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We based ourselves in Kara. Stayed at the Hotel Marie Antoinette which has a annexe for camping (If anyone is reading this and is in the area). Saturday we made a visit to Tamberma Valley, land of the Batammariba people, originally from Burkina Faso.

Known for it’s fortress like mud houses that were built originally in the 17th to protect them from slavery, but has also been needed to protect them from neighbouring tribes and more recently the Germans, who were here in the late 19th century. Europeans would give guns and supplies to tribes that would ravage the countryside and collect people to be taken as slaves. Some chiefs even sold their own people for financial gain. The Batamariba built the fortresses to protect them from this.

It’s up there, with one of the top five sights on the whole trip. Very unique place, quite similar to the Dogon houses in Mali.

The houses are called Tata’s, built from only clay, wood and straw using no tool and are waterproofed with a mixture of cow dung and sand. The most amazing thing is that the Tata’s only take three months to make. A person who builds is known as a Tamberma.

Before they started building the houses, they used a baobab tree near the existing village to hide from enemies. Another tight fit and we got inside one to take a look. As someone said the elephant of the tree world. Majestic trees and always great to see them traveling along. We tried the fruit from inside one of the pods a while ago. A stone, surround in bitter coating. Not half bad.

You needed to be about four feet tall to get into them, but we had a proper look round. Amazing stuff. The towers are designed with conical roofs are used for storing millet and corn. The bedroom were cool and were small booths, with a raised part outside for the chief to tell stories to the children.

Inside the huts you go through take you to a tiny hall followed by another door. On the right was a pestle and mortar for pounding maize. On the left was a waist height box in part with a little round hole by your feet where the chicken’s lived. Another door took you to a room which was pitch black. This is where the sheep lived.

In a typical village their would be one chief (father), 2 wives and five children or more. When the sons were old enough marry, they build him one.

We had a guide who was from the second village we visited. He made sure he got his millet beer from each village as we went along. We tried. It tasted like the palm wine we had in Ghana. Pretty good. He freaked Bun out when we were talking about diet, and he said the villagers eat dog! Bun quizzed him to which part and how they cooked it! Alan got to shoot to a bow and arrow which was funny.

Before we left, they did a welcome dance, this was followed by a hysterical mock fight which they apparently perform if they get married. We and the whole village were in stitches. They all seem to drink a lot which makes them giggly. They did another dance and wanted us to join in. out guide stepped in when we declined!

There was a funny old lady in that village with a bit of quartz stone stuck into her skin just underneath her bottom lip. She took the stone out to show us the whole by sticking her tongue through the hole. They made Bun have a picture wearing a horned helmet on her head with our guide and the hunter.

Made a UNESCO World heritage site in 2004, the villages get support by schools being built and decent tracks to get to the main road. Still life is very much chief based and we had to make sure we gave the money to the chief for taking photos so not to cause any fighting in the village.

The friendliness was even more than usual. Walengo, the third village we went to in particular. Just when the rains came down, we stopped for ages to keep dry. There was this wonderful old lady there making pots out of clay mud and dampened straw. Her face was so amazing when she was watching Al take photos of the fetish shrines (Slaughter posts) outside of the houses. Bun then had a go at decorating the pot whilst the rest of the family gathered around. After Bun got to learn how to plat a belt out of 4 strands of really fine grass.

She and a few others were amazed at me showing some of the photos and videos from the camera. She had the actions of a small girl but must have been 60 something. There is a photo on flickr with her objects. She had a incredible cough which you could heard when she laughed. Another pipe smoker!

Al bought a pot made from mud and straw which made her happy. Maybe the most simply and beautiful items we’ve bought and will have to try and get it home without breaking it. As we left she opened her arms. Bun thought she wanted a hug, so gave her a kiss on each cheek. She wasn’t sure what to do

Al was obsessed by the fetish shrines, that are found outside of each house next to some animal skulls. The last village we went to, we got to see a juju man (tradiotional priest) speak to the spirits! Shame we couldn’t take a video or photos as he as calling to the spirits with his calabash (with seeds inside to make a noise to attract the spirits). He dropped down a curtain before he started. Inside this small room, were large calabashes filled with water and roots and other special herbs and plants gathered from the mountains around the valley. On the outside were chicken feathers everywhere, as if they had been previously sacrificed.

He got started and started whistling to attract the spirits. After five minutes, there was a sound coming back from behind the curtain that sounded very strange. Bun says it sounded like a muffled gremlin! The guide said they were saying hello to us, so we returned by saying hello back! (We couldn’t say nothing). Al still reckons he had a tape recorder that he pressed play when he was dropping the curtain.  No idea, but it was a bit spooky. The spirits said they had to go  and the shamen shook his calabash  and the voices stopped!

August 2010