May 5th through the 11th was a crazy adventure to Burkina Faso. Burkina is directly North of Ghana, about 24 hours away from Accra (the capital city of Ghana). Clara and I left here on Tuesday morning, and after an incredibly long bus ride (which broke down at 1:00 in the morning and we sat by the side of the road for one hour) we reached Paga, which is right on the border. We made it through customs just fine, despite Clara and I speaking zero French and having to purchase a visa and then off we went to Ouagadougou, about four hours away and the capital of Burkina Faso. When we reached Ouagadougou we made it to a Mennonite guest house that we were staying at and then we had to wait for Kristen, our friend who spoke French.
When Kristen made it to the Mennonites we decided to explore around Ouagadougou. We had to bargain with a taxi driver for quite some time to get them to take us in to town, most of the taxi drivers were big jerks the whole time we were there. They refused to quote us a low price and spoke in fast, bad, French, making bargaining close to impossible. We reached the center of town finally and wandered around and found a really cute little cafe that had delicious fresh juices and cheese sandwiches, yum! Right down the street from the cafe was a chocolate shop!!! Something I had not seen for almost 4 months! I had an amazing piece of dark chocolate and when we explained to the shop owner that we had been without good chocolate for 4 months she gave us some more for free! I love that woman! While wandering around some more we found a woman who was selling all sorts of handmade things, and we had a lot of fun talking and joking and bargaining with her. She ended up really liking us and dashed us each a bracelet! (People selling things will sometimes “dash you” something extra if they like you or if you by a lot.) Dinner was pizza and pasta with lots of cheese!
Wednesday morning we took off for Loumbila where we had read about a goat cheese farm and camel riding. We got to see how they make the goat cheese (it involved a weird medal contraption with tubes and three plastic buckets) and also the finished product. Then out came a camel!! I'm not sure if seeing/riding camels is a normal part of the tour of this place, but our book had mentioned it, and the guys there seemed confused, but happy enough to bring out a camel. So out came this awesome looking camel, and we got to pet her and feed her, and then ride her! I must say, riding camels is not the most comfortable thing I have ever done, but it was still pretty cool. That afternoon we found an American restaurant and had delicious tex-mex food, something I have been missing a lot! We spent a lot more time just wandering around Ouagadougou and seeing the town.
Thursday morning we took off for Bobo, which is the second biggest city in Burkina Faso. The bus ride there was fairly uneventful, although we did run over a pig, which didn't seem to phase the bus driver one bit. Bobo is a fairly small town, but it's really easy to navigate (this is not true for any other place I have been) so we were able to spend time just wandering around and seeing all sorts of things. They have a wonderful market and I found some awesome fabric that I was able to really bargain them down for the price. We also found a great bakery that seems to constantly be baking fresh baguette. Also, frozen yogurt is popular in Bobo, and it's really good, so a lot of that was eaten too.
Friday morning we went to Banfora (about 90 minutes from Bobo) and then we saw hippos!!! We went out on the lake in a little pirogue (a super shallow, low to the water, canoe) and we got to watch the hippos swim around and see their ears wiggle a whole lot. Those things are massive!!! Then we were off to Karfiguela Falls where we got to hike to the top of the waterfall and look all the way down to the pool below. We then hiked back down and waded around in the water for awhile to cool down. Also, in case you were wondering, it was 42 degrees Celsius that day, and for those of you who are bad at converting Celsius to Fahrenheit, that means it was 107.6 degrees Fahrenheit. IT WAS HOT! Also, the bus ride back had 60 people crammed into a 40 person bus for 90 minutes, I have definitely done more enjoyable things than that ride in my life.
Our bus to get us from Bobo back to Ouagadougou was leaving at 11:00 p.m. that night. Luckily, the hotel we stayed at the night before let us use the shower again, so this way we could at least be clean for our long ride home. We showered and then spent a lot of time sitting at this restaurant, eating dinner and waiting for 11:00 to roll around so we could leave. We reached Ouagadougou at about 4:00 in the morning, waited until 6:00 for the next bus to Kumasi, and then hopped on for the long 20 hour bus ride there. We reached Kumasi somewhere around 10:30 p.m. (the bus only broke down once!) and then got one last bus to do the 4 hour drive in to Accra. We finally reached campus at about 3:30 in the morning. Overall, we spent 31 hours in transit to get home. CRAZY!
So that was Burkina Faso, it was a pretty good trip, but definitely full of challenges. Public transportation is expensive, haggling with taxi drivers is a pain, and the pigeon French made communication really hard. Despite all that, I'm still really glad we made it and we definitely had a good time!