Thursday, 19 August 2010

Bobo Dioulassou

John Lennon once famously described there being ‘four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire’, after reading a local newspaper report about the number of potholes peppering the local roads. Well John, there are four thousand and one holes on the road and Burkina's main highway, from Ouagadougou to Bobo Dioulassou (Burkina Faso’s second largest city). The trip is about 200 miles and our driver, Sadu, clearly knows which holes to avoid judging by his slalom at 70miles an hour. I call Sadu, “Voila Sadu”, after his endearing habit of saying “voila” at the end of every sentence. Sadu is the kind of guy you need in an emergency or indeed, if you need a Land Rover driving across mud, water and.....errrr, some holes, in West Africa. We get a puncture 10 minutes into the journey on the way back from Bobo. Many of us I’m sure would simply call the AA but Sadu and the rest of our crew change the tyre as if it were as easy as spreading butter on toast. I just stand in awe, looking like a ‘pleb’ pretending to help. Lads, I think that if you want to impress the ladies, then learn to change a tyre – there isn’t a more manly function. Sadu. Great guy.

It’s nice to get out of Ouaga. This part of Burkina is just a wallpaper of green and not like the dust bowl I thought it would be. Lovely! Although, occasionally spoilt by the sight of a lone man, standing up straight and relieving himself, free as a bird. P****** in the wind?

We were on a ‘mission’. The centre I am working with officially declared it a ‘mission’ – it says so on the paperwork - which I think is wonderful and made me want to buy some kind of hat. About 20km south-east of Bobo is the village of Soumousso. I am guessing the locals didn’t expect to wake up for the past two mornings to the sight of a pasty white, ginger male stood over a puddle of water, a ladle in one hand and bucket in the other. I’m also guessing you’re not so clear on this either. There are five of us – Me, Antoine, Voila Sadu, Eva and Vallia – the ‘A team plus one’. We’re here to collect mosquitoes for the project we’re working on – the actual point of my visit. Soumousso is rural so it is very poor, but every single local (with the exception of the donkeys) has a ‘ca va’ for you and this makes you feel really welcome. No shortage of mossies so once they’re caught we’re off back to Bobo for the rest of the day.
The entrance to the Grande Marche, Bobo.

Bobo is nicer than Ouaga. The locals say so. Lonely planet says so. I say so. It’s not that Ouaga is particularly bad, but Bobo just feels a little more hassle free, less motorbikes and a load of decent cafe’s lining the streets. Except the market (la Grande Marche) – but I knew this before I braved going in. If you get the chance, experience a West African market. I don’t mean go out and buy a bunch of bananas and a dodgy washing machine, just sample the atmosphere. It is so intense and loud. You will get hassled but the banter is all part of the fun. Some guy told me he was from Mali, how he wanted to be my friend, could he have my address and that it was his first day out of prison – I told him it was my first day out too – he seemed a little perplexed by that one and left me alone. On the last evening, I am on the phone when I see a white guy in a car coming out from the sports centre outside my digs. It took two, looks, and I’m contemplating going over and looking like a complete idiot to see if it is a guy who I met and spent many happy and hazy drunk nights with in Benin four years ago (yes, another obscure West African country – go get your map again). So, I go and look like an idiot. “Is that you Cedric!!!” It is! Small world isn’t it? Anyway, Cedric knows Bobo’s ‘cool’ places so we go off for another hazy night. Mission complete.


Cedric and I reunited in Burkina. I've just realised how drunk I look in this picture - I wasn't that bad......

PS – It took 6 days and approximately 10 hours. My gung-ho approach to sampling the local delicacies has well and truly, and quite literally, backfired.......


  1. Great to see you guys! Wish I could have been there! Just got to Ifakara...where I met Deo, who said you helped him a lot in Liverpool. Small world.

  2. only YOU could go to an obscure african location and meet someone you already knew... he probably went to Durham, did Biology and knows Jillian Lynn? standard.