Burkina Faso & Mali
Burkina Faso – Country no 10, double figures!! In only four and a bit months.
Which I guess means I’m 20% along the way to fifty African countries.
I’ve planned my African trip around visiting in the wet season and non-tourist season and once again it’s paying dividends. The Burkina Faso countryside is lush and green.
The guy in the truck above was carrying fuel from Nigeria to Burkina Faso with a side business of 500 pineapples on top of the tank.
I travelled west towards the capital through more villages stopping at local markets to buy lunch which usually consists of street meat with chilli sauce on a baguette. I’ve been cautious to only buy goat and beef and to avoid bush meat. With the route I’ve taken through Africa so far and the huge number of local village markets I’ve visited, I’ve seen just about every type of African animal from giant bats and Pangolin to Antelope and monkey cooked and for sale.
Burkina Faso might be one of the World’s poorest countries but it’s No. 1 when it comes to cool names of capital cities. On the 17 August I arrived in the capital – Ouagadougou!! Pronounced Woga-do-goo with a French accent…..easy.
Three days prior to arriving in the capital there was a terrorist attack when four guys rode up to a restaurant visited by ex-pats and well to do locals and killed eighteen people with AK47s. Despite that, we spent a relaxing and productive three days in the city, visiting a few landmarks and finishing with a night at a local outdoor cafe with live music.
From Ouagadougou we headed west to Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina’s second largest city, which the locals just call Bobo.
We stayed in Bobo for just one night and continued on towards Mali and yet another “red zone”.
The crossing into Mali was quick and easy and with border formalities finished we drove the Trans Sahalian Highway north to the first large town, Sikasso.
We used our time in Sikasso to visit the Sunday markets and pick up Mali sim cards.
From Sikasso it was still 300km to Bamako, Mali’s capital city which sits on the banks of the Niger River. We drove through green countryside and at 5pm found a open plain which looked like a nice place to camp. We drove across the plain and pulled in behind some trees and camped the night on a Malian meadow which felt more like New Zealand or Scotland than North Africa.
After arriving in Bamako my first job was to organise a boat trip down the Niger River for half a day.
Unfortunately it rained for two days, so I occupied myself with a few mundane tasks like washing.
After three days in Bamako I decided to hire a car and driver and go in search of Mali’s only endemic bird, Mali Firefinch, which fortunately lives in the rocky escarpment country only forty minutes from my accommodation. We drove out to Kabalakoro Balancing Rocks and after a couple of hours of scrambling and jock jumping I found a few finches as well as some nice other birds.
Finally the rain stopped and I headed out on the river in a pirogue. The river was full and flowing fairly quickly, so we headed west for a couple of hours and then slowly drifted back through the city.
Similar to the Congo River in Kinshasa there were poor settlements with families living under tarps with riverfront mansions next door.
After four days in Bamako I headed north towards Senegal. It was our original goal to travel north from Mali into Eastern Mauritania perhaps near Ayoun el Atrous but everyone we spoke to advised us it was too dangerous to travel that way.
I could have taken the Route Nationale One but we found a much more interesting looking 350km back road via Kita and Dabia, which crosses the border in Southern Senegal near Koundame. The ‘back road’ isn’t on Google Maps or our road map but we heard from locals that it’s a good quality road. We drove across Mali all day, camping that night once again in the countryside. Within a few hours we were surrounded by lightning and later that night it rained heavily.
In the early morning light as the sun struggled to break through iron grey clouds we came across an area of magnificent jagged towering escarpment that accompanied us for twenty kilometers between Dabia and Kenieba, not far from the Senegal border.
Along the twenty kilometers of cliff five waterfalls plunged between 80-300m to the ground below. One waterfall cascaded down, another was tiered and others plunged off the escarpment in one long drop into the fertile valley below.
Clouds shrouded the plateau and in many places the cliff face was veiled in mist.
As we moved along the valley floor, a running battle ensued between my camera and tentacles of cloud which persisted in manoeuvering in front of the cliff face and then evaporating, only to re-appear reaching from the plateau down into the villages below.
It was easy to believe that the mud brick and thatched roofed villages at the base of the range had been there just as long as the ancient mountains that towered above.
Another spectacular and rarely visited part of Africa that sees virtually no international travellers.
After another hour of travel we quietly slipped into south eastern Senegal at the Koundame – Moussala crossing.
We’re planning on scooting across Senegal fairly quickly as I have a longer visit planned for another time. Hopefully after 3-4 days I’ll cross into Southern Mauritania.
Bye for now.