I left Bobo Dioulasso at 10:15 am on a Rakeita bus for Banfora. About a 1.5 hour journey. The bus had teeny tiny seats and leg room that made a flight on a budget airline seem luxurious. There was AC, but it wasn't working. Thankfully i had a seat by an open window and no seatmate. The journey (despite being hot - the temperature on the bus was between 37 and 39) was pleasant. Rural scenery flowed by. Fields tilled by oxen, small villages, cotton fields, women washing clothes and pumping water, children playing with odds and ends. I snapped a few pictures through the window along the way.
We were stopped about 4 times by police road blocks. Police came on the bus and checked everyone's ID each time, but beyond that it was a smooth journey.
In Bobo, the women who owned the hotel arranged me a guide in Banfora, as the sights here are nature ones and you need a vehicle to visit them. His name was Djubrie and he met me at the bus station. Being the only whole person and only of the only women on the bus, i was easy to find. I had my backpack and i walked with him to his vehicle, which was, as i feared, a motorbike. And of course, no helmets are available. This goes against everything i have been raised to believe. You never ride a two wheeled contraption without a helmet, right? But, there i was and everyone else was doing it, so i hopped on. We zipped through the streets, which were very poor. Only the two main drags were paved. The others were soft, sandy, orange dirt with stones and garbage. More people here walked or rode bicycles than in the previous two cities. More goats and sheep wandering about. But we swerved around it all.
My lodging is a private house from which the owners rent out a couple of rooms.i think i am the only one staying here. The owners are not here now but emailed me a welcome and someone was here to let me in. I have a simple room with a fan and shared bathroom. There is a lovely yard, with seating and a patio, plants, an orange tree, a dog with puppies, a cat with kittens, roosters and chickens.
I settled in and then my guide picked me up (again on the motorebike) and we left Banfora and headed to Tengrela. The countryside was lovely. The corn fields had been harvested, but there were green fields of rice and sesame and the air grew cooler as we zipped along. We left the road and went through the trees, near a village and stopped at a huge baobab tree.
Another man appeared and told me the story of this sacred baobab tree. It was in French, but as best as i could glean the tree is over 500 years old and it has a natural door leading to its hollow interior where a long time ago people from the village hid inside the tree during a war and survived. So now the tree is worshipped and there are sacrifices made there regularly and a festival annually.
Yes, i did go inside the tree and it was very large inside. No cookie making elves spotted.
From there we went to Lake Tengrela. It was late in the day and the lake was golden. A couple of fishermen were out, pulling in their nets.
We walked closer to the edge of the lake and then we hear loud grunting noises and saw a spray of water. Then i saw a hippopotamus leap out of the water. Imagine seeing a dolphin jump out of the water. It was like that, but less graceful and the size of a car. Amazing. There appeared to be three hippos. They mostly stayed underwater, but would poke their noses out of the water periodically and sometimes their whole heads. And periodically two of the hippos would jump out of the water and lunge at each other. From other places in the lake we could hear other hippos grunting and splashing. It was incredible. I didn't want to stand there staring through my camera and ruin the moment so i just held it up next to my face and snapped pictures every time a hippo popped out of the water. Consequently, i have a lot of photos of water, sky, and blurs. But i did get a few decent pictures. The only thing i can compare it to (because it was totally different from seeing the hyenas in Ethiopia) is: you know the part in Jurassic Park where they first see the dinosaurs? That part always chokes me up. This was like that, but way better.
We then sat at a spot near a house, a bit further back from the lake (there people there have set up tables and chairs and sell water and soda) and watched the lake. Again, we saw a giant hippo jump out of the water. The sun began to set and just before it got dark we set off back for the city.
It was an amazing experience.
In the evening i went with Djubrie for dinner and i had a delicious vegetarian pizza. I didn't care for riding the motorbike at night with few to no streetlights and off the paved roads, but i figured i would do it that one time. Djubrie does not speak any English at all, but he speaks in French slowly and uses small words so i can understand. I am actually impressed by how much French i am able to recall. I speak slowly and awkwardly, but i know a lot of words and can usually make myself understood. I consider it a success.
A perfect day in Banfora.