Then on to Djenne, Mali, an old walled city constructed entirely of banco - or mud. Every year all buildings including the huge central mosque have to be patched, otherwise they gradually wash away. From here we took a three day pirogue (a long boat punted along with poles) trip to Mopti. Mali was hot. Its always hot - especially mid-afternoon, and you constantly have to drink. You sweat all the time, but do not notice it as it dries immediately.
Money, Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso
All of French West Africa shares a common currency, the CFA, tied at 50:1 to the French Franc. In Paris you can convert unlimited amounts of Francs to CFA and back, thus giving these countries a hard currency, and French colonials a place where they can still do business as always.
The Anglophone countries (Nigeria, Ghana, The Gambia) all have their own currencies, with a corresponding rate of inflation, but (it seems) very serviceable.
Owari bead game
Here I set about learning the bead game played all across Africa from east to west - played with a 12 hole board and 48 beads. It is called various names, the most common being Owali or Owari. There are a number of different ways of playing, all of which involve the following :- you have six houses, your opponent has six. You pick up the beads from a house of your choosing (it must be one of yours) and deposit them one by one anti- clockwise around the board, and examine the house where the last bead falls.
We progressed though Mwanza via dirt roads to Rwanda - also the main truck supply route to that country. We were in Rwanda (official language French) mainly to see the Parc de Volcans - the national park on the borders of Rwanda, Zaire and Uganda, any two of which seem to be closed to tourists because of internal troubles. This park is home to the gorillas popularized by Dian Fossey’s book ‘Gorillas in the mist’, and was another unforgettable experience - a stiff half-day hike to find one of the four gorilla families that are habituated to tourist visits, and an hour of watching the group - the adults spend most of the time eating (very destructive, as they may eat the tree bark of up to four trees each per day).