Gert and Guy Claessen made a 19-day trip to the highlights of Burkina Faso, Togo and Benin. In Burkina Faso they visited Bobo Dioulasso, the land of the Lobi and the land of the Gourounsi. In Togo they traveled to the land of the Moba and to Kpalimé. In Benin they traveled to Ouidah and Pendjari NP
We have come home from an unforgettable journey and have never been bored.
We were prepared for ‘Un program fort’ and that turned out to be the case. We had to deal with a number of long travel days, during which there was hardly any movement – except for the shaking back and forth on the bad roads. An extra day of rest would have been appropriate here and there, but on the other hand we immediately got an extremely fascinating and complete insight into the ins and outs of these three – unexpectedly – very diverse countries of West Africa within the foreseen time frame. A region that we had never visited until now.
The long travel days were mainly in Burkina Faso and Togo difficult as it was already dark there at 6 pm: we often went to explore the city center immediately upon arrival to still have enough exercise. In this way we were able to form a picture of the city in daylight, so that we could move and orient ourselves at ease in the evening. In Benin you immediately had an extra hour at your disposal in the evening and that made the evenings a bit less hectic there.
FOOD AMONG THE PEOPLE WITH A BEER
The lunch spots were in some cases a bit too formal for us: in his search for ‘digestible’ eateries, Ali (the driver/guide ed.) often brought us to slightly ‘higher’ qualified locations. Despite the good intentions, there were often hardly any other people and there was nothing else to eat than elsewhere (rice / couscous / pasta with chicken / fish), but we were there alone and away from the environment.
Just like we didn’t eat at our hotel in the evening where possible: it’s so much more fun to socialize and to eat a plate of rice with chicken with a (usually lukewarm) beer at (sometimes very meager) maquis/bars . The kindness, gratitude and enthusiasm of the people about the arrival of those two special ‘blancs’ was so pure and therefore unforgettable.
BURKINA FASO: AUTHENTIC AND RURAL
Burkina Faso : the poor, somewhat dusty and backward sister. The authentic, still very rural and traditional character of this remains with us: the old villages with very lively markets seem to have been plucked right out of a comic strip. Unfortunately there was one setback: the mosque of Bobo (Bobo Dioulasso ed.) It turned out to be under renovation and was completely shielded with steel plates.
In Tiebele we opted for an overnight stay in a meager auberge in the village: sleeping under the stars turned out to be unexpectedly cold and the African shower and toilet were just about the most basic version.
We enjoyed the beautiful nature, such as the ‘ pancake rocks ‘. Here they can compare the similar formations in Australia and New Zealand – which we visited earlier – endured effortlessly, only we had the realm all to ourselves here!
TOGO: ATTRACTIVELY CLEAN AND STRUCTURED
Togo : jewel in the crown; a truly unexpected gem. Very quiet (although according to our driver there were many more police posts along the road than usual due to political tensions). The country is remarkably clean (much less plastic than Burkina Faso) and clearly much more evolved and structured than Burkina Faso.
Togo certainly deserved a little more attention in our program, because around Kara and Kpalimé We could have easily spent an extra day.
The caves with the grain silos (caves of Nano ed.) and the blacksmiths in Kara are unforgettable (our grandfather was a blacksmith himself, but he was already a lot further than those men 70 years ago).
New Year’s Eve in Kpalimé went very well: first dinner at Bon Vivant: an Antwerp resident with an extensive collection of Belgian beers (Trappist for €3/bottle), then even more beer and fireworks in the village.
BENIN: EXTREMELY COLORFUL
Benin : perhaps the most colorful part of the journey. A bit less formal and dusty than Togo (with its old Peugeots…) and that incomprehensible, bizarre Voodoo culture…!
Ouidah was really worth it: we shuffled through the colonial city center for an entire afternoon and discovered the painful slave history at the slave monument. The Tata Somba houses were much less ‘lively’, already many more museums, than those in Gaoua and Tiébélé (in Burkina Faso ed.)
In Pendjari National Park we have seen large herds of elephants and buffalo (often hidden in the high grass). Sadly no lions.
The most important ‘attraction’ in this part of Africa turned out to be the confrontation with the simple, miserable daily life of the people: donkey carts, water pumps, markets and many children laughing and playing.
THE ACCOMMODATIONS; MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR EVERYONE
The accommodations were quite palatable for us, we love those simple, somewhat ‘colonial’ hotels, it’s just a shame that they are often so poorly maintained. For us, a hotel is only for sleeping: a roof over our heads, a bathroom with toilet and shower and a bed is usually sufficient. That could be found almost everywhere, although I can imagine that less experienced travelers sometimes see a little less of the charm of it.
SPECIAL THANKS TO OUR DRIVER/GUIDE!
A special mention to Ali, our driver/guide: a golden guest.
Because of our rotten knowledge of French (25 years after the last lessons there was a lot of noise on the line :-)) having a conversation from our side was not really easy. We were quite insecure, especially the first few days. Ali always managed to put us at ease and provided more than enough information, explanation and color in the program in a jovial and sometimes hilarious way.
In short: you have two more enthusiastic customers!