Into Burkina Faso
Crossing the border into Burkina Faso, a country we knew so little about, was a joy, thanks to the police control, go figure. They were all friendly and curious to hear about our trip. A few km south, on the left, we checked in at the customs, where a Laissez Passer was issued against 5000 CFA by a Burkinabe version of Chris Rock. Officer Fidel signed us in and gave us his number to call in case we got into trouble or needed a party animator :)
The visa for Burkina Faso has recently become one of the most expensive in Africa: 47000 CFA at the embassy in Bamako (2 photos, 1 xerox of the passport, lots of cash, hours: 7-11 am for applying, ready to be picked up 3-5 pm the same day) or 94000 CFA at the border, valid for one entry and 90 days. The main roads are tarred and most of the city streets are sealed, in the countryside they’re not. Gas is widely available at roughly the same price as in Mali: 640-690 CFA/l. Burkina Faso uses the same currency as Mali, Togo, Benin, and 1 Euro is about 655 CFA. ATMs are easy to find even in small provincial towns. There is no speeding control, but there are several Postes de Peage where a road toll for cars must be payed; passage for motorbikes and scooters is free. Beware though of the concrete speed bumps present even in the most remote villages.
Just meters outside the Burkina Faso custom control, hundreds of vultures were gliding about an open-air abattoir
We learned in Burkina Faso the meaning of the “atmospheric front”. The sky turned black and we simply saw the white wall of water moving toward us at mind boggling speed. We quickly streamlined ourselves and faced the storm head on: it hit us like a cold wave, chocking and slapping and pushing us to ride as fast as we could. Left and right there were black trees and the space between them white with rainwater. Soaking wet within minutes, we kept on going and half an hour later we were out of the storm and in the blowing wind, that helped drying our gear a bit. The road to Ouaga is hard gravel, a ride that after the Dogon pistes felt a child’s play.
In Romania we say “its in Ouagadougou” about something that is in an unknown place, far far away. In Burkina Faso it’s just the cool name of the capital city.
There is no camping in Ouaga (and probably not too many in the rest of Burkina Faso either), but you can pitch a tent in the parking of OK-INN Hotel, if you keep a low profile and “contribute” at the restaurant. This grants use to the grubby showers and toilets by the pool and a quiet sleep in a mosquito infested field that is guarded 24 hrs. There is free and rather good wifi in the reception area, but the restaurant serves generic European food at very, very European prices.
Arguably the best brochettes in Burkina Faso: goat and mutton offal or meat, spot on seasoning, served with cucumber and onion salad in a baguette
Behind the brochette stall, a typical Burkina Faso buvette, serving Lipton tea with lime and fresh mint for 100 CFA. Also available: softdrinks, beer, coffee, yoghurt, omelets, rice and sandwiches.
The Dege Nazi: a lady we couldn’t brace ourselves to photograph sells on Toe Street the best of the best version of this regional delight: millet couscous with sweetened yoghurt on ice, the perfect desert, breakfast or treat. Only available until 4pm daily, from 150 CFA/serving.
A village buvette on the road to Bobo Dioulasso, somewhere in central Burkina Faso
Brother and sister work together in the buvette
Bobo Dioulasso is the commercial capital of Burkina Faso; the train station here, built in the 30s in neo-moor style, used to be the terminus of the Abidjan-Niger route. Now is is a reminder of the colonists’ megalomania and a beautiful headliner in the city skyline.
The beautiful mosque in Bobo is famously considered one of the best example of banco building in Burkina Faso and the world.
In laid-back Bobo we ended up staying for a week. Above, the least glamorous aspects of overlanding.
Slow roasted goat with rice, cucumber salad and fried plantain. A staple in Burkina Faso.
An attempt at a Romanian summer favorite in Burkina Faso: roasted aubergine salad
Bobo was a good base for visiting Banfora, which has a great Sunday market, and Karfiguela Falls (access 1000 CFA/pers, plus 200 CFA parking fee). The piste to the falls passes through the gorgeous green landscape that is so south-west Burkina Faso.
Irrigation system for sugar cane plantations in Burkina Faso.
Riding back to Banfora
Burkina Faso is the country with the most amazing skies
In Bobo we met the lovely Liana and Denis who are overloading through northern Africa with their dog
And back to Ouaga to apply for the visa de l’Entente that will allow us to enter Togo and Benin. But before that we would visit Tiebele, a unique mud-brick village nestled in southern Burkina Faso
In Burkina Faso you might find a poisoned arrow on the side of the road…