Gone to Ghana

Lessons From Timbuktu January 12, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — slrussell @ 9:07 am

Phew, we are back.  I am actually all the way down in Accra now for a meeting with my director today and then a week of sitting.  If I end up staying here you will get the full update on the trip.  If I end up travelling on the coast you will have to wait until Saturday (!!!!!) when I get home.


So, yes, we made it to Timbuktu.  I wasn’t actually sure if we would even try since there are a few warnings from various countries’ foreign affairs departments not to go there.  Okay, so all of the countries I checked (Canada, US, UK, and Australia) said absolutely do not go but you only live once right? (Just kidding Iris, we were very careful.  Hope you feel better soon!)

Here are a few things we learned along the way.


#1: Timbuktu is very far away.

#2: There is nothing in Timbuktu.  We were there for New Year’s Eve and were in bed by 8:30……some serious party girls, eh?

#3: Even though you are expecting to be robbed you should still take plenty of money.  We had this brilliant idea to leave one visa card and enough cash to get us back to Ghana at the hotel we were leaving from (and returning too).  The only problem was that the only bank machine in Timbuktu was out of order.  We were only there one day, New Year’s Day, when the bank was closed so it couldn’t be fixed.  Everything was VERY expensive in Timbuktu.  We had just, and I mean just, the right amount of money to get back to Mopti, the nearest bank machine.

#4: Never joke with a Malian about not being able to afford dinner.  While arranging our taxi from Timbuktu to the port for our boat trip down the Niger back to Mopti I mentioned, sarcastically, that the price was so ridiculous that we wouldn’t be eating dinner that night (all of this in french don’t forget).  Ten minutes later I got a call back from the guy who was making our arrangements to say that, no worries, we would eat at his friends house that night.  Oops!!!!!

#5: A little french can be way more dangerous than no french at all.  Of the three of us I was the “expert” and I will say that I surprised myself with how well I did.  Every night we found a place to sleep and food to eat.  We managed to negotiate plenty of buses and pseudo buses and vehicles that can’t even be called anything close to a bus.  I even managed a few phone conversations too.  But on two very memorable occasions Merilyn came through with her expertise in drama to fix the situation.  One of our first days one of the girls was trying to get milk for her tea.  Lait did not seem to be cutting it so Merilyn proceeded to act out milking a cow, complete with sound effects, and we had success.  I also think that man will never, ever forget us.  On the second occasion I was sent to see if we could get the wine and cheese we had bought into the fridge at the hotel.  After a very confusing discussion I returned to the room with the items still in my hands, unchilled.  Merilyn then had no problem going to the restaurant and saying, “Fromage.  Vin.  Brrrrrrrrr.” Items in fridge.  Unfortunately, when she came back to the room she ran into a man who was looking for me because apparently I had sent for someone to come teach me how to make cheese.

Ah, so many more stories, but I can’t focus very long anymore:) Yesterday’s bus ride was 13 hours (still not worse than the one to Kelowna) but I do have a new “worst bus ride ever.” That will have to wait until tomorrow.


5 Responses to “Lessons From Timbuktu”

  1. Tonya Says:

    Hi Sandra. Glad to hear you made it back from Timbuktu. I have been checking your page daily in hopes to hear from you. I was a little worried I have to admit. I hope you have a good week of waiting and best wishes on your trip home.

  2. Steven Says:

    DID you end up having dinner at the guy’s friend’s house?

    Can’t wait to hear more and more!!

  3. slrussell Says:

    Thanks Tonya. I haven’t had hardly a moment on the internet but will hopefully have time tomorrow or Wednesday when I’m not totally exhausted to send a proper reply to your email.

    No, Steve, we didn’t go. Fortunately we already had plans with a couple of people we had met along the way (Yoshi, a veterinarian from Japan working in Uganda and Kim, a Dutch girl who was leading a tour….we met so many cool people). Anyway, we had a good reason to have to say no. It could have been cool, but we were too tired at that point.

  4. Bev Says:

    Thanks for the text message from Timbuktu…I tried tp text message you back, but expect it didn’t work.
    So glad you are coming home this weekend!!!!
    Be safe.
    xoxo Bev.

  5. Shanna Lee Says:

    Way to go on the French. I knew you were talented, but that is quite impressive!

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