Narrated Audio Blog
Told in the collective first person, jointly from Stu and Janell Clarke's perspective.
We crossed into Burkina Faso at Koloko. It was very quick and easy. We passed a Police checkpoint then in a few hundred meters we were outside the Mali Douane. The Police recorded our vehicle details, checked our visas and stamped our passports. No money requested. The Burkina Faso Douane we stamped in on our Passports and paid 5,000CFA per motorbike for the Temporary Import Permit (TIP) and a receipt.
We rode to the town of Orodara from the border. The whole day was hot riding so we took regular stops to hydrate us and the girls. We didn't have much of a plan for Burkina Faso so we stayed for a couple of nights in Orodara at a lovely local hotel. The owner explained to us that he had built the hotel and all the huts which were simple but very comfortable and we paid extra for air conditioning (16,000CFA per night) for Weeti and Shadows comfort; it's important they get a good night's sleep or they can get grumpy the next day. Orodara was a good location to do day trips to Sindou Pics, Domes and the Cascadas near Banfora. Roads were very poor indeed but we went 4-up so that was really only Stu's problem, the rest of us just had to sit tight.
It was tough climbing up, down and over the Domes de Fabedougou but lots of fun. Weeti needed a lot of help, the steps or jumps from rock to rock going up were often too large for her so Stu carried her. The heat was pretty intense as well, a dry heat like central Australia which we know and love. There were plenty of shady sections amongst the rocks to stop for breaks but on top of the rock formations you were completely exposed with 360 degree views.
What better way to cool off that head to some local waterfall, Cascadas de Karfiguela. It was just after midday and thronging with the local children. We hadn't come prepared to swim so we walked quite a way downstream to try and find some privacy from the children and go in for a swim in our underwear. It was lucious, we waded across a rock pool and found a comfy rock under the waterfall and let the cool water gush all over us. As hot as it was, Weeti wouldn't go in and didn't want to go near the edge to have a drink, she has a terrible fear of water. Shadow on the other hand was game after much hesitation and was in and out a few times to cool off.
The last stop on our day out was the Sindou Pics. It was late when we got here so we didn't explore too much. This turned out to be a very good decision because the route back to our hotel had 60km of absolutely shocking road.
We were on the lookout for Elephant's. We read about a campsite on a river in Kaicedra (11.752685,-2.864435) with a guarantee of seeing wild Elephants so of course we had to go. It was a little difficult to find, there didn't appear to be a road the last 8km so we just had to follow the pin point on our GPS, crossing the countryside. The hotel was still under construction which didn't bother us because we were hoping to camp. It was pretty basic, there was a Toilet beside the bar, a shower in one of the cabins which we could use if nobody else was hiring the cabin and no running water outside of the cabins to wash hands or plates. We made our own food but bought a couple of nice cold beers from the bar and Janell had hot coffee in the morning. We stayed 24 hours but there was no sign of elephants and with the basic facilities for campers it wasn't the most comfortable place to stay. That's okay because it was exciting to think we might see them and it was a very peaceful, enjoyable place to camp.
Somewhere on the 8km ride across the bush to the campsite Stu had punctured his rear tyre. A sharp piece of broken branch had pierced the tread resulting in a flat tyre. Firstly we had to extract the piece of wood, then we went through our tool kit only to realise we were out of tyre plugs. The irony of the situation was that we were carrying a spare rear tyre but we had no way of setting the bead so it was just dead weight. We had to try something because we weren't getting any help out here. We cut up an old bit of inner tube, smothered it with superglue and then pushed it in the hole and let it set. After an hour we inspected the mend, it looked pretty good so we used our air compressor to pump it up (its perfect for pumping up a tyre just can't set the bead). The tyre seemed to hold the pressure and we knew we just had to get the 8km back on to a sealed road and we could get help. The temporary fix not only got us to the sealed road, it got us 200km to Ouagadougou where we pulled the tyre off and had the spare we were carrying fitted.
