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Essakane/Tombouctou/Timbuktu, Festival au désert.

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Monday, January 16 2006

1 year, 5 month, 25 days

Essakane, Mali

About Travel Photography,
Colors of the World.

Manfred is creator of, travel photography, a travel blog and a photography blog (a journey from 2004 to 2013). 'I set out to see the colors of the world, always I try to capture the colors'.

Seeing, is understanding, so I report and photograph, but formost enjoy and live those different conceptions of life (all that TV [and the web] cannot give). I reject jealousy, animosity, bigotry. Be free!

Manfred in the desert of the Western Sahara

The mind, when pondering at night and always asked those questions. What am I doing in corporate wonderland of bank, university, office or church? Who is the other animal asleep deep inside, the thinker, punk, creative, or Indian, vagabond and healer, maybe artist, writer, photographer, traveler, globetrotter? Oh God, dare you to think. When I saw the lies, gambles and manipulations I follow the old dream and set out for the journey of life lived, the journey to see the colors of the world.

During years on the road I have taken the turns as they came along, and realized one thing: Only such a small part of the planet can be explored and such a vast land and sea mass will always remain unknown, to me; many swamps, jungles, deserts and oceans will never be traveled. But then I am father of twin boys, Daniel and David, my most important, and I show them some of the wonders and colors out there.

ThisFabTrek, Photography and Journey, the Stories from the Road and Life around the World, stopped in August 2013 after more than 9 years, Love and Peace.

Last vehicle.

G20, Chevy Gladiator.

Chevrolet Gladiator G20, The boys in Cordillera Blanca, Peru.
The boys and Chevy van, Peru.

The G20, the vehicle that came to me for the Americas adventures.

6 wheeled Land Rover.

Land Rover Defender 6x6
Link to Foley

The vehicle of the Africa adventures, a Foley 6-Wheeled Land Rover Defender.

Before, the MB307.

Manfred and MB307
Journey, Middle East.

The vehicle of the Middle-East and North-Cape Journeys. See all vehicles.

Daniel and David with nanny Aisha, the best we ever had, black African Woman carrying white twin babies, in Bamako, Mali.

Land Rover 44,051km

Trekking 305km

Ferry 694km

Train 150km

Other cars 5.336km

Travel Blog

contains Festival/Fiesta/Art photography.

"There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come." - Victor Hugo.

"What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it, to tell the tale." Living to Tell the Tale - Gabriel García Márquez.

"They never taught wandering in any school I attended. ... they never taught the art of writing a book, either. It's all so mysterious."
"Wandering is an art in itself. Wandering and writing don't mix"
"Writing demands commitment and if one thing your wanderer is allergic to is that very quality of commitment, for once one is committed he runs that very risk of failure ..." Wanderer - Sterling Hayden.

"Photography enables you to grasp a place first time round. ... Photography is a means of exploration, it's a vital part of travel, almost as essential as a car or a plane. " - Wim Wenders.

"The worst prejudice we acquire during our youth is the idea that life is serious. Children have the right instincts: they know that life is not serious, and treat it as a game..." , Egon Friedell.

"How far you gonna go. Before you lose your way back home" - Tryin' To Throw Your Arms Around The World, Achtung Baby, U2.

"If you want to be a hero well just follow me." - Working Class Hero, John Lennon.

"When I think of all the things I have done, I know that it's only just begun." - I love you, Lou Reed.

"One does not escape the Sahara - the Sahara let's you go or not" - Touareg.

"Planet earth is blue and there`s nothing I can do" - This is Ground Control to Major Tom, David Bowie.

"Glory for the crazy people/in this stupid world" - Ahmed Fouad Negm. > journey > africa > mali > 20060116-essakane

Segou, we are in Mali and happy.

Map: Journey Nema, Segou, to Essakane.

Download GPS (KML) track/waypoints.

Mauritania still on our minds. Deep are the impressions when we head for the border and beyond. Mauritania was a good country, its people welcoming and we have got used to not drinking.

