Salt & Gold 2009 - The Heart of Africa!

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Pyndon, May 15, 2009.

  1. b0mb3r

    b0mb3r Old Git

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    :lurk
    like it ........... you lucky git
  2. Pyndon

    Pyndon Long timer

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    Right, having just got back from another trip to Africa and receiving correspondence that the DVD is ready for final review prior to release, I thought I should put that final push into finishing this RR!

    :type :type :type


    Day 20 – To Timbuktu :ricky

    Today we would head out from Mopti and head for Timbuktu where we would prepare for out assault on Taoudenni. We were down to just three riders, Brian, Dave and I. Rod, Robin and Nick had all returned to the UK by this point and Austin and Richard would act as support. The plan was to pick up a friend who had been hitch-hiking around Africa at some-point around here. He would replace the missing Nick who had returned to be with his family and also assist with the challenge of getting all the bikes back to the UK in one piece when the trip was over. Problem was, no-one knew where he was….typical lone traveller!

    I woke this morning at 05:00hrs and decided to lie in my tent and read while the bellowing din of the call to prayer echoed through the streets. We were all up at 06:30hrs and sat eating breakfast by 07:00hrs with Mac from the refuge and his other visitors. It was fantastic, pancakes and syrup, muesli, Banana bread, French toast and mixed fruit. :dg

    With breakfast over, we swiftly packed up, jumped into our riding gear and hit the road. First things first, pick up Austin’s repaired overalls! We topped the bikes before heading out and the entire suite of Jerry cans on the SV while a couple of us found the bakery to get bread for the next couple of days.

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    The Bakery….

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    Two options out of Mopti, Douentza would be the quickest and the other the more scenic. Given the time limitations we took the Douentza route with an aim the get to Timbuktu as quick at possible.

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    It was weird riding on pavement again, albeit heavily patched / repaired with ever looming pot-holes just lurking to catch you out. With the wind and the craters in the road, you certainly could not take your eye off things…..well, apart from for taking pictures for the thread :deal

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    We did a little filming along this stretch just to try and capture the variation of scenery and route before arriving at Douentza.

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    Not knowing how much gas there would be in Timbuktu for the onward trip, we topped our tanks again. We certainly would not be sorry to have it!

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    One thing that struck me about this village was the clay/brick works. Lots of locals were working hard to produce materials to build new properties, obviously a major industry in this place.

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    A couple of cokes and nibbles from the local store before heading onto the Niger!

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    Just a point of interest, I believe those pink goggles Dave is wearing are Craig Bounds if everybody had their own and Craig is currently tearing across South America taking part in the 2010 Dakar….GO BOUNDSY!! Anyone know if he is wearing pick Oakley’s :lol3

    Riding through the town a beautiful young lady caught my eye selling lemons and limes at the side of the road. I slowed to take a closer look and got mobbed by a group of young lads asking me to pull wheelies! I stopped and chatted for a minute, placing my goggles over the front screen on the bike. Smiled at the young lady and got a huge smile in return, I wish I had a picture. She gestured for me to please the young boys by pulling a wheelie so of course, I obliged! Setting of slowly, I launched into a perfect sky-high sat-down wheelie and just as it reached balance point and snatched 2nd my goggles flew of the screen and over my head. Immediately bringing it down and turning round to get my goggles the boys were racing towards them like a heard of bulls! I thought they had gone for ever but fortunately these people are so nice, they were brought back to me in one piece. They were laughing so much, I was happy to see them all like this and the young lady gave me a wink and a wave goodbye. These people are great!

    From here on in it would be mostly dirt roads to Timbuktu. Graded but well travelled, stutter bumped like you would not believe. It was only about 200K to the Niger where we would have to figure a way across the massive river.

