Camels from Timbuktu to Essakane

A slow lazy 6 day camel trek with Tuareg friends, West from Timbuktu, Mali to the incredible annual music festival in the desert at Essakane.


Sandy's Camp

The first night is at chief Sandy's camp, with the water tower and biggest mosque of Timbuktu still just visible on the East horizon. The camp has moved from its location when I last visited, but they've rebuilt the thorn barracade that keeps the goats in at night and breaks the wind. It encircles a few low-domed poled huts covered with matting and pointed leathern tents.

How is it that we seem to need so many things in Western homes? Apart from the long Tuareg aluminium coffer of clothes and jewelry, the cooking utensils, water skin and the ubiquitous big colour-striped plastic kettle for pouring water, everything else they need seems to be hung or poked into the domed roof - a silver pipe, a few spoons, a camel switch festooned with ornamental yellow, red and black dyed leather strips. Its salutary that we seem to be carrying more gear, what with sleeping bags, torches, clothes, water bottles, cameras, books etc in two bags than these nomads have in all their mobile home.

Sandy's wife prepares a big bowl of rice with a few pieces of meat that we share around a small fire that night, eating with right hands. The soft talking in Tamasheq, punctuated with glasses of tea, goes on long into the night, until on invisible signal everyone goes to bed. Suddenly in a couple of minutes the whole camp is silent and everyone else is asleep. Yes, I definitely do need a sleeping bag against the bitter cold of a desert night! A hardy scrap of a desert girl will just scoup out a hole in the sand, cover herself in her black robe and sleep soundly in tight ball, wrapped in the utter silence and roofed by a blaze of stars that reach right down to the horizon. The stars! With all the light pollution from houses, roads and airports in England, you can rarely see the firmament. By day here the desert to the horizon dwarfs travellers, by night the heavens. People are humbled - doesn't our spirit need to experience such places?


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