Burkina Faso

We love Burkina Faso, a wonderful west African nation. Perhaps it is the friendly vibe of the people who have a true zest for life, but we thoroughly enjoyed our stay (and Christmas celebrations) at Banfora’s Cascades de Karfiguela, resulting in a late night danceathon with the village kids. Other highlights included the Domes de Fabedougou and the lively town of Bobo-Dioulasso (a visit to the Grande Mosquee is a must).

23 Dec: Entry into Burkina Faso was relatively smooth, and the turkeys at the border crossing were especially tempting! The road was smooth and well maintained, and we were only 100 KM from Bobo-Dioulasso when we took a detour towards Banfora where we made our bushcamp. Mike, Luke and Hoff were trying to knock fruit down from a tree with stones, but kept getting their stones stuck in the leaves, so then they’d have to try to knock their stones out of the tree…it was a funny cycle, making for entertaining bush tv. Eventually Hoff got one of the fruits down and it looked like a coconut on the outside, but once cracked opened, tasted like a melon. Nancy’s cook group made sausages for dinner which went over well.

24 Dec: MJ lost her silver ring, but Lucky spotted it in a stroke of luck. We ate breakfast and had a short drive to Banfora, where Nancy asked for helpers to assist in carrying some bags from the market. Here, we stocked up on last minute Christmas day food supplies, getting essentials such as bread, tomatoes, lettuce, etc. It was also our last chance to stock up on alcohol before the Christmas festivities. We had an hour of free time so we stocked up on coke (12 bottles for 4000 CFA), and one bottle of cheap rum (4000 CFA). After taking a few photos of the market, we loaded on the truck for our short ride towards the Chutes de Karfiguela, a series of wonderful waterfalls about 20 KM from Banfora. This was a holiday surprise as we had not heard of a waterfall Christmas! The scenery was spectacular and we enjoyed seeing the fields of sugarcane. It is much greener in Burkina Faso as compared to Mali. Lars and Becky sat on the beach and had to duck at the low branches, but had phenomenal views of the countryside. We eventually pulled up into the parking lot of Karfiguela, and was that we’d be able to camp in the small hut enclosure area. However, everyone was keen on checking out the waterfalls so we walked down the path leading to the falls, past massive mango trees. There was a short steep hike to get to a wonderful view point, and a nice wading pool. After having reconned the area, we vowed to return after lunch, armed with DEET, swimsuits, towels, and sunscreen. But first, we had to set up our tents and we chose a shady tree (with neighbors of Bree and Lucky, Matt and Lars, and Norma and Pam). The afternoon was bliss, as we enjoyed our drinks in the pool, washing our hair beneath the falls and loving the views. A natural infinity pool was discovered, so we took quite a few photos there before a group descended before sunset. Becky, Dowelly and Bree (along with new love birds of Lars and Marie) decided to stay up to see sunset, before making the descent back into camp where we enjoyed a double salami pasta dinner. Unfortunately for Becky, she ended up throwing up her dinner shortly afterwards, and was feeling quite unwell. However, she still managed to stay up late enough to watch as Ruth and Sara built up their legion of fans with a dance off, making for wonderful entertainment for the local kids who had perfected their dance moves and could expertly mimic almost every dance move they were taught. Lucky eventually dragged us out onto the dance floor and it was a great Christmas eve, with everyone in high spirits celebrating the holidays.

