Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Au revoir Ouaga {:-(

3rd September 2008, 1500hrs

Ouagadougou International, waiting for my flight to Bamako Mali.

Its awfully hot in here, all the doors an windows sealed, AC knocked off; and to top it off I just sat down to a overpriced cup of Nescafe in the restaurant!

Damage/ lost so far one broken suitcase, a lost t shirt and one pair of broken spectacles – fortunately I carry a spare. But I am thinking that in future, for theses trips at least I need to have a pair with more robust frames.

On the plus side a fruitful trip so, and the most pleasant stay I had in Ouaga since I started travelling here.

To look forward to is a possible issue with my visa to Mali, its been over written and the guys here like to pounce on that when they get the chance. I got played out on my visa this time, in trying to procure a one year multiple entry I was over charged badly…. Now lets try explaining that to the office shall we?!

Last night I decided to treat myself to a decent meal. With hunger pangs like a starved hyena I eventually braved a break in the rain to make a dash down the main street on little motor-bike – riding one after ten years at least. The person riding pillion was in fits of laughter as I re learnt the manipulation required between breaks and gears. Destination reached in one piece, beating the next round of the down pour by mere seconds.

The restaurant of choice was one that served predominantly Italian cusine, pasta’s and a variety of grilled meats and pizza. T’was only after placing my order for a spaghetti cabonara that I realized that the pizza oven was an authentic wood fire one – next time!

My guest chose a grilled fish, accompanied with tomatoes and a sauce which had the gentlest hint of garlic to it, tantalizingly so.

As we dined the evening away in idle chit chat an unexpected bit of drama enacted across the open room from us. Seated alone at a table was a gentlemen who reminded me a of dear friend back in SL, an author of no mean repute, world traveler and the point of contact for all nationals form his home country in the entire south in the event of an emergency. But I digress, back to the Frenchman across the room.

A few minutes after having settled him self down and fastidiously cleaning his cutlery on the table cloth, he ups himself and commences to perform a rain dance, or the reverse of one as he explained later by prancing counterclockwise around his table jangling a pair of bells! This he continued to do so for all of seven complete circuits, oblivious to anyone or anything else. On the last round he stood by his chair a little shaking his hinny and then to plonck himself down with a flourish.

Our own meal came to an end a few minutes later as we lingered over coffee, when it happened…. Ever so gently the rain eased off till it stopped completely. As we walked out our rain man tipped a finger at us with a grin and wink and a suggestion that we hurry if we wanted to take advantage of the break!

Now I am an old fart, rather cautious, forever pre planning trying to anticipate all possibilities – a real stick in the mud. Fearing the worse it was decided that my guest take advantage of a taxi while I rode back upon the little pony. A few precious minutes spent in locating a chariot and we were off, me pell melling along the broad avenue that cuts through the city center, pursued by a chariot. I would have made it, if not for the three red lights in someone else’s favor. Half way home, the heavens opened and I was drenched even before I got 50ft!

Now I must hasten to add that this in no way detracted anything from what was a pleasant evening, if at all, it was the final twist to an evening which was spent in a most congenial way, dining on good food and conversation, spiced up by the antics of a wonderful old man!

I am sorry to be leaving Ouaga this time around. While one set of circumstances forced me to stay longer that I usually do, another set in play gave me an opportunity to see facets of this city and its people that I had not experience before.

This morning I was on my way to the Marche when I was buzzed by a ‘moto’ upon which sat a grinning Michele, my chauffer from the journey to Niger. Having exchanged pleasantries I was invited to hope on board for a speedy trip down and around to my destination.

Its those friendly, spontaneous encounters that warm my heart that make me like this place. Yes there are the officious, petty corrupt parasites lurking in the corners, but by and far the people are gentle, most often than not with a smile than a frown. A begger on the road will only follow you up to a point. The same applies to the touts, the sellers of telephone cards you don’t want, the shoe shine kid, the guy trying his luck at making a buck. Usually a smile a polite no thank you and a shake of the heard sufficient to be left alone. The occasional limpet pried loose by no more than a sterner no thank you.

By all means travel in Africa if you can. Enjoy the sights and sounds and people that make this such a wonderful place. Do so with a smile, some common sense and a sense of humor. Politeness, courtesy can get you almost anywhere you want, if you have the patience to do so.

I love this continent. And as I grow familiar with the lay of the land, even the countries that I feel uncomfortable with become less so with time. I have been lucky I must state, in the years that I have been here, traveling on and off since 2005 I have not had a single bad encounter where I have been threatened or robbed. Luck certainly, some prudence on my part too, judicious use of common sense and practicality. Its best not to tempt fate by tying to prove ones bravery.

I have a new love now. My old beau Freetown, Sierra Leone replaced by Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

I leave her with a multiple entry visa valid for a year with the fervent hope that I will be back soon.

PS: Immigration in Mali was a breeze, the fastest I’ve ever past through!

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