Getting the most out of a two-day visit to Bamako

Not being a huge fan of Mali’s capital Bamako with its traffic jams, pollution and crowds, I only go there when I have a real good reason, like the start of a journey or renewing my visa.
So, off I went with Ellen, on the night bus from Ségou. And even though I’m not a fan of getting out of bed in the midst of the night, I’ve not regretted it for a single second. What a blessing to be on the bus when the temperatures are still ‘low’. It may sound weird, but I actually felt a bit chilly with the fresh wind blowing in through the door that was broken and locked with just a single rope. And more than surprised when Ellen mentioned it being 31 degrees Celsius.

Baba, my favorite Bamako taxi driver, met us at the bus station and drove us straight to the immigration office, where we worked ourselves to the paper hassle: writing a request to the director himself, filling in the form, having my nose bitten off for handing over black and white instead of color photos and ending up with a paper with lots of red crossing-outs. Sure enough when they ask for your home address they want to know where you’re currently staying in Mali and when they ask for the time of your stay in Mali, they actually want to know for how long you want to renew your visa… Before I had reached the point of handing over the papers I had kindly asked a lady at a desk to explain a certain French word to me, getting the snappy answer that she didn’t work for that department so I had to ask someone else. I only asked for the meaning of the word… Well, honestly I didn’t have too much faith in it anymore with my form being more red than blue with photos in the wrong color and a not so friendly lady behind the desk. ‘I feel like being back at school’, I joked with a faint smile. The lady looked up at me, told me to hand over the money for the visa extension, stamped the papers left and right, grabbed my passport and put it on the pile, handing over a paper stating I could recollect my passport the next day. What a relieve!

Next on the list: grocery shopping! One of the things I like about Bamako is the availability of things you won’t yet find in Ségou, like certain spices, balsamic vinegar, mugs, water jugs and lentils. It felt familiar and strange at the same time walking through this huge western style super market with western price level (or even higher), seeing all those things I’m no more used to, surrounded by mainly white people with huge piles in their shopping carts.
I felt happy to leave again to head for what’s probably Malian’s only vegetarian restaurant, a lovely little gem in downtown Bamako. Unfortunately all their sauces were made with bell peppers, but they were kind enough to cook me a tailor made delicious sauce. Definitely a place to return!
After having some copies of keys made – unfortunately none of them fits – I was happy to arrive at my safe haven in Bamako, having the rest of the afternoon and evening to catch up with my friend Ann.

Day two was a slow day, having crossed of all things to do on the first day (miracles do exist!) and just having to wait for the hour of picking up my passport. As Baba had predicted it was ready at least an hour before, assuring me a place on the late afternoon bus back to Ségou, where I arrived both tired and relieved. Amadou had prepared a lovely meal, which was already waiting for me at the table; what a nice surprise!
Today’s treats are broccoli, cauliflower and leeks, that made it back to Ségou in decent shape, despite of the high temperatures.

Yes, I made the best of my stay in Bamako and am more than happy to be back in Ségou!

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About MoInMali

Monique is the founder of Papillon Reizen, a Mali based travel agency specialized in inspiring journeys in Mali, Burkina Faso, Togo and Benin. Fair-trade and with a heart for people, environment and culture. Small-scale group journeys as well as family trips and journeys tailored to your wishes. We love to share West Africa's beauty with you and take you on a journey to experience rather than to see. Monique lives in Mali with her Malian partner and shares some of her daily life experiences with you through this blog. For information on Papillon Reizen: www.papillonreizen.com
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