Timbuktu and back

Trip Start Dec 29, 2009
Trip End Mar 10, 2010

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Flag of Senegal  , Tambacounda,
Monday, March 1, 2010

Okay at last Ive got internet access and I can begin to boast about my side trip to timbuktu. We hired a jeep and 4 of us took 5 days to get there and then return and get back to catch up the truck. Grand Pere, the fixer who has been called GP since he was 10 years old, and is now a 40 something charming fella who stole my heart, helped us sort stuff out beforehand and there was Ali the Ice waiting for us in Timbuktu. More or less as soon as we got there after a very necessary shower we went for a 2 hour camel ride out into the desert to stay with a Toureg family in the desert overnight. The guy who brought his camels out to us was a bit of a chancer. He told us that he couldnt speak English and insisted I spoke French to him.but then at the end of the trip as we got back into Timbuktu he suddenly developed the power of speech - in English!! He was also coming on really strong to me on the way there and I was beginning to get a little bit concerned but as soon as we got to his settlement he became this devout Muslim fella! However as soon as we left the next morning he became the lewd old Toureg again and kept sucking through his teeth and asking me questions like was I as gentle as his  camel??????? Really dont know what he means!!!!!! The camel ride was good although they had peculiar wooden saddles which kept our legs forward and you stayed on by resting your feet on the camels neck. A bit disconcerting at first but I soon got confident and managed to take a few photos whilst balancing the rocking boat beneath me. I was more worried about all the dung beetles in the camp where we slept and the fact that they provided only 2 mattresses between the 4 of us.
While in Timbuktu we got our passports stamped with a Timbuktu stamp and i waLKED AROUND FOR AGES waiting for the stamp to dry. Ali kept asking me to put it away but I didnt want it to smudge! It cost enough. Timbuktu itself is dry dusty and decidedly hot. We had temperatures of around 46 in the shade. We visited the old mosque where the next day there was a stampede and around 40 people got killed. Not sure if that made world news. We also went to the old biblioteque opposite where the guide gave the whole talk in French and told me off for wandering off to look at 13th century Islamic manuscripts before he had finished despite his french being so fast I couldnt keep up. The city tour was interesting but as i said hot, dusty and a little bit menacing too. We went to the salt market as the Touregs still cross the Sahara taking 3 months on their camel to trade in the huge salt tablets each one weighing 500 kilos. Didnt feel it necessary to buy one though my box of souvenirs is constantly growing. Where will I put them all?
The drive back took a couple of days as we had to catch up with the truck as it had been on the move while we were driving in the opposite direction. All went well and then we got a flat tyre in the middle of nowhere just as the sun was setting. It was okay as we had a spare but the driver couldnt get the old tyre off. He bashed at it for ages and it gradually got dark. I had asked him to stop so I could photograph the dead donkeys on the road - photographic licence to snap donkeys ribcage on the road to Timbuktu - well I thought it a good idea at the time but in the dark I kept thinking was it to become our fate. Then the driver spotted a lorry coming. Normally they wont stop but someone was smiling at us as the driver of the lorry had once been his apprentice and he loaned us different wheel brace and we got to our camp in time for a shower and meal. Yet more couscous and tomato and veg sauce!!!! Yes it sounds lovely but a diet of nothing else gets you dreaming of salad!!!!!!!!!!
We kept the costs down by taking the cheapest option of sleeping on hotel roofs - flat I hasten to add - and with temps of 30 plus throughout the night a much better option than non air conned rooms. I have found out to my cost that an upgrade to an air conned room often doesnt pay as the electricity goes off at 1 am to come on again at around 6am. And what could be better than to sleep under the stars with the call to prayer as the alarm the next morning? I got so used to it that when we joined the truck we had a couple of bushcamps  ie just in the middle of nowhere and I chose to sleep on my mattress with my mossi net over me and didnt bother with the tent. Pity I chose the night when the moon was full - could barely sleep for the 100 watt bulb shining in my eyes.
Anyway enough for now. Lots more to tell but will soon be in Dakar and I can internet to my hearts content.
Take care all of you and send me your best wishes. I need them as this group are trying me to my absolute limits. More of that in my next email. Its time I gave vent to my horrible side.
Love Victoria;
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tess on

hi victoria ive only got access via my phone so cant see your updates very well.but just to let u know we have a gorgeous healthy baby girl called phoebe annabelle clement-jones ,born by c section on monday 1st march.
if u can check facebook i just put some pics on there.hope the trips going well,loads of love xxx

maria on

Hi Victoria, sorry to hear the situation with the group hasn't improved.Thought it was a bit extreme going to Timbuktu to get away from them ! Not long to go ,hope the relations improve.Sounds like there has been one person you haven't minded spending time with..Enjoy the next leg of the trip . Maria x

Lara Marsh on

Not long now to put up with the ones who are annoying you! Timbuktu sounds like a real adventure. Does this mean I won't be able to give you cous cous at mine for a few months? Lara xx

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