    The Niger is the third-longest river in Africa, exceeded only by the Nile and the Congo River. It is the principal river of western Africa, extending about 4,180 km. Its drainage basin is 2,117,700 km2 in area and its source is in the Guinea Highlands in southeastern Guinea. It runs in a crescent through Mali, Niger, on the border with Benin and then through Nigeria, discharging through a massive delta, known as the Niger Delta of the Oil Rivers, into the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean. For sure we’d have to get a ferry but had done little research about how.

    The road north was nicely graded, easy to get caught out by the odd big hole but in general we railed up it at 60mph, well the 950 did, occasionally breaching 100! :D The scenery was varied on the way up there.

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    Camels, Donkeys and vast open spaces and regular breaks to wait for the others meant for great photo opportunities.

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    Well traveled road as Brian found out!!

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    I got this picture of road kill. The Donkeys are so docile it is unbelievable. I browed the crest just before this heard and only just managed to stop in time. Wake up call for sure, photo opportunity for sure; they don’t even attempt to move out of the road.

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    Loving this shot too…..quotes anyone?? The Camel stops and looks right at me as if to say, who are you, what are you doing here and what is the small orange thing you ride?? :D

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    Can anyone translate? I think this sign means there is a house off track somewhere about here?

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    I like this picture too, happy to be here! :ricky

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    Brian taking 5 on the sandy twin track…..

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    Austin taking the time to shoot some cool bike footage for the DVD along to way...

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    As we approached the moisture of the Niger, the air temperature lowered a little. The road up there….

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    Small pockets of water would begin to appear by the sides of the track and before long, some of them would turn into lakes but we just kept following the beaten track, heading north straight for Timbuktu.

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    Eventually the road opened up and became totally engulfed in water from the river but amazingly it continued for miles like this. Clearly the road had been built up over the years to rise above the low-lands and create a clear path through this otherwise un-navigable by motorcycle terrain.

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    We even came across a little shelter on the side of the road as the track narrowed the further we rode. We must be close to some kind of ferry / boat crossing.

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    Some cool shots into the sun as it began to fall…..

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    Then all of a sudden the road ended into this little abode where clearly there would be a ferry sometime soon.

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    Click click click… can never have enough pics!!

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    Sure enough a ferry was just on it’s way in from the distance…..bonus!

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    The ferry terminal :lol3 The routine….roll on and pay as you go :deal

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    Klim promo shots! :lol3

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    Again, happy to be here….

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    The film director!!!

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    The crossing….it was funny, as we made our way on the crossing, seeing all the massively overloaded 8 foot wide boats making their way across the river was hilarious. We saw all sorts in the distance, sunken ferries (the ferry graveyard!) with just the towers sticking out of the water to broken home made ferry boats!

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    Just to the left of this picture, those white colored pieces are the remains of a sunken ferry! Fills you with confidence huh.

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    Interesting to see solar panels on the roof of one of these houses :D

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    The crossing was about 40 minutes in total and not bad at all, very smooth and no issues. As you can see, plenty of time to take pictures! As the night drew in we disembarked the ferry and rode into the night in attempt to reach Timbuktu. It got dark so quick that I had to ride goggle-less as I could not see the route through the tinted goggles I had on.

    The SV had a damaged radiator so those guys were a little slow in getting to Timbuktu; this was something we would have to get repaired before the trek north to Taoudenni. For now we just wanted to get to Timbuktu for the night.

    As we approached Timbuktu (no pictures as it was night time), we were greeted at the entrance by a Canadian woman called Miranda who was the wife of a local Tuareg leader. She had heard from locals that we had come in on the ferry and were heading this way. She explained to us that there were some security concerns at present and that we should lie low for the evening until we could get to speak with her husband about the situation. She explained that the nearest Auberge was 4km down the road and there was no secure parking or way of lying low so she recommended that we took camp behind the gas station (owned by them) for the night and we could reconvene in the morning. Miranda agreed for us to have a meeting in the morning with her husband and the locals to get a better understanding of the security situation.

