The heat wasn’t too oppressive last night so we slept well. We had an early start to head for the border. We knew it was going to be interesting as we had never bought laisser-passez insurance nor had our carnet stamped as the customs in Timbuktu had said it wasn’t necessary and Glen and Pat had never had their passports stamped, NOR any visas, but they had their carnet stamped. It was surprisingly easy going. Pat simply had his carnet checked at customs and they didn’t bother to check if there were two vehicles. The gatekeeper asked for a ‘cadeau’ and we politely insisted we didn’t have any he got bored and said ‘bon voyage’. At the passport check Michael managed to convince them a visa was only required for Irish passports, they complained a lot and then didn’t even bother to stamp in mine, Glen nor Pat’s.
At the Burkina Faso border, neither Glen nor Pat had visas so we tried the Irish trick again, but they insisted it was necessary to have a visa. The official was so friendly and helpful. He even took their passports to the commissariat and he returned saying he would grant them entry, but they were likely to encounter problems and that they should seek advice at the administration offices in Ouagadougou. Michael and I had no problems, passports stamped, carnet stamped and we were on our way. We had to stop in at customs and then the gendarmerie, but that was pretty simple too.
Burkina Faso has a much richer and greener countryside. There are thousands of mango trees, plus jacarandas and a whole host of others. We saw fields of sugar cane as far as the eye could see and they were being watered with massive crop irrigation systems. The people here seem just as friendly as in Mali, if not more so! We stopped off in Bobo-Dioulasso and decided it was better to stay the night, rather than arrive at the waterfalls in the dark. We camped at Casa Africa which was very shady and served tasty (if a little tough) food and cold drinks. We had dinner there and enjoyed either veal or steak with chips and a delicious sauce. We bought some handmade postcards from a vendor and then just relaxed and chatted. Pat took a room and let me shower there, which was nice and clean.
We all did washing this morning. We chatted to Framboise, a French woman who lived in Zimbabwe and she told us about the bomb attack in Casablanca where 41 were killed! Glen, Michael and I walked into town to the internet café, while Pat stayed behind and wrote postcards. A local guy accompanied us from the camp gate (he was trying to get us to come and listen to his band play music). He rambled on incessantly in French with a few local bits thrown in. He didn’t care that we were listening to him, he talked on anyway… Michael then told him all about how an internal combustion engine works and of course he just kept saying yes, yes all the time.
The internet café was quite well organised and I got a great spot right underneath a fan. We had nice cold drinks, 300CFA (30p) for a 500ml coke or fanta! I got messages from Al, Ivor and Nicola which was great, so I spent a while responding to them and caught up on some other stuff too. We wandered back to camp, packed up and met Chris, a German traveller on a motorbike. We made our way down to Banfora and 15km north west from there to the ‘Cascade de Karfiguela’. Unfortunately you cannot drive right up to them, so we thought we’d take a quick walk across the pedestrian bridge and up to the falls. It was much further than we thought. The guys all stripped down to their underpants and had a dip in the pools above the falls, eventually I decided to put Michael’s shorts on and went in with those and my t-shirt on (there was a local guy nearby and I didn’t want to offend anyone too much). We had a great time taking it in turns to sit in the natural Jacuzzi spot and we wandered back down, nice and cool.
Michael and Glen were very keen to camp closer to the falls and investigated a couple of ‘routes’ to get there. Unfortunately it all ended in tears with Nyathi with a broken propshaft! They had chosen a path through a ravine next to the pedestrian bridge and Michael applied too much power and the propshaft couldn't take the strain from both back axles and promptly twisted and broke! (Michael - note to self: don't use lots of throttle with the extra-low gears, especially when only some wheels have good traction...) Such misfortunes serve as harsh reminders NOT to "play" with one's vehicle when on an expedition!
This sad event left Nyathi with only her front wheels being driven, so after making sure the dangling bits of shaft didn't get snagged, Glen slowly pulled Nyathi out backwards and we set up camp for the night under a beautiful big jacaranda tree. Sadly, it was tremendously insect infested, which encouraged two solifuges to visit too!
Glen cooked a great pasta dinner and we enjoyed a beer or shandy too. There was pretty spectacular lightening far away in the distance which coloured the night sky, but we didn't get any rain. (Actually Glen swears it rained a bit, but we think he was dreaming...)
Michael got up early and he and Glen took out the propshaft. It was pretty impressive, the metal had just been twisted like wringing out a towel! I cooked us all oats for a hearty breakfast and then they went off to Banfora to try and get the propshaft sorted. Pat and I stayed behind and he went swimming, while I caught up on diary writing and glueing the carpeting (which is starting to come loose as a result of the heat and dust)! To save the leather seats, I ended us giving myself a thorough arm wax with glue, after clumsily knocking the tin of glue off the shelf. It was pretty painful peeling it all off and it took ages - the good news is the carpets look good!
