22 August 2009 Burkina Faso Day 5 Banfora

Today was the best day in Burkina Faso. Everything was great, the company, the locations, and the food. Even though the day started with a scare it did not mar the greatness of the day. Ibriham, our guide, arrived at 9:00 am, right on time. Our car and chauffeur awaited us at the door of the hotel. He pointed the way to the car and shrugged as he said “The true African car” Oh but we had seen much worse on this trip. Lenore and I entered. We did the inspection. Dashboard with all the instruments and a radio. The windows rolled up and down. All the doors had panels. The seats were clean and not torn. No holes in the floor. The trunk closed. It was not just car it was a chariot! We were on our way. We turned the corner from our hotel and stopped at the next intersection. Here the scare began. The car would not go forwards only in reverse. At first we were not sure why. I actually had images of us driving through the African bush backwards. I quickly erased it from my mind. The driver got back in the car. Then Lenore and I saw that the car would not go into gear. Even Lenore and I, two non mechanical women, knew the transmission was shot. but the men, men being the same everywhere it seems, must look under the hood and fiddle with stuff. This went on for about 10 minutes. I was dejected sure this is the end of our trip. My usual optimism was no where to be found but Lenore to the rescue. She was positive our guide would find a way. After about 20 minutes another car appeared. Ibriham opened Lenore’s door. He smiled, raised his arms, elbows bent, palms to the sky and says Ah-FREE-Ka! Then he escorted us to our new car. Ibriham was now more than a guide he was a knight in shining armor. The only problem with this car was that the back windows would not roll down. There was plenty of ventilation from the front windows. And Voila we were off again! We stopped at a small store to buy lunch. Ibriham picked two big avocats. Then he held up an onion; said something in French. Lenore and I both replied “Oui” in stereo, assuming that the something in French was the word for onion. The same procedure bought us oil and salt. But there was no guessing on our parts when he asked if we wanted pain. We dredged the word word for bread from our storage banks the first day in Burkina Faso. While Ibrahim got two plates and a knife from the proprietor, I went to see what was cooking over the wood fire. “Qu’est ca sai” I asked but it didn’t work any better than the other times I thought I asking “What is it?” Maybe I’ve got it wrong or was messing up the pronunciation. I finally said “Je m’appellle Vicky” and pointed to the soup “Il appelle?” The cook replied “Arachide something French” Ah peanut soup! The brown oily base that is so familiar in Ghana but with chunks of onion, and garlic bubbling around in it. She was cooking in a large metal pot about 2 feet in diameter. I assume she was going to sell it at the store. Then she tossed in about 8 local garden eggs. It looked so good I wanted some right then. Ibrahim was ready so we all got back in our chariot. “Avon nous du l’eau?” when we replied “non” he had the drive stop again for bottled water. “I am glad he thought to ask us” said Lenore with a smile. “He seems to know his business.” “Yes” I smiled back and then settled into the joy of private transport. I was getting hungry already. I had only bread and milo for breakfast at 7:30 and it was wearing off. I asked Ibrahim for arachide. He stops the car again and popped out to get 1,000 CFAs of arachide, about 4 hands full. * The plan was les cascades, les dome and then lac ter with the hippos. As we were heading out of town we saw an orderly procession of about 50 people carrying signs. I could not see what was on the signs. I asked Ibrahim in English what is this since my French What is this was not working. “la protest” “L’argent por travail tres petite” were the words I understood in his answer. The workers complaint from all times and places. Not enough pay. We turned onto the road out of town to find it was barricaded by the police. I assume it was due to the protest. Ibrahim turned to the back seat and with a smile and hands raised to the sky said “Ah-FREE-Ka! Our plans changed. We would go to the hippo lake first. * We changed direction and headed out of town by another road. Daniel, APCD Burkina Faso, said that we might not see hippos. Ibrahim raised his eyes and tipped his head when we asked him if we would see hippos. So we had low expectations and both had decided a ride on a lake would still be a good way to start the day. The road to the lake went through tall unknown, to us, crops and by a small village. Since Susie and Benjamin came to visit I have been aware of the differences in the construction of the local houses. I wanted photos. Ibrahim was very obliging and stopped the car for us. We got out of the car. Pointed to our cameras, the universal sign for can I take a photo. The people