Cycling to Doucki and Hassan Bah

We arrived last night in Labe after staying four days in the small village of Doucki in the Fouta Djalon highlands west of Pita. We headed west on our bikes to see the Chutes de Kinkon 11/14 on our way to Doucki and on to Telemeli with plans to return to Pita after four days. Our plans went awry almost immediately as signage is minimal to nonexistant on the roads. The Telemeli road is dirt with only traffic being a few taxis, motos and people on foot. First we went the wrong way aaand had to back track several kilometers. Finally we found the turn off to Kinkon after asking people along the way. We arrived at the Chutes which were an 80 meter waterfall into a deep canyon. We came to find out that it was impossible to continue on the road from the falls to Doucki. Again we had to back track asking locals which way to go. By that time it was already afternoon and hot. We also were running out of water and had to keep looking for public wells along the way to refill our water bottles. We must have asked 30 times which way to go as there are dirt tracks and footpaths going every which way with no signs. Often people people did not speak French only Pulaar and we used sign language and the name of the town. By 6 pm it was starting to get dark and we were still 8 miles from our destination. The road was getting steeper and rockier and difficult to climb with the weight of the panniers. Finally we were exhausted aand it was dark. We only had our Petzel headlamps to see and the road was barely discernable in the dark. In the village of Yaga we called it quits and tried to find accommodations to no avail. However we did see parked taxis. Luckily a taxi appeared which we took a ride with the last 5 miles to Doucki. We were dropped off at an intersection in the pitch black. There is no electricity or running water in these villages. Two gentlemen appeared pointing into the darkness directing us to Hassan Bah’s house saying Tout Doit. Go straight. Off we went into the dark stumbling over the rocky road pushing our bikes for what seemed like forever. Finally a fence line appeared out of the darkness. Then a flashlight. We heard a voice in English. Hello how are you man? Hows life? Come this way.

It was Hassan Bah. We were welcomed into his family compound in Doucki with open arms. It was then 8:30 pm by then. Immediately we were seated in a open air conical Fula style hut aand we were brought rice with fish and potatoes. Obviously the remains of their dinner. It tasted wonderful. We were shown a Fula hut with a big double bed and water was drawn from the well for a bucket bath. We had ridden 42 miles and were happy to fall into the bed which was a mattress stuffed with the stalks of the fonio plant. Hard as a rock.

The next four days we were treated to the incredible hospitality of Hassan Bah and his family. About Hassan Bah. Born in Sierra Leone and fluent in English, Spanish, French and Pulaar. Probably the funniest upbeat person I have ever met. Worked in hospitality at the Zairean Embassy and as a seaman traveling to Spain before returning home. He started leading Peace Corps volunteers on local hikes in 2002 and then developed a small guesthouse business. He provided three meals a day cooked by his wife Mamouna and sister in law Mamadou Binta AKA Lachirri. My accidental nickname Lachirri which means couscous when I confused the food with her name. It stuck. We ate whatever they ate which was delicious sauces of BoroBoro leaves, beans and peanut sauce and rice or fonio, couscous or squash potatoes and onion with pieces of goat meat or chicken. Petit dejeuner was tea and baguette with wild honey and bananas iif available. Each day Hassan guided us on hikes of about two to four hours through the country side. We hiked to Hyena Rock overlook into a deep valley wwith hoo doos aand escarpment cut by erosion and the river. Our favorite hike was Indiana Jones. Hassan pretended to get on his cell phone and call the King of the Monkeys. Allo. Is this the King of the monkeys? Yes man we are coming. No we do not have any bananas. Hey man you are making monkey coffee? We dont want monkey coffee. No man we want regular coffee . Ok see you man bye. Then he called Mrs. Indiana Jones. You will just have to see his performance on video. Words cannot describe this adequately. We dropped into this jungle canyon wwith vines every which way climbing the steep walls of the slot canyon covered with moss and ferns. Hassan demonstrated his gymnastic ability by climbing some of the vines. There were rock arches and small stream running through the canyon. I fell in trying to step out into one of the slots and almost submerged the camera. We arrived at a double waterfall Hassan called the Jacuzzi. Two small pools of warm water like a bath; There is no Bilharzia here in the water so swimming is safe. Climbing out we spotted some shy grey monkeys. No monkey coffee though.

The next two days we hiked Wet and Wild and Vulture Rock through traditional Fula villages aand pastures of grazing cattle and women threshing fonio doing the wash in streams. We even got a private tour through one of the older traditional Fula home built of adobe painted and thatch roof maybe in the 30s or 40s.There were more hikes like the Grand Canyon and Chutes and Ladders. We will save those for our return visit. We also visited the local public primary school where there is one teacher for forty students. They were only just getting one more teacher so more kids in the village could attend school. We also visited the health post with very simple facilities manned by one doctor. Dr. Sow. The extent of his inventory of medicine seemed to be what sat on his desk. Not much. Antibiotics and Larium. What they need is a solar panel and small fridge to keep much needed vaccines. We have been thinking how we could help this happen. Solar is the way to go for them in this little village.

We said our farewells to the Bah family and on djaramabwi – Thank you very much in Pulaar. Our return to Pita was not eventful aand easier. In six hours we were in Pita and back in civilization such as it is. I already miss our peaceful country home. Nice to take a bucket shower in the little twig enclosure with the cows mooing, the birds and crickets chirping, goats bleating, kids playing soccer while the sun sets. For those of you who wish to enjoy the fantastic hosptality of Fula culture in the Fouta Djalon and Hassan Bahs wonderful humor his cell number is 60 39 36 42. All for now. –Louisa

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