8. En Route to Timbuctou

June 02, 2006

From Mopti, I catch a shared 4x4 jeep to Timbuctou. We are 13 people in a small vehicle, but I manage to pay a bit extra and get a front seat with no head rest. The large Toureg man next to me takes up most of the room and I try to doze in my little place. We are driving at night, so there is no view. No stars, no animals, no moon, just sand.

Every hour or so I am woken by a flat tire, a ditch or a bag of fish that keeps falling into my lap. The bag has broken and the man next to me just keeps stuffing the cooked fish and bones back into the ripped bag and jamming it into the crease of the dashboard and window. As if the bag won't just fall again. As if it doesn't already have a huge rip down the middle. I don't care any more. I couldn't be more sweaty and dirty. But, who is going to eat this fish?

We make it eleven hours in the dark on a rolling sand "road" before the driver finally falls asleep, crashing into a few scrubs, very very narrowly avoiding flipping the car and crashing into yet more sand. The driver gets out, looks at the car, bangs a few things, then somehow gets us back on the dirt road. He jumps under the car, bangs around, shrugs his shoulders and drives on. He is silent. Everyone else is screaming as usual. A lesser driver would have flipped the jeep.
We reach Timbuctou with the first light of morning.

The town is dead.

 

Central Mosque, Timbuctou

 

The Quebecoise girls that I rode up to town with and I all find a room with air conditioning and hide from the heat. Its about 40 degrees in the morning. I want nothing more than a flat place and maybe some water to wash with if possible. I get a tiny bit of water for my bath and enjoy it immensly even if hot water in this heat is not particularly desireable. I gulp down two liters of filtered water and pass out for a good five or six hours. There are no windows in the room and we can't tell if it is day or night.

People here never tire of speaking about the heat.

I never tire of drinking fake fruit juice.

Tonight I look for camels.