(Getting out of) Bamako

I am not a fan of Mali’s capital, neither is Ibrahim and usually we limit our time there to the utmost necessary minimum. This time however we had lots of things on our to-do-list. Our days were packed visiting friends, family and business partners. Our nights were short due to the poor quality of the mattress and the leaking water tower.

The day soon arrived that we were more than eager to leave. Ibrahim’s uncle, who had arrived in the meantime, proposed sharing a private car to travel to Segou. A luxury we usually do not allow ourselves. The prospect of a comfortable ride as well as time to catch up for uncle and nephew easily convinced us.

An accompanying friend immediately offered to contact a friend with a car. We would be on the road in no time… at least that is what we thought at that moment. Hours later, having emptied all of our prepaid cards, he still hadn’t been able to arrange one. They were no more insured, papers were missing, they had flat tires or hadn’t been maintained at all.

‘I am not going to stay another night in Bamako’, I firmly stated.
‘No problem, we’ll travel by bus’, Ibrahim replied and didn’t hesitate one more minute to get us a taxi. Sure enough the moment we had put in all baggage, a car approaches. One way or the other our friend had found one with all papers in order and a driver willing to hit the road immediately. Bags were transferred and we left. We picked up Ibrahim’s uncle, rearranged all bags and left again.

Only a hundred meters before de Tour d’Afrique in Bamako the driver stopped at the road side. The thought that he wanted to buy some food lasted no more than a few seconds. The hood was opened and half of a spare part was taken out.
‘It takes only 30 minutes to have it repaired’, he assured us. Finding another car would probably take more time, so it would be worth the wait.

After about 20 minutes a car parks behind ours. I am watching the scene from the other side of the busy road, grabbing Ibrahims arm, pointing at what’s going on. A man had already opened the door and started to unload our bags.
Instead of repairing the spare part, our first driver had chosen to call a friend. Maybe he wasn’t too sure he would make it all the way to Segou and back. After having said goodbye to driver one, we continued with driver two, a friendly guy.

‘I need to buy a new inner tube for the reserve wheel, before we get out of Bamako, I don’t want us to be stuck in the middle of nowhere’, he told us. And so it happened. It was bought and assembled, a liter of oil was added as well as enough fuel to cover the distance to Segou.

Driving through the fresh green environment, Bamako’s hectic energy leaves my system. We are on the way home and a peaceful feeling settles in!
Fertile rains have been falling regularly lately, promising a good agricultural season. Through the cracked windows I absorb the views of crop and road works. What now is a muddy mess will (soon?) be the Segou-Bamako highway, replacing a too small two lane asphalt road with an incredible number of enormous and deep holes. It’s not surprising that we pass several busses and cars with flat tires. It becomes obviously clear that the economy has been hit hard by the crisis in the country. Cars not being maintained on a regular basis, age quickly in Mali.

We are all happy to be on the road, enjoying the slow pace that comes with several stops caused by flat tires and garage visits.
‘You know, I really wanted to travel by car to take it easy and stop every now and then’, Ibrahim’s uncle admitted.
‘I preferred to travel with you to enjoy some time together and catch up’, Ibrahim added.
‘And I did not want to spend another night in Bamako’, I say with a smile on my face.

We all got what we wanted and once in Segou were warmly welcomed by many of our friends and I instantly felt back Home!

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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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