    We’d heard that 14 people had been killed by some Tuareg rebels at a border crossing just East of Nema a few days previous but did not expect this to snowball into anything that could potentially be a trip stopper for us. We had come so far and were all quite tense about the situation.

    Austin cooked dinner while Richard and I began to do a bit of an inspection on the SV given that it was a little worse for wear! Head torch inspection revealed a broken front spring, cracked front diff housing and a badly damaged radiator. Over dinner we agreed that it was unlikely that we would be heading out tomorrow with both the security situation and the condition of the SV. Time would have to be spent repairing the SV and understanding the security situation a bit better.

    Austin, Dave and Brian retired to bed while Richard and I stayed up till the early hours changing the front suspension on the Land Rover and preparing the damage the best we could for repair tomorrow.

    Tomorrow: :dunno
  3. asphaltmueller

    asphaltmueller nomad acc. § 2(3)AVV

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    The sign says "Well of Kel-Dedou"; why some Tuaregs Name is written under it I don't know, I wouldn't wonder if it would be some sort of saint.

    Solar Panels : highly likely the house owner had some relations to some NGO where he got it from; they are really expensive there - in 2004 I wanted to buy one for my brother in law in Korientse (see "scenic route out of Mopti"), who has to charge his batterie for the 12 V TV for a fee at a guy who is running a generator. But I've been put of by the price, 450 € I think.

    thanks again for the report

    andi
  4. redpillar

    redpillar Been here awhile

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    Thanks for making my Saturday morning coffee more enjoyable
  5. Pyndon

    Pyndon Long timer

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    Day 21 – What now?

    With the thought of the looming security issues threatening out trip north out of Timbuktu, we had to make a decision today as to what we were going to do. While some of us had it clear in our heads what we came to do and what we wanted to do, this was a team effort and we all had to be in agreement and on the same age before going any further.

    A number of shootings in local areas and ‘funny business’ with Tuareg rebels had resulted in a ton of questions for the Tuareg leader before we went any further. Why was this happening? What is the spread and why is it happening? How likely is it to impact us on our proposed onward journey up north through Arouane and up into Taoudenni?

    As a result, we could not do a great deal until we had the 10:00am meeting with the Tuareg leader. Running up to this time he had been gathering information from a number of sources in the desert to help understand the situation. So, we had a bit of a lie in.

    0700hrs, we freed the zippers on our tents and began breakfast and many talks about what the outcome of today’s discussion would be. We had breakfast and hung around.

    With a message that the meeting was delayed, we made the most of the time to get both the SV repaired and have a little look around Timbuktu and for sure, take some pictures while we did.

    I took this series of pictures of a huge Mosque on edge of the city that was undergoing massive construction work. One side was all new and the rest was completely rebuilt.

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    Just riding around the city…..

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    Dave attempting to operate the video equipment :scratch :lol3

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    Hey, anyone recognize Dave’s t-shirt, I think he cracked a fresh t-shirt out of the bag for the first time so far on the trip! :D

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    Brian and the ‘no entry up the exhaust pipe’ sign :lol3 I didn’t see many cars of this shape down in Africa either.

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    While all this was going on, Richard was attempting to find somewhere that would do a more permanent fix on the radiator of the SV and also weld the front diff housing. The welders shop…..

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    Whenever there is a chance to make a quick bob or two out of a westerner, there’s always a plentiful labour force to get the work done, even if they don’t all know what they are doing, they are all willing to try!

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    So, this was the trail fix we did with the quick metal…..

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    And this was the job that the shop did with solder….it still looked awful but better than what we had achieved on the trail.

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    The local Kwik-Fit!

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    Dave and Brian stopped by for a cup of tea…

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    If there’s one thing I can say about Timbuktu it’s that I met lots of interesting people. Everyone wanted to help, but they also wanted to make a quick buck! I rode around for a couple of hours, bought some cool post cards fro an interesting little store.

    I then decided to venture a little bit further out of town on my own just to have a look at the scenery and general terrain at each of the exit / entry roads into the city.

