To Timbuktu and Back: A Brief Recap

by phil on October 22, 2010

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These items will be expanded in upcoming posts

- Overland Bamako to Mopti
- Mopti to village of Niafunke in overloaded-somehow-still-seaworthy pinasse on Niger River
- Hanging out in Niafunke, meeting the rest of Ali Farka Toure’s family, contracting amoebic dysentery
- Timbuktu.. with amoebic dysentery
- Timbuktu to Sevare overland.. with amoebic dysentery (never again)
- Extensive blood, urine, and stool analysis in Sevare
- Dogon Country
- Sevare back to Bamako

The trip between Timbuktu and Sevare is officially the worst overland journey I have ever experienced. That said, Mali is an incredible country and even in the throes of fever and bloody stools, I got to see some of the best parts of it.

Something you should know: Mali is safe to travel. A terrorist warning cast by the US, UK, and the EU, has devastated tourism here. It’s true, there have been several kidnappings in Northern Mali by a terrorist group affiliated with Al Qaeda. But these kidnappings have happened in the largely unpopulated border area with Niger. Not in Timbuktu. Not in Dogon Country. Not in Bamako. Everyone I’ve talked to laments the dwindling number of tourists and in a place where so many people depend on foreign visitors for their livelihood, I can understand.

The true terrorists are amoebas, and they can be prevented. I will tell you how. Soon.

I am back in Bamako. Staying once more at the lovely Sleeping Camel hostel for $8 a night. Recuperating, writing, reading, working on some music. My next post is an interview with one of the owners from the hostel. After that I will get into the journey above. It is one for the books.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Bryan October 23, 2010 at 4:11 pm

This reminds me of our time in Mali last year. It was definitely one of the best countries we’ve ever visited. I’m glad you’re helping to get the word out, because the people of Mali are genuinely friendly but very destitute, and deserve more tourism to help their economy grow. I’d love to see more of your photos.

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phil October 24, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Bryan, thanks for the comment. More photos are definitely on the way! B well, Phil

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sara October 24, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Traveling back from Timbuktu was also the worst ferry/bus ride I’ve ever experienced. Whenever I think about it, I feel asthmatic from the memories of dust. I was such a disaster by the time I got back to Bamako that the guest house owners took 80% off the price of the room and brought me free juice and sandwiches all day. I can’t wait to hear your story here or there.

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phil October 24, 2010 at 4:10 pm

Sara, yeah dust was about the only thing I ate for three days. I would have loved some free juice. Was it real juice?

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sara October 24, 2010 at 4:36 pm

Fresh squeezed OJ.

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phil October 24, 2010 at 4:49 pm

What? Where? The oranges have been terrible here

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sara October 24, 2010 at 6:26 pm

Bamako. The place with the Lebanese owner with the sweaty neck and roaming eyes. Maybe the oranges are only good as juice? Or maybe it is not the season now? I was also delirious at the time. Fact. Have some frozen hibiscus juice at a bus station.

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phil October 25, 2010 at 9:25 am

Haha. I do love the hibiscus juice. When were you here? The lack of mangos is killing me.

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Christine Rabah July 29, 2012 at 8:31 am

Hi Phil, My first visit to Mali/Burkina Faso was in 2002. In Djenne’ a polio handicapped guy asked me to help him and I kept my promise and returned in 2004 with lightweight underarm crutches. I thought I just pass thru Mali quickly to visit Niger/Benin but I had not thought about Ramadan which had the regular bus schedules messed up. After spending a night on a beach mat at the gare routiere in Sevare somebody asked for passengers to Timbuktu. I gladly accepted and that’s how my troubles began. As soon as I had checked in at the Campement/Hotel Bouctou, Mohamed and Hamada were outside my door. Once I asked if a foreigner can buy a house or lot and Mohamed immediately said that his cousin has a house he wants to sell. A couple of days later the house was mine and since then I spent 2-3 months in Timbuktu, usually Dec.Jan.Fev. I always travel by bus Bamako-Mopti, recuperate 1-2 nights and continue by 4×4 to Timbuktu. The house was then the Hotel Camping Touareg which I had done only for Mohamed & Hamada so they can make some money while I was gone but what they did and didn’t could fill a book. I was lucky to sell the house Jan. 3, 2012. I was allowed to stay till my flight from Bamako, so I left Timbuktu at 2 a.m. Jan. 16 not knowing that the fighting had already begun in Gao and other parts of the country. I can relate to all of your pictures. Please go to Youtube Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba in Timbuktu and you’ll see them perform on the upstairs terrace of my house – freaked me out when Bassekou stood in my courtyard asking if I got something to eat for them – they stayed around the corner where they had nothing to eat for them.

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phil July 30, 2012 at 5:31 am

Wow, Christine, crazy stories! I have actually seen the video you are talking about. Had no idea that video happened because he showed up at your house looking for food? Well, you timed the sale just right. Who knows when Timbuktu will be like it was.

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