We awoke gritty eyed on the Dogon rooftop in Kani-Kombole on our last day Mali. The thick dust blown up the previous day had not settled and we were glad to be back in the cool, dust free comfort of the cars as we made our way to the Burkina border. We had not seen the Harmattan winds and dust until Mopti (Dogon country) and we certainly didn’t expect that it could last for two whole countries!!
After changing some money in Koro (where the hotel owner changing the money offered us his hotel as collateral for our Euros he went off with!) it was a short gravel hop to the border. The crossing itself was quick and efficient and we had no problem getting the Burkinabe visas that we needed. For the first time since Morocco we crossed with other overlanders – an extremely well kitted French group (one chap had done the Dakar rally 7 times!) in Land Cruisers with a guide and a dusty and dirty Dutch/Belgian duo in a series Landy. The French were well fed, well rested and well groomed and their guide swiftly escorted them through immigration. When we next saw them parked for lunch at the best “hotel” in Ouahigouya, it was certainly a lesson on how to overland in style – and could not have been a more different approach from the Dutch/Belgian crew! Next time…
As we only wanted to be in Ougadougou on Sunday evening (and it was Saturday) we set off to explore the area north east of Ouaga. We drove on dirt roads in thick Harmattan dust and although the area certainly won’t register on our highlights list it was interesting to see rural Burkina. The area was surprisingly populous with lakes (dams) to water crops and animals. A new artisanal mining area right next to the road provided a fascinating stop with men digging out dirt in tiny tunnels 10m underground. Interesting to see a mini little gold rush next to the road and quite scary to see the conditions they work in.
We managed to persuade a hotel on a lake just outside Kongoussi to let us camp in their courtyard and the trees and grass provided a little oasis from the dust. The next morning Danielle and I were kicked out of camp by Paula and Mikaela and we returned 20mins later to a romantic champagne breakfast prepared the rest of the crew. It was our 1 year wedding anniversary and the others had outdone themselves to put on a special little celebration for us. Grant was quite fetching as a waiter with the dishcloth draped over his arm, Mik’s pancakes were excellent and we will never know where they got that champagne from!!
That morning we made our way through Kaya – where we had a huge Burkinabe lunch of chicken in the best steak restaurant in town (no red meat was available!) – and on to Ouga.
Given that Burkina was supposed to be the poorest country we had visited so far and given the dustbowls we had travelled through, we were pleasantly surprised to find that Ougadougou is a (relatively!) well developed city with good infrastructure (roads, traffic lights, government buildings, banks, shops etc).
We made ourselves comfortable in the open ground in front of Hotel OK Inn which is disturbingly located behind the major weighstation and truckstop in Burkina. Although a little dusty it contains all the essential aspects for an overlanders base in a major city: secure parking, wifi, great steaks and a pool!! We spent the next two days doing admin: Ghana visas (easy!), washing clothes and getting car noises diagnosed at the Toyota dealership (our bushes have taken a bit of a beating).
On the morning we left we were all up bleary eyed at 6am to listen to Grant talk to John Robbie on 702. In a bizarre scene, we sat in the hotel lobby with earphones plugged in listening to the slightly delayed broadcast through the 702 website. Grant did a sterling job and it was great to know that people back home are interested in our little journey.
Finally after a quick lunch (and ice-creams!) at a local Lebanese café in town we set off for Nazinga Ranch (just north of the Ghanaian border). The ranch is a great elephant conservation success story started by two Burkinabe Canadians. It has now been taken over by the government and standards are slipping but it was still a magic stop over. We lived it up in very basic lodge huts (no camping allowed) with animals in the camp during the night and after a quick morning game drive we spent the rest of the morning watching bathing elephants at the dam just in front of the camp. It was great to see animals in the bush again.
That afternoon after a short detour to see the painted village at Tiebele (not so painted and not so friendly!), we drove the last few kms to the Ghana border… English speaking people and the beaches awaited!