Senossa to Sevare, Day 209

Fulani woman with large gold earrings, village of Senossa, Mali, Africa

Considering Djenne is the jewel in West African tourism we spend very little time here.  Of course that could partly be because Christi and I together with Sinead O’Connor and Stan Laurel are going to visit that great Saharan city of Timbuktu – a place deemed too unsafe for the Dragoman truck to visit so we have to sign off the tour for a few days. (And Adonis does literally make us sign forms absolving Dragoman from all responsibility for our independent / foolhardy activities)  The four of us are going to fly, which seems eminently more sensible than the second group (comprising Sheldon Cooper, Buddha, Hu-man, and Agatha Christie) who are planning a 5-day round trip jeep trek (aesthetically purer, they argue!).  The entire group gets a brief sense of what might be in store for the jeep group, when we board a convoy of horse and carts to visit the neighboring Fulani village of Senossa. Christi and I share a horribly bumpy and uncomfortable 5 km ride with Aphrodite, Thelma, and Oliver Hardy.  Aphrodite continues to be an interesting character.  According to Agatha Christi, Aphrodite takes the time each morning to bathe and apply make-up even though by the end of the day she looks as bedraggled as the rest of us. Apparently the romance with Adonis goes from strength to strength, so the English rose is taming the Italian stallion.

I digress. The hard wooden cart is painful on the rear end, but it ‘s the poor horse I feel sorry for.  Its owner whips the animal repeatedly adding to the scars already prominently displayed on its scrawny back.  Christi and I are thus relieved to reach Senossa for more than one reason.  And it’s the usual chaos: lots of children screaming and yelling, alternately holding our hands and then asking for presents or demanding to have their photographs taken.  Intermingled with this are the other members of the village who I suspect would be much happier if we were not there.  Of course we have paid to visit Senossa and the local guides are constantly cajoling and bullying the villagers into posing for photographs.  The poor things are suddenly faced by 20 camera lenses in a paparazzi-like scramble for that perfect, natural image.  Instead the looks we get vary from scared to confused. (Another disadvantage to group travel).

We do have one very interesting experience in Senossa, however. Fulani earrings are a sight to behold. We meet the village jeweler and his wife who parades around in massive (and heavy) gold earrings.  Typically, a man will have to sell several cows in order to purchase a suitably grand pair of earrings for his future wife. The bigger the earrings the more prestigious it is in Fulani culture (similar to large diamond engagement rings in Western culture!). Often a Fulani woman uses wool or silk to protect her ears and straps over her head to support the weight of heavy golden baubles.

The return horse and cart ride from Senossa to Djenne is equally unpleasant on our bums.  We pass the town dump, which also appears to be the graveyard of ex-livestock: decomposing cows and donkeys are clearly visible. Across the road the locals are growing crops in their own individual allotments: potatoes, onions, cabbage and lettuce are common. Water from the Bani river is abundant and the crops are a dash of bright green in an otherwise parched landscape.

Later, Christi, Sinead O’Connor, Stan Laurel and I take an expensive 90-minute (US$120) taxi ride back towards Mopti ahead of our flight to Timbuktu tomorrow. Courtesy of Granpere, we are staying in the Hotel Via-Via in Sevare (on the Bandiagara to Mopti road). Our double room with fan is another CFA 15,000 (US$30) while dinner and drinks are a further CFA 9,000 (US$18).  Money is disappearing at an alarming rate at the moment.  Still, this is our once in a lifetime shot at visiting Timbuktu and we are away from the claustrophobic confines of the truck for a while, thank goodness.

Blog post by Roderick Phillips, author of Weary Heart – a gut-wrenching tale of broken hearts and broken test tubes.

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