A lot of the nights in Africa are like this one. We’ve set up camp off the side of a bumpy road. We pulled out the tent and the table as the sun set after ten hours and 700 kilometers of driving. I put together the two long, copper-colored tent poles and the two smaller orange ones and assembled our big orange and grey home.
Steve and Mark chopped up veggies and made dinner. The moon is full tonight so there wasn’t much wrestling over headlamps. Our campsite is sandy farmland or pastureland. There are plowed ridges of soil and much evidence of passing cattle. There are wide-branched trees every couple hundred feet. Some are full of leaves and most aren’t. Some cows passed just before dinner but no people.
We started in Timbuktu this morning and took a ferry across that river to the very bumpy road south. After four shaken hours we found lunch in Douentza—rice and a brown, greasy sauce with a couple potatoes and a little beef mixed in.
We kept going south and east towards Burkina Faso, which is its own country. I may or may not have known that a few months ago but now I can trace the route we’ve taken from Morocco to Mauritania to Senegal to Mali and tell you something real and unimportant about each place.
After dinner we went back into the trucks—as if we hadn’t spent long enough in them yet—and Mark and Bouey typed away. I read a copy of the Economist that a guy sold me in Bamako for $7 a few days ago. I read about Hugo Chavez and NAFTA and India. They never write much about Africa, not even in the Economist.
Steve has gone to bed in his little, personal tent and now Bouey has gone to bed too. It’s ten o’clock. There’s a rustle to my left. It’s half a dozen cows stomping around under the big tree with the interesting branches that I shot a few hours ago as the moon rose up behind it. Hopefully they won’t eat the cigarettes or bug repellant we left out. I guess I’ll put them in the truck to be safe and go to bed too. The battery of my laptop is drying and the air is wonderfully cool after another very hot, dusty day.
Tomorrow the fuzzy red orbs on the tree above our tent will fall as the sun rises. They’ll splash a cool, clear liquid on our sleeping bags and faces that when we wake will have solidified like wax. We’ll cross some modest shacks marking the Mali/Burkina border as our African odometer clicks past 5000 miles.