Safety Tips in Mali

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    Beware of what you drink and eat

    by laetitiad Written May 22, 2004

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    You probably already know it but i'll say it whatever : be very careful of what you drink and eat. When you're going to a restaurant even if it's an european restaurant avoid row fruits and vegetables.
    Whereever you go never never drink anything else than bottled water or sodas.
    Even being careful it took me two month to really recover from my 3 month trip in Mali !!!!

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    Harmattan

    by grets Updated Jul 30, 2004

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    The hot, sand-laden wind from the Sahara generally blows from March to June, raising the temperature considerably. It can at best be an interesting experience, at worst, terrifying. Along the banks of the Niger one evening, we had to sit in the tents to stop them blowing away. One particularly petite girl, was being lifted off the ground in her tent! The sand hits you like tiny bullets - most uncomfortable - and makes it very difficult to breathe!

    The dust caused from the Harmatten can be a real nuisance, getting in your nose, ears and mouth, not to mention your camera! 300 million tonnes of dust is created each year by the Sahara, most of it blown across West Africa by the harmattan. This can cause a lot of difficulties for contact-lens wearers as well as respiratory problems - colds/bronchitis is common in travellers.

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    Garbage

    by zrim Written Dec 16, 2004

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    One aspect of Mali was particularly difficult for me to get past--the strewn garbage in almost every neighborhood. I realize that there is undoubtably a severe shortage of landfills and very little organized garbage pickup. But to see the landscape given over to trash piles is disheartening. The average African seems very meticulous and fastidious when it comes to dress and grooming, yet thinks nothing of wading through the trash heaps that abut his or her home.

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    Pollution

    by zrim Written Jan 11, 2005

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    In the capital city of Bamako the pollution is down right horrific. It is not much of an exageration to state that it is possible to cut the fumes with a knife. Much of the problem comes from substandard vehicles and no emissions standards. But fires and blowing dust from the Saharra also contribute to the poor air quality.

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    Poverty

    by zrim Written Dec 16, 2004

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    Mali is poor. I mean extremely poor. In 2004 it ranked as the 174th out of 177 countries in the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI). Just ahead of Burkina Fasso, Niger and Sierra Leone. And well behind such troubled countries as Haiti, Chad, Sudan and Rwanda.

    The Human Development Index uses data on life expectancy, education and standard of living for its composite index.

    In 2002 life expectancy at birth in Mali was estimated at 48.5 years. Only 19% of adults were literate. Almost 75% of the population existed on less than $1 per day of income.

    These are some more of the chilling facts: There is a twelve percent infant mortality rate; While another ten percent do not survive to the age of five; Thirty percent of the population does not have access to water from wells meaning they subsist on contaminated surface waters; And there is only one physician per 25,000 residents.

    Yet, the people seem happy and mostly content.

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    Stuck in the sand

    by grets Updated Jul 30, 2004

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    Many of Mali's roads, outside the highways, are merely sandy tracks. Often vehicles will be stuck in the soft sand, and everyone must get out to push, often with the help of other motorists and passers by.

    While we were there, a new road to Bandiagara was under construction - this should now be finsihed - making the journey to the Dogon area much faster and more comfortable.

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    Steep ascent and descent

    by grets Updated Jul 30, 2004

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    There are a couple of sttep drops to look down upon during the trek, and the walks involving these should not be undertaken by someone suffering from vertigo. Parts of the descent is on roughly hewn ladders and scrambling over loose rocks. Little children scamper around your feet wanting to help you (for a price of course) - I found them more of a nuisance than help as they seemed to be standing exactly where I wanted to put my feet!

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    Human sacrifices

    by Alpha_Ghana Written May 28, 2005

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    In Mali, some people still proceed to human sacrifice. The country is supposed to be muslim, but many people still mix Islam and ancestral beliefs.
    Don't be alone in the Bobo regions (between Segou and Mopti for instance), if you hear the drums (tam-tam), they might look after you. Do you think it is a joke? Do you think it does not happen in the 21st century?
    In 2005, the old "wises" of the village of Mahou (close to the border with Burkina Faso, coming from Koutiala) were convinced in court of human sacrifice. The best people to please their gods: people with clear skins like Albinos and Caucasians.

