Into The World - 2Up around Africa, 2 bikes along the Silk Road

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by mrwwwhite, Jul 27, 2011.

  1. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

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    After the fertile landscape of the last 3 days palm trees start to show up again, the weather gets hotter and the mud-brick villages have only weekly markets where fresh produce is increasingly hard to find. Small patches of water are the only mark of the wet season.
    At the last left turn to Djenne, we pay the tourist tax (1000 CFA/pers) at the checkpoint, where the police are happy to chat about the bike. So far in Africa people are wildly enthusiastic about it, but the general idea is that our motorbike is more expensive than a 4x4, so that gets a bit in the way of making friends. We quickly learnt that we cannot explain what a personal and financial effort is this trip to us to people to whom the idea of traveling equals luxury (cause their priority is to survive).

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    Cattle lazily crossing the plain

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    Djenne is an island on Bani river, and also an island of medieval civilization in the north-west of Mali. Legend has it that a virgin was sacrificed to the water genie by the Bozo fishermen, and that the victim's blood was mixed with mud to make the bricks for the first houses in Djenne. UNESCO pomps serious money into the conservation of this gem of a town with narrow unpaved streets radiating from the famous biggest mud building the world - the mosque.

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    All buildings in Djenne are exclusively made from bank (mud). The iconic 1907 mosque is a replica of the XIII century original. At the end of each wet season a massive operation of retouching takes place.

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    The Monday market in Djenne is legendary: this is the most important and biggest market in West Africa. Vendors and buyers travel from all regions to fill up the square in front of the mosque and to sell and shop everything from local art, bogolan - typical cloth decorated with mud mixed with medicinal plants, amber jewelry, food, spices, baskets, plasticware and livestock. As this is an authentic local market, the people are not fazed by tourists so we are taking a breather from the touts and faux-guides harassment to enjoy the unique atmosphere.

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    The mosque is just the decor for the real show that is taking over Djenne

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    Sideboob

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    Handmade baby sling

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    Mama Africa

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    Djenne teenagers

    Unfortunately Djenne is a way too touristy place to allow personal interactions and with inflated prices for the whites, so after 24 hrs we move on.
    #21
  2. lonleywolf

    lonleywolf n00b

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    Very nice!Keep going!
    #22
  3. SS in Vzla.

    SS in Vzla. Totally Normal? I'm not!

    Joined:
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    WOW :clap

    Great RR and pictures, keep them coming.

    Drum bun !
    #23
  4. Edmond Dantès

    Edmond Dantès The Kanto Pain

    Joined:
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    Château d'If
    You are a gifted photographer. Absolutely wonderful Ride Report.

    More ! More ! More !
    #24
  5. Flys Lo

    Flys Lo cool hand fluke

    Joined:
    May 4, 2009
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    between my last drink and my next one
    Simply stunning, both photography and words. I hope to look at your videos a little later as well :)
    #25
  6. Edventure

    Edventure Adventurer

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    Great ride report. I followed the same route in 2008. Brings back a lot of memories!!
    #26
  7. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

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    Thanks for the kind words guys!!!

    We'll update things as the internet connection allows us. Morocco was worlds apart regarding internet speed... having video skype in the middle of nowhere was really amazing. Not to mention updating our vimeo video channel. Now things are a little bit different.

    We are closing in to Nigeria which I hope we'll cross safely. From the forums and news channel the situation there is a little more complicated. But same info we've found on Mauritania and Mali and in reality things were different.

    Cheers from Ouaga,

    Ana + Ionut
    #27
  8. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Bucharest or RTW
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    In northern Mali the sale scratches a sandy plain up to Burkina Faso. Here some 250 kilometers of falaise are home to the Dogon people, an ethnic group that lives generally undisturbed by civilization like they have been for a millennia, since they have settled here trying to escape Islam.
    Risking to be forced to shorten our trip later on, we decided to invest an initially unplanned and quite significant amount of cash in a 3 day tour through Dogon Country. We teamed up with 2 swiss overloading by 4x4 and hired a guide to one of the best preserved ethnographic regions in Africa.

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    First we had to survive the road to Mopti, through the most dramatic sand storm so far.

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    The particularly strong lateral wind was blowing in sequences, we rode at less than 50 km/h. The wind preceded the rain, which was lucky, cause keeping a steady balance on a very wet road would have been difficult.

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    In Mopti we stock on food and water for the next 2 days and we negotiate the guide's fee.

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    Mopti is a semi-industrial fishing town and a tourist stopover, with shady touts and an unpleasant vibe to it. Give it a miss, except for the scenic port

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    Our itinerary was: Bandiagara, Djiguibombo, Kani-Kombole, Teli, Ennde, Indelou, Begnimato, Yabacalou, with 2 days of trekking and 1 day on our own vehicles.

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    All Dogon buildings are made of mud in the plain villages and of stone up on the cliff. The room on the right is the kitchen, the pots are actual chimneys.

