Between Books aka Wallowing in Author Limbo

Latest novel published – sigh of relief.

Holiday in Mexico – brain reduced to mush in the heat.

Back home – routines restored.

Time to think of starting a new book, ie procrastinate.

And procrastination leads to sorting through old photos which leads to this blog.

Much of Whispers Under the Baobab is set in West Africa in 1970, and among my pictures I found a few I had taken back then that will give you a glimpse of what Flo saw and experienced as she fled across the Sahara to safety in Bamako.  Between Books aka Wallowing in Author Limbo                                                                    Click here for more information.

Here is the only picture I still have of the 14th century mosque in Tombouctou, destroyed by Islamists in 2012.

Between Books aka Wallowing in Author Limbo

From Tombouctou, Flo and Josef traveled by boat – the General Sumaré – down the Niger River. Flo was on the second level and was able to go up on the top deck to view the surroundings. Josef, on the main deck would not have had that luxury.

Between Books aka Wallowing in Author Limbo

When the General Sumaré beached on a sand bar, the women and children were taken to shore in these pirogues. They are propelled by pushing poles into the river bed and walking along the side of the boat. Back in 1970, goods were transported hundreds of kilometers from Guinea to Mali in these (heavily loaded) pirogues powered by man.

Between Books aka Wallowing in Author Limbo

Nearing Bamako, this is what the terrain looked like with calabashes growing in the fields.

Between Books aka Wallowing in Author Limbo

The Tuareg ring that Flo bought on her journey and wore on a leather thong.

Between Books aka Wallowing in Author Limbo

West African Tour – part 1

From Bamako via riverboat to Timbouctou, then Gao. A short flight to Niamey, the capital of Niger, and then by taxi brousse (a truck smaller than a half ton fitted with bench seating in the box) to Lome. Along the coast to Accra, a flight to Freetown, another to Dakar, and then back toBamako.

Sounded like a great itinerary to us. But then, what did a couple of 20-somethings know about travelling in West Africa? Not a heck of a lot, but boy oh boy, did we ever learn.

Rainy season, so the Niger River was navigable, but the shifting of the sand during the dry season posed extra challenges for the captain of the General Sumare. In fact the flat boat built especially for shallow waters did beach on an unexpected sandbar. Nothing but water and sand on either side of the boat as far as the eye could see. Hard to believe we were in the Sahara. During the long dry season there would be little to no evidence of water along the river bed.

Stranded? No need to worry. Pirogues appeared as if by magic.

The women and children were ferried to shore. Magically a mini-market appeared near us offering a variety of products for sale. My friend and I checked out the Tuareg jewelry. I was interested in the rings, but none of them fit. No problem. The vendor pulled a ring off his finger and offered it to me. It was too big, but I bought it anyway. How could I not?

We sat on the sand watching the men in long robes watching the men from the boat, who had by this time rolled up their pants and leapt off the side of the General Sumare. Waist deep in the water, they pushed the boat off the sand-bank and the women and children were promptly ferried back to the boat.

The next day, we anchored near a small town. Sitting on the top deck we spotted a circle of Tuareg women on shore. Without moving out of my chair, I reached down to my purse for my camera. I had the tiny camera only half-way out of my purse when the women rose to move away. I let go of the camera instantly. As it slid back into my purse, the women settled once more in their circle. All these years later, the image of those women is fresh in my mind. Some things are best without a camera.

To be continued.