domenica 26 febbraio 2012

Bedick Village

On our way to Mali we met 2 French guys and a FrancoSenegalese woman (Julien, Guillaume and Amiko)travelling to Keidogou in order to visit a near Bedick village. We joined them in the shattering SeptPlace trip from Tambacounda to the Keidogou that I calle d"La Ville Pussiere" for its red sand roads that invade every side of this town. Early the morning, as usual, we spent more than 1hour trying to get the info about public transport to Ibel, every local try to make tourists and Toubab use expensice 4x4. Finally, after a coupple of hours waiting for the bus crew finishing their breakfast and loading every kind of items, we moved to Ibel. This is a small vialleg Poel inhabited by a mixed community of muslims and catholics, therefore the lovely kids aldo have catholic and muslims names. To our bigger surprise we started a difficult climb up to the 435m tall Bedick Village of Iwol, we all had an heavy backpack but step by step after 80 min of sweating we got to Iwol where Jean Baptiste welcomed all of us. He explained that Iwol is one of 7 catholic/animist villages of this region (the Bassari Villages are 40Km further toward Guinea Conakry border), its inhabited by 527 people coming from 4 different families whose one if the chief, the second take charge of clothes knitting and the last 2 organize festivals and ceremonies. JB took us around the small lovely village with its wonderful mud and straw huts, always followed by curious sweet kids with their interesting pigtailed hair, both femail and mail have it but in a different style. He took us to the small petrol powedered mill, to the tissues knitting open air laboratory, to the beautiful straw conical tatched church, to the biggest baobab of the region. We have then had a simple lunch made of rice and wallnutsauce. He explained that we had the great chance to assist that night to the circumcision of a score of kids, this ceremony is meant to introduce kids to their adult hard and full of resposibility life, or better after this ceremony the boys will have to spend 3 months in a sacred forrest along with a spiritual guide. From that moment they will be Bedick adults. We then had some rest in our mud huts, surprisingly able to kee a pleasant fresh temperature inside despite the strong sun of this afternoon. The bed were made of mud and bamboo branches, a bit hard for our civilized backs but even so, we were so tired that we took a good nap. As the night arrived, after a good, deeply wished, open air fresh shower, we headed to the lowland village ceremony where we were explained what was going on. Lets say that the families of the circumcised boys were receiving presents from the rest of the village, consisting of mile, corn grains and flour, gombo (made by baobab leaves)flour, palm wine and millet beer. then the procession moves between dances and songs from one  family to another, always carrying this gifts baskets, always bringing happines and smiles. In every stop males and females keep separeted , the women dancing and men sitting down, discussing and eating To (a kind of millet polenta) with Gombo. At one oclock I and Ale hurried to bed because we were really too shattered whereas the french guys, especially Julien, thanks to the Millet beer energy continued for other 2 or 3 hours. The following morning JB who has many important duties in the village(doctor, teacher, Public relations with visitors, part time priest)took care of my small infection as soon as he finished with a young woman affected by heavy chronical Malaria effects. I loved the time we spent among this nice people and really appreciated all the new things we learned but I should also say that the few tourists regularly coming here (the first Toubab arrived in the 1981) brought their negative effects like the continuous request for money or presents even if we already agreed with JB to give some good money, yet I guess that when there were no electrical lamps the circumcision ceremony, lighted by natural wood and resins would have been far more charming however this is the progress with its good and bad sideeffects. Before returning to Ibel, I dod needed a toilet, probably the night before To had a good lassative effect, thus, despite the very little inspiring toilet descriptions of my french pals, I ventured into the toilet fenced compound, removed the "famous"stone covering a hole on the ciment floor and discovered a world of disgusting but perfectly ecological tiny white worms waiting for my fecal contribution to the Bedick Soil.

giovedì 23 febbraio 2012

Cidade de Bissau

As we arrived from ilhas de Bijagos we decided to spend at least the Sunday night and the following monday in this small capital. We bargained hard a triple basic room at Hotel Tropicana for 20000CFA and Carlo had to sleep on the floor in his sleeping bag. Behind the hotel we found a lovelt Tropicana Restaurant where we had a very good grilled fish and salad at a reasonable price, althoough it took almost 1 hour to get our dish ready. To finish the night along with Colin and Marc we spiced the night up at the...Tropicana Club that in a few hours was copmletely full of young Bissau Guinean Boys and girls. This old style "Bandiera Gialla" balera, with open garden and grilled chicken sold inside, was a lovely surprise. Good music, happy dancing locals, a good spot for the night (I was told also of Samura and Bamboo Club) I tried to chat with some of these girls, nice but absolutely not as beautiful as Senegalese ones, but most of them were quite shy or maybe they did not speak Portuguese language but only Criollo. The following morning, after a good butter, marmelade and baguette breakfast we all headed to Bandim market, which was very simple, poor and nothing special to visit nor to buy. We also searched for a few postacrds of Bijagos islands or Bissau Capital, but after 1 hour strolling around the old-style beautiful colonial houses, we lost hope and energy but found nothing similar to postcards nor nespapers. We then celebrated our farewell with Carlo eating a good meal at a tiny food stall at Bissau Garagem, a ring to Erika, met on the boat, then left Bissau to return to Senegal with a strange feeling that make me wish to return here again. 

