Between Ouagadougou to Bobo-Dioulasso, a small village, Burkina Faso
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Ghana & Burkina Faso Trip Journal from May 17 to 25, 2008

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Country: Ghana and Burkina Faso
Duration: May 17 to 25, 2008.
Distance Traveled in the Country: Approx. 2000km on the motorcycles.
Most Memorable Impressions:
Ghana and Burkina Faso, two (2) countries that could not be more different.  Ghana is rich in history with its many slave castles and forts doted along its beautiful coastline.  Inland lush rainforests and waterfalls make up the scenery.  Whereas Burkina Faso is a land locked country, third poorest in the world and with a harsh and barren landscape.  That is not to say it has nothing to offer.  What Ghana lacks in culture, Burkina Faso makes up for it.  The mosque in Bobo is a unique Sahel mud structure and the villages are circular fortress-like, window less traditional mud/straw houses.  There main mode of transportation is the bicycle and everyone seems to have one. 
Our Favourite:
- Wli Waterfall in Ghana
- Elmina Castle in Ghana
Fuel Cost:
Ghana: 1.18C/litre ($1.18CDN/litre) for Unleaded Fuel.
Burkina Faso: 670CFA/litre ($1.70CDN/litre) for Unleaded Fuel.
Ghana: (1) night camping for 7.00C/night ($7.00CDN/night) and (3) nights hotel from 16.00 to 36.00C/night ($16.00 to $36.00CDN/night)
Burkina Faso: (2) nights free camping and (1) night hotel for 4,000CFA/night ($10.00CDN/night)
Exchange Rate:
Ghana: 1.00 Cedi (C) = $1.00CDN
Burkina Faso: 395 Central African Francs (CFA) = $1.00CDN
Border Formality Costs:
Ghana Visa = 10,000CFA/person ($25.00CDN/person) issued in 24hrs in Lome, Togo, valid for (15) Days.
Burkina Faso Visa = 20,000CFA/person ($50.00CDN/person) issued at border, valid for (7) Days.
Motorcycle Customs = Free with Carnet de Passage.

May 17, 2008.  We entered Ghana at the Klouto border post after passing through a small settlement that lies in no-mans land between Togo and Ghana.  We are back to an English speaking country.  The officials are very friendly and after 20 minutes we have completed 75% of our usual border formalities, with customs being the remaining 25%.  Customs is located approx. four (4) km further down the road.  At first the customs officer did not want to stamp our Carnet de Passage.  We believe he did not know its purpose and how to complete it.  We waited a few minutes for another official to arrive who was familiar with the procedure. All in all not bad for a border crossing that sees almost no traffic. From here we ride to Hohoe and 20km further to Wli.  Our destination is the Wli (Agumatsa) Falls.  We arrive at around 1pm at the Waterfall Lodge, run by a German couple. Sabine, reminded us of my mom.  Same age, same size, same pony tail and always helpful and cheerful.  Two of her staff were sick and she was run off her feet all day.  Her and her husband had left Germany in 2002/2003 to travel around Africa.  Nine (9) months into the trip they ended up at Wli.  They told each other if they could buy a piece of land within a week they would stay.  It was meant to be and they started slowly building up a guest lodge with a few rooms, restaurant and camping available.  They have a nice view of the upper falls and due to its close proximity to the lower falls the accommodations are very popular.  Completely full (we counted 20 people), we set up camp in a shady spot.  Changing into our swim wear we are off to the waterfalls. The Wildlife office is located adjacent to the Waterfall Lodge. Entrance is 7.00C/person ($7.00CDN/person).  It is about 1/2 hour walk to reach the lower waterfall.  A well used path leads the way through butterfly filled jungle and trees.  The waterfall is spectacular.  Water gushes down from a 75m cliff into a pool below.  We are overheated and like a couple of children jump into the pool of water and venture directly underneath the waterfall.  It had been a while since we enjoyed ourselves this much.  We needed some R&R.  After a couple of hours we returned to the Lodge, to find another overlander in a Land Rover had set up camp.  A Swiss couple on their way south.  We exchanged some information.  It was weird to see tourists again and other overlanders.  We had Spaghetti Bolognese for only 4.50C/each ($4.50CDN/each), followed by a huge bowl of ice cream and fresh fruit.  We could not remember the last time we had ice cream.  It tasted like heaven.  As it was the weekend and no ATM or bank available in this remote place, Sabine was so good and changed a 100 Euro into Cedi.  Camping was only 3.50C/person ($3.50CDN/person).  With camping, drinks and meals we came to 27.00C ($27.00CDN).  Now we are talking.  Finally a country with cheaper accommodations, food and drinks.

