We want to put a good word for our guide, Moussa Timbine. We arranged our trip with Bill and Lisette through a travel agency in Bamako, who in turn hired Moussa, vehicle and driver. Moussa did good job of working with our schedule which had been worked out with the agency (that is, it wasn’t totally realistic). He also dealt with working around an illness of one of our party while trekking on the Bandiagara escarpment (atlhough he could use a bit of emergency medical training–but Louisa’s Lonely Planet Medical Guide took care of that gap).
One can work with a travel agency, which may have certain additional resources and was best for us as we had little time to arrange a trip. But if you plan ahead or have more time working directly with a registered guide such as Moussa will save you a lot of money and probably be better planned. Moussa: Mobile–(00223) 907 49 35. Email– firstname.lastname@example.org. He has a great sense of humor, is a non-smoker, a good story teller and has travelled in the United States. He speaks local languages, French, Spanish, and English. He is also Dogon and therefore understands the culture and traditions of the region. He graduated from Bamako University in linguistics, and after teaching a few years did what many teachers do and went into a more lucrative field.
Our driver, Demba Niang, was equally good. I think the Toyota Land Cruiser was his. The vehicle was in pretty good shape, good tires. The air conditioner clutch failed half way into the trip. It wasn’t that hot, but using A/C cuts the dust and after a day on a dirt road, one is dirty. He was able to quickly fix a parking brake problem on the way back from Timbuktu, which many drivers probably couldn’t. And best of all, he was a conservative driver, no white knuckling it–made the trip much more pleasant. A nice guy and always willing to help and change plans. Speaks local languages and French. Phone (00223) 695 68-98. Highly recommended. We wish them both success in their future travel guiding in Mali.
I should add a few comments based on our experience with guides on our trip. Keep checking the schedule and plans. Plans seem to get changed for no reason–well there must be a reason, but it’s hard to work around. Sometimes the plan can’t be carried out, sometimes it’s a hidden agenda and the guide wants to accomplish something else in conjunction with what you’re doing, and so forth. Lunch doesn’t seem to be essential here. If you don’t make sure it’s going to happen it usually doesn’t. In Guinea we were on a two day village visit and we bought food mainly for us, but the guide was happy to join in. On that trip we were told everything (we asked several different ways and times), but then after our nights stay in the village, he said that of course the host expected to be paid (by us). It helps to keep asking and insisting on the original plan; frequently it seemed the change in plans wasn’t really necessary. Lastly, no one every reminds you that to take photos of people you’ll to pay for the picture and small change is impossible to obtain. Those 50 and 100 cfa coins can get used up fast.