Arriving in Korhogo from Abidjan at first felt like arriving in an oasis of tranquillity. When I walk out of the bus station, women are sitting on the side of the road, with boxes full of huge orange mangoes on top. I will learn later that mangoes from the Korhogo region are considered the best of the country. After installing myself in a quiet guesthouse some ten minute walk from the city centre, I walk back to town, and walk the main street until I am next to the big mosque. Mont Korhogo looms over the city and is just behind the minarets. It is getting dark and time to walk back; I pick up a bunch of mangoes on the way. After visiting Niofouin the next morning, we take a turn off the main road to Odienné on our way back to Korhogo, driving on a sand path through cashew plantations. We arrive at the foot of Mont Sienlow, with a big open field with interspersed rocks and another rocky hill on the other side. Chicken feathers are flying around everywhere here, and I see thousands stuck between the plants on the farmland.
We have arrived at a sacrificial site. Several boulders a little higher up mark the exact spot. Next to them, smoke is billowing up from what has been a fire before. Our guide takes us to the other side of the boulder, where we see dark vertical lines from eye-height all the way to the ground. A stack of chicken feathers are stuck to a big dark red spot. This is where chicken are sacrificed: their heads are chopped off by a féticheur against the rock. After that, the chicken is let to walk until it falls. The fall is a deciding moment: should the chicken fall forwards, this is considered a good sign. In case the chicken falls on its back, however, this is a bad sign, and another chicken should be slaughtered, hoping it will fall in the right direction. After that, a cola nut will be split in two, and thrown into the air. Again, the way the two halves fall, decide on the sacrifice, and in case they fall in a wrong way, another nut will have to be thrown. We now notice that at the foot of the boulder lie hundreds of chicken skulls. The sacrifice is not total waste: the chicken are eaten after being sacrificed, and they are cooked on the fire we have just seen. Other boulders have more specific purposes: there is one for women who have problems becoming pregnant. These sacrifices are made by people who are facing an exam, a difficult period in their life, something for which they need the favours of the gods. The site is famous all over the country: according to our guide, even people from Abidjan come here to make a sacrifice. Oh, and when the sacrifice has done its work, and the gods have given the applier what he or she asked for, they are supposed to come back to Mont Sienlow and sacrifice a goat to show their gratitude.
We ride from here over sandy tracks past a mine where men, women and children are working hard to hack stone away from the mound, then crush it into smaller stones, and cart those off. Within minutes, we are back on the main road. After lunch, we visit several sites around Korhogo where famous handicrafts are made: weavers, jewellery made from clay and painted in original patterns with bright colours, and wooden sculptures and masks. We end the day by driving to the foot of Mont Korhogo, and head up the mountain for sunset. We are on top in ten minutes, and then stay for an hour to enjoy the views. There are several Ivorians with us, who ask for pictures, pose for selfies with us, and give their laughter as a thank-you. The top of the hill is pretty flat, and views in all directions are unobstructed. Below us, a small lake, a little to the east, the great mosque I passed on my first walk in the city. Towards the west: the hills and the mine we visited before, with the sacrificial site on Mont Sienlow. The south has open plains all the way to the horizon. The sun is now quickly disappearing into a haze over the horizon, so we make it down the rocks of Mont Korhogo, and end up tasting tchapalo, the local millet beer. The next morning, we ride motorbikes in search for the bus for Kong: the riders don't know where it is, and we end up getting an extra tour of town, ending at the market where we get the chance to walk around for a while until our bus leaves. When it does, I realize Korhogo and its friendly inhabitants has left behind a good feel in me.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Korhogo (Ivory Coast). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Korhogo. Read more about this site.