25 Dec: Merry Christmas! We had breakfast at 0830 followed by Secret Santa presents. The pig was put on the spit early (her name was Jemimah) and Lucky even painted her nails! Secret Santa was fun, with everyone stealing each other’s presents. The favorites were a 15 minute Lucky massage, a pretty pink scarf with Sharks (yummy candy), and super soakers. It took a while to get through 25 people but eventually the presents were all sorted out and Mike got his Automotive Book back (it had apparently been stolen the day before). Folks were drinking early, with champagne and OJ to beer and wine (at 9 am!). We kept trying to remember that today was a marathon and not a sprint, and decided to space out our drinks. Since the focus of today was to enjoy each other’s company, we were reluctant to ditch the group and head up to the falls so we tried our best to hang around the spit. Lunch was a smorgasbord of finger food (muscles, crackers, hummus, salami) and the crackling from the pig was ready at 3 pm and devoured. We decided to join Goodie, MJ, and Dowelly for a quick dip at the falls before dinner, spending a quick hour up there exploring further upstream. Becky, Lucky and Robby weren’t feeling 100% for dinner, so the highly anticipated dinner of pork was skipped. However, Robby did a 180 immediately after dinner and started drinking heavily, apparently he got over his nausea rather quickly! Poor Lucky and Becky were down for the count early, but everyone else stayed up late partying with drinking games. Sometime in the night, Dowelly’s tent was pulled down (with Goodie in it) and MJ ended up puking for the first time in over 2 years! Everyone blamed it on too much “Monkey Tang”, which was Lar’s latest concoction of Mint Vodka and Tang.

26 Dec: Boxing Day! We got to sleep in till 9 am, having a lazy morning with the filling up of the jerry cans our only task to accomplish in the morning. The boys had a hell of a time lugging the cans back down the hill, with assistance from Ruthie and Bree. Becky and Kendra signed up for the first truck guard duty, and a rotation sign up list was put up on the white board. We had about 2 hours to do laundry before lunch, and took the time to scrub our feet and wash our hair while we were at it. To our surprise, a large crowd of tourists appeared, and our idyllic spot was marred. We managed to get our laundry up to dry before lunch, and headed back up to the falls after lunch to laze the rest of our day away. Our goal was to find a secluded, peaceful spot but to our chagrin, a group of tourists decided to picnic right beside us…seriously people? There was over a mile long section of waterfalls and they had to sit right next to us? It was almost comical. The sun was strong, so we tried our best to stay out of it, and eventually headed up stream to find a jumping point into a pool. It was fun jumping into the waterfalls, and we ended up finding the continuous shooting button on our camera, capturing some priceless memories. Bree, Lucky and Dowelly had cook group, and they created curry for dinner (which Becky decided to forego) before everyone called it an early night.

27 Dec: After having leftovers and oatmeal for breakfast, we packed up and were on the road by 8 am, heading for a nearby attraction, the Domes de Fabedougou. These fabulous rock formations were created long ago, and we hiked up to the top of one for a phenomenal view of the countryside. It was a nice treat to have an hour admiring the vistas here, and afterwards, we had a short truck drive to Bobo-Dioulasso, where we pulled into CasaAfrica, our home for the next two nights. Chris accidentally hit the gate coming in but he did manage to squeeze Nala into the miniscule courtyard, where we set up our tents. Nancy told us that we’d need about 40,000 CFA for visas, and told us to budget for 2 meals in Bobo, and one meal in Togo and Benin. Armed with that knowledge, we had to figure out how much extra money we had taken out, and found to our dismay that Robby could not find out where his wallet was. After emptying out our locker, we found it in a plastic bag, but it was a disconcerting feeling to think we had lost our money and credit cards! We joined Sara, Sean, Hoff and Dowelly into town for lunch, and we ended up finding a great shack for lunch near the grand marche, in a popular restaurant called Restaurant Bobo Dia. Becky loved her steak and fries (bargain priced at 1000 CFA for the steak and 750 CFA for crispy fries) and Robby thought his pepper steak was great too. Beer around the pool at Hotel L’Auberge was fun, and Hoff got pushed into the wonderfully inviting pool by Sean after he commiserated all afternoon how much he’d love to take a dip in the pool! We headed back to the campsite around 4 pm, and just lazed around until dinner. There was one electrical outlet so we decided to charge our batteries and download photos.

