. OnHiatus.com > Journal 1 > Day Index > Journal Entry: November 16, 1998

Monday, November 16, 1998
Ouagadougou to Kantchari, Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso's Flag

Kantchari, Burkina Faso:
Latitude: 12° 29' 18" North
Longitude: 1° 30' 59" East
Altitude: 823 feet
From Seattle: 7848 miles
Lodging: Hotel - Roach Motel (No name)

Today's Travel:
Country: Burkina Faso
Region: Burkina
Route: Mini-Bus: Ouagadougou - Kantchari - Frontier; Truck: Frontier - Kantchari
Start: Ouagadougou
Stop 1. Niger Frontier Post, Niger
End:Kantchari, Burkina Faso
Linear:244 miles
Weather: Sunny

Click on map to Zoom in...
Trip Stats to Date:
Day: 585
Linear Dist: 128909
Countries Visited: 40
Regions Visited: 166
More stats...
Hotels: 180
Friends / Family: 155
Camping: 45
Hostels: 144
Transit: 54
Other Lodging: 6
Beers: 2018

Journal Entry:
An incredibly frustrating day. Got up at 4:30, packed and out the door by five, but the night man is nowhere to be found so we can't phone for a taxi. Long walk into town without finding a taxi. At 6:05 (our bus is supposed to leave at 6:00) Andrea realizes were a little lost (we're in the right area, just can't find the depot) so we take a taxi over one and back a couple blocks. Fortunately, or unfortunately, our six o'clock bus wasn't like the other busses we've ridden in Burkina (on time with empty seats in necessary), but was rather like most public transport - it will leave when there is no way another person can be crammed on. So we sit there until 9:30 and we're off. The driver is obviously making a little extra by picking up and dropping off local rides as well, so it take us more than six hours to drive three hours worth. In Fada n'Gourama half our our van gets put on another van while the original van heads in a different direction. Then we get dropped of in Kantchari (20 km from the border).

Obviously we're not happy since we paid 8,000 CFA for a ride to Niamey and Kantchari is about 150 km short of there. After lot's of arguing our driver hires a Pugeot 504 to take eight of us to Niamey. I'm not happy with this since we paid for a mini-bus (almost twice as much as a Pugeot). Luckily four of our fellow passengers are from Ghana and speak English and Hausa which the locals here also speak. The Pugeot driver gets annoyed and leaves so our driver hires us a pickup truck. So now we're supposed to ride with our luggage at night the 150 km road Niamey in the back of a pickup truck. While we're discussing this among ourselves our driver tries to drive away, but we block the van and he gets out to talk some more. I'm pretty annoyed with the entire situation so when the driver gets out I take his keys - if we're not going anywhere neither is he.

The driver is amused by this - initially, but starts to get angry when he realizes I'm serious. I tell them I want to talk to a police officer since we're in effect being robbed. The driver keeps saying "No Police, it's fini".

By this time we've got a pretty large group of spectators, most of who are yelling at me. To make matters worse our Ghanaian allies have given in and are going to take the pickup. Andrea and I head for the customs checkpoint a 100m down the road, but I get slowed down by the driver and his assistant who keep grabbing my pack. In the middle of all this turmoil a little old man in full local Muslim dress comes barging into the middle and yells at everyone. Much to my surprise the guy speaks some English although it's full of "be cool, man" and other slang (this guy looks over 80!) The old guy is very reasonable and suggests that each part go to the police and tell their story - just what I've been proposing. Somewhere along the way this huge man (fat, tall, and just big) has allied himself with the driver and has been screaming his head off at me in French and (I assume) Hausa. He is yells back at the man and storms off to the customs station with the crowd cheering him on. I've realized that I probably can't win, but there is no way I'm giving up the keys without getting what we deserve, or at least being told to by a police officer. Meanwhile at the customs station Andrea has been explaining the situation to the chief so when we all get there he wants to see our tickets, has some words with the big man and the driver and we get a mini bus! The guard asks me if that's ok, and when I say that it is he asks me to give the keys back to the driver (I give them to him, and he gives them to the driver) and in about 20 minutes we're on our way again - in reasonable comfort even.

