A Travellerspoint blog

Ouagadougou and Bobo Disalou

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.

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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.

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The blasted horn which ensures we are abruptly woken at 4am for the call of prayer

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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.

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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.

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Bobo music

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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!

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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.

Posted by Kaz76 06:09 Archived in Burkina Faso Comments (1)

Bonjour, bienvenue a Burkino Faso

Burkino faso

I'm sitting on the top of a house in Burkino Faso reading a book, I'm about two hours drive from the ghana border, we're offered a really cool spot to camp right in the heart of a village in Tiebele, Frank one of the locals lets us pitch our tents on the roof of his rooms, we get a whole view of the village and a nice cool breeze, so tonight I'm literally relaxing on my rooftop balcony :-) it's only 830pm at night but already the locals are starting to wind down for an early morning start except for a few who have apparently taken on the role of watching over us. It's a simple camp with squat toilets and bucket showers and water that needs to be pumped from a well, but everyone is only too happy to help us and it proves to be a peaceful and relaxing spot to spend a few nights with only the animals to disturb us during the night.

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Frank is a gracious host and spends the day taking us through Tiebele, his family have been here since the third century and generations still live together in the traditional Kassena mud houses which from what we've seen so far don't exist much. The elders are there to greet us outside by the entry which in years past also served as the only exit and manned by the elders (as they don't need much sleep) in case of any attacks, these days its more the place where the men gather each night and teach the younger ones their traditions, the women have a similar spot but inside in our equivalent of the kitchen.

In the centre of the compound is where the animals are kept, Frank's family are Animalists, so the animals not only serve as food but are also used for sacrifice, surrounding the centre and the different houses, some in the shape of a figure 8 for the elders, others in rectangle or square shape for married couples and round houses with thatched roof for the single young men; single young women live with their family until they are married - all are made by the men and beautifully decorated by the women with the different etchings/symbols meaning different things. They have an 'attic' near the front which stores their millet that only the men can enter, it is said that any man's last two secrets are stored at the bottom and can't be shared with the women/their wives.

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The stories and beliefs they share with us are interesting.

The Boa constrictor is believed to be what some of the older female ancestors became after they passed, so they are treated like grandmothers and entrusted to care for the young kids who,st the mother is out doing what she needs to do, the Boa plays with the kids and gives the kids it's tail to suck on to pacify them. When the kids get older and their natural fear kicks in the Boa is thanked for its work and then sacrificed.

Caymans never existed in these parts until a famine occurred and some young men of the village went to ghana in search of food but were thwarted by a river they couldn't cross, so they made a sacrifice and after 3 Cayman turned up enabling them to walk across their backs to cross the river, thereby allowing them to acquire things to plant and sow, so they could grow their own crops, they also took the 3 Cayman back to the village, but realised they had no water for them so took them to a lake 7km away where they live peacefully today.

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There are 3 ways to get married in the village, either though an arranged marriage, naturally, when the moon is full single come together under it or finally by kidnapping - the young man woos the object of his desire spraying her and her family with gifts then he gets a group of his mates to kidnap her and bring her to him, at this stage she can say no to him and he is not allowed to bother him or she appreciates all the effort gone to and agrees to marry him!

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It's a pretty fascinating morning and probably the highlight for me so far, Frank also takes us out to the Royal Palace which is done in a similar style but a little more elaborate, the centre of their compound isn't used to store animals but as a cemetery instead so we have to be a little careful where we tread our dainty overlander feet. Out front is the tomb of the first king and the justice hall next to it along with a hill where women take their placenta in a clay pot after giving birth and offer it as a sacrifice. Some of the symbols here are different, stars are used to represent beauty for the females, they also do similar scarring on their face, whereas in Franks home the stars represent weather, the lizard is also prominent here and is a sign of good architecture, if a lizard appears after you have built you know you have done a good job.

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Our last couple of stops in Tiebele shows us some of the industry they have here, pottery, gold mining and agriculture. Tiebele is very dry and dusty but they have created a dam which has enabled them to create well watered harvests providing them with much needed vegetables. The gold mining spot we are shown is a very manual process, where the men are sent down in a bucket on a pulley and carve out rock by hand hoping to find nuggets or at least gold dust, on average for every 50kg of dirt they get around 4grams of gold, they then have another spot where the women sieve the dirt through water to again find any remaining dust or flakes, all in all it looked like excessively hard work for not much reward. The other industry they have is pottery, we are greeted by the president and her and two other women show us how they create their different pots etc, they are lightning fast and whip up a few bowls in no time.