    Spices are dried on the terrace.
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    Typical Dogon ladder
    Tree trunks are used for draining rain water.
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    The Dogon are a distinct ethnographic group, originated from the Siby area (Pays Mandingue) and settled here in the IX-XI cent., after the demise of the native pygmy population (the Tellem). The Dogon culture was first contactated by a french ethnologist in 1931. There is no Dogon alphabet or written documents, they record their history through elaborated mask ceremonies (the most important is organized every 60 years, the equivalent of a centenary, as the Dogon observe a 5 days week); the Dogon are animists and practice polygamy.

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    The Dogon elders enjoy chewing on cola nut (from Cote d'Ivoire); this is a bitter stimulant and appetite suppresser and the shape of the nut can be interpreted by the initiated.

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    Ropes are made from the bark of the baobab

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    Our guide in traditional attire, near a door decorated with animist symbols (the sacred animals are: the cayman, the turtle, the fox, the snake)

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    Some window blinds are decorated with elements from the Dogon cosmogony (the 8 ancestors, the fox divination etc)

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    Traditional stool

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    Dogon art is manipulated to ornate functional details or to mark a sacred spot

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    Dogon kids

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    The Kani-Kombole mosque. Even if some Dogons have embraced Islam, they keep their fetishes and rituals swell.

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    The pot where women make millet flour.

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    The ancient Tellem houses are used for cereals storage. The Dogon women keep their valuables in the newly built grainiers. The number of these building indicates the number of wives one has.

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    The bushcamp - amazing view of the Bandiagara cliff

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    The traditional hat can be worn in 3 different ways according to use

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    Togouna - some sort of covered agora of the Dogon people, exclusively used by men to discuss public issues under the guidance of the eldest member of the village (the hogon). It is only 1,20 m hight, thus preventing any attempt to stand up and quarrel.

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    A Dogon pepiniere

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    The house of the hogon in Indelou

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    Sometimes the elders are just chillin' in the togouna

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    Animist altar: the stone represents Amma, the divine god

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    School in Teli, on thé board a quintessential African line: "Elle porte des oefs sur sa tete"

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    Almost every village has a water source financed with European money

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    The climax of the tour was arriving and overnighting in Begnimato, a magical village up on the falaise

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    Natural togouna in Begnimato

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    Landscape artists are are jobless in Dogon Country

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    Ana the hunter and his big guns. He has 20 kids, is a christian and the brother of Begnimato chief

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    Our guide

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    Nadin

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    Ana & Roger looking into the abyss

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    Food for the tourists: chicken with rice. The Dogon believe that the whites survive on a diet of canned foods and spaghetti. We had to insist to even taste their food: to (millet mash with baobab leaves)

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    We say goodbye to the fabulous Bandiagara cliff and set off to Burkina.
    #28
  9. Bendernz

    Bendernz Torrential

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    Auckland, New Zealand
    Amazing story & excellent photography.
    :clap
    #29
  10. achesley

    achesley Old Motorcyclist

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    Great pictures! Thanks for sharing this great country side and it's people. :clap:clap:clap
    #30
  11. TwilightZone

    TwilightZone Long timer

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    Keep on going !
    #31
  12. mikem9

    mikem9 Wanderer

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    enjoying your great pics and story.
    #32
  13. vintagespeed

    vintagespeed fNg

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    amazing journey, thank you for sharing.
    #33
  14. McFuryMcNugget

    McFuryMcNugget me specie in dea ist

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    +1
    #34
  15. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

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    Bucharest or RTW
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    We kicked off early from Sangha, northern Dogon Country. This cloudy day promised to be pleasantly cold, but it was a day that would end in misery. The first 5 km to Banani - a Dogon village with a picturesque waterfall - are similar to the Bandiagara - Sangha road: broken concrete patches interrupting the largely rocky piste, alternating with deep sand and pebbles. It steeply goes up and down through an amazing landscape that kept our spirits high for a while. But then we hit the plain and we were in no man's land: deep sand, pools of water from recent downpours rendering the road impassable, labyrinthian villages swallowing the piste that kept disintegrating into just an idea of going forward towards what we knew was Burkina Faso. 10 km further we turned right after Dougou and started the climb. Sandy hills kept on claiming our sweat and breath for hours. At over 400 kg load my Tenere felt uncontrollable from time to time (when the front end loses grip) and I rode it at sometimes 5 km/h, losing count of the falls as I was sliding and dancing in the uneven sand. Whenever the sand gave way to a superficial layer of grass I was riding along the road. We had to stop 2 times for about an hour each time, to rest and replenish the minerals lost through excessive sweating under the 40+ heat. I suggest you always carry some rehydrating salts and some calcium that you can drink with water.
    The alternate route to Burkina is gravel road from Bandiagara through Bankass. To navigate the sandy piste we took from Sangha, you should carry a GPS. The piste crosses the nomad territory, sometimes even nomad compounds. These elusive people are traditionally herders, men are always away with cattle and sheep, while their tattooed and adorned women are caring for the children. They live in huts made of twigs and dry leaves or in tents and carry all their belongings with when moving base.
    The 65 km to Koro, from where the sealed road begins, took us all day. We hit the sealed road by sunset and after a water refill we hastily set camp and fell asleep before 9 pm.