giovedì 9 febbraio 2012

Praia de Bruss e praia de Escadinha

We rented a 5000CFA mountainbike by the KasaAfrikana and crossed the path that lead to Praia de Bruss on the other side of the island. This beach is really huge, lonely, wild and inhabited by ferocious sandflies. As usual we had been to pay attention not to step on a resting stingray (peixearey in Criollo). I, carlo, Colin and Goran had the beach all for ourselves. Yet not less fine and interesting was the bike trip to get there, we crossed a handful of small villages, we stopped to greet kids, to talk with young boys who were too far from the "nightlife" of Bubaque, we took photographs and first of all we breathed deeply every single smell and heard every single sound that God gave us as a present through this wonderful forest, we do really loved this excursion that started with the smoke and the noise of the Dia de Limpeza which is a day per month when all the pupils and also some adults clean, cut, and burn stubble and dry grass to keep the roads clean.
As for praia de Escadinha, it's a smaller beach closed to the town where Carlo has been stung by a stingray. Probably he adventured to the mangrove lonely part of the beach however since that frantic afternoon (he had good luck that the local doctorwas on the beach and gave him a fast and effective antibiotic cure)we entered the water with fearsome feelings. However saturday and sunday afternoons this beautiful beach was lively crwded with families, kids and teenagers playing futebol on the beach, the girls too showed to be good players, especially the nice 16yo Carla

Ilha de Canhabaque

Canhabaque was the island we visited as our first excursion, no doubt it confirmed that unless you can spend a lot of money in fast private boats 'we could NOT), you have to rely on unreliable, cheap public pirogue transport which means long delays in the best cases and no exact timetable. That can be another great African feature;"take it easy and slow because there is no need and no point in rushing". We waited more than 3 hours for the pirogue coming with the right tide then slowly we approached to the big Canhabaque island, we left some passengers to the first beach just to discover later on that the first engine was gulping and suffering until it definitively "died". The crew then put the second engine but when they realized that it could expire in the same way suggested that we return to the second beach, we jumped down in a waist level seawater and brought slowly our backpacks in a marvellous crimson sunset sandy beach, just like a few lucky alives after a shipwreck.
But the adventure had just started, in fact we had to walk in Canhabaque forest under our tiny headlamps and under the great moonlight, for more than 1 hour. Finally we got to Ndiema village where Esteve, on his wheelchair, welcomed us and the food we brought him, prepared clean accommodations for us and for our english and French buddies and gave the rice and the canned mackerels (so disappointed that they do so little  fishing and agriculture here, the result is a potbely in almost all the younger kids, a bad nutrition result). We put our fleabags in small; dark, tented rooms provided with hardstraw mattress and a hole on the clay walls that let the fire heat enter in the rooms. As soon as we refreshed with a typical African shower made of water buckets, and just outside some small strange straw cages for the hens that I later discovered were the "fenced cages" that prevented the poor animals to be swallowed by one of the many pytons of this island.
As soon as we settled to have a chat with Esteve, one of the few portuguese speakers of Canhabaque, we had been surrounded, folded, invaded, pressed, merged, absorbed by a huge crowd of beautiful kids whose main goal was to have a look at the newcomers "brancos", to have a stroke, to touch their strange hair, to keep their hands, to show them their school, their lovely forest "disco", their natural coal process, their hability in forest rat hunting, their bitter-taste cola fruit harvest method. No privacy was left there and one of the english guy suffered it to the death, probably it was not easy at all to do everysingle gesture with all these wild children, but I do loved them. Some girls were even wearing their traditional tree bark miniskirts only and Esteve, half joking and half serious, offered us to arrange a wedding with one of the local girls...for me he suggested a sweety 4 yers old child, well at least I still have some more years of "celibataire3 travels ehehehe 