We quickly pass through the Burkina border checkpoint (getting our exit stamps) and we're in Niger. About an hour later get to the border checkpoint. We don't have visas and explain to the guard that we've just come from Burkina and before that Mali, neither of which have a Niger embassy. We get bumped a couple times until we're talking to the head man (or the highest one who's there at this time at night - 9 P.M.). We re-explain for the third time and he asks why we didn't get a visa at a French embassy so we explain that we tried but they won't issue them for Niger. This goes on for some hours and I think he decides that I can speak French but I'm refusing to to make things difficult and sends our translator out. Now I can only get one or two words in each sentence so we can't communicate. Eventually our vehicle leaves without us and we're told that they're going to send us back to Burkina. At his point nobody will even look at us (I think most of the guards are embarrassed by this). We spend an hour or so sitting on our packs wondering where we were expected to spend the night.

Before I new driver left us he told us no to let them send us back to Kantchari as the people are bad and we'll almost certainly get robbed (all in very broken English), he also returned part of our fare to us (maybe he'd heard how tough we were with the other driver, maybe he was just a nice guy). So we beg permission to sleep outside the border control post but we're told absolutely not, we can't be on Niger property. Our passports are handed over to one of the guards and he's apparently told we're not to get them back until we're in Burkina. He finds a trucker that's willing to carry us in the back and goes to give our passports to the driver with instruction to give them to the Burkina border police. I absolutely refuse and tell him that he is only going to give the passports to an official or us, not just any truck driver and to call the US Embassy if he has a problem with that. While we're actively discussing this (not quite yelling) the truck driver gets impatient and leaves. Now the guard is really angry and Andrea is on the edge of loosing it and is storming around cussing to herself, but all the guard can understand is "... blah, blah, F*cking, blah, blah, F*ck..." which just pisses him off even further (he's assuming she's cussing at him). Now he's threatening to take us to jail, Andrea is getting more and more pissed off and I'm just trying to get my passport back. I get Andrea to cool down (or at least keep quiet), and talk with the guard and he agrees to give us back the passports when we get on a vehicle headed for Kantchari. He finds another trucker to give us a ride, we get our passports and we're heading back to Burkina.

An hour later we get to the Burkina Faso border check again, an of course, there's a problem. We only have single entry visas and we're trying to enter a second time. They're really polite and nice about it, but they don't know what to do either. I was starting to have visions of an endless purgatory of shuttling back and forth between the borders. Luckily we just had to wait for the chief to be fetched and he took about two minutes, and he annulled our exit stamp (so we never left Burkina). He also found us a lift the last couple kilometers to Kantchari (our truck driver left us when we had to wait).

Of course now we're back in Kantchari, a town we've been repeatedly warned about and that we alienated a mere few hours ago. We get mobbed by the same faces, people wanting to take us to a hotel, people wanting to sell us a ticket for the bus to Ouaga (one person saying it leaves tomorrow at noon, another saying it's leaving "tout suite") - basically we don't trust any of them. While we were waiting and hoping for a ride I saw the most amazing shooting stars. Bright orange heads streaming neon green lines that seemingly etched the sky for an impossibly long time. We hang out at the bus station until we're sure there's no chance of getting out of town tonight and then find someone who has no interest in us and ask directions to the hotel. The hotel is a cinder block building with a corrugated tin roof and door. There is no electricity or water (well, we got two buckets) and the roaches (biggest yet) didn't even bother to hide when we came in. On the other hand it cost less than US $3. Needless to say I'll be sleeping in my clothes...

So several days wasted and I don't get to see Niger. Almost 12 hours in a van today (and who knows how long tomorrow) and I don't get to go to Niger. Now I'm trying to look on the bright side of things. I got to see a huge section of Burkina Faso that I wouldn't have seen with out the attempt. I discovered an amazing new street food (the best way I can describe it is beef jerky covered with spicy peanut butter and it looks like dried vomit - and it's good) although I don't know what it's called. I got to see the shooting stars and technically we got to visit Niger... well I've got an entry and exit stamp in my passport. Oh and neither of us got arrested (for stealing a car - kind of) or caused an international incident (for trying to sneak into Niger).

Related Sites:
US State Department ConsularInformation Sheets: Burkina Faso
CIA World Fact Book: Burkina Faso

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