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Tiebele has been a great start to Burkino Faso, we are waved off madly by everyone in the village as we drive off in our big blue truck to head to the capital, we are pleased to see them already going through our empty bottles and tins, looking for what they can re-use, they really are the ultimate recyclers here, absolutely nothing gets wasted, except for plastic bags which are handed out freely, even if you just buy a can of coke it is put in a plastic bag and these are strewn around everywhere, creating huge piles or rubbish, but bottles and tins are like gold.

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Posted by Kaz76 13:43 Comments (1)

Heading to Burkino Faso

We had some guests join us for our last breakfast in Mole National park, a family of warthogs who happily wandered amongst us looking to share our food and having a good ole sniff of all our stuff but bot a lot of help with tidying up.

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Our drive from Mole takes us further north and closer to the Burkino Faso border, but first a stop in Tamale to visit a tannery and see how they make leather out this way, the guy who takes us through the process step by step I don't think has ever shown a group of tourists around, instead of giving us a quick overview of the process he seems intent in performing it as he would on any given day, we start to think we could be here for a few days, but he soon realises when we start questioning the next step that we are ready to move on, I will say his passion for his work made for quite an interesting visit but didn't convince me to take up the trade anytime soon, it looked like really hard work just to get a small piece of leather.

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step 1 - find some nice skin to turn into leather

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step 2 scrape off the remaining meat and fur and fat

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step 3 soak in water and a local un-named chemical to soften, colour also starts to change

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step 4 stretch it using your foot

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step 4 use millet/sorghum to get a red dye

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We managed to get a local village exceptionally excited when we stopped to buy some water from them to fill up our trucks large drinking water tank, they all gathered round to intently watch us fill it up but then intensely study every minute movement we made, we had a lot of fun chasing them around and essentially just being stupid, they just find anything we do at first scary but then highly entertaining! A couple of hours from there and about 2hrs from Bogatanga as it's getting dark we pull off the road and manage to find a flatish, if very spiky bit of land surrounded by trees where we can pitch our tents for the night completely undisturbed from the locals.

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Our final stop in Ghana is a Catholic Church just out of Bolgatanga called Our Lady of the Seven Swords, apart from the crazy woman screeching, hissing and pointing madly at us as we went to enter, is the inside only has minimal religious motifs, what is reflected in the walls and around the alter inside is symbolic of the history of the church and the village. The internal walls are adorned with pictures of the various animals that used to roam the area and that were feared by the local people, behind the alter is the usual cross but surrounded by pictures of broken calabash (from a tree used to carry food, water etc) within broken black and white lines to represent the joining of the black and white people who traditionally were at odds with each other.

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We finally make it to the border where the Ghanaian officials want to have a look at us all before granting us our exit stamps so in we all trot, the immigration official is really excited to process mine as he is pen pals with a Karen in the U.K., so not only does she have my name, he has also been writing to her since 1976 the same year I was born, boy did this give him much excitement he then proceeded to ask if I lived near her, given I did want my exit stamp I didn't point out the passport he was holding was Australian so happily agreed she in fact did, well that made him beam even more and off he went happily stamping my passport with the exit stamps.

Off to Burkino Faso we now go.

Posted by Kaz76 05:11 Comments (1)

Kumasi to Mole National Park, northern Ghana

Leave the bustling hub of Kumasi to head further north, the more north go, the drier and dustier it becomes, whilst its still hot its at least dry now so everything doesn't feel constantly damp. To break the drive up we stop in the smallish village of Techiman, to do a bit of a food shop to get us through the next few days of camping. Being Sunday the market isn't as bustling as usual but there is still enough veggies for us to stock up on and a nice abattoir with really fresh beef for us, the abattoir also comes with a lovely side of stink and pretty ugly cows heads with their teeth grinning away at us. We are quite a source of entertainment for the local ladies who are really keen to show us their produce and convince us to buy, the quality is pretty good, with lots of tomatoes, pineapples, lettuce, carrots and capsicums on offer, enough to whip a suitable overlanders feast.

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Before getting to our camp we make a brief stop at Kintampo falls, the highest in Ghana and also a very popular place for the locals, so much so with them turning the cameras on to us! We base ourselves for the night at Fullers Falls a smaller yet more quieter and quite picturesque falls, well we think it is quiet so decide to bush camp here and are worken nice an early at 4am by a motorcycle hooning through shortly followed by a herd of cows. Where we bushcamp has what looks like the start of a guesthouse or hotel with half finished rooms and a lovely driveway leading to what looks like a main entrance but it was clearly given up on long ago. We are joined at breakfast by a opulent of locals curiously watching us as we pack up and prepare breakfast, I'm always curious as to what is going through their minds.

