The Road to Timbuktu

Hey family!

Sorry I haven't written in a while, I took a couple weeks off school to travel to Mali and I just got back early this morning. It was an adventure...

We had a few transportation issues on our way up to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, issues including: missing the direct bus so we had to move city by city; bus breaking down and being stranded for 12 hrs so we had to sleep on the shoulder of the road as transport trucks whizzed by all night; and having the rear axle and both rear wheels fall off as we were driving so we spun a 360 but managed to get out with only a few cuts and bruises and shaky nerves. Luckily, we had friends waiting for us in Ouaga, so we spent a few days and nights in their guesthouse, enjoying home cooked meals and car rides wherever we needed to go.

We bussed it up to Mopti, Mali and spent a nite there before driving to Timbuktu (The French changed the spelling to Tombouctou). The city was incredible. We had heard mixed reviews but I thought the city was great. The streets and some building's main floors are all sand! And we thought it was hilarious that it's got cell phone reception and internet access---city in the "middle of nowhere"? yeah right. We rode camels into the middle of the desert and spent the night under the stars. Unfortunately, one of my friends got a lot of her money stolen there. We spent the next day trying to get that sorted out, and missed our hippo tour in the process.

A couple girls headed back after that, but a couple girls and myself spent a few more days in Mali to check out theDogon Country. Dogon Country is an area with small settlements on rocky cliffs in southern Mali. We spent a couple nites in southern Dogon, where they have some French and Christian influence, but apparently northern Dogon is completely traditional and animistic still, but you need a few more days to explore. It was stunningly gorgeous and reminded me of the Grand Canyon in some parts. The weather here was so hot, I felt the most hot I've ever been in my life. We would hike in the morning then do nothing from 10.00 to 4 or 5.00 when it was cooler again. The temperature was a solid 42*C, said our guide, a dry and intense heat.

We got a ride out of Dogon from some French volunteers. The cars broke down repeatedly all the way to Burkina, but we've had lots of practice by this point so we managed to enjoy our time spent on the side of the road. I attempted conversation with the little French I've retained, and my driver attemped with the equally small amount of English he knew. Let's just say that I'm inspired, after all these travels in Francophone Africa, to take more French classes when I'm back in Canada.

If you're ever in Ouaga, make sure you eat at Chez Simon. I lost count of the number of times we ate there, but I think it was every day we were there... Delicious crepes and ice cream and pastries.

The ride home, thank goodness, was much smoother; I managed to catch the direct bus back from Ouaga to Accra.

There's a solar eclipse tomorrow morning here, which I'm very excited about.

That's what I've been up to! Love you!

Mel