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Showing posts from November, 2016

In Bruges and Back to Brussels

My trip to Burkina Faso is ending the way it began: in Belgium. I returned yesterday quite late after my day layover in Istanbul. I was knackered, but i couldn't resist taking a stroll around the square and surrounding streets, which had been decorated for Christmas since i was here two weeks ago.  It goes without saying, but i'll say it anyway: Belgium is a world away from Ouagadougou. Sidewalks, trash bins, tap water, frigid and clean air, cafes that look like cafes, people that don't pay a bit of attention to me. I love the noise and excitement of Burkina Faso, but right now i am really appreciating the more familiar environment of western Europe, partly because i got to have a very long, very hot shower.
This morning i woke up very early and caught a train to Bruges. An hour and a half past quaint rural areas and small towns. From the station in Bruges it is a short walk to the Market Square. The square is beautiful, like so many European squares, ringed with narrow, poi…

13 hours in Istanbul

I said good bye to Burkina Faso and flew to Istanbul, arriving at about 7 am and having a 13 hour layover. This was perfect. I love Istanbul, but had not been there since my 2009 Turkey trip. I paid for a visa and passed swiftly through immigration. Then i was on the Metro. I switched to the tram and about an hour and a half after landing i was in Sultanahmet, gazing on the Blue Mosque and the Aya Sophia.

The city looked in many ways as i remembered, and the basic layout was easy to navigate. I wandered around and found myself on a street that looked like a cleaned up version of the street on which i spent every evening seven years ago, smoking shisha. There were lots of restaurants and i seated myself at the one which most appealed. During my breakfast, chatting with the waiter, i learned that this was the street i remembered, and that it had just gotten fancier. I remembered that there is a picture of me on the blog from my last trip to Istanbul, standing with a hookah in front of my…

The Bazoule Crocodiles

After i returned to Ouagadougou from Pô i had two full days left and little on my agenda of things to see and do, having already wandered around downtown on my previous visit, so i committed to doing some serious relaxing at the guesthouse, which has been lovely. But i did take in a couple of worthwhile things.
On my first day back i hired a taxi to take me to Bazoule, which is about 30 km outside of Ouagadougou and is notable for its small lake teeming with sacred crocodiles. I can't really comment on their sacred nature, but only on their abundance and fondness for poultry. We arrived after a pleasant drive through the city and then the countryside. I paid a small admission fee and a bit extra for an ill-fated, live chicken. A man walked me to the lake and sure enough, crocodiles could be seen in the water. We walked to the shore and my guide waved the chicken in the air, causing it to cluck in what i can only assume was fear and some crocodiles came out of the water. (Yes, i felt…

Tiébélé: the painted village

I awoke in Pô rested and ready for my reason for being there: to visit Tiébélé. I went out for breakfast: Nescafe, yogurt, and bread, which cost about a dollar. I then met my driver at the hotel, a young guy named Patrice, who spoke no English and wore a knitted scarf in the 40 degree heat. He had a motorbike (and as usual helmets are not available) and we set off. We bounced down the dry and dusty orange streets headed south to Tiébélé past donkey carts, kids headed to school, and women washing clothes with washboards and buckets.
After about 15 minutes we spotted one of the common police checkpoints. Patrice said  (in French) "Policeman. It is a problem for me." And we turned around to take a detour. This is one of those times when my rudimentary French was not enough to clarify the situation. Why were the police a problem? Did he not have ID? Was the moto not registered? Was he wanted for murder? I would never know and simply said "ok".  
Our detour was pleasant, …

On the Road in Pô

I did something i seldom do anymore, which is i arrived in my destination without a hotel/hostel reservation. I stopped doing this after i arrived in Prague during the jazz festival and found every conceivable accommodation booked aside from the worst hotel in Europe, which did not have a shower but did have a host of bedbugs.
Anyway, i arrived in Pô from Ouagadougou after a very pleasant three hour bus journey. Unlike previous bus trips, this one was not oversold, had highly functioning AC, and i had two seats to myself from which to enjoy the view of dry landscapes, villages, and cotton fields.
Pô is a dusty little town in south Burkina Faso, near the border with Ghana. There is no reason to visit it except that it is the jumping off place to view elephants etc in the Nazinga nature reserve and to see a little village called Tiébélé. I was there for the latter. 
I left the bus depot, map in hand with three hotels noted. The first no longer existed, the second was full, but i got a room…

Bus from Banfora, Burkina Faso

I left Banfora for Ouagadougou on the bus. I had hoped to bus to Bobo-Dioulasso and fly the rest of the way but there were no flights on Sunday, so i committed to a bus journey of indeterminate length. The buses here seem to leave punctually but the arrival times are vague. This is due mostly to the great number of security checkpoints, which i understand have increased. About every thirty minutes a couple of machine gun bearing soldiers will either board the bus or haul everyone off the bus to check IDs. No questions are asked. I can't figure out what they are looking for.  So this slowed down the journey a lot.
The bus was crammed with people and about half of the women had babies or toddlers on their laps, including the woman next to me. On the whole ride music and videos were played at a volume that was not extreme, but on the loud side. Decent African music in the more traditional or jazzy vein, as well as contemporary African pop music, accompanied by videos that showed women…

Burkina Faso Village Hospitality

My final full day in Banfora started as did the day before: roosters and coffee. I made a little coffee at the house once i got over my fear of the gas stove, and then returned to the local corner cafe for an espresso. Today all of the men were filling out their racing forms. There are gambling kiosks here everywhere painted with pots of gold and horses head. People (men) bet on horse races in France hoping to win big. They din't get to see the races, not even on tv. It seems to be a popular pastime. I was asked to  assist with picking horses. The only one that jumped out at me was La Baguette Magique.
My guide picked me up on the moto and we headed on a dirt road through fields of sugar cane for Domes de Fabridougou. Similar to the Sindou Peaks i saw yesterday, but more round and less pointy. Still, it was nice to go on the hike. It was so serene and beautiful and hot, but dry. We hiked and sat on the top of a dome and took in the view and i had a smoke, trying to be in the moment…