Traveling to Timbuktu
It's no surprise that people use Timbuktu as a euphemism for the end of the world. It's hard to get to. You can either take a leisurely float down the muddy Niger River for a couple of days, or, as I did, get a 4x4 and a driver, and travel through scrubby desert on a sand track. The track is there, but where it's too bumpy to get through, the drivers use an alternate route, which is sometimes a track and sometimes wherever they think it's best to go. There is an airport in Timbuktu, but flights seem available only certain times of year, if at all.
Nearing Timbuktu, the track ends at the sandy shores of the Niger River. Here there's a four-car ferry. I met this guy from Border-Crossings.com (that's his truck getting on the ferry) while waiting for the ferry. He and his girlfriend had this specially equipped Land Cruiser (pop-up camper on the top, tools for winching the car out of the river, etc.) and had left from London in February. They are planning to travel for 3 years. They're in Ghana right now if his website is up to date.
The ferry drifts while the cars get on. When its pointed somewhat in the right direction, the car leaves the shore, sloshes through the water, and if things go well, up the ferry ramp. An overloaded truck tried to get on, but couldn't make it. His being stuck in the sand and water was a cause for chuckling when the ferry pulled away. Although it was made for four cars, they managed to get five on. Border Crossing guy's car was so close to the one I was in that we had a nice chat on the 35 minute ride. I couldn't get out. There wasn't room for the doors to open.
More on Timbuktu in my next post...