After our false start in getting our Visa’s for Burkina Faso (see Mud, Sweat and Tears), eventually Monday morning came round, and at 7.30am we arrived at the Embassy in Bamako to submit our applications and of course to pay the fees. We were told to come back at 2.00pm that day to collect our passports with our Visa’s attached.
When we got back we were just getting out of the taxi, just then a small motorbike also pulled up with a western guy riding it, who must have been 6’6’’ tall. As we got closer I took in that it was a Honda CG125 (Honda’s are very rare in these parts), and when we got to the back I noticed that it had a British registration plate! After a quick chat it turns out that he was from Austin, Texas, and had flown into the UK, bought that old “W reg” Honda and has spent the last 18 months travelling down on basically the same route as us. Respect to the guy, thats hardcore on a little bike like that.
Anyway we collected our passports, and at dawn the next morning (about 6.00am) we left Bamako and headed towards the Mali/Burkina Faso border, via Sikasso. We knew that it was tarmac all the way to Sikasso but our Michelin map showed the road through to the border as being much smaller, which would probably mean dirt road/piste for about 60km. As it turns out this road had recently been up graded to tarmac and so we covered it quicker than we thought. We got to the relatively quiet border crossing at about 1.00pm and had a trouble free exitting of Mali. After crossing a few kilometres of no-mans land, we arrived at the Border of Burkina Faso, what a change in attitude!
Don’t get me wrong, we found everybody in Mali (without exception), both in the rural areas and in Bamako to be very friendly and welcoming, but we were very aware, as are the locals of the troubles in Mali, and the threat of kidnap was obviously ever present. Perhaps it was just us, but certainly the urban areas do have a certain edge to them.
The officials at the Burkina Faso side were very friendly, we sat in a tent with the top Policeman, as our details were recorded in the big book (every border in Africa has a big book), and despite him not speaking English we were welcomed into his country (Morocco could learn a lot from this guy). Again the Douane (Customs) wouldn’t accept our Carnet de Passage, and so we ended up paying 5000CFA (£5.55) for a Laissez-Passer to temporary import Colonel K. Before issuing it, a Douane Officer (these guys are dressed and equipped like Military soldiers) wanted to inspect the Daf, so I let him in and showed him round inside, he was gobsmacked that we had electric toothbrushes and couldn’t grasp the concept at all (most people here use sticks to clean and polish their teeth). He was also concerned that we had a pack of “toffee coffee”, surely fresh coffee can’t be toffee flavoured!
Soon we were on our way, the whole border experience taking no more than 1.5 hours, this was a record for us, and though it is a quiet border crossing, it does show that we are getting more used to the procedures that you need to go through at every border.
Obviously there were a few more checks and barriers, then we came to a Peage (toll booths).
With the help of finance from The European Union, some new roads have been built in Burkina Faso, complete with toll booths, the trouble is despite having the prices displayed no one bothered to man them, so we just drove on through without paying! It would have only been 1,000CFA (£1.10) but after all that work you’d have thought that they would have collected the tolls.
We are travelling West Africa in the wet season, and Burkina Faso has had a lot of rain lately, there is water everywhere, places that would have been dry and barren a few weeks ago, are now green, lush and sometimes flooded.
We stopped that night in Bobo-Dioulasso, which is the 2nd largest city in Burkina, in a tiny courtyard of a rather shabby looking guest house (not many places in towns can take Overland Trucks due to their size). We had no choice where we could park as Colonel K would only fit in one place, that was under the mango trees.
So after a cheeky couple of local brewed beers, and our usual dinner of Pasta (of some sort), we headed for a quiet nights sleep. No chance! The first mango that fell went straight through our (open) roof window above our bed, the weight pushing the fruit out the side of the insect mesh blind and landed on top of our mosquito net! Having no possibility of moving out from under the mango tree, this was going to be a long night! Bang, Bang, Bang at irregular intervals all night, we just hoped that come the morning there was no lasting damage.
After a terrible sleepless night, it appeared that we had got away without any damage to the truck (again), and had a quick bit of breakfast, during which we could hear a very noisy public demonstration happening out on the main road near us. It is alway best to steer clear of any sort of public demo in Africa and so we kept our heads down and waited until it passed.
As we left Bobo-Dioulasso we came to another set of toll booths, but this time, though there was no one manning the actual booths, there was a guy (not very official looking, though there were armed soldiers under the trees) with a book wanting us to stop and pay a toll, it was 1,000CFA (£1.10), so we paid it and he gave us a tiny paper slip. It was 370km that day, and every time we got stopped to pay a road toll (quite frequently) we just flashed that slip of paper at them and we were waved on our way! Im sure that we were supposed to pay each time but it was quite time consuming and we didn’t have many 1,000CFA notes, so our bare faced cheek paid off this time.
