Cigarette Sellers in Niamey
After recovering from my gut problems and a few days of rest, Dan and I spent some time walking around Ouagadougou. It's a much more relaxed place than Niamey. Despite being a dusty old town, the people are more friendly and easy going than the Nigerien folks we met. They are not constantly hassling you to buy their jewellery on the streets or asking whether our bikes are for sale, which is surprising considering that Burkina Faso is meant to be one of the poorest countries in the world.
We tracked down a few nice places to eat and walked around an enormous market on one day. One of the local dishes we came to enjoy a lot was a tuna steak in peanut sauce. The variety of delicious fruit was overwhelming after living off tinned fish with rice for many of the last few months. The West African music blares out loudly from many bars; mopeds dodge in and out of the traffic, and fruit vendors on every street corner. People often come up and ask from where we have come, soldiers waving their weapons at us.
On 6th January, we parked our bikes outside a bank and, almost immediately, came up to us getting annoyed while waving his rifle at us. We soon discovered that we had to 'pay' to park our bikes there. We paid him a small amount and he calmed down quickly!
We phoned home for the first time in weeks and our stepmother, Susanna, answered. The relief in her voice was obvious and we realised something had been going on in our period of no communications to home. It soon became clear that our parents had thought that our silence was due to something terrible happening such as getting lost in the desert. Dad had called my future father-in-law in Botswana where he was working as a diplomat for the British Government to see if he could track down where we were. Fortunately, he could see that we had crossed the Algerian border into Niger some weeks before but that had been the last trace of us.
Dan and I pointed out the lack of communications in the Sahara and Sahel region of Africa. The lack of population was matched by the lack of services such as post offices and telephones. We had also been too ill for much of the time to expend energy on writing letters, much as we would have like to have done.
We had noticed far more wildlife in Burkina Faso than in Niger. There were many more birds and parrots than we had seen before, many of them very colourful. The terrain, despite still being the Sahel, was much greener too (apart from where the locals had stripped the woodland for firewood.
Our next stage was to head into Ghana. We obtained our visas in Ouagadougou and got our kit ready in the camp site in preparation. In Accra, we planned to meet with some friends of our parents who lived there. We thought about their washing machine and the prospect of clean clothes.
Will Hawkins lives in Lincolnshire with his family, works in a technology company in London and does as many micro-adventures as he can.
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