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    #35
  16. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Bucharest or RTW
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    Crossing the border to this new country we knew so little about was a joy: first there is the police control, friendly and curious. A few km south, on the left, we checked in at the customs, where a Laissez Passer was issued against 5000 CFA by a Burkinabe version of Chris Rock.

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    Officer Fidel signed us in and gave us his number to call in case we got into trouble or needed a party animator

    The visa for Burkina Faso has recently become one of the most expensive in Africa: 47000 CFA at the embassy in Bamako (2 photos, 1 xerox of the passport, lots of cash, hours: 7-11 am for applying, ready to be picked up 3-5 pm the same day) or 94000 CFA at the border, valid for one entry and 90 days. The main roads are tarred and most of the city streets are sealed, in the countryside they're not. Gas is widely available at roughly the same price as in Mali: 640-690 CFA/l. Burkina uses the same currency as Mali, Togo, Benin, and 1 Euro is about 655 CFA. ATMs are easy to find even in small provincial towns. There is no speeding control, but there are several Postes de Peage where a road toll for cars must be payed; passage for motorbikes and scooters is free. Beware though of the concrete speedbumps present even in the most remote villages.

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    Just meters outside the custom control hundred of vultures were gliding about an open-air abattoir

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    We learned here the meaning of the "atmospheric front". The sky turned black and we simply saw the white wall of water moving toward us at mind boggling speed. We quickly streamlined ourselves and faced the storm head on: it hit us like a cold wave, chocking and slapping and pushing us to ride as fast as we could. Left and right there were black trees and the space between them white with rainwater. Soaking wet within minutes, we kept on going and half an hour later we were out of the storm and in the blowing wind, that helped drying our gear a bit. The road to Ouaga is hard gravel, a ride that after the Dogon pistes felt a child's play.

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    In Romania we say "its in Ouagadougou" about something that is in an unknown place, far far away

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    There is no camping in Ouaga, but you can pitch a tent in the parking of OK-INN Hotel, if you keep a low profile and "contribute" at the restaurant. This grants use to the grubby showers and toilets by the pool and a quiet sleep in a mosquito infested field that is guarded 24 hrs. There is free and rather good wifi in the reception area, but the restaurant serves generic european food at very european prices.

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    Arguably the best brochettes in Ouaga: goat and mutton offal or meat, spot on seasoning, served with cucumber and onion salad in a baguette

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    Behind the brochette stall, a typical Burkinabe burette, serving Lipton tea with lime and fresh mint for 100 CFA. Also available: softdrinks, beer, coffee, yoghurt, omelets, rice and sandwiches.

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    The Dege Nazi: a lady we couldn't brace ourselves to photograph sells on Toe Street the best of the best version of this regional delight: millet couscous with sweetened yoghurt on ice, the perfect desert, breakfast or treat. Only available until 4pm daily, from 150 CFA/serving.

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    A village buvette on the road to Bobo Dioulasso

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    Brother and sister work together in the buvette

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    Bobo is the commercial capital of Burkina; the train station here, built in the 30s in neo-moor style, used to be the terminus of the Abidjan-Niger route. Now is is a reminder of the colonists' megalomania and a beautiful headliner in the city skyline.

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    The beautiful mosque in Bobo is famously considered one of the best example of banco building in the world

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    In laid-back Bobo we ended up staying for a week. Above, the least glamourous aspects of overlanding.

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    Slow roasted goat with rice, cucumber salad and fried plantain

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    An attempt at a Romanian summer favorite: roasted aubergine salad

    Bobo was a good base for visiting Banfora, which has a great Sunday market, and Karfiguela Falls (access 1000 CFA/pers, plus 200 CFA parking fee). The piste to the falls passes through the gorgeous green landscape that is so south-west Burkina.

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    Irrigation system for sugar cane plantations.

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    Predator I

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    Riding back to Banfora

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    Burkina Faso in the country with the most amazing skies

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    In Bobo we met the lovely Liana and Denis who are overloading through northern Africa with their dog

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    And back to Ouaga to apply for the visa de l'Entente that will allow us to enter Togo and Benin

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    On the side of the road you might find a poisoned arrow
    #36
  17. vintagespeed

    vintagespeed fNg

    Joined:
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    beautiful country, amazing. thank you for the new computer wallpaper. :D
    #37
  18. NSFW

    NSFW ktm's "the tourist"

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2007
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    Burbank CA
    wow.....fantastic photography capturing the local inhabitants and culture. amazing,and inspiring.

    more please.

    ride safe and have fun.
    #38
  19. BernardP

    BernardP Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2008
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    Port Elizabeth, South Africa
    Nice to see someone on the less well travelled side of Africa. Have a great trip and thanks for the updates. Hope you are coming South!
    #39
  20. WIBO

    WIBO Will it buff out?

    Joined:
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    Subscribed...still.....monumental...and superb pictures...Can' wait for more...

    :D
    #40