Returning to Burkina
So, with all my tales about malaria, you may wonder how I feel about the country of Burkina Faso. To be honest, it holds a bit of a special spot in my heart. Sure, it’s hot and dry and I got ripped off bad there, and I had malaria, but it really has a soul, a kind soul and vibrancy that is its own. It’s not a country of tourist attractions, let’s get that straight. Although in the capital Ouagadougou there is a place purporting to be ‘Moulin Rouge’. It may not be the original though I suspect! But if you are looking for a pretty genuine, at times confronting and at most times piping hot African experience, then Burkina Faso might be for you. I returned for just two days in 2007, or was it three? I was on a trip that included a number of Baltic nations, followed by the UK and then I was to fly into the capital of Mali, Bamako. When I arrived at Heathrow, I received an email that my flight to Bamako had been cancelled. Why? I would find out quite a bit later that it was because the runway was being resurfaced and the Bamako Airport was closed for two weeks. That’s Africa for you!
Royal Air Maroc in 2007, and possibly still today, were pretty much the cheapest option into West Africa from Europe one could find apart from Air Afriqiyah, who didn’t appeal as an option. I had heard a couple of horror stories of people being stuck in the Tripoli Airport because of massive delays, and this was in the Gaddafi era! Royal Air Maroc are a full service airline, and although they weren’t the greatest airline they got the job done. The biggest issue was the stops – from London to Ouagadougou, the Burkina capital, there were a number of stops, the final one in Niamey, Niger, which meant that basically the plane had to fly back on its path to get to Ouagadougou.
The arrival was something like 2.30am as well, far from ideal, but at least I wasn’t alone there, my friend Paul was with me, and I found that it was much easier travelling Africa with someone else. My hats off to all those who travel to Africa solo, I reckon it’s a bit of a tough gig to be honest. Well, it was the tail end of a festival, and I hadn’t been able to book accommodation beforehand so we were in a taxi at 3.30am looking for a free room in Ouagadougou. We went to a few places that were full, and I can’t remember the name of the place we ended up in but it was far more than we budgeted for but at some point (apparently at around 4.30am) you have to just say ‘we’ll take it’ and be done with it. Three nights was all we had in Burkina Faso that time, but that was three nights out of our time in Mali which really pushed things when we got there, plus we’d lost an extra day in London sorting out our visas from a little shed in someone’s house a couple of hours from London. I returned to a great little Lebanese restaurant in Ouaga with Paul, got a visa for Senegal, and we ran into some students who had been charged with the task of taking photos with foreigners. For tourists, Ouagadougou is like the rest of the country, not big on sites, but if you can get over the searing hot temperatures, it really is a dusty but pleasant place to chill. It has a film festival every couple of years, and one famous (ish) race on the pro-cycling tour is the ‘Tour de Burkina’. This little country has something about it.
The people are friendly, the architecture is interesting and there is a real pride about Burkina Faso. It was a 3-4 hours journey northwards to Ouahigouyah on a bus, always a major adventure in Africa being packed and crazy. The town was quiet and even more dusty than the capital, we had the long journey into Mali the next day. This town works well for those wanting to do a Dogon Trek in Mali, we took various transports to Bankass from Ouahigouyah.
The guesthouse was pretty good, we put up our mosquito nets there which wasn’t a great arrangement but considering my experiences previously (malaria) I thought important, there was a lovely old turtle living there too. Decent breakfast, well priced, and we met some people we went to Mali with the next day and did our trek with. And so, for now at least, my memories of Burkina Faso aren’t so bad. In fact, I think it’s a pretty cool place. Below is a short video from my 2007 visit to Burkina Faso. Do have a look!