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Nouakchott, Mauritania; KM 57,360 July 29, 2009

Posted by marcusbest in Uncategorized.
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the route so far

the route so far

After a much needed rest and a few good meals in Niamey, I parted ways with Kamil and Iza; they went north directly to Mali, and I continued west into Burkina Faso, just in time to attend the weekly market in Gorom Gorom. The village is near the border of both Mali and Niger, and the market attracts merchants from far away and from many different tribes, classes, and ethnicities. As I watched carts pulled by donkeys and loaded with families and goods, all headed to Gorom Gorom, I felt like I had been transported to another era, a time when salt was literally worth its weight in gold. I remember one man in particular, dressed in clean sky blue cotton robe with fine stitching around the neck and chest. He wore a perfectly matching cylindrical cap and sat proudly holding the reigns at the front of his two-wheeled wagon. His wife sat behind, draped in darker blue, almost completely concealed, watching me closely. Her hair was long and black, looped and twisted, and bound with silver bands. Heavy silver coins hung from the braids and from her hears. Her husband grinned at me only slightly as they passed.

animal market, Gorom Gorom

animal market, Gorom Gorom

at the market, Gorom Gorom

at the market, Gorom Gorom

Gorom Gorom, Burkina Faso

Gorom Gorom, Burkina Faso

The two guys above are obviously from different classes or tribes (or both), but were good friends. Though they spoke not a word of english, they greeted me warmly, and I immediately felt at ease with them. We spent only a few moments together, in a comical attempt to communicate, but I won’t forget their smiles and kindness.

animal market, Gorom Gorom

animal market, Gorom Gorom

cliff dwellings, Dogon country, Mali

cliff dwellings, Dogon country, Mali

The Dogon country in Mali, known for its unique villages scattered along a massive escarpment, was a brief escape from the noise, heat and chaos of West Africa. It was a magical place, where the Tellem once lived in dwellings built high in the cliffs, replaced in the 14th century by the Dogon, who live at the base or on top of the escarpment. Hiking through crevasses in the escarpment, I was reminded of home, of the Caprock in Texas and of the Rio Grande gorge near Taos.

Dogon girl, Mali

Dogon girl, Mali


mud mosque and cliff dwellings, Dogon country

mud mosque and cliff dwellings, Dogon country

basket weaving, Dogon country

basket weaving, Dogon country

Dogon region, Mali

Dogon region, Mali

market day; Djenne, Mali

market day; Djenne, Mali

The Djenne market was very different from Gorom Gorom. This was chaos, pushing, feisty bargaining, aggressive touts, and for the first time in a while, other tourists. It came as a mild shock to see pasty white Frenchmen with fanny packs and sunhats and a scruffy American college kid sporting a frayed baseball cap.

river crossing, western Mali

river crossing, western Mali

I knew that in Mauritania I would hit tarmac that would stretch all the way to Europe, and that a dirt road would be hard to come by in the future, so I decided to take a minor road from Bamako, the capital of Mali, into Mauritania. This section turned out to be one of the most memorable of West Africa. The trail followed the train tracks, often crossing to one side and back to the other, through incredible landscapes and tiny villages. The trail was sometimes difficult; rocky, washed out or muddy, but easy roads are forgettable roads. At one point, I foolishly attempted to cross a long stretch of standing water, a pond really, and got hopelessly stuck with Jesse’s engine under water. Eventually, locals helped pull us out, and I spent the morning draining and pumping water out of the engine. Incredibly, or at least unexpectedly, she fired right up and we were on our way again. After over 500 kilometers, I was happy to finally roll onto asphalt, and I’ve spent the last couple days in Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania, resting and looking forward to the transition into Europe. Tomorrow: Morocco!

western Mali, near Kayes

western Mali, near Kayes

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Comments»

1. Sam Lambie - July 31, 2009

Yay Marcus!! As always, we love reading about your adventures. Glad all is well and you are still laughing at yourself.
Keep up the entries. I check for them each day.
Sam

2. Joel - August 1, 2009

The mud mosque looks amazing, never seen anything like that. For that matter jesse’s looking good too. Enjoy the med and give me a ballpark eta for scotland and see you there! Gonna go see our family in a couple weeks in NYC, looking forward to it. Peace and tarmac,

Joel


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