Following a very rough piste, we opted to stop early just before the border, but made the mistake of parking a little bit too close too the road and thus were soon joined by a large group of onlookers, which seem to upset the two Germans somewhat. Blanca and I, on the other hand, just got on with things and welcoming all the new arrivals. Blanca at one point deciding to throw all caution to the wind and took one of the many bicycles for a spin, which caused much concern for its owner and delight for us watching. As is often the case, our watchers left at sunset only to return the following morning just in time to see us pack up and move on. At Koro, we pass yet another simple and straightforward border crossing, only having to pay customs a little fee for working on Saturday.
The piste now changed from badly corrugated and potholed to one that had been freshly graded and as smooth as asphalt. Heaven!! Along the side of the road were stalls selling all kinds of fresh locally grown vegetables, bunches of carrots, lettuces or green beans, along with fresh fruit, papayas, pineapples and mangoes. Is this really the poorest country in Africa? It is a stark contrast to Mauritania (onions and potatoes) or Mali (a bit more choice but at a price). The locals appear to be better dressed, some speaking English, better looking bicycles, the majority of the cars newish or at least roadworthy.
The piste gives way to asphalt and a toll road all the way to Ouagadougou, pronounced, Wagadoogoo, such a fantastic African name. You enter a very modern Ouaga through the usual shanty town and have to fight for space with the bicycles and mopeds. No donkeys, goats or livestock of any kind in this city, which makes a change and leaves a little less to avoid running over.
Ouaga was a huge surprise after Bamako, a very modern European looking city, and the first we have seen with a big Christmas theme.
Christmas trees, inflatable snow men and Santa’s along with all the other tinsel and lights, seem very strange in this hot, dusty city. We opted to stay at the Foundation Charles Dufour, opposite the cemetery, where part of the proceeds go to help orphan children. Like Bamako, there is not a lot of choice when it comes to places to stay.
Following a second attempt I managed to squish Grommet in to the very tiny courtyard, and I mean squish, unfortunately, due to the cramped space we were only able to spend a few days here, as I had some work to do on Grommet. Here in Ouaga it makes a pleasant change to shop locally and eat at street vendors stalls for the local price, rice and sauce for 300CFA (half a Euro) or a brochette sandwich for 100CFA. Cheaper than cooking yourself (tin tomatoes 450CFA).
The first night we went to the centre in search of local music and culture, but instead we found sex tourists and European discos with drinks at European prices, not for us. The following night, we were accompanied by one of the guys from the Auberge to a local night spot. We were the only whites, there was a live band, dancing and the drinks cheap. Outside the perfect way to end a perfect evening, a hot spicy brochette with salad in a baguette, Ouaga’s answer to a kebab. Ouaga also boasts a couple of reasonably priced European style supermarkets, time to stock up on some tins, breakfast cereal, biscuits, cheap wine and Pernod, at 850CFA for a litre.
What a change to be greeted in English and receive all the four duplicate forms in English at the Embassy of Ghana. We managed to beat the Christmas rush with the visa formalities taking just a day.
Time, once more to move on and some really needed rest and relaxation in the bush, but this time we are on our own. We said goodbye to Lilli and Steffen as well as a Spanish girl Cheska (matahari) who is travelling alone, but we will probably see them again in Ghana, Theo, a French teacher, who we hope to see in Niger, where he currently lives and works, as well as Didi, who arrived just in time to swap places with Grommet .
Outside Ouaga, on route to Leo, we took a small path off in to the bush. It can be quite exciting negotiating cycle paths in Grommet, at last we found a small clearing with a tree for shade and set up camp. At last a blissful night’s sleep, apart from a three o’clock call when Blanca thought we were under attack by wild animals which were actually cows grazing nearby.
The following morning we were met by the land owner, who agreed to let us stay for a small fee. I got on with my tasks of checking everything as usual, filling the leaky steering relay with grease, adjusting a loose front wheel bearing along with cleaning out half a ton of accumulated dust.
Following all this I was quite oily and back to the colour of terracotta and in desperate need of a shower, so a quick shower African style, which was in fact the hottest shower I had had since Ibrahim’s auberge in Morocco.
Later over dinner a couple of locals dropped by who had only just realised that we were parked so close to their hut on the other side of the clearing. We must have appeared like aliens from another planet.
Jobs done and our batteries recharged, we moved on once more to spend Christmas at Ranch de Gibier de Nazinga, a wild life park and hopefully the chance to spot some game. A little treat. Christmas dinner of tomato salad, chicken and chips with pancakes for desert, all washed down with a bottle of Spanish rose sharing the conversation with Takeshi and Eriko, from Japan, working here in Burkina Faso for Unicef.
Christmas day and up at 5.30am and our first safari in Africa! We set off with our guide and immediately came across a small herd of elephant, on our 3 hour trip we were lucky to spot lots of antelope, water buck, wart hog, baboon along with all manner of bird life, it was very exciting I can tell you! We also had our first encounters with Blanca`s feared testy fly, lets hope we don’t get sleeping sickness. Still the rest would be nice. Neither of us assumed we would be so busy travelling, and expected to have more time chilling, reading and getting bored. It seems to be non stop, moving on, checking, cooking and cleaning. Hopefully when we get to Ghana we can find a nice quiet beach and stay for a week or two.
Following discussions with various other travellers we are now set on driving as far south as we can and avoid the high cost of the ferry and the flights. Blanca is now hard at work planning the route beyond Ghana, this should be very exciting and we are both looking forward to at least making the attempt.
Camping at the safari lodge
Mark, Christmas day
Blanca, Christmas day
Some locals, Christmas day