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    As I headed back to camp, I found Austin waiting for us all to return.

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    We all regrouped and began the discussions about the trip north. We had more information now. Shinduke, the Tuareg leader advised us not to venture any further. He said while he was not sure of the situation north, certainly west and east of Timbuktu were very sketchy and even locals would have to consider this before they ventured out.

    He said that he would not be willing to travel north through Arouane given the current situation and knowing where the rebels tend to lie / hang-out. He gave us the option though, he said that he realizes we have come an awful long way to fulfill this dream and if we were prepared to go against his advice and venture north he could probably find us a guide who would be willing to go with us. The guide would understand the goings on and be able to negotiate in difficult situations however, Shinduke could not guarantee our safety.

    Post meeting, the team got together to have a chat about this. Do we go or do we stay? I was all for it, I had ridden thousands of miles to get here, and my goal was to get to Taoudenni. I understood the situation but I was also of the opinion that there was a 90% chance that nothing would happen. However, the decision was not the same for the rest of the team, we went around the table discussing for a good hour. Today was make or break, we had to make a decision.

    Dave had a baby on the way back home and this understandably influenced his decision, Brian was not too swayed either way but was really keen to try and get to Taoudenni if at all possible. Austin would go with the advice of Shinduke and Richards’s opinion was that he is just the SV driver. We’d paid him to do that job and if any one of us wanted to go, he too would go with.

    Obviously quite a few mixed feelings. It was a long way to come not to chase that dream! We all thought about it while making soup for dinner. Minestrone, onion, tomato pure and noodles to form an awesome ‘pile it all in’ soup.

    Time was spent capturing some film footage of the individuals and how they felt about what was going on. We also used the time to capture some fill-in clips and voice-overs for other parts of the trip that were still outstanding.

    We all took some time out in the afternoon to think about our options. I walked out into the desert sands and sat on a small dune writing my diary, listening to my I-Pod, thinking about the trip so far, how good it would be to go on and how bad it could be to go on. My decision was made though, I came to do one thing and I wanted to north tomorrow. However, I would only do this if the entire team were willing to give it a go. We’d traveled a long way together and this entire trip had been a team effort, I made the decision that we would weight up our options and make a team decision.

    As a group, we had decided that we would make the decision at dinner time tonight. We’d group our thoughts one at a time and collectively make a decision. It was a tense day for some people and you could see this in out attitudes and posture. At the end of the day, the trip could end here!

    To ease the tension, Austin and I went on a run into town to see what ‘goodies’ we could find for dinner. All we came back with was a crate full of alcohol! Beer, Pernod (or the African equivalent) and cokes.

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    Huge disappointment for me tonight as the team collectively decided that we would go no further. We would spend Christmas day in Timbuktu and then head south into the desert for the remainder of the trip. The goal of Taoudenni had slipped away this year and the disappointment was all too apparent. :waysad

    For me it would remain an unturned page, for others it was a lost dream. I hope to do it one day, but with today’s current situation in Timbuktu being worse than ever, I can only see it getting more and more unlikely.

    Nevertheless, this trip must go on and tomorrow we will enjoy Timbuktu and go riding in the dunes. After this, the trip plans would change course, we would now head south towards Burkina-Faso and ride through the Dogon Country instead :deal
  6. Questor

    Questor More Undestructable

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    I love this picture.
    It's going to become my new screensaver.
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    Q~

    P.S. Sorry to hear about your change in plans...
  7. Colebatch

    Colebatch "Moto Porn"ographer

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    Love the Motosyberia t-shirt Dave !
  8. viola-tor

    viola-tor Needs to ride!

