Sunday, January 07, 2007

We ended up having dinner with our friends who just got back from Timbuktu. They said it was a long, beautiful drive and had the pictures to prove it. They reported the town itself to be underwhelming. Small and filthy pretty much summed it up, though there is an interesting document restoration project going on at the Library there. The highlight of the trip was a camel trek north of Timbuktu ending in a camp-out in a very huge, posh tent. Their worst moment came as they left the town of Dori in northern Burkina and tried to drive down to Niamey, Niger. What was marked as a road on their map turned out to be a faint dirt track. They got rather lost and stops at the few, scattered villages were useless. No one in these places spoke any French. They spent about three hours driving in circles until random chance put them on the right track. As the track got closer to the Niger border, it was even paved. Sort of. G. took a photo of the road at the Burkina/ Niger divide. The Burkina pavement is grey, potholed and chewed away at the edges as if by giant guinea pigs. The Niger side, in stark contrast, is wide and pristine, even boasting bright white paint markings. Niger is actualy poorer than Burkina. Burkina is fourth from last, while Niger this year was number 177 out of 177. I guess that means they get more outside aid when it comes to infrastructure, because it sure LOOKS richer than Burkina.

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