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We hope the following excerpts from Timbuktu, where are you? will whet your appetite for more.


Mali

 

 

Timbuktu, where are you?

By boat and truck to Timbuktu, October 1970
See map, page 12, A4


I sweated and shivered, tossed and turned on the hard mattress. A fever in Mopti wasn’t in my plans.
I suffered alone in a hut (stone walls, reed roof) rented for a dollar from the hotel next door. This fever could spell the end of the line for me. And I hadn’t yet reached my objective – Timbuktu. My plan was to travel to the fabled city by riverboat along the Niger River. My route so far had been by train from Abidjan on West Africa’s coast to Bobo Dioulasso in Burkina Faso, then by passenger-truck and bush-taxi to Mopti.
Mopti, in the West African Republic of Mali, is situated at the confluence of the Niger and Bani Rivers. It is dominated by a tall-towered mosque, an architectural wonder of sun-dried mud that dates back 800 years. One-storey mud-brick buildings lined the sandy streets.
Along the waterfront, brightly painted motorized pirogues (canoes) bobbed in the river. The riverside market bustled with people of different ethnic groups: Fulani, Tuareg and Bozo. They haggled over goats, sheep, fish, salt, brightly patterned fabrics, raw cotton, woven reed mats and baskets, and produce such as rice, sorghum, millet, corn and peanuts.

 

I had to get rid of my fever!
I flung the top sheet from the bed. My soggy, sweat-stained clothes clung to my skin. I peeled them off and became as cold as an iceberg. I trembled. I wrested a dry shirt from my backpack and slipped it on, then pulled the sheet back over me. I struggled for breath, my mouth parched. I reached for my water canteen, gulped a cupful, then groped in my backpack for aspirin. I swallowed one, then another and hoped those magical white pills would break the fever.
Was it malaria, dengue fever, sleeping sickness, yellow fever, typhoid fever, blackwater fever, diphtheria, tick fever? I prayed fervently that I didn’t have any of them. I was travelling alone and had no one to call upon for help. I dozed again and plunged into a nightmare in which I was an architect told to redesign Mopti.