For a detailed trip itinerary, click here or for more info on the company that runs it (African Trails) visit:

Want another perspective? There are now a few other blogs for the trip all listed half-way down on the right-hand side of this page.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Burkina Faso - Ouagadougou

Well, this will be a short entry as we bombed through Burkina pretty quickly. We crossed the border and spent the first night in the bush. Drove through towards the capital Ouagadougou (coolest capital city name in Africa) – here we experienced our first day of Africa’s rainy season. It absolutely pissed it down for about 7 hours. And of course I was on cook group duty with Sonya. This involved walking around town desperately trying to find some vegetables. Unfortunately all the vendors were more normal than us and had packed up until the rain passed. Following this we pulled up to a campsite, put up a tarp and cooked in the pouring rain. There were actual rivers of rain flowing past and through the centre of our make-shift kitchen. It’s all part of the experience!!

Next day we travelled to an awesome spot in a national park. We passed a local village on the way through where school had just finished. The truck stopped for 20 mins and we were surrounded by amazing school children. They’re so friendly and when the cameras come out they go crazy for it! (See below story involving Happy Hippo and 200 children…..)

The path to the park was somewhat scary – navigating the 3 metre wide truck down a 1 metre path – the unfortunate people sitting in the back and down the sides found themselves being whipped in the face by passing branches. I found a large green caterpillar on my shoulder – no idea how it got there!!

Squeezing our way through the bush taking out tree branches left, right & centre

We have learnt never to sit in the back corner seats for fear of being
whipped in the face by a passing tree!

The park camp spot had a balcony looking out over a river which we were told out of rainy season elephants drink from in the mornings. Sadly we saw nothing except a puppy dog which bit Dave on the hand – Rabies scare aside, the dog was actually pretty cute. We also spotted big blue and black flags which are apparently to attract the Tsetse flies and keep them away from the campers. AK and Zakiya got another shock when they realized they were both wearing blue and black outfits – speedy change necessary…

Black and blue flags soaked in insecticide to attract the tsetse flies then nuke the bastards!

That was it for Burkina – just a few nights – overall impression was that the people were super friendly. The landscape also has started to look greener and more lush. The animals are no longer half starved and maingy and we wish we could have spent a bit longer.

Above Lara eludes to a story involving our very own Leon (aka “Happy Hippo” aka “Double H”) but she didn’t mention that it was actually very nearly a tragic story of loss.

Let me tell you a little bit about Double H first. The H-Meister normally resides in Cape Town and can – I’m told – usually be found cruising the coast roads on one of his two Harleys. As a South African, his knowledge of ‘The Dark Continent’ already far exceeds that we hope to go home with…and it shows. If you have a question about the wildlife, the climate, the culture and the diseases you can pick up, you normally turn to Double H (or the Lonely Planet). He normally wears mirrored shades giving an aura akin to that of ‘The Man with No Eyes’ in Cool Hand Luke. But still waters, as they say, run deep. Beneath the frosty exterior, lie years of bush travel experience and the anecdotes that go with it. I’m tempted to believe that Double H previously lived a secret life: travelling incognito under the radar, across borders and over barbed-wire fences. Even his nickname almost sounds like ‘Double Agent’.

Anyway, on this particular day in Burkina Faso, Double H had no doubt been revisited by the ghosts of his past life as a mercenary/spy/secret agent and decided to slip out unnoticed and go on a solo stealth mission. The guy can switch into this mode so easily: casting no shadow, moving with the speed of a centipede, the cunning of a Black Mamba in Elephant grass and communicating with the birds as he sloped off. We were all too busy playing with the school kids to notice that he had disappeared but when we did, the hunt began. We searched high and low, in the huts and the trees, down wells and behind water pumps. After a while we began to tire and gave up all hope of finding the H-Meister. We thought we’d lost him to the bush when finally, out of nowhere…

Unfortunately, I have a second tragic story to report of our time with the school children in Burkina Faso. It’s not enough that the country (and indeed the continent in general) has for centuries been ravaged by civil wars, slave traders and colonial settlers, left desolate by drought and the subsequent famine. AIDS has of course taken a firm grip on the country as it has many other African countries. Malaria, Sleeping Sickness and numerous other tropical diseases have taken their toll and now…to add to the country’s woes, it looks like an epidemic of ‘Hoops’ may be about to break out. Sad times.

The kid in the centre of this photo has a bad case of 'Hoops')

AK: Sorry folks, bad taste joke intended for my old man’s enjoyment only. You won’t get it unless you have at least some knowledge of Scottish football….which is about 0.00000001% of the world’s population.

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