Burkina Faso - Ouaga, Bobo and Banfora (Red)
Niels had to leave Ouaga in order to be in Accra on the 18th to pick up Annemieke and Marijn. Julia and Stanley stay on in Ouaga. The days just pass. We wander through town in the morning and stop at our ‘regular’ bench for lunch of attiéke (rasped Manok) with sauce and fried fish, returning to the hotel in the late afternoons. On Friday we go to the tailor and some of the things are ready. Eowyn’s dress is perfect and she loves it! Julia’s things are not yet ready. We had planned to leave the next morning for Bobo but actually don’t mind one more night in Ouaga – the word we can best use to describe Ouaga is delightful – not a word usually used for African capital cities. We return to the tailor on Saturday and collect Julia’s things from the tailor – a few last minute adjustments and we are on our way.
We arrive Sunday evening, and find a camp and a cold beer. The next morning Stanley is meeting colleagues at Centre Muraz and Julia wanders through town with the kids.
Bobo is SMALL, people very friendly. They would do the extra effort to show us the way, were keen for a chat and no hassles. Bobo felt like a unique place in Africa as everything was so smooth going and relaxed. Everything seemed to just work. We wander through the market buying vegetables and Christmas decorations. We find a small plastic Christmas tree which finds a place in the back seat between the kids.
Tuesday we are up early and ready to leave town heading to Banfora. We just pull out of the campsite and are stopped by the police. It turns out to be the Bobo-Dioulasso Annual Christmas Shakedown. The police officer goes through our list of documents and then asks for the annual maintenance check certifying that our vehicle is road worthy. Never mind that customs has inspected our vehicle on entry and given us a “laissez passer” – he wants the piece of paper – from Holland. It is all the more annoying as the fuming, lopsided, rusted vehicles limp past us. He wants to issue a fine of 25,000CFA. We may have been persuaded to pay a smaller fine but 25K is a lot. Stanley has several discussions with him but he is unwilling to back down. Eowyn asks what the police want and we tell her money for Christmas. We start up the computer to see if by chance we had a copy of it and miraculously there is a wifi signal!! It is slow but Stanley manages to get Matthew on Skype in South Africa and asks him to call Stans in Holland. We left the original APK with Johan and Stans in Holland. She is able to scan the document and send it. Stanley goes back to his colleagues at Centre Muraz for their faster internet connection and printer. Meanwhile Julia and kids have been sitting by the side of the road for 4 hours watching the shakedown which has become quite frenzy. At 10 minutes to 1 a truck shows up, all the policemen jump in and take off – with all our original documents they have confiscated!! Not a word was said they just got in the truck and left. UGH!! Julia drives to Centre Muraz and picks up Stanley. We are a bit at a loss at what to do. We don’t want to sit by the side of the road but if we drive to the police station they can give us a fine for driving around without our documents. We decide to drive near the police station and Stanley will walk the rest of the way. Stanley has written down the name of the officer and at reception show them the name (written just above the contact info for the Dutch Embassy in Burkina). They direct him to a supervisor. When Stanley explains what happened and presents the APK we spent all day getting, the supervisor says ‘this isn’t necessary for foreigners’ shoves all papers back to Stanley and that is that. We leave in the afternoon for Banfora – luckily it is only 100km on a good road. After some serious searching in the dark we finally find the camp Siakadougou (“village of Siaka”).
We spend the day sightseeing around Banfora. First we drive south to Sindou Peaks. Not far out of town the dirt track stops at the river. The bridge has been washed out. They are fixing it but it is not possible to pass. For 1000CFA one of the workers agrees to show us the diversion. Indeed we would not have found it ourselves as the dirt track becomes a single track and winds through fields. The irrigation system is impressive! There are canals with hand turning locks to raise and lower the small doorways. It takes about 30 minutes and then we rejoin the dirt road just on the other side of the bridge. The drive is beautiful – a red dirt road shaded by huge mango trees. We pass through small villages and then see the peaks in the distance. A narrow, craggy chain of rock cones. A guide takes us on a short walk through the peaks explaining that only part of the peaks are open for the general public as the other part of it is sacred.
We drive back to Banfora and follow the dust road along the border of a huge sugar cane plantation towards Karfiguela Falls. The fields have been recently cleared and burned and a fine dust has settles over everything. Each time the wind blows it sends the powder-like dust into the air and casts a new red coating over everything. The dust is so fine that there are even puffs of dust that are kicked up behind a small child running in the road. At Karfiguela Falls we hike up to the top and soak our feet in the cool water. It is a lovely view and the cold water is refreshing. On our way back to Banfora we are stopped by two poorly dressed guys at a barrier on the road. The barrier is official enough (red and white stripe and a little guard house) but the two guys don’t look very official. One of them is shouting and we can’t understand what. Eowyn asks what the guy wants and we tell her he is asking for money. She says” For Christmas? It looks like everybody wants money for Christmas..”! Another car appears on the other side of the barrier, they explain to us that the guards are supposed to check that no one is smuggling out sugarcane and they are just supposed to look in the car. We open the doors so they can see there is no sugarcane and we are on our way. When we reach town there is a water truck spraying down the road – except it is not water. First we think it is tarmac but that isn’t right either as it smelled a bit sweet. It turns out it is run off from the sugar production. They are coating the road to keep the dust down but coating it with sugar! It sticks to our car (but washes off easily in the mist later). We drive through town on the candy coated roads back to our campement.
Note: we found the Dutch people! Always when we travel we come across Dutch people – they are everywhere! Since we have been in West Africa we have come across a lot of Belgians, French and some Germans but not that many Dutch. Now in the back corner of Burkina Faso we run into many! You have to be far enough off the beaten track to find the Dutch…
Note 2: Julia had an interesting conversation with Eowyn in Sindou. As we are walking Eowyn asked what a pile of sticks was being used for. Julia answered you can use them to burn to make a fire. Eowyn said “you can also burn them with leaves and cover them with sand”. Which indeed you can do because that is how you make charcoal. I have noooo idea where she got that but there are things that come up every once in a while that lead me to believe Eowyn has an African soul. She mastered the squat toilet in no time. She can easily eat rice with her hand. She demonstrated for Julia “see, you eat it like this” taking the grains, packing them into a ball in her palm and popping it into her mouth – while Julia is lucky to get most of it in with a spoon. She somehow knows how to make charcoal. She carries her baby around tied to her back and is now obsessed with being able to carry something on her head (which she manages in Anomabu!).