The traffic on this main road was at times horrendous! ha
But seriously we have seen some horrendous accidents over the last couple of weeks, in Mali there was a huge articulated truck that was on its side in the middle of the road, its trailer was full of sacks of grain, and the sacks, mostly broken open, were spread over a massive area. Then in Burkina Faso there was a terrible coach crash where it had hit a Toyota Hilux head on, and the coach had left the road and was embedded in some trees, the passengers were all over the place when we went past. Obviously the roads stay open, and the coaches are still hurtling past you in both directions, overtaking on blind bends, over crest of hills, mental. Then there is the loading of the trucks, theres no limit to what you can carry on a vehicle in West Africa.
Burkina Faso is a poor country, but the people seem extremely friendly and very welcoming, there is certainly lots of smiling and waving as we drive through the villages. We are liking Burkina Faso.
Later that day we arrived in the capital city of Ouagadougou (pronounced wa ga do goo), and soon realised that we were going to struggle to find somewhere to park and camp in Colonel K. So we decided to settle for a hotel that was close to the Embassy of Ghana (as we needed a Visa for this country). We found a very nice hotel next to Barrage no3, about 1.5km from the Embassy, after checking in we organised a taxi to take us there for 7.30am the next morning.
Before we left for the embassy I went out to the car park to check on the truck, as I got closer I noticed that there was an extraordinary large number of huge flies around. I climbed up on the cab roof only to be engulfed in the heaving mass, it was horrendous! The roof was covered (including the solar panel and roof window) with rotten mangos! It would have to wait until we got back from the Embassy.
Now, we always knew that getting the Visa for Ghana would be a challenge, as they believe that Visas should be issued in the Embassy of your home country. This would never work for us as it would have expired by the time we got to Ghana. so we did our home work, and pre-booked a hotel via Booking.com (this can be cancelled with no cost to us), got some names and addresses from the Brandt guide book, and the four passport photos etc (yes four photos each). Once in the Embassy we filled in the usual form (this time it was in English), gave the guy our passports and photos, and he then gave us a blank sheet of paper and asked us for a hand written explanation of why we didn’t get our visas in the UK before leaving, why we wanted to go to Ghana, and a couple of references in Ghana (we just used the names and addresses from the Brandt Guide). We also had to say how we going to fund our stay while in Ghana! Blimey. After handing over our fees we were told it will take three working days to process the visa’s and to come back on Monday at 11.00am. That meant that we can’t drive anywhere, as we don’t have our passports and they need to shown at every check point (of which there are many), so will need to stay in the hotel until then arrrrrr.
Back at the truck we needed to clean the roof of mangos and flies, so armed with a bowl of soapy water and our cut down broom I ventured back up there. There were thousands of flies on each shattered mango, uck! But at least we got it done before it was too hot.
While talking about flies, we have been having a long running battle with the little blighters inside the living accommodation, we spray inside on regular basis but still they seem to appear. One day I mentioned to Jac that it seemed that sometimes when I went for a pee in the WC, a couple of mosquitos flew out from the cassette (this is emptied and washed out on a regular basis), but I’m sure she didn’t believe me. Anyway, one day the extractor fan on the SOG just packed up (this is an electrical fan fixed on the external access door that as you open the toilet flap it sucks air out through a carbon filter and prevents the smell coming into the bathroom). So I started to find out what went wrong, the fuse was ok, the wiring seemed to be intact, so I took out the actual fan from the access door. The fan was completely jammed with tiny maggots!!! Even the pipe from the cassette to the fan had maggots in it, now Jac believed me. A good clean up and it was working again. How they got in there in the first place is anyones guess, but this is Africa after all. Then there were the maggots inside the plastic that wraps 6no 1.5lt bottles of water together, that were stored under the table, it seems that we bring them into the truck too!
We have found a Roll on Roll off freight ship, that we are hoping to get the truck on. It leaves Sheerness (nice and close to home), and calls into Tema, Ghana, where we are hoping to load the truck on, at the end of August, then will stop hopefully at Walvis Bay in Namibia about a week later. The dates and schedule are provisional at the moment and will be confirmed next week, hopefully it will be good news from the shipping agent that we are using. It will be a shame to miss out of a few of the countries that we wanted to visit, but safety must come first.
We have now been away over 120 days, and on the African Continent for 3 months now, and we have covered over 7,500 miles (12,000km)
Thanks so much for reading, and we have now had 8,000 hits on the blog