Niger River Cruise Part II, Mali, Nov 10 - 11,2007
Trip Start Sep 19, 2007
85Trip End Jan 05, 2008
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A strong headwind made for fairly slow going much of the day, but the sights along the river were just as interesting as the day before - nomadic herders with their cattle on the shores, fishing villages with mid brick mosques, and all kinds of boats on the river ranging from small fishermen's pirogues to overcrowded pinasses like outs to large ferries
We spent our second night along the river at a particularly wide spot on some dunes sandwiched between the river and a marshy area on the other side. I picked the highest spot on the dune to place my tent. It got dark shortly after we arrived and the pasta with a vegetable sauce was our second vegetarian dinner in a row. The fair amount of drinking that went on around the campfire that night ended with Wesley (a serious Methodist) and David (a hardcore atheist) in a heated argument over religion and God. Richard and I were the last two left giggling at them but figured we'd leave the two to duke it out and headed off to our tents. Several hours later I woke up as I heard my tent zipper open and felt a hand reach and feel my feet. "Who are you and what do you want? Get out of here, or I'll...." I yelled angrily.
"Wrong tent. It's just me - Wesley!" Wesley's night vision was apparently not the greatest and by the end of the trip he had become notorious for mistakenly trying to enter other peoples' tents
Our third day on the river was much the same as the previous two. Towards sunset we put in at Korioume, the small river port about ten miles from Timbuktu where we were supposed to have been met by Daphne (and Dave and Ben). Daphne, however, was a no show and there was no word in port about her having crossed the river, so Grandpere organized a minibus at the port to take us to our hotel/ campement in Timbuktu. A seen of utter chaos ensued as we unloaded the boat and tried to pack everything and ourselves onto the small cramped bus while herds of aggressive begging children swarmed around us and got whipped up into a frenzy.
It was pitch black when we arrived a short time later at the Bouctou Hotel in Timbuktu, a two-story virtual ghost of a hotel built around an interior courtyard. Once we unloaded all our gear from the bus and set up our little backpackers tent ghetto on the hotel's roof, I couldn't help but feel overcome by the strange surreal atmosphere of the empty hotel at the edge of town where one of the world's most mystical places dissolves into the Sahara Desert. The eerie feelings were relieved as we all went across a sandy field to the hotel's restaurant for a group meal of beef brochettes and couscous and much speculation about what might have happened to our truck and drivers.