Imagine yourself walking through a trek made up of striking orange cliffs and villages, which landscapes are imbued with the spirits of the ancestors of the tribes who have lived there. Every rock and every tree has a story to tell if you’re willing to listen to them. This journey will take you away from every kind of luxury, but it’s totally worth it as you will be rewarded with a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity to know an ancient lifestyle that is at the roof of the human existence. This and much more is what Dogon Country in Mali has to offer, so lace up your boots and get ready for this unique experience.
Getting to Dogon is a journey itself because you will have to take a ten-hour drive east from Bamako, Mali’s capital, which is best broken up into smaller chunks. If it’s necessary, you can make stopovers in Ségou, Djenné or Mopti, where you will have the opportunity to relax in a boat trip along the Niger river. After going through the simple and monotonal flat desert plains, seeing the rusty orange outcrops come up into your eyesight will be as compelling to you as it must have been to the Dogon people.
Before you decide to head out of Bandiagara, we highly recommend you to explore Songo which is one of the best-preserved Dogon villages. It will take you just 15 minutes driving away to reach this place, where every three years a ceremony is celebrated for the teenage boys who are going to ascend into adulthood by being circumcised. It’s possible to visit the ritual cave that is decorated with paintings, where the boys pass three weeks in isolation, singing, and playing musical instruments.
There are several routes for trekking, one of the best known goes from Sanga to the Douro and it takes two days, but if you take the option of walking back to Bandiagara through the plateau, you will have to add an additional day. Nowadays Sanga is a collection of adobe houses, with the Dongo’s trademark looking prominently above high walls. Also, you will see how millet and chilies are dried on the rooftops, while a stream of children fetching water from the village plump for the cooking and washing of the day. As the trails go forward to the plateau, you will notice how Sanga starts to slowly disappear below the horizon.
As you continue walking, there will be a point in which you will see a little warning of what lies ahead: at the edge of the plateau, the path starts going down through a narrow canyon which walls are lined with tombs and comes halfway up the cliff face above Ireli. This village has one of the most astonishing of the togu na which are low, open-sided shelters roofted with millet.
From Ireli, the path continues going down to the Gondo plain and passes below the cliffs to Tereli, where you can stop overnight and have some rest. The Dogon universe is based around Amma, the god who created the sun, moon, and stars; and Amma’s offspring the Nommo twins. These spirits are important for the Dogon people because they believe that they brought life to the planet.
These people have traditional dances that are usually performed at festivals and special village events, but you can pay to see one. Once you’re seeing their performance, you will soon start feeling like you’re watching them flying into the spirit world as they strut and spin around, while using these distinctive masks that represent their myths and beliefs. Therefore, they’re not only dancing but also they’re telling stories.
As you continue walking, the trek will take you from Tereli to Komokani and Nombori. Once you reach Nombori and sleep there, it’s time for you to make a decision; you will have to choose between walking back to Bandiagara and make an arrangement to be driven part or all of the way. Whatever you decide, there’s only one thing for sure and it’s that you won’t forget this incredible experience with the Dogon people.
Just for you to know
Tim Best Travel specializes in organizing group trips to Dongo and other parts of Mali. It’s possible to visit this place at any time of the year, therefore you can choose the best date that suits your schedule. Last but not least, it’s important that you walk through the villages with respect, not only for the people but also for their traditions and customs.
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