May 15, 1998

Burkina Faso: Hotel Central, Ouagadougou

Not actually staying here, natch, but they have a dark room and a fan, and it's still pretty-damn-warm outside, though better'n Mali.

Have hopped off the truck again, off down to Abidjan with Tim, and expect to take a solo week in Ghana as well. The novelty of the truck lifestyle is by now well-worn.

Had eventful day in Mopti. After an hour's truck guarding, bought a frozen-solid bottle of water (mmm...) and went on a pirogue tour of the river up to the Niger with a stopover in a Bozo village, very traditional, facial tattoos and hand-pounded millet and cow-dung kindling. Blessed peace after Mopti's hassle.

Return to truck to find that Angela & Naomi were very ill, combination of dehydration, exhaustion, and food poisoning. (From the chicken & chips in Djenne - which Tim and I had also ordered, but we got guinea fowl). Bush-camped in dark scrub. Next day, rough roads into Bankass, where we put the patients in a hotel and sat around the compound drinking lukewarm Cokes. Walked into the low, dusty, very spread-out town - almost Wild West - and felt parched & boiled within 15 min. Had a beer at the other end of town, driven away by hideous music, slept on the roof.

Off next day on quite-cool Dogon trek. 12K walk paced by horsecarts across the dust - felt like near-desert, but is end of dry season - and slumped in shade, ate couscous, tried to convince ourselves it wasn't that hot out, drank lots of tea. Went to Ende market, charming, colourful, too fucking hot to think.

Went up to the Ende Halls of Justice - where the roof is so low you have to crawl, making fights all but impossible - and then higher still to their Ogon, or spiritual-leader/shaman/witch-doctor/ medicine-man/high-priest. Chosen at an old age, he comes down to the village only once a year and spends the rest of his time dispensing advice (to pilgrims from as far away as Bamako), helping the sick, sacrificing animals on a lightning-struck rock to bring the rain or call back city-dwelling Dogon sons.

Chilled in the Halls of Justice 'til the worst of the midday heat ended, then walked 4K to our rooftop crash pad in Tele. Sent a smallboy with a limp to get me mangoes, but he didn't pan out. Ate rice - no appetite in this heat, though, had to force myself - drank millet beer and warm Coke, slept.

Woke early to village & animal noises. Quick 5K morning walk to our guide Gabriel's home village, sat in the shade during the midday heat crunch, then up the Escarpment, rocky ground like the Canadian Shield. 2 of our members went back to Bankass due to illness. (Starting to feel like the Typhoid Truck - only 5 of us have yet to get sick.) Porters carrying 20L jerry-cans and our box-of-plates, on their heads, up steep uneven rocks. Made it up to Djigiboomboom - what a name - circumnavigated the village with Andrea, ate, chatted, crashed.

Heidi: "Is the lower infant mortality due to the vaccinations or the good spiritual feeling?"

Up at 6 for a long but invigorating walk down the Escarpment, up and down ravines, to the cliff face overlooking Ende. Met up with a few horsecarts on the ground and rode back to Bankass, where of course PK insisted we leave immediately. (Wisely stopped for ice-cold Fanta before we returned to the truck.) Crossed into Burkina Faso - first sign still says "Haute Volta" - with a minimum of fuss, free-camped, and Tim & I decided to leave the truck again.

Truck stopped in Ouahigouya next morning, and we left them there, did a brief cafe tour of the town and hopped on a bus to Ouagadougou which a) left right on time and b) took less time than we expected. Grabbed a cab to the pleasant, cheap Hotel Kilimandjaro and wandered into town, picked up an IHT, ate a 100-CFA meat sandwich (now a staple along with 150-CFA yogurts and 200-CFA Cokes), splurged on ice cream, got a couple of beers, headed back just in time to see Chelsea win the Cup-Winner's Cup on Kilimandjaro's fuzzy, often-B&W TV.

Yesterday, sent Al's letter, bought train tickets for tomorrow, saw the 5th Element (crowd smaller & less rowdy than expected) and ate at the Cafe "God Is Love" pondering its thought for the day: "The Eternal Is My Burger."

Princess Di postage stamps, as weird as Mali's Star Wars ones.

I like Burkina Faso a lot - much more relaxed than Mali, less hassle, less heat, a city it's fun to walk around in, cafe and cinema culture, and real cheap.

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