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Published: February 22nd 2011
Looking for a CD....
I was trying to track down a CD and this led to my wife, Denise & I heading off to "the end of the World" to the fabled city of Timbuktu.
This is how it happened.
In 2009 I was looking for African music for a photoshow of a previous trip to eastern Africa and found a track by Issa Bagayogo from Mali.
In early 2010 after many failed attempts to find a CD by him in Sydney, I tried the internet and found it on a CD called "Tassoumakan".
Scrolling through I looked at various Malian musicians and with the links became aware of The Festival au Desert at Essakane about 60kms from Timbuktu..held early January each year which suits my holidays...but how on earth could a couple of Aussies get to such an exotic location?
Before I knew it I was researching the history and delights of Mali in West Africa.
Further scrolling of travel groups and a travel group "From Here 2 Timbuktu" popped up, to which I enquired.
Guy Lankester in UK responded and gave us a potential itinerary that started in Bamako, then Segou,
then Djenne with its Mud Mosque, pictures of which had enthralled me as a child, followed by a trek in Dogon Country, then up the Niger River by wooden boat to Timbuktu, then into the Desert for a Tuareg music Festival.
He offerred 3 groups...and we were attracted to the one for the more experienced mature travellers.
How cool to have a massive adventure on the way to a music festival...we thought...
After a few emails with Guy, he "had a good idea" and offerred to extend his usual itinerary by a few days to highlight my interests.
So we booked before he had finalised his itinerary...and...we planned...and dreamed...and checked it out to ensure we would be safe.
We relied on "gut feeling" that Guy was the tour to travel with...and as usual our gut feelings were right.
We do our research so we know as best we can where we are going and the risks, we don't just head off and hope for the best.
...and if you are travelling to Africa...it is common sense to me.
We had travelled extensively and safely including in China on our
own, Tibet, driven down the Andes (just the two of us), and felt we could do anything we set our minds to.
Two years ago we had an overland safari from Kenya to South Africa during which I was robbed by one of the crew, which thereafter made me somewhat keen to ensure smooth safe travelling therafter.
We walked 4 to 5 laps of our local oval a few times a week...and thus our 4 day trek through the Dogon Escarpment of Mali was no problem fitness wise at all.
I learnt about Malian music..which I regard as the forefront of African music...and bought many Cds...found the shops that had them...and listened to Malian & other African music at home constantly for about 9 months...so when we got there we were ready to dance ...and dance we did...and the Malians delighted when we did so!
We checked out travel warnings...and as the trip got closer there were Smart Traveller warnings "Do not Travel" to Timbuktu or the Festival of the Desert due to kidnapping concerns.
We checked with Guy who explained the issues and assured us we would be safe...and safe we were...in fact we could not have felt safer on the whole trip.
All other travellers to the Festival agreed and had similar warnings and felt as safe as us.
So if you are wishing to visit the Festival au Desert...do your homework...and make sure you go...not for everyone... but if you want adventure...and music that will change your life...it is a must.
An Aussie couple from Toowoomba, Queensland that we had met and partied with in an icy ancient town in Northern China 4 years ago and had treked through the Himalayas and Tibet recently, we invited to join us. To our delight they accepted readily.
Mike said "I've wanted to go to the Festival in the Desert for years".
"What? You have heard of it?" was my surprised reply.
So 4 Aussies (David, Denise, Mike and Ros) headed off on the adventure of a lifetime to Mali.
Denise and I had been to "the roof of the World" and "the bottom of the World" and now we were going to "the end of the world"!!!
Just for good measure we planned a trip through North and South Ethiopia to follow.
This is our story.....see further blogs...I hope you enjoy it...we did and more.
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