When? July 2006, a side-trip whilst working in Ghana
Who? With two Ghanaian companions, Dremani and Mark
The charity’s driver, Dremani turns up to take me to Zuarangu to talk to Pastor Charles. I’ve been planning to go to Ouagadougou in Burkino Faso this weekend. How can you not go to a place with a name like that? Mark, my Paga expedition companion, is keen to come too. Dremani offers to drive me there. Great, that will save a lot of hassle. Dremani thinks Mark needn’t come now. I say he will be disappointed if he doesn’t.
On the way back Charles tells me that Dremani has asked him to talk to me. He can’t stop thinking about me and is very keen. Oh dear. I think the Africans find it very hard to judge the age of a white person. Or maybe they don’t care. When we get back to Bolga I mention this to Nich, the charity manager saying I don’t want Dremani to read anything into the trip to Ouaga. Later Nich tells me has spoken to Dremani. Dremani is sitting outside scowling. Nich explains that Dremani has suddenly realised that the trip will involve paying for brown card insurance, a laissez-pass permit for the pick up and wages and expenses for him…
Well, Ouagadougou is still happening. Mark deems it prudent to send me a text message at 4a.m. to check that this is so. Then he turns up with a marginally less sour Dremani at 7.30. It’s like travelling with pair of small spoiled children. They expect to be fed, watered, and supplied with chewing gum and to listen to the radio at full blast. The passing scenery holds no interest for them at all as we roller coaster through at 90 miles an hour, huge potholes notwithstanding.
It then emerges that their sole ID consists of Dremani’s driving license between them.I am flabbergasted as they then manage to inveigle their way through two frontier posts. At the first, the Ghanaians just laugh at them. In Burkina Faso they are momentarily at a loss when the official instructs them to “parler seulement francais ici”. They aren’t the only ones momentarily at a loss as I start grubbing around for my school girl French. The other official is a woman. “Related tribe to Dremani’s” they explain as she waves them through whilst I’m still filling in visa forms and paying out 25 dollars. The countryside in Burkina is pretty and dotted with picture postcard villages – clusters of thatched rondavels. It’s even poorer than Ghana, though by some logic much more expensive.
Ouagadougou is not nearly as exciting as its name, it’s dilapidated and frenetic. Dremani insists on taking me to “the hotel where Nich stayed”. It’s seedy and expensive but it has a pool and I capitulate. Peace beckons. But no, they want lunch. They want help finding lodgings. They don’t understand the language. This despite the fact that Dremani has been chatting to all his tribal compatriots in the local dialect, Mossi. I find them a cheap hotel. Their rooms only have double beds. No, Dremani will not sleep with Mark. He wants to sleep well. I look at the menu and calculate their food bill and lodging for 24 hours, give them money and tell them to go away and meet me tomorrow. So much easier, despite the fact I was hoping for a male escort round the town. It would have been helpful as I’m accosted every step of the way by Burkabe wanting to sell a postcard or guide me to an amazing sight.
And there are always adventures to be had. There’s a wedding on at the Hotel de Ville so I sneak in for a look brandishing my camera and hoping that all the gorgeous folk in their glittering finery will think I’m an official photographer. It’s French chic African style with huge diaphanous hats. The largest mamas, dotted around the crowd, are exchanging soprano conversations.
The swimming pool calls and I seem to have completed my sightseeing- the few dusty boulevards that are the excitement that Ouaga has to offer. I spot another agama about to embark on its exercise programme on a wall. Focussing my lens on it I am startled by the animated conversation of two army officers. The wall happens to be part of the army office. Fortunately, they just gesture that I should go away, so I sidle off quickly before I am arrested.
One benefit of Ouaga is that it has French restaurants. A really good dinner in a tranquil garden belonging to a restaurant run by nuns. Duck with mangoes, dauphinoise potatoes (well sort of) and no tomato paste. Yum.
I feel I should venture out once more just to check that I have seen all Ouaga has to offer. I regret this almost instantly as i am besieged by “bonjours” on all sides. I steadfastly ignore all greetings and the ensuing catcalls and jeering and check out some hotels that are nicer than mine. Then I lose my bearings trying to cut back to the centre of town. None of the streets have signs in this area and it is one vast open dusty stretch. I manage to work out my position using my map and realise that I am right in the middle of the area highlighted by Lonely Planet as being a mugging risk. Oh good. An even quicker clip back to the hotel pool. My foster children arrive at two. Dremani’s expression now would curdle milk. He cannot bring himself to offer a greeting and glowers the whole way back. I do not offer him gum. So much for cheap hassle free travel.