Monday, 30 May 2011
Sunday, 29 May 2011
Saturday, 28 May 2011
Friday, 27 May 2011
Thursday, 26 May 2011
Tea for Timbuktu
Following in the footsteps of the explorer Mungo Park, my brother, Tony, and I set off from Portsmouth hoping that things had improved in the 207 years since his fateful voyage. Our 6000 mile drive, in an elderly Peugeot, across Europe, Morocco, Western Sahara and Mauritania finally saw us arrive at Timbuktu in North-eastern Mali three weeks later.
Hours after arriving we found ourselves walking in the dark, struggling to keep pace with our guide. 'Bebe' was a loquacious, urbanised twenty-something Tuareg who spouted endless facts, in passable English, about his beloved city. He stopped at a door within a high, mud-brick wall and knocked, grinning as he waited for us to catch up. The door was opened by a figure dressed in the traditional indigo robes of the Tuareg. Although only his bright eyes and broad smile were visible amidst the folds of cloth we recognised him.
Earlier in the evening our guide had introduced his cousin, Ibrahim. After purchasing some Tuareg jewellery I offered him some of our equipment, as we needed a lighter load for the return journey. Ibrahim gratefully accepted everything, from ration pack meals to ropes and blankets.
He now stood gesturing for us to enter his home. We found ourselves in a courtyard with a large tent erected in one corner. Ibrahim disappeared through a doorway into the brightly lit room beyond where happy female voices could be heard. Beneath the tent canopy a single paraffin lantern hung from the low ceiling illuminating a comfortable interior where thick colourful rugs covered the floor. Bebe sat and began to relate the nomadic traditions of the Tuareg, explaining that this building, including the tent, was a communal living space open to all members of his caravan. Ibrahim reappeared carrying a large tray laden with tea, couscous and two plates of meat. Squatting, he poured the tea. Holding the teapot high above the small glass, the hot aromatic liquid cascaded and foamed as it struck the receptacle. He returned the tea to the pot and repeated until satisfied. We drank in a single swallow, Ibrahim smiled approvingly. I pointed at the plates of meat and raised an eyebrow enquiringly. Evidently one was sheep, the other camel. I balled a slice of camel with some couscous and ate. The delicately spiced meat was slightly gamey but delicious. As we devoured the food Ibrahim produced a rudimentary stringed instrument and began playing, until, his wide repertoire finally exhausted, the stringed instrument fell silent. I sensed that it was time to leave. Amidst our farewells, Ibrahim invited us to join his caravan in the desert when we were next in Timbuktu. I gratefully accepted, promising to return soon.
As Tony and I walked through the sand choked streets to our hotel, we talked about the drive to Bamako and our flight home, but I was already planning my return to this friendly, slightly alien city and meeting up with our new friends once more, to take tea in the Sahara.
Wednesday, 25 May 2011
Tuesday, 24 May 2011
Monday, 23 May 2011
Sunday, 22 May 2011
Saturday, 21 May 2011
Friday, 20 May 2011
Thursday, 19 May 2011
Wednesday, 18 May 2011
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Tuesday, 17 May 2011
Following that we have a long journey through Europe to Istanbul and beyond. A little light research is required to find a good route taking in as many places relevant to our family and/or historical sites. Any thoughts or suggestions would be welcomed, just to see if anyone is actually reading this more than anything. I am currently listening to Dom Joly's audiobook, The Dark Tourist and it has provided more than a little inspiration for the trip next year. If you get a chance please read/listen to this book he has a fantastically perceptive way of seeing not only the grim reality of the locations he visits but also the hope that has sprung from the tragedies.
Monday, 16 May 2011
Sunday, 15 May 2011
Saturday, 14 May 2011
Thursday, 12 May 2011
Tuesday, 10 May 2011
Monday, 9 May 2011
The maps for the route to Mongolia arrived today, well they actually arrived on Saturday but someone, the only one at home, was a bit too hungover to get up and sign for them. Now that the route has changed to alleviate the problems getting into Georgia and/or Azerbaijan from Russia I'll have to start researching Turkey too. The Black Sea coast provides an interesting route to Georgia, I had considered taking in the Azerbaijan/Iranian border in order to see Mount Ararat but it would take us too far out of our way unfortunately. The website Horizons Unlimited contains an absolute wealth of information regarding doing anything (that's probably literally true) on two wheels. On reading my post someone suggested we take a look at 'The Gateway to Hell' in Turkmenistan, check out this video.
Evidently an exploration rig drilled into a massive underground chamber releasing a gas pocket. To stop an explosion they set fire to it, sounds a bit daft to me, in order to burn it off. Forty years later it's still going!
On a different note.
I've bid, on ebay, for the first of the Cubs. In fact I've been a tad over enthusiastic and bid for two. At the time of tapping away, I am winning both auctions. Never mind we need two.
All of these plans seem a long time in the future but, bearing in mind that Timbuktu seems only five minutes ago, time has a habit of creeping up on you. When it was time to leave for Africa just before Christmas last year it did suddenly strike me that leaving my family back home whilst I disappeared to foreign pastures was precisely why I left the Navy. I guess that's why I need to ensure that in swanning off to do something new I can justify my actions by supporting worthwhile causes. Also, this time, I will ensure that all costs are understood and covered before we leave. Will be updating the website this weekend and maybe, if I get the chance, get some video up from the Timbuktu trip.
Time to go and look at some maps I think.
Sunday, 8 May 2011
View Pirate Badgers Travelling Monkey Band European tour 2011 in a larger map
View Just for distance in a larger map