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THE CHATTER BOX

 
  
  
  The Chatter Box : Travel
  
  
  
 
Mali (Re: To Travel or Not To Travel) by stephlynne on 19 January 2009 3:44pm
 
Michael's latest newsletter was perfectly timed. It arrived one day after Craig and I returned from 2 weeks in Mali.

The trip started off with a service project in the Dogon village of Kori-Maounde, near Bandiagara. We donated 100 fruit trees to a school and helped the villagers to plant the trees and dig a water basin. The idea is that the students will tend the garden and will be able to sell the fruits at the weekly local market to earn money for school supplies. We also taught English lessons at night. It was a very fulfilling project and we met a lot of amazing people.

Next we were to spend two days at the Festival Au Desert in Essakane. We were very excited at the prospect of the Malian music, as well as the opportunity to camp in the outskirts if the Sahara. When we reached Timbuktu (which we found to be an absolutely charming town) we met up with a group of 16 British travelers who were also supposed to attend the festival. When we spoke to them we learned that they were not going after all, because their government had just issued a statement strongly urging them not to go. So strongly, in fact, that their tour operator's insurance was no longer valid, and the operator refused to take them. Needless to say, they were very disappointed. A couple of people in their group were determined to go anyway, and at additional cost to themselves, hired a local guide and driver unaffiliated with their regular operator to take them.

When we heard this news, we were quite distressed. If the British government was that insistent that its nationals not attend, we figured that the USA probably had a similar stance, and we worried that we would be prevented from going as well.

As far as the travel advisory itself, we weren't too worried. The USA has had a travel advisory against Mali for at least 10 years. Apparently there were some specific threats regarding kidnapping of westerners at the festival, but Craig and I have never been ones to let fear dictate our actions. If we were, we probably wouldn't have visited half the places we have been to. We could try to stay "safe" by not leaving our own country, and then get hit and killed by a car in front of our own house. To us, the joy that we get out of traveling (meeting new people, learning new things, gaining an understanding of the commonality of human experience) far outweighs the risk.

The US government did not prevent us from going to the festival, and we had an excellent time. We met back up with the British group later in the trip, and some of them (especially the younger ones) were very frustrated that the festival had gone off without a hitch and they had not been able to be there.

We have posted photos and a travelogue on our blog

http://craigandstephsvacations.blogspot.com

Steph & Craig

P.S. As we sat in a tent drinking tea with some Tuaregs, we made a toast to Michael Palin: "Bottom's Up!"
 
Mali (Re: To Travel or Not To Travel) by sighthound on 20 January 2009 7:57pm
 
Thank you for that report, Steph. Mali is the top of my list when and if I will be able to travel again. You give me hope that I might be able to eventually make that trip.
 
Kate Humble by WJB on 22 February 2009 2:45pm
 
Thinking of travelling to Mali...inspired by Micheal's Sahara series, thought I'd pass on a talk I've spotted...Footprints in the sand: My life changing trip across the Sahara by another great BBC TV presenter, journalist and adventurer, Kate Humble 12 Mar 2009, RGS London www.eventelephant.com/katehumble
 



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