Thursday, February 24, 2011

Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso - the country of honest people. (Burkina Faso means honest people). But even more funny is the name of the capital - Ouagadougou. We did't know almost anything about this country, except that it is one of the poorest in the region and in the world. We were pleasantly surprised, however - the roads were perfect and the streets much cleaner than those in Senegal and Mali. And as we come round later - people are wonderful here.
The white people with the white minibus left us in Ouahigouya (the first town after the border) in their hotel which was quite expensive for us and didn't allow tents. So we were late in the evening in a new country not knowing where to sleep. It was too far and too late to get out of town. We decided it was not safe to hang around in the dark streets with backpacks and went to ask in the nearby bar where we can camp for the night. They were very kind to us and invited us in the courtyard of the bar for free. We were very happy for the goodness of these first Burkinabe that we met. In the morning we found a cyber cafe after 2 weeks without internet in Mali. We found a couch surfer in Ouagadougou and hit the road again. Only after five minutes waiting a Toyota pickup with a specialist in construction of irrigation systems for agriculture took us directly to Ouagadougou. We arrived in dusk and decided to stop 20 km before Ouagadougou and to sleep in the woods. The moon was full and the place looked very beautiful and mysterious bathed in moonlight.

The next day the first car took us to Ouaga. We found the house of the couch surfers - Pavel and Margerit - Lithuanian and French couple living in Burkina for one year. They welcomed us warmly in their homes and for a few days we became very close. We prepared the Bulgarian cold soup tarator for them, and then Pavel made us the Lithuanian version of it - yogurt with cucumbers, beets, eggs, onions (only dill was missing). So we brought some Slavic environment in Ouagadougou :)
Pastor Michael with his wife Lidia and their grandson
От тук трябваше да вземем следващите визи-
Here we had to pick the next visas- for Ghana. Finally an English speaking country! But to our amazement we were refused visas on the grounds that we need to get the visas from our own country. And we even have no Ghana Embassy in Bulgaria. There were many other Europeans and Americans, but the rules applied to everyone - the embassy issues visas only to resident people in Burkina Faso. And this rule has been for only 2 weeks. How quickly things change! We tried to contact the Bulgarian Embassy in Ghana (the only one in that area), but neither the phone nor the e-mail were current. We had no other choice, but to travel a bit throughout Burkina and then decide what to do next. The hitchhike here is so good. We went to the west of the country - Bobo Diulasou city and the region of Banfora. From Ouaga we were picked after a long waiting by Lydia – the wife of Pastor Michael, who invited us to sleep in their village near Ouaga because it was already a nightfall. She spoke good English and seemed to be a good person. It turns out it was a village with schools and 500 children from poor families who study and live here. Michael and Lydia were Christians and wanted to give a chance to poor children and orphans who had never dreamed of going to school. Their project was really big and the children really studied here many different things. There were also workshops for sewing and mechanics, to enable children to have craft. They were planning to build even a university. "I could build apartments in Ouaga and to rent them, but what will be left after me? It's better to build something for the people that will remain after you."- Pastor Michael said. We wish success to their good cause, and who knows - we may go back to the village and help in some way.
the children in the village Word of Hope

The next day we got a pick-up by a new Land cruiser with the very cool driver Suleiman - owner of a transportation company. We literally flew with a 150 km/h and arrived pretty quickly to Bobo. He spoke English, had gone to Macedonia and was one of the few locals who knew about Bulgaria. When we arrived he asked us whether we had where to stay and invited us into his house. It turned out really great and luxurious house. There were LCDs, leather seats and even hot water in the bathroom. We had't seen hot water from Spain. He showed us the room and disappeared. We did not see anymore. We went for a walk around Bobo - the second largest city in Burkina. It was much smaller and a very nice town - with small shops for souvenirs, many musicians and artists. The next day we woke up to find that Suleiman was gone and we could not even thank him for his goodness to us. We left him a thank-you note and continued for Banfora (the way to Cote d'Ivoire). After an hour of waiting and searching for a suitable place we got picked up by a local Mercedes with retailers of cosmetic goods. They tried to persuade us to buy creams and perfumes, and then they wanted us to become representatives and to sell them. We explained to them that we did not want any of these things. However, they didn't stop. It was the most tedious hitchhike so far. We descended in their village with a great relief and continued hitching to Banfora. The road was pretty empty and the only car that went through half an hour later stopped. The SUV was driven by white people who had business with karite (shea) – a special tree that is made into various cosmetic oils, well known in these latitudes. They left us straight in Banfora and there amongst the madness of insisting guides and all kinds of offers we managed to rent a moped for 3 days.