May 18, 2008.  Too worn out we did not attempt the hike to the upper falls (a two hour hike straight up) and instead got on the road by 7am.  From Wli we back track to Hohoe and head south-west to Accra.  We pass over a large suspension bridge by Jaupon, which is the only portion of the largest artificial Lake in the World we see.  Lake Volta was created by the construction of a dam.  We have breakfast at a restaurant, ham and cheese omelets with toast and drinks for 6.00C ($6.00CDN/person).  We do not want to enter Accra, the Capital of Ghana and hope for a by-pass route.  What we do require is an ATM machine and some cash.  By luck we end up on the by-pass road and a Barclay Bank en-route.  We are able to use our debit card the first time since Namibia.  Approx. 55km west of Accra, we de-tour to the coast to have a peek at a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  One of the 17 out of once 140 remaining forts and castles.  The road leads us through an orphanage and children are playing with large snakes.  It is the first time for me to touch a Boa snake.  In Cape Coast we head straight for the Oasis Beach Resort.  Sounds glamorous, but it is not.  Instead of pitching a tent we opt for a room in a bungalow without bathroom but with a fan for 16.00C/night ($16.00CDN/night).  The best choice as everyday in the late afternoon a large thunderstorm rolls through with a massive amount of rain.  April and June is the hottest month in Ghana with a constant humidity of 80%.  The fan in the room did little to aid with the heat and humidity.  It was plain and simple too hot to sleep.  No mosquito netting also meant higher risk of getting Malaria.  The mosquito net we carried on us could not be hooked to the ceiling that was too high and we would have suffocated underneath the netting, which seems to block air movement. Instead we covered ourselves with sticky 80% deet and hoped for the best.

May 19, 2008.  At 6am we watch fishermen prepare to launch their boats out to the sea.  At 7am we are on the road to Elmina, 15km west of Cape Coast to visit the famous St. George (or Elmina) Castle (UNESCO World Heritage Site).  We park the motorcycles in the empty parking lot of the Castle and as we have an hour to kill before opening we take the opportunity to walk around the exterior of the castle and watch fishermen return from the sea with their catch.  It is a vibrant and busy area and wonderful to watch.  A tradition that has been repeated every morning for centuries.  It is 8am in the morning and the heat has started already.   Entrance to the Castle is 7.00C/person ($7.00CDN/person), which includes a guide.  We had heard that the guided tour was excellent and were not disappointed.  It took just over an hour.  Without the guide we would have missed several rooms and not to mention a wealth of historical information.  The castle was constructed by the Portuguese in 1482, 10 years before Columbus discovered America and the oldest European castle in the tropical area of the World. Originally the castle was used for trade of Gold.  Cape Coast was also known as the Gold Coast.  Tribe people would trade Gold which would be shipped back to Europe.  In the 1600's the Dutch wanted a piece of the action and fought the Portuguese, who in the end were besieged.  There was more money to be made in the export of slaves then Gold and the Castle was converted and additional fortification was added by the Dutch. In the 1800's the British took over the castle.  It is completely appalling to hear the stories of how the male and female slaves were treated.  The Dungeons and the rooms of no return will make you shiver.  There is a lot of history.  Our guide was amazing in reiterating the past.  I do not think there was one person that was not moved by the tour.  The St. Jaco castle we admired from afar and then rode back to Cape Coast for some lunch.  Our accommodations are a two (2) minute walk from the Cape Coast Castle another UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Entrance is 7.00C/person ($7.00CDN/person), though it includes a guide, we opt to explore on our own.  This castle lacks the historical importance of the St. George Castle in Elmina.  But it has an outstanding museum, well labeled and with lots of information.  We spent almost on hour in the museum and then explore the grounds of the castle.  Exhausted from mostly the heat we head back to the room.  A late afternoon thunderstorm brings a brief relief of cooler air.  In the evening we check out the Castle Beach restaurant, which has excellent cheap food.

