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  #1  
Old 17 Feb 2009
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Question 1.joining agadez - bilma, timbuktu-taoudenni salt caravans; 2.agadez-bilma/djado alon

hi all,
I am interested in joining the salt caravan agadez-bilma and/or timbuktu-taoudenni later this year.
would like to know the following:
1.how do you hook up with them(guide, agency,directly???)?
2.what is the cost involved?
3.what months of the year do they usually leave and how frequently?
4.since timbuktu caravan usually takes about 40 days, is it possible to get malian visa for more than 1 month in neighbouring countries or at the borders?
If for one reason or another I don't do agadez-bilma caravan, I plan to travel from agadez to bilma(or possibly even on to djado) by locally available transport(trucks etc..). I read that in some parts of niger you must travel with a guide:
-Does this requirement apply only to people travelling in their own transport or all foreigners?
-Does this requirement apply to agadez-bilma/djado route?
-What kind of transportation is available on this route?What is the frequency of departure?The costs?
Thanks.


thanks.
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  #2  
Old 17 Feb 2009
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I have not done either but I know many people who have.

1. Yes, all will work. You could try Agence Chiriet (in French).
2. There is no set price, whatever they can get off you - neither are a tour which you book and turn up. As a foreigner it all takes time and skill and negotiation to organise - or you just pay out and get shafted as anywhere in the world. They are all aware (and amused) by the romantic appeal of 'salt caravans' to foreigners. AFAIU, both caravans are a forced march from before dawn to after dusk, 40km/day, eating on the move. Unless you prove otherwise, you will be a burden to them.
3. From September October I believe. Frequency depends on gathering the feed, camels, crew and demand for salt I imagine - let alone the current security situation. Try and track down a 1980s book called Sai Bilma by Mike Foster.
4. Alistair (who knows Tim-Taoudenni) will be here shortly.

... own transport or all foreigners?...
all foreigners. You could try and blend in on the back of a grosse porteur Merc truck but they go Dirkou then Libya (maybe not at the moment due to rebellion?). No transport goes to Djado (ruins) unless you pay for it from Dirkou via Seg' and Chirfa, where they will nab you.

transport in rural Africa leaves when its full, not to a timetable. It can take days to fill up. As a toubab the cost is more than you think unless you take the time to make connections (speaking French).

Contrary to old maps, Bilma is no longer the focal point/transport hub in the Kaouar, Dirkou is. From there you try and go south to Bilma (only 40km) or north to Djado - slim chance right now...

IMO forget Niger for the moment and also think about doing a shorter camel trip first to get the feel for it all, get to know the locals and customs and desert - and then enquire about a long, tough azelai.


Ch
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  #3  
Old 17 Feb 2009
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Location: Canberra, Australia
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Big Questions

hi all,
I am interested in joining the salt caravan agadez-bilma and/or timbuktu-taoudenni later this year.
would like to know the following:
1.how do you hook up with them(guide, agency,directly???)?
2.what is the cost involved?
3.what months of the year do they usually leave and how frequently?
4.since timbuktu caravan usually takes about 40 days, is it possible to get malian visa for more than 1 month in neighbouring countries or at the borders?
If for one reason or another I don't do agadez-bilma caravan, I plan to travel from agadez to bilma(or possibly even on to djado) by locally available transport(trucks etc..). I read that in some parts of niger you must travel with a guide:
-Does this requirement apply only to people travelling in their own transport or all foreigners?
-Does this requirement apply to agadez-bilma/djado route?
-What kind of transportation is available on this route?What is the frequency of departure?The costs?
1. For Tim-Taou - ask around at the Hotel Bouctou is a good start. Or you could try an agency - but be prepared to pay. Neither Mali nor Niger are cheap countries, despite being third world. You could ask for a guy called Hamada, at the Hotel Bouctou, who speaks English, and can help broker a deal with a guide. About CFA800,000 is a fair rate for the services of a guide today. For details about the trip, I suggest that you get a copy of Sahara Overland 2nd edition. DO not approach Dramane Alpha at the Hotel Hendrina Khan as suggested in my article in the book. Since I wrote the piece, he has gone bad, and rips people off!!