agreed. At the lake Ibrahim handed us over to the canoeist. They offered extended hands to assist us across a wooden plank and an upturned metal row boat. Our feet stayed dry the whole time. Lenore and I settled on the middle plank. We paddled well not we but the gentleman at the helm. paddled out on to the lake. The sun was warm and bright. The lake was dotted with clusters of lily pads. The white flowers a sharp contrast to the deep green of the lily pad and the dark blue of the lake. The only sounds were the call of birds, the paddle murmuring through the water and an occasional moan of cattle. As we paddles I looked below the surface of the water. The stems of the lily pads looked like evergreen branches. When we went near shore I could see small stones on the bottom, some fish and small plants. Near the shore the canoeist banged his oar on the bottom of the wooden canoe. We sat, eyes scanning the area but no hippos. We paddled around the lake some more and he pounded on the bottom of the canoe at three different places. Each time no hippos. Lenore and I discussed how long can a hippo stay under water? Do the breath under there? Are they on the shore in the trees? We had been on the lake at least 30 minutes probably 45. There were no answers to these questions simply because we could not ask them in French. The canoeist tried to explain and perhaps apologize but his French was beyond our limited vocab. So we headed back to shore But not before one more stop and a try to arouse the hippos. As we looked he picked two lilys from the water and with some quick snaps of the stems had made two necklaces for us. Ah the French! On the way out Lenore asked what the tall crop was. “Canne de sucre” was Ibrahim’s reply. Ah sugar cane. Since she had never seen sugar cane before Lenore wanted to get out and look. Of course our knight would do want ever we wanted. The car stopped and we got out to look at the cane. The plant was at least 2 feet over my head. The sugar bearing stalk started at the base and continued just up over my head. The height came from slender, long leaves pointed towards the sky like maize leaves. Lenore and I discussed how the cane was cut. Where on the stalk they might chop with the machete? We talked about how long it would take to clear this huge field? Was the harvest mechanized? Then Ibrahim came and saying”Vite Vite”. Put his hands behind our backs and gently pushed in the universal move sign. In his hands was a portion of a sugar cane stalk. I think our guide stole some sugar cane for us! When we got in the car he requested a small knife from us. Lenore and I, ever ready travelers both had our Swiss Army knives. As we drove he peeled the cane and broke it into pieces. He demonstrated mashing it between our teeth to get the sweet juice out. we were not to swallow the fibers. We followed his example and had our first taste of raw sugar cane. I expected a burst of sweetness like eating raw sugar but it was subtly sweet. Lenore and I agreed it would take a lot of cane to make sugar. As I write this I now remember that Ibrahim said that the cane is harvested in November so maybe it will get sweeter as it matures. The next stop was * The Cascades. We drove for about 30 minutes. In a previous post I know I have expounded upon the joys of a private vehicle but I must reiterate. We had the whole back seat to ourselves. In a share taxi you sometimes have 4 people in a back seat made for 3 very small bottomed people. I have sat on my hip squished between a person and the door and have prayed the door would not pop open on the next bump. With 4 in a compact car back seat you are cuddled up with at least one total stranger. I did not cuddle with Lenore at all. In fact we had to text each other to communicate. So I will say again we had the whole back seat to ourselves. We could stop the car whenever we wanted. The car went where we wanted. We had the whole trunk where we could put our bags. We didn’t have to sit with our backpacks or bags on our laps. I am emphasizing these joys of private transport because it was something I took for granted in the US. Since I got my license, at 16, I have always had access to a car. Public transport in America will look so much better when I return from Ghana! We arrived at the * Cascades. There was a summer hut at the beginning of the trail. It sold pain and sardines and a few other items. There was also a latrine that we didn’t see until we came back down the hill. Along the trail we came to an open grove of trees with benches. A local chief had planted the trees and put the benches there many years ago. Here is where I found the ant hill. It was an easy climb up the hill to the top of the waterfall. Ibrahim was very helpful. He waited at tough spots to give a hand up. Lenore was as agile as a mountain goat. She put me to shame climbing. Most of the time Ibrahim was helping me while Lenore happily made her own way. When we reached the top there were two summer huts with green tin roofs. At