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  9. C-Dub

    C-Dub Clean Air Hog

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    You live large dude! Thanks again for sharing, I'm so envious!:bow
  10. redpillar

    redpillar Been here awhile

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    Thank you.
  11. Odysseus

    Odysseus Stoic Philosopher

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    Pyndon, sorry to hear that you weren't able to realize your pre-trip goals. As they say, "Discretion is the better part of valor"

    Love the ride report, a superior effort, as always.
  12. quicktoys2

    quicktoys2 ADVrider junkie :)

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    Sorry to hear that you will not be going north ..... that is not to say that it is completely safe heading south, but rather live another day and give us all another opportunity to read another ride report .... than the alternative

    Soto
  13. DakarBlues

    DakarBlues One-everythinged man

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  14. davorallyfan

    davorallyfan Commonist

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    A back up vehicle...

    You pommy poofters :jack
  15. rider1150gsadv

    rider1150gsadv Long timer

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    Still an awesome RR!! :clap Sorry for the detour, but you can always ride out there again and provide another oustanding trip report!! :deal
  16. Pyndon

    Pyndon Long timer

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    Day 22 – Christmas Day in the dunes!

    This morning the atmosphere was a little different – clear disappointment amongst us all.

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    Nonetheless, Shinduke came to see us early in the morning. We were determined to make the most of where we were because lets face it, it was Christmas Day and we were in the middle of the Sahara desert…..how bad can it be?

    Shinduke invited us back to his house for dinner as he was only too aware that it was Christmas Day for us. He wanted to introduce us to his family and generally make us feel welcome. We gratefully accepted his offer and agreed on a time.

    Before then, we had to fill the time with something and I wanted to ride the dunes so off we went for a couple of hours!

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    It was SOFT!!

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    But I was just having fun. The big KTM was flashing on 7 bars after half hour in the dunes. It was fun, super soft, super dunes, super hot and a super time was had by all.

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    Those Thor goggles make me look life Darf Vader!

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    :deal

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    The local kids enjoyed watching, they’d obviously heard the bike from the city and come running out into the desert to check it out. Really cool kids, very friendly and a pleasure to be around.

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    Shinduke loved the bikes, he thought we were crazy doing the things we did :lol3

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    A couple of hours went by and we eventually got bored of the sand. The 950 and the CRF had blown off some steam and it was time to head for Christmas lunch and we were all looking forward to that.

    Happy that we’d railed for long enough, we headed to Shinduke’s where he and his wife Miranda introduced us to the rest of their family and prepared dinner for us all.

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    Inside the visitors tent his whole family made us extremely welcome. He spent a good bit of time browsing Arabic and French guide books showing us the parts he wrote or at least had an input to. His knowledge of the desert in this region was immense. Due to the camel caravan industry, back in the day and his involvement in this, he could tell us exactly what terrain to expect at every part of the 800km journey north to Taoudenni and even how to get there without a map, compass or GPS!! These people are amazing, they read the dunes in an unbelievable fashion.

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    Here is some info about the camel caravans and the journey north from Timbuktu to Taoudenni.

    <object width="425" height="344"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/yNwQeLFk74o&hl=en_GB&fs=1&"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/yNwQeLFk74o&hl=en_GB&fs=1&" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>

    Miranda and their son…

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    The dinner they prepared for us was fantastic. Real meat and real nice :deal Needless to say we were ravenous for it! I removed by boots and socks to be seated bare foot and we all sat and ate dinner together. It was a time I will not forget for a long time.

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    I did not count all of his children but there were plenty and what really struck me was how well mannered and behaved they were. They were so excited to see us and just wanted to take part in everything we did. At one point, when we were trying to eat they were getting a bit excitable and Shinduke got up, drew a line in the sand and told them to sit behind it. They did, perfectly while we sat and ate our meal.

    You never forget little faces like this…..

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    After dinner Miranda shared some home made chocolate and nut treats. This was a real bonus, some homemade delicacies, something we had not seen for a while. Finished off with an Orange and some more African Tea….lovely.

    Clearly dinner was all too much for some of us and before too long the crashing began!

