Saturday 25th February 2012
Saturday morning we decided to drive south and explore a little. It was so hot. The thick soupy air blew in the windows as we drove, doing little to cool us down. First stop was Tiebele, a village several hours south of Ouagadougou, just north of the border with Ghana. The further south we drove, the greener and leafier the scenery. Farmland stretched for miles and we were surprised at how good the roads were. After a little hunting around in Po we discovered the dirt track that led to the village. There were abundant huts along the 40km track. One village had a buzzing market, so we stopped there to have some lunch. Once we were out of Bluebelle we gathered a crowd of local children trailing us as we wandered from stall to stall. They were as fascinated in us as we were in them. Some children were scared of our pale skin and cowered behind their mothers’ skirts when we passed. We tried some tasty fried dough balls with a spicy tomato sauce. Down the back of the market we found several rows of make-shift bars. Women sold calabash-bowls of millet beer. Men lolled around, drunk in the heat of the day. We cooled off with sweet frozen bags of pink hibiscus juice before continuing down the road to Tiebele.
Tiebele is a sprawling village set around broad tree lined streets. The streets were alive with activity and industry. From the description in the Lonely Planet, we expected to find a picturesque village populated with painted huts. We were disappointed to discover that only the chief’s compound and several local hotels were decorated in this way. The rest of the village is broadly similar to others in Mali and Burkina Faso. The heat had really taken it out of us and we had seen so many interesting villages already on our trip, we decided to stop at the bar for a cold Brakina (local beer) instead. We chatted to some local guides and a douane officer interested in acquiring Bluebelle for himself.
After our brief visit we drove back along the track to find a place to wild camp. It was tricky to find somewhere secluded. The land was crowded with farms, each with a mud hut and little compound somewhere in the field. The straggling development in this area is different. In most other places we have visited so far, people cluster their huts in the safe confines of villages. Finally we settled on a spot near a hard, dry ploughed field dotted with cotton plants and plenty of tiny flies. No sooner had we set our chairs up in the shade than a woman with two young boys appeared to say hello. She couldn’t speak French or English and we couldn’t speak her mother-tongue. Still, we understood that this was her farmland and it was fine for us to camp there. After several handshakes, smiles, and some signing, she and her sons left and we climbed up into our roof tent to escape the flies. A little while later her young sons reappeared with another son and daughter, all wearing big smiles. They spoke French, so we managed a broken conversation. We thought they had invited us back to their hut for tea so we gave them a bag of tea. Turns out they were just wanting some tea! They looked very happy, took the tea and said they’d see us in the morning.
We were woken by giggles and chatter outside Bluebelle shortly after sunrise. Our new friends had brought their big brother along to meet us and patiently waited for us to emerge from our tent. We gave them some sugared peanuts to say thank you for the campsite, then set off for Nazinga Ranch and the promise of seeing elephants.