BURKINA FASO 2011
DOGON AREA to BORDER BURKINA FASO
Today is our last day in Dogon land and Clary is looking forward to some better roads to keep the motor and the tyres a little cooler. We crossed the old track to Burkina Faso but were told to ignore it as it is used by bandits and smugglers, so we continued till the next track before turning south to Koro and the border. Looking back, we saw the escarpment in the rear mirror thinking what will happen to those people in the next 100 years when they are discovered by tourism. Unfortunately, we got lost and ended up back on the very rough smugglers road! Anyway, we didn’t see any smugglers or bandits, but we did cut 100km off our journey. We just had to drive back a few kilometres to get past the border post and advise them that we got lost and we apologized. (No problem was the response. Another 80km of rough roads and all going well we should hit a bitumen road (with or without potholes) in Burkina Faso. Despite all the positive comments in recent weeks regarding Burkina Faso we received the email below.
WARNING: A mutiny by Burkinabe troops broke out in April 2011. Shooting happened throughout the city – although almost entirely into the air. Ouagadougou has suffered from widespread looting and is now under curfew from 1900 to 0600 hours. Dozens of injuries and rapes by mutinous soldiers have also been reported. In retaliation for the looting of their property by soldiers and lack of protection, traders set buildings belonging to the government and ruling party on fire. Under these circumstances, the French government has warned its citizens not to travel to Burkina Faso at this time
BORDER TO OUAGADOUGOU
Burkina Faso is officially rated the third poorest country in the world. This is based on adult literacy, infant mortality and a life expectancy of only 40 years. Burkina Faso, has an average income per capita of AUD 300 or E250 per year. More than 80 percent of the population relies on subsistence agriculture, with only a small fraction directly involved in industry and services.
Highly variable rainfall, poor soils, lack of adequate communications and other infrastructure, a low literacy rate, and a stagnant economy are all longstanding problems of this landlocked country. The export economy also remains subject to fluctuations in world prices Burkina also lacks natural resources and raw materials. Gold has been found, but foreign debt is double the amount of the yearly exports of goods and services. Funny as it may seem with us just coming from Mali and Mauritania, we think it seems much wealthier. In fact, it seems like a remarkably relaxed, friendly and well-organised place. The roads are excellent, the traffic is tidy, there are loads of fruit and vegetables being sold on the streets and it isn’t swarming with children asking for presents. We have been told that crime is no longer a problem as the police adopted a ‘shoot to kill’ policy for thieves! The place is completely loaded with thousands of bicycles and mopeds. At the border we heard Burkina has had a lot of violence in the last few weeks, so we are trying to reach Ouagadougou before the curfew starts at 7 pm till 6am the next morning. The road from Ouahigouya to Ouagadougou was a beauty and only took 2.5 hrs. Entering the city we did notice protesters. (mainly students) Ouagadougou the capital city did not really appeal to us, despite having a nice camp spot at the Hotel with swimming pool. We were told we could have a swim in the hotel pool if we had a meal and a few drinks. At $2.00 AUD for 650ml and around 10 AUD for a steak with 5-star service. Due to the curfew we stayed near the truck, but I am not sure if this curfew is still obeyed because many people walked around our truck until late into the night. Our fridge is still struggling with the 48-degree temps, but the Engel still goes like a beauty. And having an icy cold drink on the end of a long day of slow off-road driving is an absolute pleasure. After 2 days we left the country’s largest city. With the current unrest we decided to leave early but not before we visited the centre of Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. It is pronounced “Wagadugu”. Ouagadougou, despite many adverse reports, we found the whole town to have a relaxed atmosphere with wide avenues, modern public buildings and large trees. It includes buildings and institutions like the University of Ouagadougou, the National Museum and a crafts centre. Hard to believe that only two weeks ago people were being killed and raped and government buildings were set on fire, while the army went on strike for better pay. We filled up our fuel tanks but not before an argument. The pump already showed 17 litres before one drop went into mine! Yes, you must be careful and being poor they will try anything to make an extra dollar if you are a white man.
OUAGADOUGOU to BORDER BENIN & PENDJARI NATIONAL PARK
Today the temp never went above 40 degrees, which made it a cool day when compared to the past two weeks. We straddled the Niger-Burkina-Benin border and the Niger River before crossing into Parc Regional du W named after the W bend of the Niger River in the middle of the park. We pushed on to Pendjari National Park where hopefully, being the end of the dry season, we will see some wildlife including lions, cheetahs, leopards, elephants, baboons and hippos.
ARRIVING BACK IN BURKINA FASO FROM GHANA
Great to be on the bitumen again after 3 days of mud and slippery roads in the North of Ghana. We visited the old town Bobo Dioulasso, it represents the oldest quarter of the town. Next, we visited the old, grand Mosque of Bobo Dioulasso built in 1890. This Mosque is in the centre of Bobo Dioulasso.
The grand Mosque represents a very good example of Sahel architecture. It was also here that we were advised to leave town as trouble was brewing. Yesterday we heard the gunfire that killed 16 soldiers and a 14-year-old girl. To us unaccustomed it sounded like fireworks, but it turned out to be much more serious than we realized. * We were aware of the nightly curfew, but we never realized just how close we came to the action! The following morning police escorted us out of town. It was market day in Banfora and with all the Ivory Coast refugees in the area it was quite a spectacle or maybe I should say quite an experience. In the afternoon we found the pool and parked our truck in the perfect garden of Hotel Con a Sucre. Tonight, we splashed out on 2 AUD beers and a perfect pepper steak for 9 AUD. Banfora conceals the most beautiful tourist spots of Burkina Faso. Despite this, it only attracts 3000 tourists a year. The Natural Waterfall of Banfora is a heavenly place and at Lake Tengrela, the entrance fee of 2.20 AUD includes a boat trip to get close with the hippos (the boat was just big enough for the two of us.) Although nothing to compare with East Africa, the 33 hippos in the lake did make sure we were aware they were there.
The other beautiful place we visited was the peaks of Sindou, classified by the United Nations as a world treasure. The peaks of Sindou are a beautiful sandstorm chain, which attract the bulk of the very few tourists in the area. It has become clear that the planning of our visits to Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast was not to be our best choice. As they say TIA (This is Africa) Situations and political unrest change daily.