Thursday, April 16, 2009

Of goats and Tata's

I'm back, after a 7 day trip covering 2000km along the length of a country, from border to sea!

Left Ouaga early Sunday morning, heading SSE towards the frontier with Togo. This trip I have to confess was undertaken with some trepidation, partially based upon the fact that I had been told that road conditions were poor and partially based upon the fact that the wheels have been playing up, requiring in the space of four days a radiator and a shock replacement. That coupled with an odd noise or two did have me worried - this is Africa after all!

As I drove along the familiar stretch leading to Koupela, ahead of me the sky split in two, dark and light vertical bands, the edge of a shower of rain, a sight I managed to capture but which in no way does justice to the magnificence of the real thing, reminding me of scenes from the movie 'Twister"

Turning South after filing the tank I was in new territory heading towards the border along a road, which was not bad at all, so far.

Border crossings in and out of Burkina are pleasant, especially the overland ones. Togo was another story, having been stamped the Immigration Officer kept my passport in hand asking for a 'gift', one I laughed off on this occasion - its not good to be noted as a soft touch

The drive thereafter was surprisingly fun, unlike the Burkina Togo is greener, almost lush in vegetation, so SL in appearance. The lay of the gradually undulating as I moved South, closer towards the gentle hills I could see in the distance.

I was trying to make good time for I had a small detour in mind - to visit the Tamberma Valley, for a look at its unique collection of fortified villages. To protect themselves from slave trading Benin's Dahomeyan kings the ancestors of these people fled to the valley in the 17th century to life in these fortress like "Tata's".

A typical Tamberma compound consists of a series of towers connected by a thick wall and a single entrance chamber which is used to trap intruders. The ground floor consists of a two alcoves to the left and right of the entrance, one used for pounding millet, the other for preparing the food. Next comes the entrapment room which is also used to house the fetishes that protect the Tata. From there a narrow door leads into the kitchen from which access is allowed to the second story and living area.

Built of clay covered logs - the 'cement' a mix of clay and straw and no tools which is amazing given the size of the structure.

Life revolves around the elevate area where the occupants cook, dry their millet and corn, and spend most of their leisure time.

Bassamba is a village of 350 people, who's main economic activity is agricultural growing corn and millet for consumption and sale and brewing millet beer. Men and young boys hunt using bow and arrows and traditionally when a man is old enough to start his own family he shoots and arrow, building his Tata where it falls.

The poverty is extreame, poverty is a way of life in Africa and it makes me realize just how much I have and how much of that falls into the category of 'nice to have' as opposed to 'need to have'.

Having declined an offer of a wife, a rather sweet village lass, I bid adieu as I left to continue my journey

The goat? I had a run in with one at 120km, smashed a light and dented the bonnet...

To come, voodoo dolls, the Virgin Mary, soap, salt and suger - see more at flickr

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