Koloko, December 26, 2008 - Friday

Trip Start Dec 18, 2008
Trip End Jan 18, 2009

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Flag of Mali  , Kènèdougou,
Friday, November 6, 2009

My original plan had been based on the assumption that we would reach Sikasso in, say, four to five hours, find ourselves a hotel there and then still have enough time to explore the town. All the sources indicated Sikasso was not a place where you usually spend days on end. Unless you settle there, of course. So one afternoon would be enough. Possibly an hour or two to boot in the morning if necessary. And that would be all.

But it wasn't going to be.

As it turned out, I had hardly started learning things about Africa and one of the first lessons was time. By the time when according to my optimistic reckoning we would have been in Sikasso and already taken a pleasant stroll around the town, we only reached the border. Seemingly in the middle of nowhere, without any visible indication that we were approaching border area, all of a sudden we came upon a check-point in the form of several metal barrels placed across the road to serve as a barrier to traffic. They were all painted in red and white, like Austrian flag. I suppose for the purpose of better visibility.

There we were all told to leave the bus and only outside did I realise that we had just arrived at the Burkinabe side of the border.

Two of those barrels on the road were placed at a somewhat larger distance from each other, but there was a long wooden pole resting with its opposite ends on each of them. Once the bus was empty, two guys removed the pole and the it passed slowly through. Only to stop some fifty metres up the road again.

And we, the passengers from this overcrowded bus, were to go through the police check. By the roadside to the left there was a concrete building which served as the facility for the border police. So we formed a loose queue, went towards that building and had our documents checked by two guys standing at the entrance to it.

The Burkinabe side of the border crossing is officially in Koloko, a small town – or village – which would in all likelihood be completely forgotten and godforsaken were it not located en route to Mali. I’m not entirely sure they have electricity there and I am absolutely certain they have no running water, except what they dig up from wells themselves. It is difficult to describe how poor the area is because most of us have no reference point for this kind of poverty. I may imagine that the largest source of income for local people is us, occasional cross-border passengers. They were there, clustered along the road in makeshift mud-and-straw shacks, peddling fruit, phone cards, refreshment drinks, occasionally cooking something.

There was even a thing called restaurant in a small, dilapidated brick building, plastered only on the front side, with metal roof and eaves, propped up with crooked wooden poles which were nothing more than tree trunks with their branches cut off. It had two doors and no windows, a wobbly wooden table right outside and no customers. Our group didn’t bring them much luck.

The Burkinabe official, dressed casually like any other local around, didn’t complicate matters much. He made sure to check everyone’s passport – or ID in case of some locals – but let us go just as easily. To my delight, the whole affair looked to run pretty smoothly. I liked that.

However, there was more to come. We were not allowed to get back aboard the bus yet. Instead, we proceeded on foot until a few hundred metres up the road we came upon another bunch of red-and-white metal barrels. Our bus followed us lazily. This time nobody bothered with us. Instead, this seemed to be something of a bus check. Or at least I understood it as such. Na Prisca didn’t explain much. But I guess she didn’t get everything, either. After all, for her, too, it was the first trip to Mali.

Anyway, whatever had been going on here, didn’t last for too long and we were free to go. Again on foot, though. And to yet another check-point. This time around both the vehicle and passengers were checked. But on the whole, I can’t say we had much reason to complain. All three checks combined had hardly taken more than twenty minutes. That wasn’t so bad.

Here at the last one, one by one, we entered another house, this time with uniformed officials and now my passport was finally stamped. Officially, after eight days, I was leaving Burkina Faso and now it was on to Mali.

On foot, for starters.
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starlagurl on

Wow, what an experience you are having. I'm glad your border crossing went smoothly though.


the_wayfarer on

Thanks. Looking back at it from the perspective of one's home, it sure now appears like an interesting adventure.

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