Music, dancing tents, and going to the loo

Trip Start Jan 06, 2007
Trip End Feb 12, 2007

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Friday, January 12, 2007

I am currently sitting in a large Touarag tent morning of the second day of the festival writing this while listening to Ali Farka Toure. It's a sandstorm outside but the tent still manages to stay up ("en dancent")- marval of Tourag engineering. The tent is huge - sleeps about 15 people although we 4 toubabs appear to take up half the space...

I've just come back from a session communing with nature. Just to share the experienc; this involved crouchcing, trying not to lose my balance on slippery sand while avoiding the spikes on the tree Im using as shelter with the wind and sand rushing into face, not to mention various other bits. Not as easy as you'd think.

Anyway, to up the tone slightly, today is the second day of the festival in the desert but not much really happens in the morning/afternoon so we're just waiting out the sandstorm.

I got here with Shindouk, a chief of a tribe who also co-runs the Sahara Passion with his wife Miranda while he spares the time from his various other pies. He is a complete sweetheart. A bit over-protective but still a huge sweetie. He's named me "princess of the desert" which has caught on with his entourage so I'm loving every moment here... Thanks to him, I've got a simple point and shoot, and a SIM card for my antique mobile so I could use it here. If I haven't already told you, the number is +223 54 14 530 so go ahead and snd me random text messages.

Theonly reason I managed to survive the journey here to Essagkene with life (or at least dignity) intact is due to Thea (pronounced Taya) - an American travelling to Mali with her husband Patrick to visit her sister-in-law Laura who is a Peace Corps volunteer here. Thea's rescue could be compared to a gift from the heavens. Thanks be to God. The journey was bumpy, in other words. When I get back, I think I'll pitch a new ride to Disneyland called "The Road from Timbuktu". It'll be hit, I tell you...

The three of them are cool people to travel with. All of them are artists of some description or another - Thea and Patrick print textiles and Laura does pottery. (Titbit of the day: first time Patrick tried to propose to Thea, she threw up. A hot air balloon was involved.) I was amazed to hear that neither Patrick nor Thea had really been travelling before Mali - talk about jumping off the deep end. However, they are the nicest people you could hope to meet and belie all the usual American stereotypes. As well as being ridiculously well-prepared. Hence the motion sickness tablets.

Once we arrived at Essakane, there was a whole group effort to unload the truck and set up camp a couple of dunes away from the festival stie (and nooise and latrines). This is probably me being old before my tiime, but great idea. Also, no krum krums (spiky burrs which are a punishment for having too much fun in the fine white sand). Shindouk's party consists of 15 or so - with only 4 of us foreigners - so it really felt more like a Tourag family encampment than a anything resembling a tourist festival. We goofed around alot - practically forgetting about that festival thing that we paid 150 euros to attend...

We had a lazy dinner involving the slaughter of a former travelling companion (a rather cute sheep - does not do to get too attched to animals here). The sheep did not die in vain as food was lovely. In the battle between cuteness and good meat, the latter always wins out in my mind.

We then finally headed to the festival - it was about 10pm or so. I was, however, so tired that it was a rather hallucinary experience. I bumped into Avril and Cedric at the main stage who seems to be having the time of their lives and told me that I had missed camel dances and races during the day. Bastards. Here's hoping it'll happen again today.

We had a quick walk around the site which included teh main stage, several bars and a cinema showing a number of short films about AIDS. As an AIDS chartiy is apparently sponsoring the event, not surprising and a good way of "spreading the message". If that means bad French rap ("Je fais mon test. Mon sida test;" repeated ad nauseum with all the moves), then so be it.

After quite a cool dancy number which the Malians around us obvioulsy appreciated, there was an interminably long set played by this french jazz act. Normally, just the sort of music I like but was in absolutely no mood to listen to it then. And most ofthe audience concurred with a lot of them leaving the concert area or falling asleep on the dune overlooking the concert stage. After that, a Tourage group sang acappella with a couple of them sword dancing. Again, very interesting normally but was cold and sleepy so we all went back to our tnet. Think we lasted just 2 hours on the first night... Since reaching my late twenties, I just can't keep up.

Somehow found Kerstin and Andrew in our tent just as we got back so had to make polite conversation without having the slightest clue of what I was actually saying. It was that stage of tiredness when stuff comes out of mouth bypassing your brain. Think they thought I was rather odd but hey, I can live with that.

Then slept...
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