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    Outside, something I had not noticed much before were the flies. They were everywhere, ravaging on and scratch or open wound they could find, it did my head in! When you’re on the bike and you’ve got your gear on they are not usually a problem but when you spend a bit of time stationary, they find you and start their feast, annoying little bastards. Thing is, the locals are so used to it, even the kids don’t even bat an eyelid when they land on them in the most inconvenient places. Weird. Shinduke explained that it was fly season and that it is not always this bad, I certainly hoped it wasn’t.

    Shinduke offers Camel tours from Arouane to Taoudenni and he did an article in the Natural History magazine all about this (pictures with it below dated 07-Aug-2007, he made the front cover).

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    It made for an interesting read, especially since we were right in the middle of it.

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    Before we left to head back to camp, we discussed a whole host of options now for our onward journey. A combination of recommended routes that would be good for the bike and ‘following our nose’ would set us in the right direction over the next few days.

    We said our goodbye’s and thanked them the best we could for their wonderful hospitality. It would be a Christmas that none of us would forget in a hurry. Reaching a major turning point in our adventures, the trip being canned due to a whole host of security issues and uncertainties, a couple of hours riding in the coolest dunes and dinner at a Tuareg Leaders home with his family and my friends, a Christmas day to remember.

    On the return trip to camp we loaded up with food and drink for the next few days that should see us through the next (revised) part of the journey. That night we packed up some of our gear for the morning, and did some general maintenance on the bikes. I had to ‘burp’ the 950 since it puked a ton of coolant in the desert earlier in the day.

    Later of we whisked up some Angel Delight for supper (it’s all we had spare!), drank the remainder of the alcohol from last night and headed to bed at a reasonable hour.

    Tomorrow: Turn around and.......
  17. gagnaou

    gagnaou Long timer

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    :clap for the new installment

    sorry you guys had to turn around
  18. b0mb3r

    b0mb3r Old Git

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2005
    Oddometer:
    1,992
    Location:
    Sunshine Coast QLD
    Some of them pictures are fantastic :thumb
  19. doc47

    doc47 Klooge Maker 3rd Class

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2009
    Oddometer:
    92
    Location:
    Kafountine, Senegal
    Great story! I've been as far as Mopti and the southern Dogon country but never to Tombouktu. That's my next target but I've heard the army is short-stopping motorcyclists now past Mopti due to some attacks. Apparently, four-wheeled vehicles are going through in convoys.

    I can second (and third) what you've written about Malian people and Malian hospitality. They are wonderful. I've spent time in a very remote Bamana village in the Segou region and one couldn't ask for kinder, more attentive hosts. So much from those who have so little!

    I noticed in one of the photos of your Christmas dinner, it looks like one of the toubabs is reaching into the food bowl with his left hand. That's definitely an "Ooops!", as I'm sure you know. Or maybe he just had his hand there.

    I love your photos of the buildings. The architecture is called "Soudanic", as all of French West Africa was called "The Soudan" during colonial times. (No connection with the present country Sudan.) The architecture was developed in the 14th Century when Tombouktu was a great center of Islamic learning with a university, libraries, and thriving trade in gold, salt, slaves, timber, spices, beads, and all sort of other commodities. The reigning king brought in a famous architect from Moorish Spain who designed buildings using the local materials.

    The spiky-looking timbers sticking out are for structural integrity but also serve as supports for scaffolding when the walls need to be replastered each year. Tombouktu still has many medieval Islamic texts that have yet to be explored and cataloged.

    I'm looking forward to the rest of the story. Taoudeni would have been an amazing ride. Let me know when you want to try for it again. :evil
  20. Pyndon

    Pyndon Long timer

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2006
    Oddometer:
    2,808
    Location:
    Somewhere on two wheels!!
    Doc,

    I was down in Africa over Christmas and heard that the security situation that way on was dire! Really glad we managed to get as far as we did on that trip, I imagine it will be some time before I'll get there again. Maybe I'll attempt Taoudenni from the North one day?

    Thanks for your input, some interesting stuff you posted.

    Pyn