For the last series of Saturdays I have pulled out some old blogs and reflected on my first journey to West Africa. You might think that after contracting malaria in Burkina Faso and the difficult time I had during the trip in general, I’d be sworn off the place. You’d be wrong!
After my 1999 trip I swore I would never go to India again, in my very next trip I did. And then again in 2004, not to mention Bangladesh in 2002. Never say ‘never’. Simple rule that I have learnt to live by because the world is an amazing place and to give yourself boundaries is pointless, and a little constricting to say the least.
Not only did I return to West Africa again on my next trip, in the second half of 2007, but through fate I actually ended up going back to Burkina Faso. I had a ticket into Mali (Bamako) and then a flight from there to Dakar, Senegal. However, the airport at Bamako had a sudden closure due to work on the runway. You’d think they’d schedule that sort of thing a little more than a few days in advance.
I was flying with Royal Air Maroc, and went to them to see what to do about my cancelled ticket. I was in London for a few days only before scheduled to fly to West Africa. The only option seemed to be to fly into the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou, and go by land to Mali. Ouahigouyah is about five hours from Ouagadougou, and a couple of hours from the Mali border. The only real plus to this route was that it eliminated the need to do a loop in Mali. I was keen to get to the Dogon Escarpment above all other things in Mali, and this border crossing wasn’t so far from it.
I had to take a train in London out to someone’s house a couple of hours out of London. In the guy’s shed he had set up a table and was processing visas for Burkina Faso. I kid ye not, this was the closest thing Burkina Faso had to a consulate in Britain!
The day from London to Ouagadougou was very very long. I was travelling with a friend by the way, and for anyone going to this part of the world, travelling alone is much tougher than travelling with someone. I thoroughly recommend finding someone to share the hassles, the heat and the mosquitoes. It really makes things SO much easier when you’re in a part of the world where you won’t be running into throngs of travellers regularly.
The day was long because Royal Air Maroc took us up and down a few times. London to Casablanca, Casablanca to Niamey, Niamey to Ouagadougou arriving at 2am. I’ve a feeling there may have been another stop in there too!
I’d tried to book ahead for Ouagadougou with no luck at all and we were lucky to find a room and get to sleep by 4am. Yes, we certainly paid overs but were able to move to a somewhat cheaper room for the second night.
Ouagadougou somehow seemed like a nicer place, still hot as all hell, but nicer. We met a group of students who wanted their photo taken with us, I found the same Lebanese restaurant and we enjoyed the food and Moulin Rouge appeared across the street and really, what more could you ask for?
We headed on another cramped, hot bus to Ouahigouyah and stayed a night there, to cross into Mali the next day. Stayed in a very cheap but decent guesthouse and put up our mozzie nets so as to take no more chances with malaria.
See, I had to come back. My mission was to get to all the places I did, and Mali and Senegal. Unfinished business you might say. I say, May the Journey Never End!