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Monday, November 19, 2007
Paul reviews the plan for the day and the "do's and don'ts" for the tour over a hearty breakfast. We check out of the OK Inn to visit a craft market in Ouagadougou. Having seen enough crafts from the day before, we ask Paul to take Sigrid and I to a antiquities dealer Sigrid read about in a guidebook. It is a brisk walk of a mile or so, fending off street vendors every step of the way. Almost lost among the carved wooden doors, masks, fetishes, and beaded jewelry, on a shelf in a glass case, I spot a short stack of dusty, old looking, manuscripts. We purchase the smallest book - hand written text on yellowing parchment, bound between covers of wood. No idea of age or origin, but are told it is Ethiopian An ancient traveler's prayer book? Maybe. A forgery for tourists? Maybe. [Note from the future: I scanned in some of the pages from the book. Closeups linked here]
Rejoining the group, we tour a bustling colorful African market, then load into Toyota Land Cruisers of various age and conditions and head South and out of town. We are a caravan of four vehicles, one carrying cook and crew, the rest carrying travelers and luggage.
The Southern savanna is home to the Gurunsi people. Over the four hour drive, we made several stops. At an open air market, Bart warmed the crowd with magic tricks using a scarf. It was a big hit with the kids. In Poe, we had lunch at La Pyramide. It was a long, hot, dusty drive, which was a contributing factor to my surprise announcement that the cold Flag beer in my hand was the best beer of my life. Oddly enough, it tasted far better than Flag beer in an identical looking bottle I enjoyed the week before. Susan agrees with my assessment.
We arrive at a fortified home village with the mud walls covered by abstract frescoes of black, white, and red. This is our first campsite of the tour. More important, this is Sigrid's first real tented camping experience ever (the catered luxury camping of the Hemingway Tour in '95 simply does not qualify). Tents are pitched on the rooftops surrounding a central corral filled with cattle, sheep, goats, chickens and a few donkeys. We have dinner under the stars in the compound – rice, green beans, lamb and pili-piri sauce (already mandatory at every meal since Wes introduced it at breakfast). Then a surprise birthday birthday tart and a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday” for dessert. Today is Sigrid's 29th Birthday! Listening to morality tales told by villagers around a campfire under a blanket of stars and a waxing moon completes the night.
[NOTE from the future: This is a partial post transcribed from the paper journal I kept on the tour, and am making an effort to post from Timbuktu on December 2. More pics and video will be added when i get back to SF. Also - to my sister Wendy - Happy Birthday! I intended to include a self portrait here as a birthday present for you, but ran out of bandwidth and time.]
UPDATE - Here you go Wendy - Just for you!