We've only spent a couple of days in Burkina but already notice how much poorer it is, with more beggars, far more sellers on the side of the roads (I didn't think that was possible), less cars and more bikes and the cars that are around are a lot older and beaten up, it is also far drier, dirtier and dustier, but appears very welcoming and culturally rich. Not surprisingly I realise my spattering of French is just enough to be polite but that's about all, lucky we have a few amongst us who can speak French really well. The other thing noticeable is more police checks (again I didn't think after ghana much more could be possible), occasionally they even like to come into the back of the truck and just have a look at us, each time they seem satisfied with what they've seen and let us go, between Tiebele and Ouaga which takes us about half a day we are stopped 9 times.
The capital, Ouagadougou doesn't offer much, a grande mosque which isn't anything too startling, the usual market and a cathedral which is part of the nunnery that we are staying at. What it does offer though is a quite western style supermarket fully stocked with pretty much anything you are already missing from home (except maybe decent coffee, vegemite and Tim tams :-) ). The French influence is evident at the nunnery where we are served fresh baguettes and cheese for breakfast and coffee and tea in a bowl, the baguettes are great especially after the sugar laden 'bread of god' we've been eating in ghana and to finally get cheese is pretty exciting for us all (it's amazing what you miss when you can't get it). At the fancy pants hotel out of town that lets us use their pool in exchange for us buying food and drinks we can even order toasted cheese sandwiches.
Another half drive day and more police checks to get to Burkina's second biggest city Bobo Dissalo, driving out we notice in Burkina they actually have a dedicated lane for motorbikes and bicycles, guess the number of each warrants it. We are camping in the grounds of a really nice hotel run by a Dutch woman who has been here for 30 years, it is they get the chef to whip me up a couple of chocolate cakes for my birthday, which we demolish in no time, a short walk from our camp also takes us to a really nice restaurant where they do really good Zebu steak, so it's a pretty good place to have a birthday in Burkino Faso, unfortunately no local music which is mainly on Fridays and Saturdays only some truly western looking discos.
Bobo is a lot more interesting than the capital, with less traffic and feels more relaxed and is better layer out. They also have a grand mosque which is truly grand and similar style to the one saw in Ghana, we allowed to enter this one and its interesting to see the different archways and blend of light and dark throughout.
The blasted horn which ensures we are abruptly woken at 4am for the call of prayer
A wander through the old town was interesting and quite different to the rest of Bobo with its chaotic and haphazard dusty roads. There is a filthy river where the local women wash and apparently home to sacred catfish, not sure about them being sacred but they are quite significant in size obviously they aren't put off by the putridness of the river. A few people are still plying a trade, the blacksmith through various charades explains how he takes big chunks of metal and shapes them into to dainty metal statues, he is really quite good, there is a woodworker who is only interested in trying to get to buy your usual wooden curios and then the woman who makes the local brew, the real interest is just interacting with the local people and watching them go about their day to day business. As is typical the women seem to do a lot of the hard work, one guys job is to push a foot pump which then pours about 20litres of water into the containers the women are carrying on their heads.
There are a couple of interesting museums but unfortunately we couldn't understand all the French explanations but did see a range of different masks used in different ceremonies and a lot of the different musical instruments that play such a crucial role in Burkinian culture, it's amazing what they can make an instrument out of and the different music they make from them.
Word had obviously got around we were in town (probably all the kids that started chanting 'Le Blanc, Le blanc' over and over really loudly) and quite filthy from a fair bit of camping, a local lady rocked up to our camp in Bobo offering to clean our feet and give us a pedicure, wanting to help the local economy out we obliged, would be interesting to know how she described her afternoon and the state of us when she got home later that night!
And finally for those that know how much I love pizza I even got pizza here, a local man has a tiny van that he uses to pump out wood oven style pizzas for a few bucks.