Saturday, 16 January 2016

Out of Mali and into Burkina Faso

Spending time at the Sleeping Camel had been great, meeting up with the Oasis Overland truck had been good fun. We were able to chat to others about their experiences, and were taken to a little food stall by the road by Jacob and Yuki .. It was such good value, a huge bowl of rice, sauce and meat for 1000CFA (£1.20). Mandy, Rob and Charles even went out to club one evening with them and the UN contracters.. Apparently it was a drunken night, with them rolling back into the campsite in the early hours of the morning! We had even been to the cinema, a real luxury.. Air con, popcorn, reclining seats and in 3D for £12 was a strange experience - we had been told Star Wars was showing in English and we decided we would check it out. We were scanned with metal detectors and had to take our passports in case we were stopped by police, however it was brill - I am a massive Star Wars fan! Finally the most astounding thing was that it rained.. It RAINED .. For most of one evening and into the next day. Even the locals were surprised! My rain Mac has never been so useful If you had told me at the beginning of the trip these events would happen I would definitely not have believed you! 

As one can imagine moving on from the Sleeping Camel was a hard choice, having stayed there 5 nights we managed to gain all the visas we wanted. Leaving places with hot showers, Western comforts, food (especially bacon), beer and English company is always hard! We headed out towards the Burkina Faso boarder which would be a 300km journey for the boys to drive. I was asked at the Sleeping Camel did I ever drive.. My answer was sometimes and then no. It is not that I don't like driving, I do it all the time in the UK, it is because the roads and the people on the roads are mad.. Imagine London rush hour, but added into the mix cars we would send straight to the scrap yard (sometimes those are the ones in the best conditions). People are everywhere and also thousands of mopeds with a death wish. That is the reason I don't like driving.. Too stressful! We have seen 3 accidents in the 11 weeks we have been here, a car flipping over in Morocco, a lorry jack knifing in Mali, then in Bamako a domino effect of mopeds crashing and then nearly being hit by a bus. Luckily no one was seriously injured in any of them, however it is still a bit of a shock to witness!

Getting to Sircasso we pulled up on the side of the road next to a whelder, we asked him whether he could do anything with our bumper, he quickly got his whelding tools out and in half an hour it was complete! The boarder between Mali and Burkina Faso was another easy experience. Getting our passports stamped out was done in no time, and then on the other side the police were very helpful and friendly they didn't stamp our carnets again however a passé vant was only 5000CFA. All done and ready to head on in no time at all! The scenery was beautiful coming in, almost British forest like with red dirt roads. I tried taking photos on the iPad however it doesn't do it much justice (we have yet to find good enough internet to put the photos onto the Internet so they will have to do). The people again were very friendly and the children smiling and gorgeous!   

Stopping off for the night in Sindu we camped next to the mountains. They were amazing, they looked like a child had randomly placed wooden blocks on top of each other with no thought to whether they would topple or not. Wondering around the town was good stopping off for a 'coffee' - another condensed milk affaire! Sadly we awoke in the morning to the police chief telling us we had filled our tourist forms in wrong.. Oops! He was not a happy chappy.. He told us we should have crossed out room and put tent instead of just writing tent, and that we should write our 7's with a line across the middle because that it the French way of doing it and he could not read our English writing.. How he knew it was a 7 in the first place to criticise us I will never know! It ended up with us traipsing down to the local police station to wait around and chat to the police officers whilst they filled in their tourist book. An hour or so later we were on our way having made friends again with the police chief.. It did feel like a waste of time! 

Driving onto Banfora, we had been told to go and see the Cacades de Karfiela and the Domes de Fabedougou. It was well worth a visit, climbing up rock formations in the sweltering heat was rewarded by an amazing water fall. The water provides a life line for the town of Banfora and the farms around it especially during rainy season.. You could see why! Moving further up we were able to swim.. It was so deep! You could jump off a rock into the pool.. What an experience! With sopping wet clothes we walked the 2km to the Domes along a water pipe (health and safety nightmare!). The Domes were spectacular, singular rock formations created by the water years ago which towered above us, they looked a little like termite mounds. Climbing up on was rewarded with spectacular views! Sadly we were left with a slightly sour taste in our mouths when it came to payment, a shame really because the place was so beautiful. After this we headed to The Lonely Planets top eating place in Banfora.. mcDonaldalds. In true tourist style we went for a burger.. It was welcomed and wolfed down..the price was very cheap for 4 beers and 4 burgers with chips, cheese and an egg it came to £15. Driving to a camp site we were told 1000CFA per person.. Bargain! Settling in for the night it was bucket showers  all around and an early night. Morning came along with the bill.. 4000CFA Per car! We are finding more and more that not having someone fluent in French is hard going .. Haggling and questioning is hard in a second language! My French is definitely not good enough! Moving forward we decided to make sure we ask how much it is per person and per car... Fingers crossed it would work!! 

