The quatre quatre ride between Niafunke and Timbuktu was manageably uncomfortable. There were four people in the backseat, four in the trunk, and three on the roof. I shared the front seat with a husky man who knocked me into the gear shifter every time he laughed. He was eating fried pieces of dough that looked like chicken wings. He offered them repeatedly, but I did not want food. I didn’t know this at the time, but amoebas were hard at work demolishing my intestinal wall.
The drive between Niafunke and Timbuktu is difficult. For one thing, there’s no road. It is sand the whole way. Then there was our driver. Fishtailing over dunes, the chef de la voiture approached the drive like a formula one race. One of the owners of my hostel recently remarked that things in Africa move slowly, until someone gets behind a wheel. This is true.
When our bottoms went airborne, everyone yelped. When our bottoms landed, everyone yelled “CHAFFEUR!” and then many things in Sonrai, French, Bambara and Tamishek. The driver shouted back and everyone argued until we got to the village of Tonka (I have no idea how to spell this).
We arrived in Tonka on market day. I was now feverish and had no desire for this chaos. Some of the passengers on the quatre quatre were selling rice. Their transactions delayed us an hour. I ran into the Nigerian merchant from the pinasse and he invited me to chop (eat) rice and sauce. I told him I thought I was going to die. He didn’t understand so I told him I wasn’t hungry. It’s because of this Nigerian that you can buy a Lakers jersey with Kobe Bryant’s number on the front and Barack Obama’s picture on the back, just south of Timbuktu, in the middle of nowhere.
It was noon when we loaded back into the quatre quatre. It was hot. The windows were open, but instead of providing relief the breeze felt like someone was letting loose with a flame thrower on the interior of the car. Sugar cake chicken wing would not stop talking to me. He was nice enough, but at this point I only had enough mental energy to manage what were becoming alarming abdominal cramps.
Arriving in Timbuktu.
We got out of the quatre quatre on the main street of Timbuktu. It was about 1:30 and I felt like I was walking in an oven. The plan was to stay with more of Hamadou’s family in Timbuktu, but I realized there was something drastically wrong with my body and I sought a hotel room. I sought a toilet.
There are at least two hotels in Timbuktu and both of them are overpriced. I got the price down from $55 to $40, and then locked myself in the bathroom. The diarrhea was catastrophic, but unsurprising. It was the inspection of the toilet bowl afterwards that was disturbing. Is that blood? Oh. No.
This was terrifying. Up until this point, all of my intestinal issues had been blood free. I stared at the toilet bowl. It did not look like a shark attack, but there was clearly blood and it came out of my body in one of the worst ways. I shivered through a shower and then took 1000mg of Cipro.
Then I went to bed.
To be continued…
The previous entries on this journey are here: Breathing Dust and Drinking Amoebas and A Breakdown, an Overloaded Pinasse, Flying Urine, and a Late Night Foot Job