It took two days on the bus from Dakar, Senegal to reach Bamako, Mali and I wasn’t happy about that, but I told myself I had to make it overland to my destination: Accra, Ghana. The day I crossed into Mali from Senegal, on the route my bus took, a French national was kidnapped. Although I didn’t hear or read about this until I was safely in Bamako, it shook me up a bit. The security situation in Mali is basically non-existent. I didn’t personally feel threatened, because I found an oasis that is The Sleeping Camel in Bamako. It’s a backpacker hostel with some nice amenities for the road-weary traveler.
I arrived at The Camel in the middle of the night and they stuck me in a private room. I spent the next day sorting out the Burkina Faso entrance visa. Luckily, I was able to pick it up a few hours later. I met two journalists who had also just arrived in Bamako and were trying to find out the situation in the northern region of Mali, Gao and Timbuktu. They invited me to join them during a day of interviewing IDPs – internally displaced people – who came to Bamako to flee the violence in the north.
The rest of my stay in Bamako was peaceful despite the uncertainty of Mali’s future. I actually met a local hip hop artist when I was with the two journalists at Kora, a restaurant in Bamako named after the famed musical instrument, which to me seemed very phallic-like, but made some great music. I could hear Cuban influences in the Mali music and I was told many older Malians went to Cuba to study music in the past. A few of us were treated to a show by the hip hop artist, who also fears performing because of threats he’s received in the past due to the political and social nature of his music.
As I mentioned earlier, I became extremely ill the night before I was supposed to leave for Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. I ended up postponing my departure another two days to rest before setting out on the road again. The day I left Mali and entered Burkina Faso, I do admit, I felt much safer. On my way to Ouaga, which is what everyone calls it, the bus dropped me off in Bobo, Burkina Faso’s second largest city located in the southwest of the country. I bought a direct ticket on a nice air conditioned bus, but during the trip was told I must get off and catch another bus in Bobo.
This confused me, especially since I was making good time to finally reach my destination during daylight hours. Of course nothing is certain in Africa and I ended up waiting over 3 hours for my connection bus to Ouaga, only to find out the bus looked like it just survived a horrific crash. I arrived in Ouaga in the middle of the night. I was whisked away in a taxi and asked him to take me to Le Baobab, a backpacker hostel someone in Bamako told me about. Turns out, this hostel doesn’t exist anymore, so my taxi driver takes me on a tour of the area, asking every and anyone he can find out at this hour where Le Baobab is.
I give up and ask him to take me to the cathedral. I remember a friend once telling me she stayed at the cathedral in Ouaga when she was in Burkina Faso doing an internship a few years ago. The taxi driver asked me if I had a reservation, because that’s the only way they let people stay at the guest house. I said yes, I did make a reservation, just so he would take me there an not ask any more questions. I was getting really frustrated because this happens to me time after time. I arrive in a city and have to give the local taxi driver directions to a place I’ve never been before.
The streets of Ouaga are chaotic, mopeds and motorbikes swing and sway, buzzing throughout the night. I stayed on the grounds of the Catholic church. They didn’t turn me away even though I showed up in the middle of the night without a reservation. Nice folks. I dealt with my entrance visa to Ghana and made my way after a few days.