We arrived into Bamako airport only to be dazed and confused about the visa situation. We paid for a 30 day visa, was issued a 5 day visa and told tht as it was the cold season it would be ok! We were worried abot the visa situation as if we did not have the correct one the random police checks along the way would prove to be expensive – by the way of many bribes.
Quickly we made our way from Bamako to Mopti. (12 hours on a bus – not that quick I suppose!) Camped over night on a roof under  stary African sky and arranged for a 4×4 to take us to Tombouctou (Timbuktu) the next morning. The wooden doors of the Hotel Caravanserail were opened by a Tuareg with a dark chisled face. He was kind and welcoming shaking our hands with his, boney and strong. I like him immediately. Shouting and laughing disturbed the Timbuktu ambience as once again we were with our good friends and overlanders, from Austria, Pete & Sabine.

It ws really good to see them again. We had arranged in Ghana to go to the festival together and meet in Timbuktu. Strange, really – to arrange to meet in a place that is not supposed to exist! August (the truck) looked a little more wethered but more than up for the 3 hour trip through the soft sand and corrugated dirt roads to Essakane where the Festival au Desert was to be staged. On arrival we had setup camp and had broken out the cold beers before we had even explored the surroundings. This was overlanding in style!

The festival on the whole was good. Most of ther music was a disappointment, strangely. Marred by sound checks (3pm – 8pm) and extremly repetitive tribal mantras of little musical content from various groups across the Sahel region. This seemed to be the status quo for the rest of the festival. The quality only to be raised by Salif Keita, Ali Farka’s son and Habib Keita. Morning Amarula coffees made the festival surroundings more enjoyable. A small area for Tuaregs and their wares, random food stalls selling various mystery meat and a rabble of fellas on camels. It was wonderous to be there in the desert. It was just a pity about the music – seeming Mali is known for it. Molly was gutted. And I, for her. We sat on the dune opposite the stage most nights with Pete & Bini and some overlanders (overlanders being far more agreeable to bloody backpackers!) and made light of the bad music. How we laughed watching some flute trying to get the crowd to dance by shouting “Essakane, Timbuktu, Number 1” as if trying to teach a child a nursery rhyme.  Overlanding is for me. Molly also warming to the idea. The festival ended and we stayed an extra night amid the rubbish and remaining Tuaregs. Had a hearty dinner by our camp fire and made “snoozy-time” early. Halcyon Days…