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Socks: Check; Underwear: Check; Two military escorts: Check

Today the outlook is even more depressing.  Mali has been through its ups and downs over the last couple of years. From Wiki:

“In January 2012, an armed conflict broke out in northern Mali, which Tuareg rebels took control by April and declared the secession of a new state, Azawad. The conflict was complicated by a military coup that took place in March and later fighting between Tuareg and Islamist rebels. In response to Islamist territorial gains, the French military launched Opération Serval in January 2013. A month later, Malian and French forces recaptured most of the north.”

This was positive news and we were excited at the thought of going to the Festival au Desert,  held every year near Timbuktu in January.  One of the highlights of Mali is its music, and the nation is known for producing some of the biggest stars in world music.  But this year, thanks to all the security concerns the festival was cancelled.  Another search of the New Zealand government website and I found a small link to a safe-travel site.  Before reading anything a big red triangle with an exclamation mark leapt off the page, followed by, in massive font “EXTREME RISK”. In addition to the now familiar mention of extremist groups, banditry, kidnapping, terrorism, more Al-Qaeda, and foreign hostages, some color was added to the warning:

“New Zealanders currently in Mali are advised to leave now … If you are a complete moron and choose to ignore our advice you should ensure you have adequate supplies of food, water and medication on hand in case it becomes necessary to remain at home for several days… As there is no New Zealand diplomatic presence in Mali, we will not bother to come and help you.”

 Okay, paraphrased a bit.

But perhaps this information is dated (even though it has today’s date on it)?  Rick searched overlanding forums for reports from people that had recently been there.  Sure enough, people were making it though.  Alarmists, we scoffed at the Canadian and New Zealand governments.  They just don’t know how to have a good time.  And that’s when we got the really bad news.  People driving through Mali are now required to carry two armed military escorts with them.  Our romantic dreams of camping in the open desert, miles from anyone or anything, a warm fire in the silent night, a million stars overhead, have now become: sitting in a stifling car for days on end, frying in the heat because the windows are rolled down to air the stench of sweaty bodies, stilted uncomfortable conversation that quickly disintegrates to a stony silence filled with palpable resentment, surly gazes and tacky hotels (yes, the guards are even telling people where to stay).

Sigh, this is really stressing me out.  I’m all up for a spot of adventure, but not if it involves other people.




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