This is an authorized translation in English of a post in French by @terresco: Rencontres avec l'Afrique - Le pays de l'homme intégre
As my primary language is not English, there are probably some mistakes in my translation.
Remember that the person who speaks here is NOT me, Vincent Celier (@vcelier), but @terresco, a French guy.
To the north was Burkina Faso, the former Upper Volta, whose capital bears the sweet name of Ouagadougou. A poor and landlocked country, with one of the 10 lowest Human Development Index of the planet still in 2015. However it is a country where we like to go for its particularly nice people.
But the story begins in Ivory Coast because we chose to go to Burkina not by road, as usual, but by train. There is an old train, chaotic and full of charm that leaves from Abidjan to reach Ouagadougou and even a little further away it seems to me. The journey time is quite imprecise: they say it takes 24 hours, but it is never the case.
The slow movement and the layout of the single lane make it possible to appreciate a landscape slowly passing from the tropical forest to the Sahel. The most interesting thing happens inside the cars, a mix of people that chance gives you.
If you like comfort, this is not ideal, but if you want to live a great human adventure, it is the ideal. Indeed the trip is a small adventure in itself. You know when you leave but not when you arrive or even if you will arrive at the intended destination. You prepare ourselves at best without escaping surprises.
"It's no longer adventure like the time of the first locomotives," shouts an employee as I wait for the arrival of the train. A long time ago, there were steam locomotives. That was the adventure, the passengers sometimes had to get off the train to climb some slopes, it was necessary to load the boiler to the maximum and to charge, and it often took several attempts. The savanna was also regularly put on fire, and the train cars that were made of wood should be watered to protect them from the flaming twigs thrown by the locomotive. He seems to regret these good old days, he would have fantastic memories to confide in me. Unfortunately his responsibilities call him and it is with great whistle blows that he leaves me suddenly.
Good surprise at first, there are few people. I was described a crowded train and we are relatively comfortable. Some whistles later we depart. The stops follow one after another embarking some passengers that I suspect illegal. Each stop is a commercial opportunity, through the windows the two mamas of our compartment bring all kinds of products: pineapple, bananas, chickens and other more mysterious things. I became a babysitter during the trading operations, without choosing it, I was thrown a baby in my arms, thanking me. An hour later we cannot move! We start to realize that 24h, it will be long!
Past the suburbs of Abidjan, a lush forest landscape accompanies us. The heat is untenable in our congested space. The air conditioning has worked only for a little while; it is unimportant, odors of shipped goods, including our abundant perspiration, require to leave the windows open. Apart from three or four chickens whose fate is uncertain, other living beings seem happy to be traveling.
At our small pace, from commercial stops to mysterious stops, we go to Burkina. Often we get off the train to take a few steps, buy food or drink, go to other urgent needs, more pleasant to satisfy in the bush than in the toilets. Do not worry when the train leaves you can follow it by walking and boarding it easily. The forest gradually becomes savanna.
Fortunately the conversations are exciting; in addition to the two mamas that without giving the appearance run a flourishing trade, we have a farmer, the descendant of a local king, a half sorcerer healer and a singer . One could write a book about the lives of these people; even if the story version oscillates between fiction and reality, it only makes them more endearing.
It is already dark when we arrive at the border. No more half-sleep that was hard to get. Police, customs, on the train, off the train, papers, luggage check. The great game of a border all the more serious since it exists only after the war.
Burkina Faso means, in a mixture of local languages: The country of the upright man. That could make me smile in this African sub-region of the 90s. Yet while I was waiting to do the formalities, I heard a singular dialogue between a lady and a policeman. The first explained that it was necessary to pay 100 CFA francs for a mandatory form. The lady replied that she only had 50 CFA, a classic trading method. The negotiation should have followed to end at 75 or 80. I listened for the next one in the queue. The answer was immediate, without brutality but without discussion: "Madam, I do not have a form at 50, only the one at 100". Welcome to the country of honest men.
Although they were honest, the formalities were no less long. It was several hours later that we started to drive in Burkina. The first city we met is called Bobo-Dioulasso. Just for the name, we could not avoid a stop. We left the train and our traveling companions regretfully: we were part of the trip. I do not know how much time he will have put this time but probably closer to 36 hours than 24 hours. Almost 35 km/h average, it seems that it was not so bad.
Bobo-Dioulasso, Bobo for the intimate, is a very nice little town. The surrounding countryside is rather pleasant for this latitude where the Sahel will soon begin to claim its rights. The nights are intense; during the days we will stroll in the surrounding hills and swim in a beautiful waterfall. We must soon leave because our goal is Ouagadougou and its famous festival of African cinema.
A bush taxi will take us through one of the only tarmac roads in the country to the festive capital. The trip, long enough of course, will allow us, thanks to travel companions very versed on the culture and history of their country, to learn more.
The train was a tiring experience, as often the public transport of the region, but really a beautiful memory, a small slice of life. To be done again …
01: Encounters with Africa: Ivory Coast, by @terresco
02: Encounters with Africa: Abidjan, a daily pleasure, by @terresco
03: Encounters with Africa: The Tuaregs of Agadez, by @terresco
04: Encounters with Africa: The Tuaregs of Agadez, part 2, by @terresco
05: Encounters with Africa: On the way to the Dogon country, by @terresco
06: Encounters with Africa: Among the Dogon of Bandiagara, by @terresco
07: Encounters with Africa: The Gold Coast, by @terresco
08: Encounters with Africa: Where was born a desire to go elsewhere, by @terresco
09: Encounters with Africa: The time of failures, by @terresco
10: Encounters with Africa: The Promised Land, by @terresco
From Cape Town to Mombasa series:
01: Africa, the long crossing
02: From Cape Town to Mombasa: South Africa
03: From Cape Town to Mombasa: Namibia
04: From Cape Town to Mombasa: Botswana
05: From Cape Town to Mombasa: Zimbabwe
06: From Cape Town to Mombasa: Zimbabwe, part 2, by @terresco
07: From Cape Town to Mombasa: Zimbabwe, part 3, by @terresco
08: From Cape Town to Mombasa: Zambia, by @terresco
09: From Cape Town to Mombasa: Malawi, by @terresco
10: From Cape Town to Mombasa: Tanzania #1, by @terresco
11: From Cape Town to Mombasa: Tanzania #2, by @terresco
12: From Cape Town to Mombasa: Tanzania #3, by @terresco
13: From Cape Town to Mombasa: Tanzania #4, by @terresco
14: From Cape Town to Mombasa: Kenya, by @terresco