A February 2001 trip
to Mali by Linda Hoernke
Quote: Mali has a history of great empires, kingdoms and people diverse in their way of life. Remote in its position, locked at its borders by land, Mali is a place of mystery and intrigue. From the capital of Bamako to the desert surrounding Timbuktu, come explore this land of enchantment.
Yaye is a beautiful village situated under cliff overhangs. In the cliffs above the village, you will view the ancient homes and sites of the Tellem. They resemble some of the Anasazi cliff dwellings in the U.S. The Dogon now use these dwellings to bury their dead.
The Dogon are friendly people. In the village of Tiogou we were entertained by the girls of the village who came to dance and sing for us, letting us and the village men know they were available for marriage.
The people grow onions and the air is sweet with the smell. The views of the Gambe Gorge are filled with birds floating on the horizon to meet the desert in the distance. The people live an existence of day to day survival in an attitude of happiness and contentment. Visit with them and you will take home an experience that will never leave you!
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The Niger contains nearly 200 species of fish, including catfish, African carp, Nile perch, lungfish and the delicious capitain. Hippopotamus and crocodile can be found, along with many lizards and snakes on the banks. The Fulani tribes depend on the river for the pastures or their cattle, sheep and goats.
Mopti is one of the largest trading stops along the Niger, linking the north with the south. The main population is made up of Bozos and Peul, Dogon, Songhay, Tuareg and Bambara tribes. The population reaches 100,000 with another 100,000 of traders at any given time.
The Niger held a distinct place in the history and hearts of Europe. A river that led through the Dark Continent to fabled cities like Timbuktu. A river to be navigated and mapped, to be followed to cultures not met and scenery only imagined. In the late 1700s the African Association sent a Scottish explorer to Africa to travel the Niger. His name was Mungo Park. Mungo mapped the Niger, proving it ran from west to east. His accounts of his personal journals published, "Travels into the Interior of Africa" (1795), opened up e new world and thirst for exploration. Mungo reached the Niger from Doolinkeabo where two black travelers took him to the Niger at Segou......"Looking forwards, I saw the pleasure the object of my mission----the long sought---for majestic Niger, glittering in the morning sun, as broad as the Thames at Westminster, and flowing slowly to the eastward. I hastened to the brink, and having drunk the water, lifted up my fervant thanks to the Grea Ruler of all things, for having thus far crowned my endeavours with success."
Campments can be found in Djenne & Sanga. Both campments have the basics with bed and shower (although cold). They are pleasant and offer a limited restaurant for food.
The Hotel Kanga is a good place to escape the bustle and crowded comdions of this market town. Electricity kept going off, so be prepared to bring a flashlight along. Other than that, it had a nice pool and restaurant and is located across from the River Niger where arrangements can be made to travel the river.
Hotel Colombe has an open terrace on the roof for dining and a good place to watch street activity below. The Rooms are decorated with Malian art and carpeting. Very comfortable and a walks distance to tour Timbuktu.
In the late 1700s there was a push to explore Africa, to enter Timbuktu and return with stories to unlock the mystery of a city with uncounted wealth surrounded by the sands of the Sahara. Many European explorers left for the dark continent in search of surveying, mapping and entering the famed city. Rene Callie, a young French explorer became the first European to reach the sacred city and return alive. Rene fell in love with the stories and after reading the published journals of Mungo Park, it was set in his destiny to reach the city of untold stories. It took him eleven years of traveling unsupported and alone, of disguises and starvation, of harsh enviroment and dangers, but Rene had a goal and was in love with the thought of adventure. His house still reamains in Timbuktu in honor of one of the greatest explorers of all time.
Many homes of explorers past can be visited on a walking tour of the city. There is the Grand Marche or market area to visit but it is the interaction with the Tuearegs (The Blue Men) that bring thoughts of the caravans and trading. They live in the Sahara bordering Timbuktu. They moved southward from North Africa into Mali, Algeria and Niger to escape Arab invasions. The name Tuareg originates from the Arab word Taureor (abandoned from God). The Tuareg have changed little in modern times, holding onto ancient tradional cultures. They are the desert nomads of the Sahara. They travel by camel and caravan to trade. They are proud and intelligent people. Their life is the desert, their love is the freedom.
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