Michael and Glen arrived back about 14h30 with a newly modified propshaft. The steel is thicker, though the workmanship a bit questionable, despite Michael and Glen trying to watch their every move! They put in the propshaft and we went for a glorious swim up at the waterfalls.
The water level had risen substantially (the lightening last night obviously meant lots of rain further upstream) and we could no longer sit in our jacuzzi bowl, but we found just as good a place a little further down. We wandered back to camp in the early evening, making idle chatter with the tramp sitting under the tree (who clearly wasn't playing with a full deck). I cooked dinner before the deluge of insects arrived!
Glen, taking in the countryside...
Pat, clean as a whistle...
I heard what I thought was two people having a stick fight, sadly, after investigation by Michael and the others, it appears the locals were severely beating the tramp and the noise was knobkerrie (thick wooden stick with a bulbous end) against shin! Michael told them to take it easy on him, as the tramp wasn't mentally well and they calmed down a bit and I gather he went off, but we saw them searching for him way into the night...
We got up quite early and packed up. Then we sauntered up to the falls to have a last swim and wash a few bits of clothing, tea towels etc. The water was flowing even faster than yesterday! We could have stayed there all day, relaxing and enjoying the fantastic views over the countryside.
We headed off for Bobo-Dioulasso. We stopped in at Casa Africa to see what Chris was doing, but he wasn't there. We set off for Ouagadougou and made good time. We had to pay an 800CFA toll road fee, but the road was quite good so no complaints. I was driving along merrily when I saw what I thought was a cheeky red Land-Rover about to pull out in front of me. Then I saw Rice waving madly out the window. What a lovely surprise. We didn't think we'd see them again. We radioed Glen and Pat to let them know we wanted to stop and see our friends. It was great to catch up, even briefly. Rike told me the kids got really excited when they saw Nyathi and shouted 'there's Michael and Sandy'. They were pleased to be on the home-run... looking forward to settling down in Ghana.
The traffic wasn't bad (except for the odd heavily laden truck) and we reached Ouagadougou and decided to look for a place in the town to camp. I suggested we try the Catholic Mission as they are always quiet, relaxed places to bed down. We found it without too much problem (Lonely Planet's maps aren't always the most accurate) and even managed to get an evening meal for just 1,500CFA (£1.50). We had two sisters join us on our table and felt very guilty, as we hadn't left much soup in the bowl - but we made up or it by almost force-feeding them the mains and dessert!
I cannot believe how incredibly humid it is! Last night I got up and had three showers. I didn't dry myself off - I just lay under the fan trying to cool down and lay a wet sarong over my body. We are also being plagued by very itchy mosquito bites (or insect bites of some sort or another). I don't normally suffer badly, but they mine are swelling now and making life very uncomfortable and I have tem everywhere - my legs, arms, buttocks, scalp, even my eyebrow!
We went to the Nigerian embassy today to try and get visas, but to no avail. They said they didn't have the power to issue them to non-Burkina Faso residents, but that we should try in Benin or Niger as they are neighbouring countries and getting a transit visa is more likely.
I spent the entire afternoon up until dinner time working on the website. Michael caught up on news in the internet cafe and sussed out uploading options (no chance)! We walked to a recommended restaurant (L'eau Vive), only to find it was closed for the month of May. We went to another one nearby an enjoyed tasty main meals, but resorted to powdering our feet with pepper to avoid the biting mosquitoes which were lurking under the table.
We needed one of these geckos close by to eat all the insects...
Up early this morning and had an avocado sandwich for breakfast. Had a quick chat to Kiara (Italian girl who is an architect building 10 small schools for women in Burkina Faso). She was interested in Nyathi, so Michael showed her around.
Pat and I set off for the Ghanaian embassy, while Michael organised some 'vehicle insurance forms' and Glen went to the internet cafe. We went with Gaby (a local tour company owner who is a LandRover enthusiast) - I was really annoyed when he pulled into a fuel station and asked us to pay for some diesel - it was more expensive than a taxi and I told him so! It particularly irked me, as Michael had given him a Land-Rover lapel pin earlier and had spent quite some time talking to him yesterday and they were getting quite friendly!
At the embassy we had to fill out all the forms in quadruplicate (no - carbon paper will not suffice)! Then we had to borrow 1000CFA from David (an employee) as we were just short of the correct cash. Then when the forms were being checked they said we had to furnish some references or names and addresses of where were staying - so I picked the shortest two hotel details form the Lonely Plant I could find and of course had to write them out 12 times! That all done and sorted, Pat and I caught a taxi to the bank and with just 370CFA (37 pence) between us, we cashed some more Euros...
We spent a relaxed afternoon at Les Lauriers, pleased that the cloud cover had made the temperature a bit more bearable!