What’s that I hear? Adventures in Tombouctou


“I hear something. Turn on the light.”

“I don’t hear anything.”

“I’m telling you, there’s something in our room.”

“It’s your imagination. You watch too much TV.”

They’re in Tombouctou. They’ve toured the town, seen the mosque and market, and the water hole which looks like an inverted cone with maybe a pail or two of water way down there. How do the people survive? Yes, the Niger River is just a few kilometers to the south, but still….

“I still hear something. Turn on the light.”

“If you want the light on, you turn it on.”

“The switch is on the wall by you.”

With a heavy sigh, she crawls out of bed and reaches for the switch. “Oh, my God! Look!”

The room is crawling with insects. Big and small they swarm over the walls. Some are feeding on others. There’s no mosquito netting to build a fortress, to tuck securely around the mattress. Hell, a mosquito net wouldn’t do anyway.

They scramble wildly for clothes, shoes, and blankets and escape to the relief of the cool night air. They settle in arm chairs on the hotel terrace with the added security of the staff sleeping on the ground nearby. Wrapped in the blankets, they hear the howling of the Harmattan winds, unaware of the sand dunes building over them.

Burrowing out from under those dunes in the morning, they discover that ears, eyes, nose—every body crevice, and pore plugged with grains of sand. Little dunes of sand form in the bottom of the shower stall for days after.

But, hey, they can say they’ve been to Tombouctou.


11 comments on “What’s that I hear? Adventures in Tombouctou

  1. Hehe. That’s one interesting story you have here. I had to look up Tombouctou and discovered it’s place in Mali.

    Mosquitoes are definitely high during the dry season and if one is lucky, he won’t be down with malaria fever. There are also other smaller insects that cause a lot of nuisance during this time. Their bite leave a severe itchy sensation. They usually come out by sundown.

    I still remember stories and superstitious beliefs associated with sand dunes.

  2. Great storytelling, Darlene. I try very hard to remember that insects play a role in the cycles of nature, but when they’re “bugging” me it’s very difficult to keep that perspective. Malaria – thank goodness you’re all right. Were you living in Mali when you contracted it?

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