May 20, 2008.  On our itinerary for the day is the Kakum National Park, a perfect day trip from Cape Coast. The national park is located approx. 40km north of Cape Coast.  It protects one of the few patches of rain forest left in this part of Africa.  The park gates open at 8am, but the canopy walkway does not start until 9am.  We opt for some breakfast first.  A large tour group arrives and instead of being lumped in with them, we decide to wait for a smaller group.  The 350m canopy walk is 9.00C/person ($9.00CDN/person).  A couple of Canadians and a Swiss guy built the walkway.  It took them five (5) months to complete in 1994.  At its highest point we are 40m above the ground.  It is very unique to be walking this high above the rain forest from one tree to another.  Seven (7) canopy walkways connect to a total length of 350m.  Monkeys were jumping from one tree to another below.  We were a bit sad as this was going to be our last visit to the rain forest and jungle on this trip.  From here on forward we were heading into the desert.  On the return trail we stopped to taste the fruit out of which Cocoa is made.  A guy with a mechadi opened the fruit and the inside has slimy white pieces, very sweet tasting.  The Cocoa seeds inside are dried and then ground into Cocoa powder.  An interesting experience.  We return to the Oasis Beach Resort at noon to only fall asleep on the bed instantly.  It was our first day without a thunderstorm.  At 5:30pm we wandered along the beach, through soccer playing children to the Castle Beach Restaurant.  Locals were drumming and dancing and we got a prime spot overlooking the beach, watching the sun set and wave after wave roll in.  The food and service is excellent. We have a couple of beers to celebrate making it this far.  Earlier in the day we had decided to skip relaxing further down the coast at Turtle Beach.  We had met two (2) separate people who in the last couple of months had gotten Malaria at the Turtle Beach.  There was no refuge from the heat in the tent and sleep was often impossible.  This does not sound like we would get a lot of rest.  We are just not the relaxing type of people.  Instead we will head north to Burkina Faso and onwards to Mali.  It would mean that we could spend more time in places we wanted to visit, like hiking in the Dogan Valley in Mali.  Prior to passing by Accra we had also opted to take a risk and try getting the Burkina Faso Visa at the border.  Applying for a Visa in Accra would take a minimum of two (2) days and a lot of hassle of fighting traffic etc.  The border crossing into Burkino Faso is approx. 800km from Accra, should we be denied entry without a Visa it would mean a long return trip.  The 2007 Version of the Lonely Planet indicated that some travelers have received a Visa at land borders, but it was not guaranteed.  Internet research came up with no additional information.

May 21, 2008.  From Cape Coast we rode north to Kumasi. The road had seen better days, some sections were under construction.  It took us a bit longer then anticipated to reach Kumasi.  We hit Kumasi in the heat of the day and after taking a few wrong turns and asking for directions we made it through the 1.2million occupant city.  The road improved immensely after Techiman and by 3:30pm and 550km later we reached Tamale.  The first hotel we stopped at was $100.00US/night, at the second guesthouse recommended in the Lonely Planet we were told that they were fully booked, but there was no one there.  We almost opted to continue onwards to Bolgatango, when we saw the Bigiza Hotel/Guesthouse for 36.00C/night ($36.00CDN/night) including fan and air conditioning that worked.  We watched the Champions League semi final of Manchester against Barcelona soccer match followed by the final of Manchester against Chelsea in Russia.  For dinner, the Jollof Rice with Chicken and coleslaw was outstanding.  Best chicken on this trip for only 5.00C/meal ($5.00CDN/meal).  At about 8am the electricity disappeared and the generator kicked in.  Unfortunately some time during the night the generator broke. 