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Back on the road to continue north it's a quick stop at Larabanga mosque, the oldest in Ghana and one of the oldest in Western Africa it dates back to 1421, done in Sudanese style and gradually built upon over time, a couple of local lads are more than happy to show us around and give us some info (with a suitable donation of course).

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Finally reach Mole National park, where we are camping right in the park overlooking a waterhole and are rewarded with six or so elephants taking a leisurely drink as soon as we set up camp, not as lucky when we are all having a relaxing dip in the pool to find a baboon has climbed on our truck and thrown our rubbish everywhere! It is really cool though to have both baboons and elephants just wandering so close to our campsite. Our walking safari gives us plenty of opportunity to get really close to elephants, antelope and waterhog, hoping to see some hyenas tonight. Sleeping right in the park we are lulled to sleep by the sounds of both the elephants and baboons and every noise makes you onder just how close they are to our camp.

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It's another night at Mole, before a bushcamp near the border then heading into burkino faso.

Posted by Kaz76 04:24 Comments (0)

Slave forts and ashante history

Finally heading out of Accra and up the coast, first stop Cape Coast, for those of our group who haven't experienced 'African time' before well they were in for a treat. To her credit the Dutch lady who owns the place that was highly recommended did say it might take a while as her husband was in one of the towns 5km away so no cooking could be done until he got back but she would ring and tell him to come back. Half hour later the update is he is on his way back but now needs to go to the market to get the fish. Two hours later we are told, 'nearly ready', an hour later the food is finally served and by a topless Ghanaian man with long dreads who appears to be the husband, we assume this must be the reason she moved to Ghana two years ago :-)... the food was worth the wait though!

The local lads keep us entertained showing their paintings then teaching us our Ghanaian name, which is the day on which we were born, I will now be called Afia, then a Rasta man comes and plays his drums and belts out some bob Marley - not cliche at all! One of the girls selling water decides to use us to practice her English, sounds like she might only know 'what is your name' and 'my name is' and 'buy me some water', but she seems happy with the conversation.

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Cape Coast is home to Cape Coast Castle a fort used by the British to imprison African slaves ready for selling to Brazil, Caribbean, America etc it's set right on the coast, with brilliant views all around, but once you are inside and tour through the dungeons where the slaves were held it doesn't quite seem as picturesque, at any one time there were at least 1000 male slaves, 5 dungeons of 200 male slaves and around the same of women, chained together and kept for 3 months at a time in one small dank room, living in their own filth of urine, vomit and faeces which rose at least half a metre from the floor. The women if they were chosen and refused to have sex with the officers were thrown into a smaller punishment to ultimately perish, those they did survive no became pregnant were taken to town to have the baby then become the officers personal slave if he chose or sent back to the dungeon if he didn't want to keep her, the babies at least were kept and formed ghana's first school.

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The other main fort in the area is Elmina, or St George Castle, similar but this time the slaves were imprisoned by the Portuguese and they have an interesting courtyard where the female slaves came in so the King could look down from his balcony and chose which one he wanted for his own personal pleasure.

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We camped a couple of nights in Elmina on Brenu beach, it's a really nice spot right on the ocean where you get a bit of relief from the humidity and it's pretty nice lying in the tents listening to the waves pounding down.

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Kakum national park is out this way, unfortunately you don't see any of the wildlife during the day, they've built an awesome canopy that lets you walk on top of the rainforest, unfortunately the downside is the noise of us traipsing around on the canopy causes the animals to retreat deep into the forest. The canopy itself gives great views across the Forrest and it's a fun experience walking across the wobbly and bouncy canopies, they have seven that zig zag across the Forrest.

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Our second last main spot in Ghana is Kumasi the second largest city in ghana, home to Kejetia market the largest in west Africa selling pretty much everything you can imagine I was surprised though to see I could buy large snails and what looked to be the spinal cords of some random animals, no problems with what we can eat for dinner now! The Manhyia Palace museum and the art and cultural centre gives a good insight into the Ashanti history, the guide was pretty excited to show us the old tv and fridge that was in the king's house...not sure how traditional that is. I did venture out to Besease a 45min tro-tro ride from Kumasi to see one of the traditional Ashanti shrines there is only ten left and to look inside some you need to bring them an offering of schnapps, which they also appear to offer to the gods. What is interesting about these shrines is the thatched roofs which you don't see anymore throughout Ghana and the Adrinka symbols etched into the stone.

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We leave Kumasi now to head further north to Mole national park our last stop in Ghana before heading into Burkino Faso.

Posted by Kaz76 02:34 Comments (1)

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