We don't stop till in Nara, the first town in Mali. What overwhelmed us (after Mauritania/where everything despite their friendliness seemed to be a bit difficult/like changing money and registering at a police post), we are overwhelmed by their "professionalism". and friendliness.

Police and Customs handle our immigration procedures in a very formal/quick/professional manner, without asking for presents/money. Moved to tears I shake the customs duty officers hand, thanking him for his friendly welcome.

If all Mali is like that I will love it. Malians seem to be more accepting/tolerant.

We take 2 days to get to Segou. Of course we drink beer in Nara. Beer after the drought of Mauritania. Indeed like rain in the desert.

Girl, part of her head shaved
Sahel girl.

But apart from that we enjoy the green of the Sahel region between Nara and Sokolo, many villages we cross and new is everything to us, the way these villages are organised, their mud housings, the wells in the town centres, the dresses (or lack of any) of men and women.

The closer we get to Sokolo and later Niono on the Canal du Sahel the more organised agriculture becomes. Rice and sugar cane fields line up one after the other for hundreds of kilometres. Enormous projects, some Japanese and US financed, have been carried out, with all the infrastructure necessary. Canals, roads, refineries, ..., work for thousands, schools and hospitals.

Makala 30km to Segou.

We reach Segou on 28th of Dec. and Nico and Julie (who we had met in Essaouira in June more then 6 month ago this year) a day later.

We discover that we are still friends. Life cannot be better.

After Christmas Eve in the Mauritanian desert had been quiet (too quiet for me), New Years Eve with Nico and Julie is definitely different.

2005, a year has passed, and so much I (we) have experienced.

We have made it. I looks like we have made it. Not just through the desert of Mauritania. It looks like the concept of travelling has worked.

The places we have gone to are uncountable so are the people we have met and the hands we have shaken. It makes my head turning when I think back.

Morocco, Senegal/Gambia, Mauritania.

Just thinking of only these past 5 weeks in the dust and sand of Mauritania, these roughly 3.000km (look at the 3 previous stories). Already it feels unbelievable what we have accomplished. Unreal already.

Life truly cannot be better.

Hasna, Nico and Julie, New Years Eve party
Happy New Year, Hasna, Nico, Julie.
Hasna and Nico
Hasna, Nico.
Fidel Castro likes whisky too.
Fidel Castro likes whisky, so do I.
New Year's Eve Party
He's part of Super Biton, a band that'll play on the festival.

Nico and Julie work for the Festival sur le Niger, that will be staged later here in Segou beginning of February.

And they'll provide me with a press badge. My first assignment as a fully accredited photographer.

So some time remains for practicing and trying the camera.

The Segou festival is still a month away, Essakane is first.

Mamou Daffe, director of the festival talking to Nico, stage and beach in the making in the background
Mamou Daffe, director of the festival talking to Nico.
The bonton, the stage ion the Niger river s being cleaned
The stage on the Niger river is being cleaned.

Kids on a bridge crossing some canal
Children on a bridge.

I spend my entire time in Segou under the vehicle, again a U-joint needed replacing, then the fuel tank leaked and needed rewelding, and lots more.

We finally leave Segou on the 7th of Jan, taking the road north via Markala and Niono further onto Nampala, Léré, Diartou, Niafunke and Goundam to Tombouctou.

Always keeping the river or one of its branches and canals to our right.

Locust swarms like little birds go up in the air as we drive by.

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Essakane, festival au désert.

Area of the Festival Essakane.
White dunes, so far away.

The festival au desert. Wednesday 11th, after a day and a bit in Tombouctou (which does not inspire) we reach Essakane after darkness. Thursday we are allowed onto the ground, "laissez passer" no1. We are first.

Hasna becomes friends and "sisters and brothers" with all the organising Tuareg folk quickly, she does not pay for the entry. Everyone is happy to see a Moroccan Muslim lady visiting their festival.

