Visiting West Burkina Faso. I didn’t expect I would be back in Burkina Faso for a second visit after my initial visit to Ouagadougou, the capital, in 2017. In November of 2018 I partook in a six country West African road trip, which included a drive through Burkina Faso as I exited Ivory Coast and before I headed to Mali.
I exited Ivory Coast, yet they neglected to stamp me out. Casual border officials. I entered Burkina Faso without much fuss. My friend/guide/driver, Marlon lives part-time in Bobo and we headed to Banfora, a town in the south of Burkina Faso.
Lake Tengrela. We sped off to the lake near sunset. Tourist highlights are to take in the hippos and coast around in a wooden pirogue. But due to the late hour, we missed the hippos and the boat ride. I spent a moment listening to the birds and watching the sun sip behind the lake.
Hotel Canne A Sucre. This was a very solid option in Banafora. The room was priced well and came equipped with AC and hot water. The outdoor restaurant set in the garden was comfortable with decent food and passable wifi. This seemed like the place to be since there were several tables of foreigners. They also served homemade rum which unfortunately I did not try.
Village of Niansogoni. Driving down unforgiving dirt roads from Banafora for a couple of hours, you will arrive at the Niansogoni Camp, the launching point for the hike up to the Village. Along this road are a couple of security checkpoints. One eagle-eyed official noted that my visa for Burkina Faso was not valid. The Honorary Consulate in Bangkok had made a mistake with the hand-written visa, writing an expiration date of January 2018 (which was before the date of my visa issuance), instead of January of 2019. There was a debate of whether they would let me pass, but eventually did.
The view from above
The camp has simple rents to rent and a small restaurant. Here you can pick up your guide for a bargain of 1,000 CFA (less than $2). The hike takes less than an hour and is not too challenging (bring some water, since of course it’s hot). There are some beautiful views from the top and you can stare into Mali.
The beginning of the walk
The highlight of the visit is the abandoned village which sits below the eaves of the mountain. The village dates to the 14th century and was just abandoned in 1980. The handful of families stayed here for security purposes. Several dozen tan mud structures lined the side of the cliffside. One area of the village is restricted even today, since ceremonies take place with animal sacrifices.
Bobo-Dioulasso the second largest city in Burkina Faso with 500,000 residents makes it home in the west. I spent three nights in this city founded in the 15th century. I stayed at Marlon’s comfortable guesthouse in Bobo.
Yes, those are chocolate croissants!
Grand Mosque. This 19th century mosque is a fantastic example of Sahel-style mud architecture. Two minarets stand sentry over the mosque. During my visit, the mosque was under renovation and walled off. Thanks to Marlon’s connections we were able to visit the mosque‘s interior as well as touring the roof. The mosque is in the process of being extended with a new roof being constructed. In addition, after the rainy season, the mosque since it is constructed from mud needs to be renovated.
Making new friends at the mosque
Kibidwe. This is Bobo’s historical center. This is a very authentic and genuine neighborhood. A highlight was spending a couple of minutes gambling with the locals in a dice game and quickly loosing a couple of thousand CFA which made me quite popular.
Making mud bricks
Koume. Fifteen minutes outside Bobo is the village of Koume. Meet your guide (required) and stroll through the neighborhood to get a taste of village life. Take in the ochre colored adobe homes.
Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes. This cathedral has a unique architectural style, with a hanger- like style and a simple yet beautiful interior.
Gan Kingdom. A handful of centuries ago, the Gan or Kaan people migrated from Ghana to escape slavers to the southwestern corner of Burkina Faso. After a several hour drive from Bobo, down many bumpy and dirty roads, I arrived in the Gan Kingdom. I was met by one of the King’s four Queens. She oddly stood in a kiosk, waiting for tourists. Yet, she would be fortunate to receive more than one or two a week. A long time to be standing in the kiosk. She exited the kiosk and welcomed me with a wide smile, wrapped in a shawl.
One of the four queens of the Gan Kingdom
I was brought nearby to the Sanctuary of Gan Kings. A series of stone huts were huddled in a field. In each hut, a wooden effigy sat in honor of each king who had passed away. There are two series of Sanctuaries, each hosting the two lineages of kings who have ruled over the Gan Kingdom.
After the visit, the Queen brought me to the palace area, which were a simple series of mud huts. I turned a corner behind one of the huts, and I came face to face with the King. He sat serenely under a tree with a wide trunk. He was swathed in a light green pant-shirt combo with a green skullcap. A walking stick was propped up against his throne. The King provided a brief overview of his kingdom and I was presented with the opportunity to ask him several questions. I asked him what the biggest challenges and opportunities were facing his kingdom.
Random Village. Voodoo is alive and kicking in West Africa (and in Burkina Faso). Over 30 million people practice this ancient religion which date back thousands of years. This indigenous belief is often practiced hand-in-hand with Muslim or Christian adherents.
Marlon brought me to home of a well-regarded, local fetisher (witch doctor). Unfortunately, this elderly man was quite ill and near his end. Villagers would come to his home to be treated for ailments and sickness in a traditional manner. Several rooms had been set up for animal sacrifices after a consultation with the fetisherto treat the ailment.
This room was legitimately spooky.
Ruins of Loropeni. In 2009, Loropeni became Burkina Faso’s first UNESCO World Heritage site. The site dates back over 1,000 years, but you need a tremendous imagination to enjoy this site. Loropeni is a series of stone walls that was once an ancient fortress located in thick woods. This is no Angkor Wat, just a series of extended stone walls. Loropeni once prospered as part of the trans-Saharan gold trade from the 14th to 17th centuries. It is a long drive to get here from Bobo, and only worth it if you are a UNESCO box checker.
Difficult to be excited about this UNESCO site
Visiting West Burkina Faso.
Check out my journey to eastern Burkina Faso.