Here's the situation. Cliff, Kunta (our guide), the boat driver and I are traveling up the Niger River in Mali on our way to Timbuktu. This is a three day excursion with no electricity, no grocery stores and no shelter! I was glad that I had three camera batteries that were charged and twelve memory cards because what we saw was worth photographing.
The Niger is the third largest river in Africa, extending 2,600 miles and forming a crescent shape in Mali as it ascends through Timbuktu. As the sun started going down on the first day, it was time to beach the boat and establish a camp site where we would spend the night. That was when we saw the man shown here.
My first thought when I saw him was, "How old is this guy?" Statistically, the average life expectancy for a male in this area is 51 years old. My guess was that he appeared much older than he really was.
We boarded our boat the next day and encountered several villages along the way as we made our way up the Niger River with stops at Niafunke, Dire and Dunga. As the boat landed, camera in hand, I was consumed by the way of life of people living on the river.
The women do their daily chores including washing out the family's clothes in the river by hand. There is a division of labor by three tribes that coexist along the river which include the Bonzo, or fishermen, the Songay, or rice growers, and the Filani, or herdsman. Here is a picture of the Bonzo preparing to go out to fish.
I'll never forget the sight of women in Dire carrying large articles on their heads as they walked along the river.
Having gone through years of training to become a cardiologist, it amazed me that there was such a vast assortment of human experiences out in the world that I had not even considered just a few short years previously. Perhaps I was really interested in anthropology? Well, this would have to wait. For now, my concentration would be developing myself as a travel photographer.