For Tim Taou, get a visa prolongation of a month on top of your one month visa in Mopti -easy. (Dont let your visa expire - it is very expensive)

For Ag-Bilma, I used the services of a guide at about CFA50000 per day (ouch) -but it was hard to find anyone else whom you could trust AND take you. You could start by asking at the Hotel Agreboun in Agadez. There are larger Merc trucks that go to Dirkou -and then it is about 40km to get to Bilma. I don't know the cost of the truck. In that area you do have to have a guide, who checks in with the Police from time to time. Also note that until recently there have been Tuareg troubles in Niger, so research is needed in determining if it is safe in the area. About a year ago travel in Agadez and beyond into the Tenere required an police escort. (Hence Point Afrique stopped going to Agadez)

If you have not travelled in these areas before I suggest that you get a copy of the book, to get a feel for the travel there.

Good luck
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  #4  
Old 18 Feb 2009
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hi guys, thanks for your input.
i see it certainly is not a cheap activity for foreigners, those salt caravans.
I am leaning towards the timbuktu caravan more. but before that i ideally will try to take a short trip on a camel(less than 5 days), though not sure yet in which country.
as for bilma, dirkou instead would do just fine, since the only reason i wanted to go there is simply to see that part of the country - not specifically bilma, therefore bilma or dirkou doesn't really matter in this case. however if guide is absolutelly necessary, I will just skip the area alltogether(travelling on a budget). besides niger and mali I will be visiting other saharan countries such as morocco, mauritania and potentially chad, not counting sub-saharan countries, therefore there may be a possiblities along the way to take not so expensive short camel trip before going for long tim-taod one.
in Sahara Overland book the price mentioned for tim-taod caravan was 600.000cfa, so it looks like prices rose quite a bit.
Good Travels.
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Old 19 Feb 2009
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For a short trip approaching the real thing I'd recommend Mori out of Chinguetti or Mali (Timb) - as opposed to Morocco where you'll end up on some goofy, over-catered, overnight jaunt into the nearby dunes (unless you have the wits and language skills to organise otherwise).

Ch
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  #6  
Old 19 Feb 2009
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Test Drive

If you have not had any camel experience, I strongly suggest doing a camel test drive for a short trip - 3 or 4 days say, in places suggested by Chris. I did a three day test drive in Morocco at Zagora - although this can be a hassle indicated by Chris. The Tim - Taou is definitely less expensive than Ag- Bilma.

I know of someone who did Tim-Taou a month ago, and he paid CFA 800,000 for a 39 day trip.
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  #7  
Old 22 Feb 2009
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it seems to me that somebody is making fortunes on those tourists joining commercial salt caravans. i am just wondering whether those costs are such due to legitimate reasons(such as additional risk/inconvenience/expense incurred due to tourists among them) or simply because the tourists are willing to pay such amounts?
if it is the 2nd, then it should be possible to negotiate price down???
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Old 23 Feb 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aleksandrask View Post
it seems to me that somebody is making fortunes on those tourists joining commercial salt caravans. i am just wondering whether those costs are such due to legitimate reasons(such as additional risk/inconvenience/expense incurred due to tourists among them) or simply because the tourists are willing to pay such amounts?
if it is the 2nd, then it should be possible to negotiate price down???
Yes it's the second reason. have you the language skills to negotiate them down and then why should they take you for half price when the next tourist will pay full price.
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  #9  
Old 26 Feb 2009
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Costs in Mali and Niger

Mali and Niger are not cheap countries in which to travel. Their currency is fixed to the Euro. I think that when you compare the every day costs in Mali, that a 35-37 day camel trek, including the camels, guide and food is reasonably good value for CFA800000. I would not bank on getting it much cheaper than that with a good guide.

Niger has higher costs for reasons I do not understand, however a reputable guide would not take me for less than CFA50000 per day to go to Bilma. You could risk going with someone cheaper. You could try negotiating downwards - but I would not bank on it.
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