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Timbuktu and Back

This is what people say, right? I went to Timbuktu and back? To exaggerate distance? I understand. And this is why many people visit Timbuktu. They want to say they were in that place from that expression and yes it is far and yes there is nothing there. This didn’t seem like a good reason to visit Timbuktu. In fact, I wasn’t planning on going.

Then I talked to some folks and learned a few things about Timbuktu, namely that it is a center of Tuareg and Tamashek culture, ancient Islamic manuscripts are still held by families and local government and the city literally sit on the edge of the Sahara. Also, riding a camel is possible. Sold.

I arrived in Timbuktu in the middle of the day, when the town is more or less a furnace and everyone is inside their house or under a tree. Riding a camel, Islamic manuscripts, edge of the desert – I experienced none of this. In the end, all I can say is that I went to Timbuktu and back. Why is that?

I ended my last post with a nap and 1000mg of cipro. I was horrified by the blood in the toilet bowl, but I was confident that Cipro, the atomic bomb of antibiotics, would provide relief. I woke up hours later, still feverish, still cramped. The fever was a concern. I considered the possibility of malaria, and began taking coartem.

We were supposed to take a walk through town and visit a few families, but I did not want to leave the bed. Another session on the toilet, more blood. This was troubling. It had been eight hours since I took the Cipro. Eight hours with 1000mg of Cipro – that is adequate time to see some results. I tried forcing myself to eat, but felt like vomiting. I was able to hold down water with rehydration salts.

Amadou started to realize that I was really sick. More than anything, he was concerned that I was not eating. We were planning on leaving Timbuktu the next day. I could have changed the itinerary. Stay in Timbuktu, go to the clinic, get better, see the town. But we only had a limited number of days, partly because of my budget and partly because Amadou had to be back in Bamako within five days to take another trip. If we stayed in Timbuktu, we wouldn’t have time for Dogon Country. Timbuktu, I’m sorry.

We left at 430AM. All the cars leave at this time. It is a security provision enforced by the Malian army. Their reasoning is that Al Qaeda stands a much better chance of kidnapping you at night. At 430AM it is of course still dark. But the first stretch of road is supposedly not a problem. By sunrise you are on the more dangerous, roadless, plains of sand – in daylight.

This is what a Malian soldier, hitching a ride in our quatre quatre, told me. I would normally ask more questions, but I was just trying not to throw up. I was not at all concerned about Al Qaeda. I was concerned about the mystery organism wreaking havoc in my gut.

To be continued…

Update: I was planning on traveling overland next week through Mauritania and Western Sahara to get to Morocco. This may not happen now. Clashes between Moroccan forces and the Polisario Front (the independence movement for Western Sahara) in Western Sahara may close the border. Even without these clashes, Western Sahara is a difficult place to travel through. Buses don’t go through it, so you have to take a bush taxi. You can’t stray from the road because there are land mines. And now you have this. Not much has been complicated about my trip. This may be. Will be looking into flights today. Probably lose out on a couple hundred dollars, but I would gain a few days of time and wouldn’t have to endure two bus trips and a bush taxi ride that would rival the almost 36 hour trip between abidjan and bamako.

I realize this post is light on pictures. So here is one:

I will introduce these girls in a future post.

And here is another video from Danse Danse Afrique. This was shot inside of a sotrama (you can read about sotramas at the bottom of this post). Two Swiss musicians (if you know their names please let me know) sat in the back with a variety of instruments and effects pedals as we drove around Bamako. The audience was mostly ex-pats and europeans in town for the dance festival, but a few Malians hopped in as well. Take a look.

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{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Andi November 12, 2010, 7:33 pm

    Your poor body!!! You need to doing some probiotics after all of these antibiotics! I really, really want to visit Timbuktu and not just because of it’s name.

  • phil November 13, 2010, 4:13 pm

    I am in great need of probiotics, but they are hard to come by. I have been able to track down some yogurt in the past few days in Bamako and it’s now half my diet. Andi, it sounds like you need to come to Mali.

  • Matt November 16, 2010, 6:43 am

    You sure love a good adventure. Being no stranger to severe gut parasites myself, I feel for you and hope you are feeling better.

  • phil November 18, 2010, 2:43 pm

    Hey Matt, thanks for the comment. I do love a good adventure.. to an extent. I will be doing whatever is necessary to avoid amoebas in my future travels. B well, Phil

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