It's good to be there. Before the crowd, before it all starts.

And it starts slowly, with the Touareg gathering before sunset on camels (dromedaries) high.

It is their festival, their time to show off.

Here I begin to understand the uniting power of art and music and festivals.

We Westerners are allowed a glimpse into the Touareg society - they in exchange get some shoulder rubbing with us, the toubabs (the whites), and we all later go home with greater understanding of each other and more tolerance. So and such is the concept, one to be embraced, on the road to the "one world for all".

The festival is heavily sponsored by the likes of UNICEF and the EU. Every year there is complaint and blame "Where did the money go?" And every year the organisation seems to be getting just a little bit better.

But - what the heck, if the money serves peace and allows two or three worlds to meet (West, Black-Africa, Touareg).

It is worth keeping in mind that in the early 90s the same parading Touareg folk was fighting for recognition in a bloody uprising.

The festival was started in 2001 by a visionary, director Manny Ansar - and Tinariwen and French band/organisation Lo' Jo (P.S. Aug 2007). 2003 it was then first held at the Essakane location.

And it really came to fame in 2003 when Robert Plant performed here (Guns&Guitars, The Independent).

Lo' Jo seems have quit since then (P.S. Aug 2007).

Austrian Hubert von Goisern played Essakane in 2005. I like and share his "a musician's thoughts" about the festival.

Yet, for most (western) tourists coming here is a long arduous trip through the desert, long flights before but some excellent music in the end.

Not to forget the rip-off prices that some pay and the multiple hassles they feel exposed to (no good food, warm beer, souvenir vendors that never leave you alone, useless guids, bad sanitation, sand and sand....)

We (of course) did not pay 600 Euros to get here, had cold beer in the fridge, cooked our own food and made lots of new friends....

And for me as a photographer (in the making) it is on festivals like this that I am allowed the intrusive look at faces and bodies and camels and musicians.

Touareg/Tuareg gathering
Impressive gathering at sunset.
Tuareg riders
They are amongst themselves.
Don't mind tourists taking their pictures.
Tuareg woman passing by, men watching the show
but keep their privacy.

Tuareg Rider and folk against setting sun
Against the setting sun.
Tuareg rider
We get to see their faces.

parading Tuaregs on their camels
Watch the guy in the back.
parading Tuareg, Salut.
Parade and salute.

Impressive Dressage skills, Tuareg
Showing his riding and "dressage" skills.
a proud people.

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Tiris, Saharawi Occidental.

Tiris Saharawi women, unforgettable voices
Fat bottomed girls, a hot act.

From Western Sahara, "The Sahara is not for sale", he shouts, it had to become political. A bit.

Tiris, app. the Mauritanian name for the area of Western Sahara when under its control between 1975 and 1979.

Hasna is surprised, that everyone outside Morocco calls the Sahara south of Morocco Western (Occidental), instead of Moroccan.

Tiris is a hot group with miraculous siren voices. (visit here for more).

But why do Tiris play twice, Friday and Sunday? Lack of bands? Cancellations?

Tiris Aretha Franklin from the Western Sahara
It has to become political.
The Saharawi act
"The Sahara is not for sale."

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Baba Salah.

Baba Salah
Baba Salah.

Young Malian Baba Salah,

Afro pop, some say,

But there's more to it...

You hear the desert, as this man comes from Gao, in the north east of Mali, on the Niger river....

... and sometimes the Hendrix inside.

He'll be on in Segou as well.

Baba Salah, accouistic guitar
Baba Salah.
Baba Salah, guitarist
Does not want light on his face....
Baba Salah, guitarist
"I want to see my audience."
Djembé moving to the foreground.
back ground voices in the fore ground
the "sida" (AIDS) song.
back ground voices in the fore ground
Baba's singers.

myself, a photographer?
Photographer in Essakane?.

There is more to come ...

... on Essakane.

Some patience pls.. > journey > africa > mali > 20060116-essakane

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