Trip Start Sep 11, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Burkina Faso  ,
Monday, February 13, 2006

Well, you thought we were chugging along slowly but, here's a surprise, since our last update in Mali, we've now not only "done" Burkina Faso, but are well into Ghana!" There's no stopping us now (well, apart from the humidity and oppressive heat which is totally zapping our energy...)!

Burkina Faso was fun: totally relaxed and quite different from all the other countries so far (well, maybe a bit of the laid back Mali shows through...)

First stop Bobo. Or Bobo-Dioulasso to give it its full name. The bars and café culture really gave it a relaxed atmosphere, and anyone who knows us at all would be confused as to why we didn't stop longer. But, needs must... Anyway the local Brakina or Sob-B-Bra beers really aren't that nice despite being cheap, so one night was the most way made.

Our journey to Ouagadougou (Ouaga, or Wagga if you like using the vernacular) was to be indirect, allowing us to take in Banfora and the Lobi country (the corner of Burkina nestling between the Ivory Coast and Ghanaian borders). We also found ourselves in more desperate need of a hose clip to stem the petrol leak we have been getting when filling up one of the tanks. Jamie has been trying to get one since Bamako after the duck tape we had been using since Morocco finally wore out. It is not a difficult thing to find but not knowing the French for hose clip (or hose or clip for that matter ) didn't help and Jamie was left just gawping at all shelves of car part stalls he went past. Even when we did find out the word in French ("Collier" if you ever need to know) the sizing was not accurate being simply the length of Jamie's finger. After purchasing 2 of the wrong size, I eventually gave Jamie a lesson in basic mathematics to find the diameter of a circle by measuring the circumference. The only reason I think Jamie took any notice was because a small crowd of children had accumulated around Bronwen since we parked for the night who he was desperate to ignore (especially the poor girl who obviously had a particularly bad skin disease and could hardly walk. I found myself giving her a large slice of water melon so at least she had some vitamin C but the memory of her diseased face appearing at the door will remain with me through nightmares to come...)

We were camped at Lac du Tengrela which was a lovely spot and a chance to see hippos. We spent an evening enjoying listening to them "laughing" and we could hear them coming ashore after dark. The next morning we walked further around the lake getting much closer to where they were lolling in the water and I think we scared the poor woman who obviously gets her water from the very spot we decided to sit in the shade.

The cascades de Karfiguéla were in the same area and the chance to swim was too great a draw with the heat we'd been experiencing over the last few days. It's late 20/early 30's by 8 in the morning and Bronwen has become a sauna 24 hours a day! So, with obligatory guide at our side, we headed up the cascades. They are impressive (I'm a bit of a sucker for waterfalls anyway) and the water was lovely to swim in, although there's quite a current and bilharzia is not unheard of there, but probably still less dangerous than the English channel that we're used to.

The whole area around Banfora is taken up by sugar cane, which I think is the main export for Burkina. It was lovely to see an area so lush and hilly after all the Sahel landscapes we've been driving through.

The guidebook pointed us towards the ruins at Loripeni which are old ruins, old by African architecture standards but not on a European level. As no one knows who built the structure or why, the "obligatory" guide's explanation was probably concocted in a bar one evening. After multiple translations from Moré to French to English between people without a common language we decided it was probably more fun to make up our own explanation based on the few words we could understand, therefore:

Old king got a bad leg and was ill. He didn't want anyone to see him so built some high walls around his home, behind whilst drinking blood of young girls . When he died it became a prison for slaves. It's now used for sacrificing animals, and small children aren't allowed in as they dig the walls apart trying to catch small animals to eat. If anyone goes there who speaks French or Moré, feel free to enlighten us ...

We managed to make Gaoua for the African Nations cup final. It was a fun atmosphere with most people cheering on Ivory Coast. But, if you don't know (or don't care), Didier Drogba lost it for the Ivory Coast with the hosts, Egypt winning 4-2 on penalties.

After a brief stop where we accidentally found ourselves in a nunnery, we made it to Bomoro or more precisely a hotel/camping area (Campement Touristique de Kaicedra) over looking the Deux Balés National Park. We had been recommended it by a German couple, Elizabeth and Rupert, who told is it was a good place to spot elephants. Not really intending to see any big game in West Africa we turned up with an open mind. We were, though, very pleasantly surprised and, despite our early morning walk showing the only animals being a herd of donkeys, 2 large groups of elephants finally appeared to drink and bathe at the river right next to the campement and stayed for a good couple of hours. It was well worth it, even though Jamie managed to disappear for a walk when we thought they'd moved off, only to see the elephants moving in the direction I'd last seen Jamie. He eventually reappeared with scratches on his face and arms and looking slightly flustered. He had found himself crawling backwards belly to the floor through the bush and then up a tree to avoid being seen (or crushed) by the herd.

So, now Jamie has managed to add big game stalker to his list of achievements, we were able to get to Ouaga to get the visa for Ghana and head out. We were a bit disappointed with Ouaga, especially compared to Bobo but for any of you who enjoys city life, it was quite fun, especially if you like parking and sleeping in crazy golf course next to a lorry park! If you're heading that way, the OK Inn isn't bad and is only 6km to the city centre (on the Po road) and seems to have more going for it than Ouaga camping.

And that was Burkina in a nutshell. We're looking forward to getting to the coast in Ghana for some frolicking by the sea and to look at military forts (well, one of us is looking forward to that bit...) Oh yes, and we do now own a perfect hose clip!
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