Breakfast at a roadside café in Kidira, just before the border: a grand baguette filled with a two egg plus onion omelet, and a cup of instant coffee. All for just a dollar. The café, like usual, is just a table, a few chairs and a roof made of straw and plastic, carried by a number of thin wooden poles. We chat with the younger man who owns the café – an unhappy Ivorian. He complains about the lack of money, and explains that he plans to go to Morocco where he would board one of the small boats that, inshallah, would take him to Spain. He is the oldest son of his family, so he has to shoulder the responsibility to support both his parents and his siblings economically. He imagines Spain to be the key to ease that burden, but says that he “isn’t yet ready for the adventure.” So he stays here to run the café for still some time.
The Senegalese immigration is awkwardly situated in the middle of town instead of being along the main road to the border as is often the case. But once we find it, we quickly and without fuss get our exit stamps. We cross the Falémé River on a busy bridge. On the other side, we find the Mali immigration only after passing the whole border town Diboli, as well as a long line of trucks parked on the roadside.
A lone policeman meets us, and says that his boss has taken off with the arrival stamp. “He will soon return,” the officer says, whilst giving us his own phone number. The latter doesn’t come to much surprise – in Africa, the constant seeking for new friends and contacts is a way to enrich an else quite uneventful everyday life. Later, a nervous Senegalese man appears. He makes so much noise when he, too, doesn’t get his exit stamp, that the officer finally snatches our papers, walks into his office and stamps them. The stamp was obviously not missing at all, so maybe he just made it up so to get a chance to chat.
We stop in small village Kouiloumbo to look for water in a shop, and get invited to lunch (rice and meat) by the owner and his family. The small shop is actually just a single, simple shelf leaned against one of the walls in the room. The shelf is filled with small necessities such as tea, sugar, candy and cigarettes. Most of it is divided into small, transparent plastic bags; individual portions small and cheap enough to buy only when there is money to be had. A woman passes by and barters a freshly killed, beheaded lizard (i.e. food) for some tea and sugar.
In a small town further up the road, Ambidédi Sima, we are invited to sleep at the home of an elder woman.