The guy who wrote the Lonely Planet section on Burkina Faso is either an incredibly laid back person or an idiot. Possibly both. He writes about Burkina Faso as though it is some kind of African paradise where everything is cheap, clean, and amazing. As it turns out, Burkina has some high points, but the low points for us began with Ouagadougou. With such a great name, the city had a lot to live up to. It didn't even come close. Let's see some pictures.
As with many cities, Ouagadougou (aka Ouaga) has open sewers flowing through most of the city. However, Ouaga apparently thought it a good idea to only put a bridge over the sewer every ten blocks or so. Tara and I had to decide to walk ten blocks out of the way to get to a bridge, or take the "local shortcut". Here was the choice:
We tried to find the coolest thing in Ouaga to photograph. It was this sculpture dedicated to West African film making. Ouaga is somewhat of a center for artsy African films. That doesn't mean that it actually has a movie theater or anything--just that some film people like to come together there for a film festival every year.
Burkina Faso really likes what are locally called mobylettes. This term includes mopeds and small motorcycles. This picture is probably the nicest store in the entire city and it is devoted entirely to selling mobylettes.
From Ouaga, we went to a small city called Boromo. The main attraction is a small national park with some of the northern most elephants in Africa. After walking about five miles to the park, we did see a mother elephant and a baby elephant, but they were far away and they ran away before we could get a picture. So, instead, we present you with this gray hornbill. Maybe we have a few birdwatching readers who will be more excited about this than an elephant...
In our hotel in Bobo, we had this fun tiny gecko on the bed. Lizards in Africa are everywhere, indoors and out. They are harmless and eat the insects, so no one really does anything to keep them out.
In Bobo, we experienced the first downpour of the year, which officially welcomes rainy season. It was quite a bit early this year. We first took shelter under the entrance to a tailor shop, and soon found ourselves crammed into a tiny shop with the door closed and a half dozen people from the shop. They were very kind to help keep us dry. Women in Africa carry huge loads on their heads, and apparently even the deluge could not slow down these women.
Also in Bobo is another mud mosque. They offered to sneak us into this one for a fee, which is somewhat tempting to see the inside, but non-Muslims are not supposed to enter, so we stuck to the outside. This picture is right after the heavy rain, so we thought it might have melted like the wicked witch of the west.
Outside of Banfora, a formation exists called the Domes of Fabedougou. They used to be at the bottom of a sea bed and rain and wind has slowly eroded the surrounding areas. The most interesting part is how tiny the layers are that make us the rock. And that they are in the shape of domes. We had never been anywhere quite like it.
Further west, in the corner of Burkina Faso, are the Sendou Peaks. They are similar in rock composition to the Domes, but are a different shape. A lot like the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon in the American Southwest. They go on for miles and miles.
Near the Domes is a well known waterfall. The waterfall is much taller, but we were there during dry season and it doesn't look that impressive. Given the oppressive heat, the most exciting part for us was the chance to swim in the pools at the top. Just look how happy Tara is.
While waiting for a boat ride in the nearby lake, we had the chance to take this terrific picture of a monkey riding a goat. The goat seemed not to care at all. When we get back to the States, we are going to start goat racing with monkey jockeys. I think a fortune could be made.
At Lake Tengrela near Banfora, the real attraction is the possibility of seeing hippos. We were lucky enough to see a few hippos, though even with binoculars, we thought they were giant rocks until we got close. This is the best picture we have. They were all out in the middle of the lake during the heat of the day, so this is about as far as they come out of the water.
That wraps up the excitement of Burkina Faso. Not the worst country ever, but not nearly as exciting as Lonely Planet makes it sound. We will add that bus transport between major cities is fairly good in Burkina, which us taking the first air conditioned bus we had seen in a couple of months. People in Burkina are also generally nice and the people trying to sell you something give up very easily. A firm no and they generally leave you alone. The food will be in a separate post, but the plentiful street food is also nice.