Saturday, January 15, 2011

Home sweet home

Finally we come to the Burkinabé side of the border. A bit anxious about what to expect of this reunion 3 years after our first stay, we come to the border police outpost. Immediately a friendly officer advises us to put the bikes in the shadow and invites us in. Very smooth formalities and a friendly chat… We feel right at home. At the customs office 20kms further, the female officers warn us that the road to Ouahigouya is okay but not excellent. In any case the gravel road is in far better condition than the Malian one, where they had told us it was outstanding. Luckily, the only things which are slowing us down are the occasional sheep or dromedaries crossing the road, because Tony is suffering from a common cold and Boni from a backache and they want to reach town.

Ouahigouya is just as we remembered it, and at the same time it's not. It's amazing how the infrastructure has already changed in three years time. They even installed traffic lights! We try to find our hotel from before but find another friendly one opposite an elementary school. School's just finished and herds of children are flocking around the bikes, curious and eager to communicate. What a welcome! We end the day with dinner in "hotel de l'amitié", where service is still slow as usual, but the steak is good. Drinks seem to pose a bigger problem.

To give you an idea of typical conversation in an African venue:
Waiter "What do you want to drink?"
Customers "Do you have 'limonade de pomme' (Boni's favorite)?"
Waiter "We don't have, we have Coke or 'cocktail de fruits'"
Customers "Okay, we'll have two 'cocktails de fruits' then, a Coke, a beer and a large bottle of water"
The waiter comes back after half an hour with a large bottle of water and three beers.
Customers "Euhm, that's not what we ordered"
Waiter "Well we don't have 'Cocktail de fruits' or Coke, but the chef thought you might like beer…"
The road to Ouagadougou is tarred and decently maintained. In Gourcy, we try to find Lilie's former neighbors, but everyone has gone out, so we are soon back on the road. One more pit stop and in a couple of hours we're in Ouaga. On the way to and in the capital we try hard to recall where we passed, stopped, ate, etc. It all feels very familiar. After some searching we find "Le Pavillion Vert"- our jump off point for the time being - tucked away in a dusty neighbourhood. The next couple of days are all about visa, planning, internet, varying repairs, tours around the city, good food (including some excellent Italian ice cream!), bringing back memories and relaxing. It's a strange feeling to have this home away from home. And what's more, Ouaga is the first city we find to be in Christmas atmosphere, with tacky Chinese Santa Clauses and plastic trees.

When we learn that Guillaume, the manager of Le Pavillion, is a biker himself, Nicolaas grabs the opportunity to ask about the possibility of finding tires in Ouaga or further down in West Africa. Seventeen inch tires are really hard to come by and after 11 000kms our Heidenau K60 rears are slowly starting to wear off - especially Nicolaas' which has only about 1mm profile left. We're afraid that's not enough to get to Central Africa, where we planned to change them. The owner knows someone with a small stock of Michelin T63 off-road tires. A misplaced order from the military apparently…
So we buy a third rear tire to take with us and replace the front tires somewhat sooner than foreseen to reduce the ridiculous amount of rubber we are dragging along. People are starting to make fun of our "tire dealership". And then it happens: the first flat tire of our trip. For a minute Nicolaas fears he 'pinched' the tube between rim and lever while changing the front tire. Luckily that's not the case: the culprit appears to be a tiny thorn and Nicolaas's self-esteem remains unaffected…

After five days our plans are fixed. We decided not to wait for the "visa des pays de l'Entente" (a joint visum for Togo, Benin, Niger, Burkina and Ivory Coast), which would take at least another three days. No Christmas in dusty Ouaga! We really want to find internet to skype with our families on Christmas day. So we'll head for Tamale in Ghana, making just one overnight stop on the way at Nazinga ranch. We spend the night at the hunters' lodge, where bush buck is on the menu. Yum!

For more pics see "Home sweet home" album

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