Burkina Faso

29 December 2013

Love the mighty and thick baobab trees.
This one towers over a small village mosque and boys playing soccer.

The U.S. State Department's travel advisories are usually verbose, rambling, and vague. Instead, check the Brits for clear, concise, practical advice.

Regarding Burkina Faso, the UK says "no worries" outside the north (a spillover from the recent fighting in Mali) and provides a convenient map of the danger zone.

Burkina is yet another country carved out of French West Africa. Since independence in 1960, Burkina has not been been cursed with bloody civil wars like many of its neighbors. On the other hand, it has had a highly authoritarian ruler, Blaise Compaoré, in charge for a quarter century.

Name game: Oldsters may recall the initial name ― Upper Volta.
Burkina Faso translates as "Land of Integrity/Honor/Honesty."
It's OK to be on a first name basis and just call it just "Burkina."
The capital is Ouagadougou ― "Wa-ga-du-gu"! "Waga" for short.

At Bazoule, a lake filled with crocodiles outside of Ouaga...
Left: Beginning to get some courage.
Right: Maybe getting a little too brave.
Left: From a random local web site, I was lucky to get a good guide
(Ahmed), standing here in front of the National Heroes Monument.
Right: A packed, inter-city van; rear bumper may be the best spot.
Left: Lots of motorbikes and bicycles, shown here during rush hour.
Right: Major streets and boulevards are wide (esp. compared to those in Monrovia and Conakry).
The Laonga sculptures are granite carvings added annually by selected international artists.
Out "in the bush" a good drive east of Ouaga, this is a unique venue.
Left: A local couple posed for me by one of the sculptures.
I liked the tribal-inspired, modern sculptures (the main style in Laonga).
On the drives out of the city, we saw steady streams of people
on bikes and carts bringing firewood into Ouagadougou.
A Mossi village in central Burkina Faso.
Farm boys tending cattle before a weekly sale.
Growing up in rural Texas, we always called these kinds of cattle Brahman, but I gather they
are widely called "zebu." They are not very beefy, but they can tolerate hot, tropical weather.
Left: Place des Cineastes, honoring movie-makers (note the film reels in the monument).
Ouaga hosts the largest film festival in Africa, exclusively featuring African films.
Right: The National Museum had the best mask collection I've seen on this trip.
View from my hotel room of this sprawling, fairly low density city of over 1.5 million people.

A big hurdle to get here: ASKY cancelled and it looked impossible to get to Burkina from Liberia. But, finally got a flight on Gambia Bird, a new airline not yet on Kayak, connecting in Accra to Air Burkina.

I'm glad I did make it to Burkina. It's a friendly, interesting place. Plus, its terrain and general feel were quite different from the coastal African countries I'd been visiting. Now, on to East Africa.