We decided to go around the area with a motorcycle on dirt roads. The very first minutes we managed to hit one store with gasoline in glass bottles. We both fell down, but luckily the bottles with the precious liquid remained. With a few scratches and lots of laughter we left the accident. We drove over 550 km with the small motorcycle on the dusty roads and even we got stopped by the police in Gaoua in the lobby country. We ate a lot of dust and got very tired of the constant driving through the potholes and sand. We returned the bike with great joy and decided to continue walking toward the Lake Tangrela - 8 km from Banfora. We slept along the lake, rode on a boat and we saw hippos, birds and hundreds of beautiful lilies. The camping on the lake was just 1,50 Euro for both.

waterfalls near Banfora

on the motorbike
in Lobi country

Stopping for water from the water pump of some village
at the Tangrela lake

On returning to Banfora it was a market day. The market day is naturally a great fuss - hundreds of people selling and buying something. Most are tramps doing nothing all day and finding pleasure in the fuss and buzz, but others sell. Actually there are not as many things on the market as people. It was the season of mangoes and we took six mangoes all for 0.15 Еuro  and continued hitching back to Bobo. We did not wait long and the man who took us had a chauffeur. Many people here had their own chauffeurs. We arrived in the afternoon and decided to go outside the city and sleep near the road in a tent. Along the way we spoke to some Burkinabe and Frenchmen who turned out to be musicians. One of them, Benjamin, had a birthday and invited us to party with djembes and balaphones in a house in Bobo. The house was Lolo's – a French living for several years in France and Burkina with his Togolese wife and their son - Asan. Just after the party started the electricity went off. This was the best opportunity to enjoy unplugged party with all kinds of instruments - djembes, balafons and maracas. With only one headlight and many musicians. The evening was very exciting. When the electricity turned on after several hours, music from the stereo started and everyone began drinking, eating and having fun. We slept there the night and the next day we got back to hitchhike to Ouagadougou, where we had left our large backpacks in Pavel and Margaret’s place. Very soon we got picked by two old Burkinabe with tattooed faces. Here almost everyone had scars from cuts on the face as a sign of ethnicity. After a few miles they turned for some camping and we continued our hitchhike. While we were walking down the dusty road, a super luxurious Lexus flew past us and after a few hundred meters managed to stop and came back to take us. He explained to us that he had no right to carry passengers because he was a personal driver of some bigwig, and if his boss had seen him – he would be kicked away. He said he would drop us half the way in Boromo for he did not want to be seen. In Boromo he invited us to eat, payed for everything that we got and refused to take our money. He did not want to leave us on the road and said that we should get on one of their trucks going to Ouagadougou. (his boss was making the roads and had a lot of trucks). We tried to convince him that there was no problem and we could continue on our own, but he insisted. However, the trucks were full and he didn't even stop, so he decided to take us back in his Lexus. We sat back behind the tinted windows and he told we that his boss was traveling by helicopter, and he followed him with the vehicle. We reached Ouaga and he dropped us secretly, turning in the small streets at the beginning of the city. The next day he called us and asked if we were ok.

the usual buses
There was a lot of distance to our neighborhood and we started walking along the road. One SUV slowed down, watching us, we waved spontaneously and he stopped. It turned out again to be a pastor and he drove us straight to the house of Pavel, which was on the other side of the city.
There were already two more couch surfers – a Danish guy and an American girl and one guest from France. For several days we were like an international family, it was great fun and we almost forgot that we were in Africa. During this time we managed to get visas for the West African Union, including Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin, Niger and Ivory Coast. The visa was for two months and cost 40 Euros. Finally after the good time with Pavel and Margerit, we decided to set off for Togo. We packed our backpacks and with a bit of sadness we said good-bye to them, hopefully we meet them again somewhere. However, we met Benjamin – the Frenchman who had a birthday at Bobo and got invited to a 48-hour balaphone party in a house in Ouagadougou. So we stayed another 48 hours in Ouagadougou in a tent in the house. From dawn to dusk music went on and on, mostly balafons and some djembes. Liters of chakpalo were pouring-the local beer that everyone drinks from a cup of pumpkin, with a strange taste and usually warm. There, we celebrated yet another birthday, this time Bob Marley’s – on 6 February.

when we filtrate water usually we have big audience

restaurant" for omelet in Ouaga
When the next day we took our backpacks and started to go out from Ouagadougou again, we met the Italians with the trucks that we saw in Bamako. It was really funny how our paths were constantly crossing with the other travelers. We offered them to go with them to the village of Pastor Michael and to help with the work and make movies for the children. We stayed with them one day, but they had other commitments for the next day and we decided to continue on our way. We started hitching in the afternoon and till dusk 3 cars had picked us up. The last one- a Mercedes left us in the village in the dark, though we asked him to drop us before the village to sleep. The driver said he knew where we could sleep, and finally left us in front of the church. We were in the center in the dark and had to walk a lot to go in the bushes to sleep. There was no problem however and finally we bent our tent after the village near the road. The next morning a man and a woman us a ride, to the border all the time telling us they want us to invite them to Bulgaria. This time there was no distance between the two borders and we moved quickly into Togo.

1 comment:

  1. I find your pictures amazing! I am going to the Village of Hope to work with Pastor Michel in October. I was hoping to use the photo of the children from the Village of Hope, holding their hands up as a fundraising and gift to the village when we go.