As I happens a guy Alistair B just send me in a trip report in this area:
"...Briefly though, on the practicalities side, the journey was organised
through a guy called Dramane Alpha in Timbuctu. (-his name was mentioned
in the Lonely Planet West Africa book, and he organised the National
Geographic expedition to Taoudenni in the late '80's) I had planned on
going as far as Arouanne and back, but he assured me that if I wanted to
go to Taoudenni, he could organise that too.
I was asked to 'budget' for 40 days, and
lastly his first price was reasonable (CFA600,000) and within my budget.
(None of this haggling at all)
I left all my documentation and cash with Dramane -I
trusted him completely- he and I each had a signed copy of a statement of
what I had left with him. It was all there when I returned, both on the
1999 and 2001 trip. Dramane now owns and operates a new superior class of
hotel in Timbuctu, the Hotel Hendrina Khan.
So Dramane (who speaks excellent English) appointed me a guide, and
ensured that supplies were procured, and that the guide understood what
was expected (etc), and informed me on the practicalities of going. I
then left Timbuctoo with my guide (Mohammed !), and 4 camels. After a few
days we joined a caravan heading north, calling in on Arouanne. For the
south bound journey, we also travelled with the caravans loaded with salt.
It was just the most extraordinary experience -isolating, but not lonely.
It is significant that I went alone (with guide), and NOT with a friend
or partner -I am certain that the experience would be easier with company,
but not as rewarding. It I
repeated the journey two years later in 2001, and intend going again later
this year. In 1999 the trip was 32 days and I spent two nights and one
day at Taoudenni, but in 2001 the trip was 35 days and I spent 5 nights
and four days in Taoudenni...."
For what it's worth I have had a lot of very useful camel feedback right across the Sahara lately which I plan to put into the next edition, making it as much a camel handbook as for cars, etc.
Author of Sahara Overland and the Adventure Motorcycling Handbook, among other things