The lonely planet told us about a good site nearer to Lac Tangrela called Farafina. We arrived to meet a man called Solo who told us the upfront price and was not surprised when I asked to pay upfront because of what happened the previous night (I managed to say this in French!). 2000CFA And 2000CFA per person for the Lake and a boat trip which he said was best in the morning.. 6am to be precise! It was going to be an early night for us all! Looking around the place he told us to look over the wall.. In it were 5 crocodiles (see photo) and also in a smaller bucket one which was 1 year old. The camp site doubled up as a protection centre.. He told us that the crocodiles on the lake have suffered from over fishing and people taking them, this place was to protect it for future children and schools so they could learn. I guess the lake is a great source of income from tourists as well! Walking around his site he also had a shop (like most do), we went in intending on buying nothing however came across these Africa shaped bottles openers which we had yet to see! Very cool! 

Going for a wander in the 40 degree heat was a mission.. Lathering on the sun cream (I got burnt badly the previous day for the first time after the sun cream washing off in the water fall). We didn't get very far.. 1.5 miles down the road was a cafe called restaurant Tangrela, incidentally run by a Belgium born Canadien! Very friendly, he had moved here after organising countless school trips to the area, settling down with a local lady and who now volunteered at the school! Intersting man! Lunch was a very messy chicken in a local sauce which was fantastic! Again the bill was very cheap (or cheep if you like dodgey puns!).

Waking up at 5am very tricky, very rarely do we get up in the dark at the moment (sorry all of you in England!). The Stars were still clear in the sky, and the moon a slither. Eating our pre made jam sandwiches we walked the 1.5 miles to the lake. Getting in the boat was a mission, it is called a Perogue - a wooden fishing boat - that had to be drained with water before we got in! Shakily we sat down and set off across the lake as the sun was beginning to rise. Getting up early was worth it, the lake became alive, teaming with birds and fish. The hundreds of white and purple lilies opened up their flowers as we floated past! As we glided to the left side of the lake there was a snorting of breath and a nose broke the surface of the water. Two hippos were about 20m away from us, at this point Charles asked me whether I had seen the video of the hippo chasing a speed boat on YouTube.. Not happy! However the hippos were content with us there and they kept popping up and down taking in air. They were joined by another 2 who kept their heads out for a while sussing us out! A brilliant experience! Coming off the boat our 'driver' made Mandy and me a lily wreath. They were beautiful!

We decided to head for Bobo, a couple of hours drive. Getting there we parked up and walked to the grand marche! It was a bustling place, with ally ways like spiders webs! Mandy and I wanted to buy some African fabric to wear as a skirt. This was an amusing affaire, trying to communicate what we wanted added to Mandy not being sure which fabric she liked best made for a long but very funny conversation! We found a pub and the boys were happy.. £3 for 4 beers.. We were definitely beginning to like this place!

Day 2 in Bobo sitting in a cyber cafe trying to load emails etc (wifi was useless it did not load anything), I had a message from my brother about the Avalanche in Les Deux Alpes where my Dad is currently skiing with some friends. Having not had any communication with any one since Bamako I had not heard anything from parents, and my emails were not loading. Luckily my brother was online to tell me my Dad was ok, however the panic that something could happen to someone and you not know about for a week was hard.. Mandy took my crying in the cyber cafe very well and luckily I had bought some more tissues the day before. It was only later when we walked back past (my iPad was still picking up the wifi) that my emails loaded from my parents (I couldn't not see them but at least I know they were alive!!!!) and a message from Laura who he is skiing with that I was finally happy! It is the small things! Spending the rest of the day walking around was great fun, we had let the boys go off with beer money so we caught up with them and then found some food.. The food was horrid.. Maise jelly, rice and fish stew which is apparently a staple dish. It is not often I turn down food but I had to leave it! Mandy and I also found some more fabric.. So cheap! Each 3m squared price of fabric was £6. I have a feeling we will be buying more along the way, and I am sure my Mum, or Carolyn, will take some off my hands when I get home! We had our first pizza since leaving the UK at the campsite, cooked on a wood fire.. Cheese and different meat was a luxury! 


Initially we proposed to leave Bobo on the Friday however we liked it so much we stayed another day! This was a good idea because Gil and Marlane drove through the gates at 10am much to everyone's delight! We thought we had moved on faster than them however they had decided to cross the boarder quicker than intended. We spent some time chatting to them and popped out to buy a SIM card.. It worked for Mandy and Rob however ours was not playing ball and we had to take it to a proper shop to get it verified.. It is still not working properly! You win some you loose some! In the evening after dinner we were told by th Swiss owner of the campsite about the attacks in Ougadougou, the capital. After this our plans were changed but we decided to move on any ways. Driving on the roads the security had tightened. Normally the police and military sit under the tree next to the check points and wave you on however they were mostly all up, identifying people and checking our cars.. One was very interested in our gas cooker! It is all for safety so you just roll with it! We are now heading for Nazinga the national park and then into Togo - we are hoping to buy a visa on the boarder! Fingers crossed!