learning about people, cultures, and places that I previously knew nothing about. It has been memorable to say the least. Below are some pictures that I've taken that kind of help to sum up the things I've seen, the people I've met, and the experience I've grown from (Joost and Joanna, I am now 5'11 and a half, thank you for asking). ;P
Joost and me walking to the river outside Bamako, Mali. Two studs if I do say so myself.
Joost hanging out while some Malian kids wash in the river. They were all about getting their picture taken. The kids. But mostly Joost.
Me. Hanging out in a river. Taking pictures of myself. Which meant I had ten seconds to press the 'take a picture button', run through the river over algae infested rocks, splash dirty water all over myself, and pose in this dashingly good fashion. Impossible for some. Not for me.
Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale... So some new friends and I went on a boat ride around the rivers of Bamako, Mali. It was wonderful. We had cheese and crackers. We had olives. We had wine in a box. We had a beautiful sunset. And we had Vina on bailing duty because 15 minutes into our tour the bottom of the boat started filling up with water. Luckily Vina is a first class bailer and our feet and food stayed dry.
This picture is in honor of Fred Fiedler. The first of the great pointers. I think we would make good hunting dogs. Anyway, while others were doing frivolous things like eating and bailing out water, I fearlessly pointed the course home.
Some fishermen took their skiff out into the river to drop traps for...fish? Not sure how well fishing with traps works but they must know something I don't here because lots of people were using these small traps. I really liked the gondola style propulsion methods that they use here. Kind of makes you feel a bit more European while avoiding donkey manure and watching people bath, wash their clothes, and use the bathroom in the river.
Desert. Desert. Desert. TIMBUKTU! A view of the mythical city from our twin prop plane. It really was like a specter that appeared out of nowhere. And the landing was by far the craziest that I've ever been a part of. The wind from the Sahara blew our plane everywhichway but where the pilots wanted us to go. Fortunately my bad luck on this trip didn't ebb over onto the landing of the plane.
This summer's hottest fashion craze? Camel skin tents. Cool. Breezy. Relatively portable if you have a live camel nearby to tote it. And blends in quite well with most desert conditions. I'm guessing L.L. Bean could make a fortune by personalizing these bad boys with some initials across the entrance. They were certainly the thing all the hip people had in Timbuktu.
Joanna and me hanging out in one of those amazing camel tents from above. You didn't figure the inside looked like this did you? Me neither. I think this was the upgraded version.
Camel. Check. Turban. Check. New cheesy sunglasses because they were the only ones I could find to replace the pair I broke the night before making an excursion into the desert. Check.
I'm ready to ride!
Ibrahim my fearless guide had an uncanny sense of direction. All I saw was a bunch of sand. Some in dunes. Other times flat. But he led us to our evening camp site with nary a problem. He's good people.
After a two hour long camel ride I sit and watch the giant orb of a sun sink quickly under the desert's dunes while contemplating life. The Sahara outside of Timbuktu is a good place to do that, I think everyone ought to give it a try.
I think I look cute.
Joanna almost knocked with the 'husbands only' door knocker. Luckily she avoided that faux pas and knocked on the 'everyone else may knock here' section of one of the beautiful doors of Timbuktu, Mali.
A weaver sits making his wares in the culture market in Timbuktu. He's still got a way to go though; the yarn from his loom stretching out at least ten meters from where he sits.
A mosque rises above the rooftops as we enter Mopti, Mali. We saw many such mosque's on our travels around Mali. Most were made from mud and sticks but still managed to stretch up to 30 meters into the sky.
Ummm... that looks a lot like an ancient city built out of mud and resting under a 500 foot high escarpment. In fact that is what it is. We have entered Dogon country, Mali.
The Dogon built their houses under the cliffs in the 1400's. During that time the cliff faces were hidden by rain forests and the foliage and hight provided protection from wild animals and invading tribes.
I can tell already that this is going to be one of my favorite parts of the trip.
Our guide, Dra, tells the rest of the group the history of the Dogon while I go off to explore. This was probably my favorite part of the trip, the houses, rocks, and trees providing an excellent playground for a 27 year old boy.
Like these storage rooms which date back to the 800's, before the Dogon people populated this region. Joanna and I had a bit of a tight squeeze to get in, but it was well worth it to see the exasperated looks on all the adults faces.
The children of Dogon country. While we couldn't really communicate with words, holding hands, launching children playfully into the air, and playing football seem to get the message across to my new friends that they are pretty o.k. in my book.
In Dogon country there is stuff to climb EVERYWHERE!!! This tree happened to be in the middle of our trail and merited climbing status.
Me in the tree. Umm... that's it.
Tirelessly trekking through sweltering heat and wind blown sands the adventurers are led on by Dra, our incredible guide to Dogon country.
You can tell I've been working out because I'm holding up a bolder several tons bigger than me. Not everyone can do that. Just letting you know.
One of the many canyons we climbed through trekking through Dogon country. Remarkably beautiful, very tempting to climb everything around me, and a wonderful place to realize that God does good work.
That's a crocodile. And a chicken. Bet you can't guess who won. Our vegetarian companion didn't appreciate that we bought a crocodile it's lunch, but I think we were being generous having asked for nothing in return for a 2000 CFA meal.
The elders of a Dogon village traditionally wear blue with conical hats while the young initiated men of the village approach in their costumes and masks. They performed their traditional mask dance for us in what was a spectacular display of culture, agility, and history.
These two dancers have women masks. They represent the very rare women who are initiated within the tribe. Generally women and children are forbidden from observing the mask ceremony, although when tourists pay for it to be done the women and children may observe the dance but not the sacrifice that takes place beforehand.
The dancer for the sick. His bulging chin is representative of a common illness among the Dogon. He dances so that they may be healed.
The chief priest dancer. This mask represents the one who keeps the masks and costumes in order and thus is the head of all other dancers.
The bird mask went through a series of bowing, stabbing, and hopping motions.
The dancers form columns along with the head chanter, wearing blue, to complete the ceremony of the masks.
Dancers performing on stilts represent the young women of the Dogon. Standing on stilts that were about five feet in hight the dancers proceeded around the circle waving tails in hand.
Several dancers wore masks that reached over 15 feet in hight. The masks represented the pathway to the heavens. During their section of the dance the men bent forward and back to touch the tips of their masks to the ground in front and behind them.
It's hard to see but these masks have an upward Y and a downward Y. The upper part signifies the heavens while the part facing down signifies the earth. The band that connects the two signifies that which connects the heavens and the earth.