Timbukto more legend than real place? It certainly has a reputation to live up to but then wherever you go expectations are confounded and if they weren't would there be a point to going at all?
Cant get money out its hot and the deep sand of the streets pulls at you, slowing you down and sapping your energy. Dust blows in your face and gives the world a blurred otherworldly light making you think of far of outposts on inhospitable Mars. Battered signs loom rusty and pockmarked warning of the dangers of aids or proudly advertising joint developments between Mali and Algeria under the banner of pan Africanism.
The transition from blue green tranquil dreamworld to bleached mud brick and dust is sharp. From deep calm and a feeling of boundless Patience I become suddenly irritable and short tempered. My mind is unprepared for the dusty town and I don't enjoy arriving in such a legendary place as I feel I should. There is not the travelers euphoria I experienced in Old Segou. I guess Ive been flying high as a kite since then and now is a dusty hot come down. Just as new years eve is supposed to be the best night of the year but often isn't, arriving in Timbuktu should be a great experience accompanied by a feeling of satisfaction for reaching an auspicious landmark. It just doesn't feel that way.
I'm worried by a lack of money, the AT M's being temperamental entities in these parts, working only when the mood takes them. Its amazing that being denied access to little coloured bits of paper is what gives me a sense of desolation thousands of miles from home rather than the immense sand sea , the mighty Sahara that separates me from distant and familiar Europe.
More than anything I think that the traffic free streets of Djenne, the timeless grace of old Segou and otherworldly charm of the Niger have spoilt me. You can only oohh, aahh and breathlessly wow! so much. Eventually you just get wowed out and all the niggling doubts and daily discomforts come rushing in. To be wowed out in sub saharan Africa can be a tiring experience indeed.
There's been a problem with the camcorder shutter opening. Dust and sand ( I'm staying in a big Arabian style tent which is the cheapest option, looks very cool and is also sandy) has been working its inevitable way into every crack and crevice and not just in the camcorder. This all amounts to stress. Ive worked so hared on this project yet so many things could go wrong and I could lose everything. At times this trip has been magical but its no holiday.
After a day or two of simmering anger and frustration mixed with doubt an a little fear I start to relax. I'm enjoying the novelty of being in an ancient and infamous town where Tuareg traders arrive in caravans of camels from afar to bring salt cut from the baked ground in the inferno that is the center of the Sahara. A pattern of trade that is thousands of years old.