|Hyena Rock and a vista in Doucki.|
As soon as we arrived on Hassan’s grounds in Doucki we were escorted to our very own open air chill area under a low Fulla-style grass roof, complete with hammocks and a host of children to fetch mangos, cool water, hot water and millet for lunch; it was luxury. We hadn’t been relaxing for long when Hassan Bah himself glided (actually) under the low roof. Hassan gave us a warm and spritely welcome, made sure that we were being looked after to his standard, and then provided us with his old visitors’ book which was full of comments and pictures to inform us of the places that we could go. Hassan has been guiding tours of the gorges and cliffs around Doucki for about 10 years now. At the age of 63, he is still going strong. Peace corps volunteers seem to have been very much a part of the setting up of the establishment, and were evidently now also among the regular visitors.
|In the cool under a low Fulla roof.|
An extra note on Hassan: he grew up in Kabala in the Northern district of Sierra Leone. Since Katie and I live Sierra Leone and can speak (broken) Krio, we connect well on that. Along with his native Fulla, Hassan also speaks English, Spanish and French. If you want to reach Hassan, call +24462457553. When we were in Doucki the accommodation, food, guided tours, everything, cost a flat rate of $25 per person per day; well worth it.
|Hassan Bah just chilling in the Indian Jones gorge, wearing blue 'lepe' pants.|
We went on two guided tours while in Doucki. On the afternoon of our first day we went to the ‘Indiana Jones’ gorge, which is a narrow opening in the ground in which you descend into a forested wonderland of vines and roots covering sandstone boulders. Hassan nimbly displayed how we could scale rock faces using roots as ropes. There is a small, clear stream that runs through the gorge, often completely enclosed by the sandstone walls, with red-finned and green-finned minnows in it. Hassan led us to a good pool to dip ourselves in, called ‘the Jacuzzi’.
|Roots over the rocks.|
|View from the Bob Marley stage that we passed on our way down the cliff face.|
The next morning we went on a longer walk. It is called the ‘Chutes and Ladders’, and comprises of a 14km circuit that took us down a large cliff face, along the valley below, and then back up the large cliff face to the plateau on which Doucki sits. This time we were guided by Hassan’s brother, Abdul. Abdul led us passed Hyena rock, and then down a path that hugs the cliff face. A stream shoots out of the rock at one point, and the path is largely one with the stream until you reach the ‘Bob Marley Stage’ viewpoint (named by some peace corps volunteers). We dined on locally grown potatoes and tomatoes, as well as ubiquitous tinned sardines, next to a stream that was absolutely teaming with red-finned minnows. Monkeys were playing around nearby every now and then as well.
|Katie with red-finned minnows. A bit like Escher's Three Worlds print.|
|Ladders leading up the cleft in the cliff, back to Doucki.|
The path back up the cliff face comprised of a series of ladders following a narrow cleft in the cliff face. The ladders were made from young trees tied together with vines. The trimmed branches of the trees and the vines holding everything together served us the rungs of the ladder. The path looked like one that the ancients had used, and possibly even made. The thick shade, damp moss and cobwebs on the ladders added to a certain mystique. Apparently women commute between villages on these ladders carrying bundles on their heads, wearing sandals, which made us feel less hardcore – we were actually overtaken by one such woman on our way down.
There is plenty of water along the route, and at one point we stopped for a drink at a water source that percolates through the sandstone cliff. There is a sawn in half batta to catch the water droplets, which replaced the 80 year old wooden bowl next to it. The water tasted pristine, which the view added to. There were similar water points dotting the entire route. Although it was the dry season, there was no shortage of water in the Fouta Djalon. It sees enough rain here in June-December to be a major feeder of the Niger, Gambia and Senegal rivers in West Africa. Apparently the Fouta Djalon's beauty is at it's height during the rainy season.
We enjoyed ourselves so much in Doucki, and the journey getting there from Freetown was so long, that we decided to extend our stay by a day. We spent half of the third day lounging back in the Indiana Jones gorge, watching the birds and eating locally made honey on baked bread.
|Playing around in Doucki.|