Stu had contacted a lady registered on couch surfing for accomodation for a few nights. Couch Surfing rarely works for us but this time we were lucky and we had a great experience staying with Miyu and Ines. It was a simple house in a very local area. We were really in the heart of Ouagadougou away from any tourists or foreigners. The house bordered a big square used by children to play football during the day and families to relax and chat in the evening. It was just a cleared section of dirt, nothing more, but provided a community hub. There was one restaurant/bar on the square serving local food so we had dinner and some drinks there the first night. When it got dark there were no street lights so we simply carried on talking in the dark, it was wonderful.
Miyu and Ines cooked us a feast before we left; gourmet salad, spicy fish and potato soup, ice cream for dessert!
With full bellies we were back on the road with one more stop before Benin to break up the distance. Auberge du Gourma (12.074366,0.334408). The chambers were nice, there was a reasonably priced restaurant and bar, and there was half full pool. The staff were friendly and happy for the dogs to be in the room with us so they chilled out in the room after a hot day of riding while we jumped in the pool.
Our main objective in Benin was to spend two weeks at a 'resort' preparing for a Kickstarter campaign we wanted to run selling Pillion Pooch's. We also wanted to investigate shipping from Benin to somewhere much further south like Namibia to avoid visa's and riding through the Congo's.
The road heading east from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso was heavily corrugated with lots of potholes thanks to the constant flow of trucks headed for Niger. It was very dusty when following a convoy and so we tried to quickly pass slow moving trucks or keep our distance while riding at their pace. Before long we turned south and headed to the Benin border leaving most of the trucks behind.
The ride down through Benin was quite lovely, the desert started to give way to tropical landscapes, not quite jungle but it was clearly headed that way. We used AirBnB to book two weeks at the 'cosy room in beautiful resort' in Cotonou. Cotonou is the largest city in Benin and sits closely to the Capital, Porto-Novo. The photos on Airbnb looked great and for a very reasonable price of 14 GBP per night including breakfast. The facilities and grounds looked excellent with a pool, restaurant and bar and tennis court. We've been travelling long enough to know what to expect but generally Airbnb properties are fairly accurate and the photo's up to date. This place however, was unrecognisable, the pool was half full and green, the tennis court was run down and overgrown with weeds as were the vast majority of the grounds. It looked like it had one day been a very fancy resort but had long since been abandoned. For the most part we didn't mind because we wanted to be working in our air conditioned room, which did meet the description. But we also wanted to be able to have a relaxing swim in the evening before dinner. We got in contact with the host who was based in Canada and she liaised with the staff at the resort and after a few days managed to at least get the pool operational.
You really can't let these things get you down. We made the most of the situation, went running most days and did some sightseeing around the area. We made friends with a couple who worked for a shipping company and they took us for a day out in their car to see the gardens, an art gallery, a python temple and learn a bit about slavery in this region.
The Python temple in Ouidah was very interesting and has ties to one of the oldest and still predominant religions in the region called Voodoo. There are ceremonies performed outside the temple where sacrifices are made, the one on display while we were visiting was a goat. Inside the temple there are literally hundreds of pythons. Upon payment of a fee, tourists can go inside the temple and walk among the Pythons, of course you have to do this, when else is an opportunity like this going to come up. Then outside you can have cuddles with a python and grab some instagram worthy photos.
The Door of No Return in Porte du Non-retour, Ouidah. Slaves were gathered mostly from the interior and to slave markets in town before marching in shackles to the beach to board sailing ships anchored offshore, bound for the America's. Stephen and his wife drove us along the very route the slaves walked and pointed out statues and monuments erected in memory of the slaves. When they reached the beach they passed through a gate. What we saw on the beach was not the original gate, this gate was built in the 1990's to commemorate all those taken from their homes. These slaves had no idea what lay ahead of them. It's a really beautiful beach and so hard to imagine so much trauma and pain occurring here. Afterwards we visited a museum back in the town where you can see the original shackles and other tools used on the slaves. We weren't permitted to take photos here.
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