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    Hippos

    by grets Updated Jul 30, 2004

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    Hippos kill more people in Africa every year than any other animals. (except perhaps the mosquito). This was clearly embedded in my mind when I woke up one morning, having spent the night in my sleeping bag under the stars along the banks of the River Niger. I had heard strange chomping noises in the night, but with no ambient light, and being too lazy to get up and switch my torch on, I just ignored it. I was therefore horrified to discover, just a mere 50 yards away, a group of hippos grazing on the river bank!

    We saw many hippos on our three day boat rtip between Mopti and Timbuktu!

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    Passports

    by grets Updated Jul 30, 2004

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    This is not really a warning or danger, just a reminder, but I didn't know where else to put it.

    Everyone (except nationals of the West African states) needs a visa to enter Mali. There are no embassies in the UK, the nearest are either France or Belgium.

    Once in Mali, you need to register with the police in all major twon, who will stamp your passport.

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    Blisters

    by grets Updated Jul 30, 2004

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    Do not underestimate the importance of well-worn walking boots. I thought mine were, but what I didn't take into consideration, was the fact that my feet swelled enormously in the heat which resulted in 14 blisters.

    Pack plenty of Compeed. Duct tape is another good idea - great for protecting the feet where the skin hasn't broken yet, or to hold other plasters in place! I also ended up losing three toe-nails.

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    High temperatures

    by grets Updated Jul 30, 2004

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    The temperature in Mali is nearly always hot, dry and dusty. During the dry season - between November and June - temperatures can reach in excess of 50ºC. We went in early March, the end of the alize winds which brings with them cooler weather - supposedly. The temperature reached 46ºC in the shade, and there is precious little shade whilst trekking in the Bandiagara Escarpment.

    Trekking usually starts around 06.00 in the morning to get a good start before it heats up at lunchtime. A long siesta (3-4 hours) is followed by a further 3 hours walk or so in the afternoon. Even at night the temperature remained high, and we often found it more pleasant to sleep under the stars rather than in a stifling tent.

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    Most Likely You Will Get Sick

    by zrim Written Dec 16, 2004

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    Let's face the facts here: if you are used to a comfortable life in America, Europe or Australia and then travel for any extended time in an underdeveloped place like Mali-- sickness of some nature is almost a given.

    I was as careful as I could possibly be. I did not eat raw vegetables or salads. I checked to make sure that the meats were cooked through. I ate plenty of bread. Drank only bottled water. And ate only fruits that come with a protective shell--like watermelon or citrus. But eight days in, I became very ill with some sort of food poisoning. For the next 96 hours my food intake consisted of a total of five pieces of bread. I was continually on the verge of dehydration because I could not drink enough water to compensate for that which was being lost on the other end. Quite a miserable time when combined with the blaring sun and heat in the Dogon country. But I knew going in that such an illness was probable and I did not sit around feeling sorry for myself. I continued with the explorations of the Dogon culture and made the best of it.

    Pack pepto bismal, imodium and cipro. If you are lucky your bowels will clear in a day or two (like Becky). If you have worse luck (like me) you will at least want the imodium so that you can venture more than twenty feet from your bathroom.

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    The Heat

    by zrim Updated Dec 16, 2004

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    Even in the cool season Mali is extremely hot and dry (into the 90s F and 30s C in December). In some places shade is a precious commodity. Forget about cloud cover--we didn't see more than two or three wispy clouds in two weeks.

    Take a hat to keep the sun off your head. And always have plenty of water at hand. It is literally impossible to drink too much water. There were days that I went through two liters of water and several beers and did not ever have to find a W.C. to relieve myself. Dehydration is a distinct possibility for anyone who is not careful and I suspect that dehydration is particularly unfun in a place like Mali where medical facilities are few and far between.

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    Low water

    by grets Updated Jul 30, 2004

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    Towards the end of the dry season, the water in the Niger River becomes dangerously low, and sand banks begin to apprear in the middle of the watercourse. The captains try to steer clear of these hazards, but every now and again you nedd to get out and drag the boat of the bank. As you can see from the picture, the water is only waist deep.

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