October 2003
Right after my contract in Sierra Leone
ended,  I decided to take a break.  
Mali was the first place that came to
mind.  It was close by and I could buy
lots of nic-nacs.  Plus, I had already
been there in March 1999 with Katie
and Ben.   It was going to be a good
place to chill out especially since I
knew what to expect.  It was just a
matter of going and doing what I like to
do, hike.  (Besides this time I wasn't
going to be spit on by upset train
passengers....... How was it our fault
that Ben had to pull the emergency  
break line as  Katie and I were chasing
the train by taxi down a sandy cart path
because the police wanted to chat  a
little Pulaar with the  Toubabs before
stamping our passports......Anyways,
coming from Sierra Leone  this time,
the train wasn't even on the itenerary.)  

My plan this time was to go to Dogon
Country hike, sleep under the stars and
reflect over the past few years.

Mali is great it has a lot of culture from
music, to art, to fabric.  Coming from
Sierra Leone I forgot that people laugh
a lot.  That even though life is hard you
have family and friends you can rely
on.  It is through that laughter and that
bond that you get such rich pieces of
art.  If you want nic-nacs come to Mali.  
The best place I found for African stuff
was at the Artisanal Village in Bamako.  
You have to bargain hard though.  The
starting prices are really high but it is all
in good humor.     Then hit the market
for fabrics.  I have never seen so many
nice patterns and colors.  Beautiful stuff.
Mosque in Dourou
Fula woman
Dogon Country
If you're interested in going to Dogon Country in Mali (I know a couple of you are) this is what I did to get
around.  I flew in to Bamako (I spent 4 nights and out).  Bamako was OK. There wasn't too
much to do but it was where I got most of my nic nacs and changed money.  I thought the place I stayed,
"The Djenne", was pretty good.  It was small, nicely decorated, and resonalbly priced at 21,000 CFA /
night (aprox. $38).  As far as food, it was good to be back in Francophone Africa.  There was a nice
patesserie in the Missera Quartier called "Relax" that had a lovely chocolate mousse and freshly
squeezed juice.   I also went to the Thai restaurant downtown.  It was good especially considering that I
was in middle of the Sahel.

Getting to Dogon from Bamako ain't easy. (it ain't bad just need to be patient)   The bus trip
takes 12 hrs.  I would suggest taking  leaving early (7 - 8 am).  Get your ticket the day before to
guarantee a spot.  You also want to take Bittar or Bani bus services.  (When I went to Dogon I didn't.  
Instead I ended up leaving Bamako at noon and arriving in Severe at 1 am.  At least they brought out
the fourno and cooked up some attaya......although rudely, they did not pass any to me........apprentees
no respect!)  The price was 7,000 CFA + 500-2,000 CFA for bags.

Now I set my base from Bamako but my guide in Dogon Country suggested the next time I go through
Ougadougou in Burkina Faso.  He said that a bus ride from Ouagadougou to Koro, which is in the heart
of Dogon Country, is only 6 hours.  Plus Peace Corps people I talked to said the guides in Koro are much
more chill than the ones you find in Badjigara.     
Navigating the Bani River, Mopti