Chegando nas Ilhas Bijagos

After a long and heavy controlled border crossing we finally entered Guinea Bissau, one of the poorest country of all Africa. Despite its dark fame of being a narcostate, the brder policemen were friendly and fine. From now on I started to be the Portuguese official translator of our small group although too many locals can not speak other than Criollo, which is a strange mixture of "Portuguese and Sicilian" dialect. The road to Biassau was well paved but we had often to stop because of strange check point made of local policewomen handing a rode tied in a big tree on the other side of the road, they seemed to ask the driver for help and he quickly gave them a few coins. On the main check points there were lot of women and kids selling oranges, cakes "brazilian bolo"-like, wallnuts and water whereas the small vialleges we passed through seemed very simple and I did not see lot of shops nor markets. The ladscape was really beautiful, 2mtall grasslands were sorrounding the road, small lakes, rivers and dry swamps were intervalling patch of forested earth and considering that in this 2hours ride we crossed a handful of cars, I may say that GB, except the capital, remains one of the least polluted country I have ever been. As we arrived to Bissau, I realized that the few information I had of this small capital were right; accommodation is not cheap nor easy to find, yet there were some Hungarians came here by jeeps and many hotels were fully booked, after 1hr search we stumbled upon a shabby hotel room with no running water and a small bed for me and Ale, whereas Carlo unrolled his flea-bag on the floor. After a good churrasco dinner at Gran via (no need to say that it reminded me Brazilians churrascarias...que saudade) then we hurried to our room where we have been almost killed by strong humid heat and hungry Guinean mosquitos. At b5 o'clock we arrived in the darkness of Bissau commercial harbour and had the chance to catch a 15m wooden pirogue after it had loaded its ciment, beer, food, livestock and human cargo. We soon discovered that the pirogue staff had no ladder available, thus we all had to slide down a 2m rope, easier than it seemed but for sure an original way to get on a boat. The 4 hrs cruise was plain and quiet, I read a magazine, Carlo took a nap until a cock reminded us of his job at 8o'clock, and Ale suffered nervous every single minute until we got to Bubaque. No floating vest was provided on the boat and he can not to blame him?
As soon as we landed, we found a lovely, simple; cheap campement chez Titi who provided us with delicious fish dinners and good breakfast. By the way these islands are one of the last paradise of ocean fishing 4but Koreans, Americans and European technological ships already started the pillage of this sea with the local polititicians agreement) and at dusk the harbour of Bubaque is full of teenagers who can fish so many carps, thunas and pargos even with simple fishing lines. Of course the few luxury hotels organize expensive fishing cruises, but even when they catch huge 20kg barracudas it sounds me an impartial battle.
After a 10 days here I really started to appreciate a very slopace lifestyle, fine and lovely people, qt the beginning shy but really friendly. One of the very highlight of Bubaque was the many electrical black outs that from one side obliged us to keep almost disconnected from Internet and from 90% of communication duties and  hassles and on the other side once again gave us the oportunity to visit and walk around Bubaque lighted just by the moon light. Can you imagine it? I could not before I came to Africa, in Italy I am so used to public lights that it was a kind of magic to be roofed by a brilliant sparkling rain of stars sometimes surrounded by clouds prairies. Yet it was so nice to walk around sheeps, goats, pigs and cows whose shape could just be guessed under the moonlight exactly as it happened at Barrio Caracol where some groups of local youngsters were talking, dancing or getting drunk by palmwine at the darkness of the nights. No point in saying that I would have loved to spend more time there and to pick up some Criollo language, however I am glad to have been able to get there and hope that this paradise wont be destroyed too fast.

martedì 7 febbraio 2012

Wilderness in Casamance

After the night spent in Oussouye we get to Mlomb to buy some fruit then we got to Elinkine, a small fishermen village that seemed nothing special but for sure is the last place where we could use our mobile phone. We bargained hard to have a 5000CFA pirogue trip to Cachouanne. We stayed by Chez Koukoy, a cheap campement just in front of a quiet, wild qnd desert beach that was the perfect starting point for our excursions to the Village of Djembere (it took 4 hours of hours walking in a sandy path each way), to the "Calypso mood" island of Carabanne and to the fishgermen island of Diogue where we bought some huge fishes to be grilled. The atmosphere at Cachouanne was so relaxing and quiet that we spent there a few days more regretting not to be able to stay longer. I can not forget the heavily starred sky nor the cool air and the crimson dawn that used to be my yoga session favourite time. The evening was the right moment to talk with the boys and the old men of the village as well as our campement chef was absolutely great. I do hope I can come back here next year in order to visit Cape Saint Gerorge and Kafountine region that are believed to be just amazing, however I can not forget how lovely and delighted were an old farmer and the meusinier of Djembere when I, Ale and Carlo approached to them in order to understand a bit how the life is in their village. On the way back we almost got lost but a nice young woman stopped her fire wood search to help us and to lead us for several Km greeting us and thanking us for a small coin given with a djiola formula that can be translated in "get home in peace".