28 Dec: Breakfast at 0830 and we had peanut butter/jelly! Yum. We had a brief overhead locker clean up after breakkie and mysteriously, Hoff’s battery charger resurfaced…good news. Becky’s group had to go shopping for cook group, but Tim was feeling violently ill, so he swapped cook duty with Robby, who joined team 5 for this week only. There were a total of 3 groups shopping for food (groups 4, 5 and 6) so we all decided to head out together. However, since we were on the lookout for meat (and thus ice to freeze it), we headed over to the Marina Market on Rue Delafosse and separated from the other two cook groups. Our quest for ice was for naught as it was unavailable, so having a meat dish was out of the question. Instead, we decided to make a noodle stir fry with eggs, and headed over to the gran marche to stock up on carrots, peppers, onions. However, en route we ran into Sean’s cook group who derided the market for its lack of bread. So we detoured to the Patisserie and were able to score 20 loaves of bread for 2500 CFA. The rest of our ingredients were fairly straightforward, and we were able to get some shrimp crackers to supplement our meal (yum, what a treat). All of us were feeling the heat, so we decided on a quick lunch break at our favorite restaurant, the Bobo Dia. There, we linked up with Nancy, Luke, Bree, Lucky, and Dowelly and ordered lunch. The service was lacking from yesterday, as the order for French fries was screwed up, but it was all good. We opted to walk back (instead of take a taxi) and wearily reached the campsite around 2 pm to offload everything. Our plan was to immediately head back out for a bit of sightseeing as we still hadn’t seen Bobo’s main attraction yet, its Grand Mosque. So armed with our map, we braved the heat and walked back into town where we linked up with Dowelly (Luke wanted to head back into camp) and made our way to the mosque. The Vieille Mosque, a mud built mosque constructed in 1880, exceeded our expectations. Our guidebook said it is Bobo’s number one sight as a fine example of Sahelian architecture, and we were not disappointed. We had to pay 1000 CFA to enter the mosque, and 500 CFA for a guide (unfortunately he only spoke French), but it was well worth it to check out the interior of the mosque as well as the rooftop work. On our way down, we ran into Goodie’s group and were envious of his fluent English speaking guide, so we decided to linger and join the other group when they explored the old village of Kibidoue afterwards. To occupy our time, we befriended some hilarious boys hanging out by the mosque, who happily posed for us in silly positions. It was a lot of fun to play with them, and before we knew it, the other group was back down for the village tour. There was a bit of confusion as we now had to pay another 1000 CFA to enter into the village, as well as 500 CFA for a guide. But we were happy to now have a knowledgeable guide who patiently explained the village to us (it is divided into an animalist and muslim section), and we wandered around to see the oldest house (the “Kanssasso”) which dated back to the 15th Century, as well as the animalistic court room (where the accused sacrifices a chicken while sticking his or her hand into a tiny hole. Once the chicken has been killed, if the accused cannot easily withdraw their hand, they are guilty and must pay a penalty of cows, goats, sheep or chicken as retribution). Other highlights included a visit to the blacksmith where some members of our group bought unique souvenirs. The children throughout the entire village were happily posing for photos for us, and it made for a pleasant excursion. The finale was a visit to the sacred fish pond, where massive catfish suffer in a stagnant pool of refuse…we felt so bad for the fish and asked our guide why the locals throw their garbage here. It would otherwise have been a tranquil and scenic spot, but was marred by the inexcusable garbage dump by the water’s edge. Afterwards, we split from the group as we were keen on checking out the “marche de poterie”, a road side market of exquisite, hand crafted earthenware pots and vessels. Despite the fading light, we knew we still had enough time to visit the Musee Provincial du Houet on Place de la Nation, which charged a 1000 CFA entry fee. The displays were cool but the most interesting aspect for us were the full size, replica houses. The last stop on our Bobo tour was a quick visit to the train station, which was another example of a Sudan-inspired building. On our walk there, we saw the fading glory of the Palais de Justice, another fantastic Sudan style building. It was dark when we set back towards CasaAfrica, passing several uniformed policemen on the road. It was eerie seeing the security presence, as they had literally materialized throughout the city as the sun set. Dinner was a yummy meatball and potatoes meal, created by Sean, MJ and Lar’s group. Two thumbs up. Nancy made an announcement that tomorrow we would be entering Ghana, and that she and Chris would be working on a group DVD of everyone’s best photos of the trip…yay!

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