Back Into Mali
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999 Days Around Africa: The Road Chose Me
Because of the visa situation and timing, I’m making a run back into Mali to pickup one last visa before I move off again. I cross over at the major border of Pogo, in The North East of Ivory Coast. On the Ivorian side the formalities are downright friendly, with the immigration officer being very polite and very interested to hear how I enjoyed Ivory Coast.
When I leave, he wishes me all the best, and it’s entirely genuine.
On the Mali side I’m stamped in without problem, and my details are even entered into a computer instead of a giant paper ledger (wow!). At customs the man says the temporary import permit costs twice as much after 2pm. I raise my eyebrows and ask the time, and checking his cell phone I can see the disappointment on his face – it’s 1:56pm.
“Great!” I say, and pay the lower (normal) price of 5,000CFA (almost $10) for the permit.
I make my way to a tiny village where a friend is volunteering as a doctor and spend a couple of days soaking it all in. It’s amazing to see how healthcare works on the ground. Everything is raw and very real. It’s all a lot rougher than I imagined.
We wander around the village on foot and on scooter – which I ride hesitantly at first – and it’s obvious the locals are not at all accustomed to tourists. At first suspicious, they are all extremely friendly and welcoming when my friend says hello in the native language of Bambara. When I get out my camera, people quickly jump in, actively wanting to be in my photos. Everyone laughs and smiles, and we soon have an entourage escorting us around the village, chatting and enjoying the afternoon.
I am again blown away by how happy and friendly the regular person on the street is. These people have nothing, and yet smile more than anyone I’ve met in Canada or Australia. They are also extremely happy to share what little food and water they have, which again blows me away. I’m curious to know if there is a word in the native language for “stress”, though we can’t figure out how to ask. In the end, I decide there isn’t, based on their actions and general attitude.
It’s fantastic to stop in at The Sleeping Camel again and see my friends, and after a tense wait I get the all-important visa, and wave a final goodbye.
Farewell Mali, for real. It’s time for a new country.