Burkina Faso - Ouahi and Ouaga
Day 68 (12 December) – Into Burkina Faso
Niels woke up, or more precisely Niels did not sleep at all during the night… Last nights brochettes were lovely, but the aftermath is not to be mentioned in detail. The result is that Niels is out for the next two days, visiting toilets or just vomiting out the window… But the brochettes were delicious!
We drive the 100ks toward the Koro border crossing into Burkina Faso. The border proceedings to leave Mali are not complicated but spread out over 20 or so Kms – police, gendarmerie, douane. At the last stop for douane Stanley and Julia are joking that maybe we should get some take away for lunch or pick up some provisions at the supermarket because there is NOTHING. You don’t even see a herder, not a building or a structure besides the mud building we are standing next to. Haha.
We pass over the ‘border’ into Burkina Faso and stop at immigration. After the usual greetings they review our passports and say ‘no visa?’. No, we say, we were told we can get it at the border. ‘yes’ they say ‘but do you know how much it costs?’. We thought it was 10,000CFA per passport. No, that changed in June this year, it is now 94,000CFA – that is almost 150Euro per passport! And they only accept CFA, which we didn’t have with us in those amounts!
They are genuinely trying to help us – there is a small town a little further on. It is Sunday so the bank is closed but there is an ATM although on the weekends it only dispenses 50,000CFA per card (and we haven’t had much luck with the ATMs lately). We can’t go back into Mali, officially, as we only had single entry visas. The officials were really helpful, making calls and brainstorming. Then one guy says he knows someone who can change some money back in Mali.
Stanley and two Burkinabe officials drive the dirt road back to the Mali Police checkpoint some 35 km back. Both officers get out of the car and start shaking everyone’s hand while asking permission for us to go through. It was clear that there was not going to be a problem as we were invited to sit down and drink some tea. We kindly declined and got back into the car to the Gendarmerie checkpoint. The same ritual occurs and within a few minutes we are on our way to the douane checkpoint some additional 20 km away in Koro. Just before reaching Koro a man on a motorbike approaches us and waves us to stop. We all shake hands and obviously the officials were friends with him. We continue and the biker introduces us to all the douane officials. Good connections are important and without much ado we continue towards the bank. After some new introductions “the man from the bank” was called. Some tough negotiations about the exchange rates were held, but we managed to come to an agreement (although there was not much choice) and we settled the deal. The guy on the motorbike lead the way back, but first we had to go visit his house. It turned out that the biker was the brother in law from one of the Burkinabe officials in my car, and he wanted to say hi to his sister. On arrival, seats needed to be arranged, drinks needed to be served, “sister” needed to be called. Finally, after some time a sizeable woman came and shook hands with all visitors and placed a seat behind all of us. Subsequently, nothing was said…… than the biker explained his wife why we had come to town. Without a single communication between the official and his sister we said goodbye and went through the whole ritual: Mali douane, Mali Gendarmerie, Mali Police etc…
By the time we reached the Burkina border it was already getting dark…….
We are on our way just after the sun has set. One more stop at the douane and we find a place to stay in Ouahigouya for the night.
Day 69 (13 December) – From Ouahigouya to Ouagadougou
The next morning Julia goes out with the kids in search of breakfast. The town is alive and bussling at 7:30. There is a girl on a bike who is very interested in the 3 of us. She doesn’t say anything but rides slowly next to us as we walk down the dusty road. Since she is there I ask her for the boulangerie. Without saying anything she leads us to the bakery. As we leave she waves goodbye. We head down a busy street to a table where a woman is selling something out of a bag. It turns out to be black-eyed peas and rice. Julia is pantomiming for one order to take away but it isn’t going so well. The girl on the bike has been watching from the traffic light and comes back to assist. Without saying anything to Julia she seems to communicate what I want to the woman who puts a heaping serving of the beans and rice in a plastic bag and spoons on some oil with short long leaves in it and some mystery powder. 20 Euro cents and we move on. We stop at one more stall to get some fried thing with another mystery powder. Again the girl waves good bye and Julia and the kids return to the hotel.
Ouaga is a big small town. It has a population of 1.5 million and almost no multistory buildings. There are dusty roads, single story shacks, kiosks and buildings, open sewers, Plenty of markets. It is busy and very friendly. On a walk around town on our first day we pass a tailor. A small stall with brightly colored beautifully tailored dresses and skirts hanging from the dusty wood frame shack. Julia was looking for Eowyn but Stanley becomes brutally honest that I really look a mess and could use a shirt or two myself!
Day 70 (14 December) – Pavillon Vert in Ouagadougu
After dropping our passports at the Ghana Embassy for visas we go to the Grand Marche in search of fabric to bring to the tailor. In general people have been very polite and friendly but the market is predictably market like. We are swarmed by men trying to get us into their stalls to see their fabric. Somehow we manage to make our selections and negotiate a price. I am sure we paid 4 times too much but we did manage to negotiate 2/3 off the asking price! We have worked up a hunger and we stop for lunch at a cart with a bench nearby (i.e. a restaurant). We order what is on offer – a bowl of something that looks like brown sugar and tastes like rice, with a tomato based sauce, fried banana, raw chopped green pepper and onion, fried fish and another mystery powder. The mystery powders are everywhere and are delicious. Probably some spruced up MSG and we love it. By afternoon we are back at the tailor. We look through the photo books filled with every imaginable design and color. Once we have selected our designs first Eowyn is measured and then Julia. Senna is like a cat chasing the tape measure as the tailor wields it around. We will return Friday to collect our new clothes!
Day 71 (15 December) – PV in Ouaga
Today we had a relaxing day in Ouaga. We had internet at the hotel where we stayed (Pavillon Vert or PV in short), although it became very very slow. But it was good enough for Eowyn to make a Skype call to Holland! Very nice.
At 11 we picked up our passports with the visa for Ghana and headed by taxi to the immigrations office for applying for a multi visa (3 months visa for Ivory Coast, Burkina, Togo and Benin). Stopping the taxi we asked how much it would costs for the five of us, the guy replied: “Cinq cent cinq cent.” After some time it became clear, 500 CFA per (adult) person. Unfortunately the office would only open at 3pm and it was only a little after 12.
Lunch in town along the road and it was time to walk back slowly to the immigration office. After the paperwork and paying CFA 25.000 per passport we could pick them up tomorrow afternoon at 4pm.
Day 72 (16 December) – PV in Ouaga
Another day of waiting in PV, which is not as bad as it sounds! Internet was still available but it is too slow to update the website. We did manage with the internet to stop our road tax for the cars and the car insurance that does not cover Africa anyway. It would save us quite some money, road tax in Holland is enormous and we are not even making use of any of the roads!
We had time to do laundry, walk around town and prepare for departure: Niels would leave tomorrow to haul to Accra to pick up Marijn and Annemieke on Sunday evening, which was still a drive of 1.000 km (!!!), and SJES will stay another day in Ouaga to pick up the tailor-made dresses and go to Bobo-Dioulasso on Saturday.