I’ve officially completed my tour of the “Peace Corps approved” countries surrounding Benin! While Niger and Nigeria are off-limits according to Peace Corps’ safety and security standards, Burkina Faso was my third and final neighbor to visit, following Togo / Ghana last November.
According to other travelers, “the only thing worth seeing” in Burkina Faso is Banfora. While this small town is the center of many attractions, I thought it paled in comparison to Bobo’s character and had little else to offer than a lovely hotel and proximity to tourist destinations. Each day we spent our mornings shuttling to the outskirts to see the sights.
An early morning wake up was necessary to catch the hippos while it was still cool enough for them to remain above water where they can be seen. Having read some horror stories about the danger of an angry hippo, I had my reservations as I stepped into a rickety pirogue (traditional canoe), paddled with a stick. The sight of the hippos was majestic however, as we closed in on a family of 12 waking up slowly near shore. We asked the guide to keep his distance, and at the snort and shake of one beastly potamus, I jumped a little! Recognizing my fear and uneasiness, the guide pulled up some weeds from the lake, and proceeded to braid me a beautiful crown and necklace. I smelled like a lake, but I was Queen of the Hippos for a day.
From there, we visited natural domes left by the receding of water and erosion of wind, as well as beautiful waterfalls, running strong in the dry season. The falls were surrounded in every direction by fields of sugar cane, irrigated by the run off. We noticed unexpectedly advanced irrigation equipment running all day long and were told the fields belong to a Saudi Arabian investor who exports the sugar cane and pays his Burkinabe workers well… The evening before, we had met with a Burkina PCV from the region, who informed us that water was often shut off in many of the surrounding villages due to shortages. A sad truth, seen also in Benin and everywhere in the world I’m sure, that priority is given to those with money and power, even if a majority of people’s basic needs aren’t being met.
At this time, the journey continues, but the focus shifts. There are more adventures and experiences ahead, none of which will be anything like the one I have grown accustomed to in this part of the world. As always, thanks to everyone out there for the positive thoughts and support. Stay warm!