one summer hut a man was selling cold drinks. I felt sorry for him because he had to lug a full igloo cooler up the hill. But this is another example of the customer service here in Burkina Faso. We passed the summer huts and walked to the edge of the falls. Ibrahim stood on the very edge. Spread his arms and shouted Ah-FREE-Ka! I snapped him. From the top I saw the stream make a squiggly path through the tiles of crops. The sky was cobalt blue and it looked as if the clouds were hung with picture taking in mind. The day was made for us. I wanted to sing “Who will buy this beautiful morning” from the musical Oliver! Ibrahim let us explore the falls on our own. We set off in different directions. We sat. We climbed. We walked. We looked. We photographed. But alas we did not swim. No swimming in fresh water. PC Rules. Exploring was very nostalgic for me. When I was in High School our gang would go to Houston Trail Falls in Bingham at least twice a month during the summer. Weird how a new place can be nostalgic. I thought of my High School buddies often that morning. Ibrahim was sitting on a large flat rock in the shade. When I saw him begin to peel and chop our lunch I got hungry and headed over, He chopped the avocado and onion then added the oil and salt and mixed. While he was putting the mixture between the two halves of a baguette Lenore went to get minerals. We ate. They were delicious. I think the setting added to the taste of the food. The brook was behind us. It went through a small gap between the rock and the bank then opened up again before it cascaded down over the rocks. We were serenaded by a duet of the brook and the birds. After eating I stretched out on the rock, Ibrahim did the same and Lenore sat. We were all quiet, thinking or resting. After resting a bit I sat up. When I am at a place taking photos I sometimes just like to sit and look around. Sometimes a good shot shows itself too you. The sun moved into the open sky. The water lit up. The grasses and trees cast shadows. Voila! une photo! While we were sitting I had to urinate. I knew the trip back down the hill would be a little uncomfortable if I didn’t. I l didn’t see a toilet so I asked Ibrahim if there was a toilet or did we have to go to the bush to urinate. It was the bush. So off to the bush I go. Lenore did the same. Too bad we hadn’t seen the toilets (latrines) when we were starting up the hill. Lenore got up from her spot she said “I think I just solved all my problems!” It was time to go to Les Domes. Back down the hill and into our chariot. Ibrahim’s armor was shining pretty brightly after making us that meal and assisting us up and down the hill. It took us less than an hour to get to * Les Domes. We parked the car and ascended another hill. This time it was a road. I wished I had brought my hat. The sun was hot after the coolness of the cascades. As we walked up the hill Ibrahim told us the —-dougou was his mother’s home. He said he moved to Banfora for work. And told us a little about taking the test to get a license at a guide. By now the communicating by English, French and pantomime seemed natural. Les Domes were awesome. When I turned right off the road I only saw two at first. Then as I expanded my view I saw a row behind them and another row and another. When I walked into them I felt like Alice in Wonderland when she was small small. The Domes looked like someone had upturned pails of sand then poured water over them to round them off. But they were rougher than that. They were layers of rock and colors varying from black to sandy brown to white. We started to climb onto one of them. We climbed and climbed. I was nervous. (I never went to the top of the Eiffel Tower because I was afraid. I still regret it.)So I bucked up and followed Ibrahim. I don’t think I would have tried to climb without a guide. He knew the path well. We reached the top. Ah-FREE-Ka! It reminded me of the scene in “Out of Africa” where they are flying over Kenya. Only this was better because I was surprisingly, amazingly, there. Ibrahim again gave us time to explore and take photos. African time is not always a bad thing. On the trip back down I showed all my gracefulness. Tripping. Sliding down some parts on my fanny. I may have even shown my pants(undies). I think I left some of my dignity on Les Domes. As I write this I am trying to decide which of the three places was the best. I loved to be on the water. The smooth motion of a boat being paddled was very restful. The scenery was beautiful. It was quiet and full of things to look at. I must thank my travel companion for not complaining once that we had not seen any Hippos. Lenore’s ability to enjoy the moment makes her an excellent travel companion. The cascades reminded me of many happy times with friends. The avocado sandwich was delicious with a coke. Les Domes inspired me with the beauty and diversity of creation. I can’t choose. I won’t choose. -vc

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