on September 13, 2004
“We're going out today,” my host said to me. “Want to come?”
Well, of course I was up to any adventure that came my way. “Do you want to see the sight of Zebala?” she asked. On further questioning, it appeared that we would be taking a picnic to “The Hill.” Now I really must explain that the area around Zebala, in fact the area around Koutiala, the BIG town some 50km away, is flat...really flat. So...a hill??? Really?
Well, we packed up the picnic basket, rounded up my friend’s kids, sent packing a whole load of others who weren't hers, and loaded up the truck. I was intrigued…why did we need the truck to get there? She made sure I had packed my binoculars and West African bird book. We set off on the road out of the village in the opposite direction to Koutiala. Of course, because it is a village and everyone knows everyone else, we hadn't gone very far before we had to stop and talk to someone, and then someone else, and then someone else. Finally, we left the village. Where was this hill? She drove and drove and then stopped. I got out. “Are we there?” I asked, feeling extremely puzzled. “This is IT,” she said, beaming with pride. I looked around. Well, we really were on a slight incline, I had to admit that. This is a hill? She explained that it was the only slightly inclined ground for many, many kilometers, and yes, this was our picnic place.
I put my piece of cloth on the ground, and contemplated how significant a slight rise of ground is in a landscape where there are no hills. I sat quietly, and took in the peace of the countryside. Suddenly, there was a commotion. A small dog appeared, closely followed by a rather strange looking man in a Bogolan suit. A hunter! One of those enigmatic people that one hears about, but rarely sees. I put my binoculars away quickly in case he thought they were a camera and that I was trying to take his photo. Hunters are prickly creatures. But this one was friendly and my host greeted him in Minianka. He stopped, talked about the weather, and passed on.
I did see some rather nice birds, but really it was the peace of the place that struck me - out in the bush, away from most people. Quiet…except for the birdsong and chatter of crickets.
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