Second day in Timbuktu

Today (Sunday 9 March 2008) is a slow, relaxing day. The only thing I have organized is a camel ride to a Tuareg nomadic camp for the sunset. Went to the internet café and then had a hair cut. A very, very short hair cut, like most Africans but longer than their real short botak cut. The barber wanted CFA 5000 (US$16) at first – maybe an European may agree to that. Haha…I laughed it off, and then it was 3000, then 2000. I said 1000 or I walked away. He relented. CFA 1000 (S$3) was probably still a few times what the locals pay, Mali being among 5 of the world’s poorest countries and Timbuktu being a poor part of Mali, but is palatable for me. In Anyang, China where my ex-company was, a hair cut costs only RMB 3 (S$0.60).

The showers work perfectly today. Hurrah! Had a good shower after the hair cut. In Africa, one does not take things for granted. Even electricity is not guaranteed. Power was down half way through my internet session. Thank goodness I do all my work on my laptop in the hotel these days.

The hotel has a pool. I may swim later. Beyond the pool is the desert. The sand dunes are some distance away.

Tomorrow (Monday), I will take the local 4WD to Mopti. They will come to the hotel to get me at 5am (have to start early to take advantage of cooler temperature), reach the ferry at the Niger River by 6am, cross the river and then drive across desert tracks to Mopti. They claim the journey will take 7 hours. This isn’t my first African journey. A journey can take twice or even thrice as long to complete as the vehicles inevitably suffer from poor maintenance and breakdowns, plus bad roads and general infrastructure. At best, for non regular scheduled buses, 50% delay is considered very good. We will see. If possible, I would like to head direct for Bandiagara in the Dogon Country. If we reach Mopti too late, then I would stay there for the night.