If you want to travel with the camel caravan, then they do the return journey in 32 - 35 days, including two or three days (sometimes 4) rest at the mines of Taoudenni (take a good book, and catch up with your zzzzzzz's!!) Dramane was able to set up the trips for me with about three days notice. If you want to take longer (the caravans set a wicked pace), then this can be organised too, -but you would probably not travel with the caravans.
I travelled to Taoudenni and back by camel a third time in late 2003, and was charged CFA650,000 for the trip, not the CFA600,000 noted in the book. (Still very good value)
Dramane (his full name is Abderhamane Alpha Maiga)is very easy to find in Timbuktu -he is the manager of Timbuktu's latest up-market hotel, the Hotel Hendrina Khan, located south of the centre of town. Everybody in the tourist trade knows him.
He does have an email address as per in Sahara Overland, but he is not good at supplying a reply. (If you put yourself in his shoes, you would probably not be keen to arrange any part of such a trip on the strength of an email, because a) it is hard to sort the travellers who are really going to turn up, from those that may turn up, and those who are only vaguely interested and b) arrival times/day for travellers in Timbuktu are difficult to estimate, and c) he can set up the arrangements at fairly short notice anyway, once the travellers have arrived in the town.)
I could only get a one month visa for Mali from outside Mali. Clearly, if you are embarking on the above trip, then you will need more than a month in Mali. Visas can be prolonged before you go to Timbuktu, by calling in at the Police station in Mopti, where they are issued on the spot. (If you get the prolongation done in Bamako, then it is three working days.)
If you have any other questions, then either ask here, or send me an email.
Alistair (contributer to Sahara Overland II)
[This message has been edited by Alistair (edited 01 April 2005).]