Dan on the road south into Ghana
Making our way south from Ouagadougou, we could sense that the atmosphere was changing as we neared Ghana. The countryside was becoming greener and the temperature was rising as we headed towards the sea, which was still a long way to our south. We were heading out of the Sahel and crossing into tropical Africa.
We made our way down the main N5 road towards Po, where we aimed to be by 9th January. We stopped in Kombissiri to drink tea and catch up on some writing, buying handmade cards of local children.
The people were friendly and many of them carried tribal scars on their faces. Some of the scars looked horrific but other people's scars had a certain style to them.
A particular aspect of Burkina Faso we were enjoying was the yoghurt sold in many places we cycled through. It was a dream after the plain food of Algeria and northern Niger. Ouagadougou was a nice enough, dusty old place, full of mopeds running you down and 'overlanders' complaining that “There's not much to buy here”.
Our plan was to continue on the main road into Ghana, crossing the border at Paga, and then heading along the main road through Navrongo and towards Bolgatanga. From there, we planned to head south and onto the northern shores of Lake Volta.
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.
Dan on the road to Ougadougou
On New Year’s morning, I was up early packing our kit away with the stove boiling water for breakfast. By 9am, Dan and I were passing through villages selling expensive bread, the border only 50 to 60 kilometres away.
We came to the Niger border post, had our passports checked and stamped, had some ‘riz sauce’ for lunch and scooted off towards the Burkina Faso border post.
I stopped at the border and took a couple of photos. Before that, an English pick-up, in which were two blokes we’d met in Niamey, came past and waved at us. It was 240 miles to Ouagadougou, so about three days of riding.
The ride to Burkina Faso's capital was fairly uneventful, apart from the fact that it was noticeably greener in this part of the Sahel and with more woodland (apart from where the locals had stripped it for firewood. We saw a lot more wildlife than we had done for some weeks. There were beautifully coloured birds, parrots and types of ‘shite-hawks’ in the trees and bushes as we cycled along the smooth, tarmac road.
Once again, I was having stomach problems from eating or drinking something unclean as we neared the outskirts of the city. I had been trying to keep hydrated in between bouts of diarrhoea and finally thought I was feeling better as Dan and I came through the outskirts of Ouagadougou.
For some reason, I decided that I was so much better that, while pedalling along, I raised my backside off my saddle to break wind. It was then that I realised that I was not better and had a ‘follow-through’. I had to cycle another few miles in a very uncomfortable state until we got to the campsite on the edge of the centre of the city.
I was pretty weak again when we got to the site and unpacked. Dan had to put the tent while I went to get cleaned up. I came back to the tent and got straight into my sheet sleeping bag for the night.
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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