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Sahara

Day 44: Mopti to Dogon Country

 
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Michael Palin - SaharaThe delay is frustrating. We were all subconsciously prepared for a return to the heart of the Sahara. Decide to apply the boy scout motto 'adopt, adapt and improve' and head out to the Bandiagara escarpment to spend the next few days camping amongst the Dogon, a unique tribe, neither Muslim nor Christian, who, for 600 years, have virtually cut themselves off from the rest of the world.

Late afternoon. It's becoming abundantly clear that, as far as the Dogon are concerned, their 600 years of privacy are up. A new highway is being built between Mopti and Bandiagara. Graders and rollers are at work and dust clouds hang in the air. Occasionally, a minibus emerges from the haze and rattles past us, carrying an exhausted tour group back from what they call Dogon Country.

Then the new road curves away to the south and I realise that it's not a conveyor belt for tourists after all, but the first stage of a trunk road across the border to Ouagadougou, the thriving capital of neighbouring Burkina Faso. This leaves us stuck at a barrier on the outskirts of Bandiagara, arguing with two or three surly men who, with no apparent authority, are demanding 500 CFAs per person and 250 per vehicle before we can proceed.

Having settled for 250 francs from each vehicle and nothing extra for the occupants, these self-appointed toll collectors roll a red and white striped oil drum out of our path with bad grace. Maybe they put a curse on us. After a mile or so, the springs crack on one of the vehicles.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 44
  • Country/sea: Mali
  • Place: Mopti
  • Book page no: 138

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