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Day 44: Mopti to Dogon Country

Michael Palin - SaharaWe refresh ourselves with slices of mango bought from children on the street, whilst our drivers bind up the fractured leaf springs with an inner tube from a bicycle tyre. This piece of improvisation is immediately and searchingly put to the test as we proceed on progressively stonier, more unstable tracks up onto the escarpment. We seem to go on for ever. Dusk falls. I begin to see things in the half-light. Ghostly figures with enormous gleaming foreheads turn out to be women with aluminium water pots on their heads, and giant likenesses of Edward Scissorhands turn out to be baobab trees racing towards our headlights.

The road begins to drop down in a series of hairpin bends, bouncing us up and down and side to side at the same time. Despite this, I fall into a brief doze as we reach the valley floor.

I'm woken by a ferocious revving of engines. Our four-wheel drive is sliding about, out of control, rushing forwards then slipping back. Our driver brakes, reverses, revs up again and charges forward. By the light of our crazily swinging headlights I can see what the problem is. We're halfway up a sand dune and the wheels are unable to grip.

A voice shouts out of the darkness. One of the other vehicles has come back to lead us up. This time we make it, up over the rise, and our driver sweeps alongside his colleagues as if he'd just won a Grand Prix rather than nearly killed us.

In a shallow bowl of sand, ringed with low bushes, stands a semicircle of small tents. To one side, beneath one of the few trees of any size, a fire is burning. I've lost count of the hours since we left the banks of the Bani river, but it doesn't matter now. We're in Dogon Country, and this is our new home.
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  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 44
  • Country/sea: Mali
  • Place: Bandiagara
  • Book page no: 138

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