May 22, 2008.  Another early start to get some miles under the belt before the scorching heat of the day.  Unique circular mud house complexes dot the landscape on our way north from Tamale to Bolgatango.  We arrive at the border at 9am and complete the Ghana formalities of checking out of the country.  Then we proceed to the Burkina Faso side.  Having no Visa was no issue.  We had to provide two (2) passport pictures and pay 20,000CFA/person ($50.00CDN/person). The nice part was that it was issued on the spot.  We received a seven (7) day Transit Visa.  The carnets were stamped in and we were officially in yet another country.  There was no traffic and the road was deserted.  We are stopped at a Custom check-point and have to show our Carnets.  Similar to Ghana there is a toll fee for using the roads, but motorcycles seem to be exempt, until we had to pay 400CFA ($1.00CDN) at the first toll booth in Burkina Faso. We even got a receipt, because we did not think we should be paying.  This was actually the case, after that we were always waved through.  As we entered the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou, we were only 3km from our waypoint, but were greeted by a detour, which led us down dirt roads through some dodgy neighborhoods.  In the end we located the OK Inn Hotel.  Rooms here start at 60Euro, a bit out of our price range, but camping is free as long we eat at the restaurant.  With the free camping comes the free use of the swimming pool.  Bonus.  We set up the tent and get a taxi for 4000CFA ($10.00CDN) to take us to the Malian Embassy.  We thought we give it a go in the afternoon instead of in the following morning.  For 4000CFA ($10.00CDN) the taxi driver waited the 1/2 hour it took to get the Visa.  Yes, it “ONLY” took us 1/2 hour. Two (2) forms in French to be completed, plus two (2) passport pictures each and 20,000CFA/person and the Visas were issued on the spot by the Malian Consul.  Now we are talking.  How come it can not be like this all the time. En-route to the hotel we stop at the store for some refreshments.  Back at the campsite we actually hit 41Deg Celsius in the shade (confirmed it on MSN weather on the internet).  The only way to cool off is by jumping into the pool.  The prices at the restaurant are not cheap.  A can of diet Coke is 1200CFA ($3.00CDN) and the meals are a bit pricier as well.  But as camping is free, we can spend a bit more on the food, which was quite good.  It actually cooled off to a wonderful 36Deg Celsius during the night.  We used the internet at the hotel (3000CFA or $7.50CDN/hour) to upload Cameroon pictures and journal and around 10:30pm we had to go inside our tent, which felt like an oven.  There was a lot of sweating and not much sleeping.

May 23, 2008.  We were up and out of the tent at 5:30am.  We decided to stay on for another day to catch up on the website.  We realize soon that the internet is brutally slow during the day and delay our upload until later in the evening.  Instead we hang out all day by and in the pool.  Another 40Deg Celsius day.  After a great supper we hit the internet complete the Nigeria, Benin and Togo upload and hope for a cooler night to get some sleep.  Not a chance.

May 24, 2008.  By 7am we are leaving the Capital and head south-west to Bobo-Dioulasso (also known as Bobo).  Early in the morning is the best time to travel and the 360km of straight paved road is a breeze.  Along the way we stop at a couple of villages to take pictures.  The gas stations are unique in the countryside, it seems they paint the TOTAL logo on a sign and then gasoline is provided in glass bottles. (not sure if it is actually TOTAL brand gasoline).  Burkina Faso is the country of bicycles.  Everyone seems to have one.  The roads are deserted of vehicles and mostly used by bicycles.  Morning rush hour in the capital was a sea of bicycles.  Once again we also encounter a lot more animals on the road from pigs, donkeys and goats, which we had not seen since Malawi (eastern side of Africa).  Bobo is the second largest city in Burkina Faso at 360,000people, but feels like a 30,000 people town.  Huge big empty roads, with dirt tracks leading into the side streets.  If it was not for the GPS coordinates for the Zion Hotel there would have been no chance we would have found it.  It is located in a very run down, seemingly poor area, with lots of garbage on the dirt tracks.  But here it was a little oasis in the midst. A French woman owns it.  The five (5) rooms available are simple, but clean.  Showers and toilets are separate.  A room here went for 4000CFA/night ($10.00CDN/night) with fan.  The food is good and they have live music in the evening.  Not lout, but more a quite guitar sound in the background.  In the afternoon we visited the main attraction of Bobo.  The Grand Mosque is located downtown and resembles the Sudanese architecture also called the Sahel-style. Constructed entirely out of mud in 1893 it is in good condition.  The interior of the mosque is off limits for non-Muslims.  Though we were asked if we would like to enter for a fee, but we declined.

May 25, 2008.  Mali here we come.  From Bobo it is straight north to the border and making good time we arrive before 9am.  Customs and immigration on the Burkina Faso side is set apart by a few kilometers.  The formalities are straight forward and within 1/2 hour we enter the Mali side. Border crossings seem to get easier the closer we get to Europe.

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