Always in the deep woods when you leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place there will be, along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is an ancient fear of the unknown and is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into. What you are doing is exploring. -- Wendell Berry

The TRIP: GUINEA - wonkifong --> MALI - bamako, djenne, douentza, Dogon Country --> Burkina Faso - ouagadougou, bobo-dioulasso, bala, ouagadougou --> GHANA - tamale, mole national park, tamale, yeji, volta lake ferry, akosombo, accra, green turtle lodge, elmina, cape coast, accra, hohoe and wli falls --> TOGO - kpalime, atakpame, lome --> BENIN - cotonu (transport stop) --> NIGER - niamey, tahoua, agadez, camel trek in aiir mtns, niamey --> BENIN (abomey, grand popo, ouidah, ganvie, cotonou) --> CAMEROON (douala, buea, top of Mt Cameroon, limbe, sangelima, yaounde, kribi, douala) --> MAURITANIA (nouakchott, atar, chinguetti, camels into the sahara, terjit, choume, ride the coal train, nouadhibou) --> MOROCCO (western sahara, dakhla, agadir, essaouira, marrakesh, imlil, summit of jebel toubkal, fes, chefchaouen) --> cross the Strait of Gibraltar --> Malaga, Spain --> fly to Geneva, Switzerland --> Les Grangettes, France
Click for a map. Updated April 30, 2007

lundi, mars 12, 2007

Sacred Catfish (Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso)

Feathers covered the rocks we walked across in our bare feet. Whites, grays and blacks were the primary colors of the chicken feathers from the chickens that had been sacrificed here for the sacred catfish.
The story is that once upon a time there was a drought with no end. Out of this small pool somewhat hidden in a narrow canyon came several catfish that walked around on the rocks for a bit before hopping back into the water. The rains followed…
Now, the scene is a bit of a shrine for locals and a trap for foreigners. Not wanting to sacrifice a chicken just to see big catfish, Patrick and I brought what we thought the acceptable offering. Bread.
After a bike ride and hike to the feather covered rocks, we began negotiating with a man about why we did not have a chicken. The two other men nearby grilling several chickens for their mid-morning snack did not look so pleased. I guess they wanted a larger feast.
Negotiations finished, we continued barefoot over rocks and descended to the pool. The guide then made an act of calling the fish that appeared instantly as bread touched the water. They apparently did not mind having bread to eat. The following scene resembled a frantic feeding frenzy by 3-4 foot long catfish as they fought each other to gain the bread. A piece of bread would be placed on a sloping rock and catfish grappled over top of each other to suck the piece with their wide, gaping mouths.