Burkina Faso

We come riding around a sharp left hand corner at about 70 kilometers an hour into a small village….and there he was..….a very mad looking guy with a shotgun……….and he was only the first of many.

We entered Burkina Faso through on the Mali / Burkina Faso border without much fan fare…although there were five places where we had to go to do more and more paper work on the Burkina Faso side. Their bureaucracy was a bit over the top in the least….but they were all very friendly and professional…..and we got our TIP.

There is one thing that sticks in my mind (other than the bureaucratic paper work) about this border crossing. On the Burkina Faso side we were getting our passports stamped and an older guy was in charge, a policeman. As part of the paper work they want to know your occupation and I told him that I was a doctor. He said he needed medicine for his stomach and that every time he ate anything he got a stomach ache.

Now….I knew what he needed and we had it…..some a liquid pro-biotic that you take orally (in your mouth)… I was standing there vaguely listening to the banter and contemplating my next move…..and my next move might be treading on thin ice. I knew that I could help him, at least in the short term. But I also know what this pro-bi tastes like…and it is just about as bad as you can imagine. I did not want to make him mad when I gave him a big dose of it, and then not get our passports back. And I didn’t think I could stall him long enough to get our passports back first. But………No guts, no blue chips.

I went to my bike and got a small bottle that I keep close at hand. When I got back I made him understand---through one of his underlings who spoke a little English-- that it tasted real bad and that he needed some water to chase it with.

Someone brought him a bottle of water and I had him set down in a chair and tilt his head back. I squirted a liberal dose in his mouth and stepped back. He made some awful faces and stood up. In a few minutes he told me that his stomach felt better and he seemed a bit surprised by the whole thing. What surprised us even more is that he wanted the rest of the bottle…. but it was the last small bottle that we had so I told him no. Without this squirt bottle we could not measure out doses of the liquid.

His underling started laughing and told us that he drinks a lot of beer and that was the cause of his stomach problems. Of course the guy denied drinking….. and then said it was good for him anyway. We got our passports back, everyone had a few good laughs………and off we rode.

As we wild camped our way across the country, a lot of Burkina Faso looks just like the last 100 kilometers….and the next 100.

The people are friendly, for the most part. We have never seen so many small villages and so many speed bumps~!!!!! Seemingly billions of speed bumps that are up to 18 inches high. …and they really work. Your forward progress is slowed down dramatically.

And the police check points~!!!! We counted them at one about every 10 kilometers. I didn’t think we were ever going to get through that country.

Lana found us a campground on the iOverlander app. It was located about 10 or 15 kilometers down a narrow dirt trail in a National Park. There were supposed to be elephants that watered every evening in the river and you could watch them from the observation deck at the restaurant. And the fee was very inexpensive, far less expensive than most campgrounds we had found….and they had a restaurant. Sounds like a pretty cool place huh?

When we got there the place looked abandoned…because it nearly was. It had suffered major damage in a flood the year before and they were a LONG ways from being fully operational again. We pitched our tent and fortunately we had enough food with is for a couple of days because the restaurant was a no go deal.

The observation deck out over the river was in very poor repair due to a lot of neglect and the flood. Unless one wanted to go for a swim in the river below, you did not venture out on to it. There was one working toilet and no shower. So we filled up our solar shower and got clean that way. So all and all it was a good place to camp….and with a flush toilet!!!! We could get spoiled here~!!!

We did not see any elephants….but they woke us up a few times in the night with their trumpeting and splashing in the water. They were too far up river to be able to see them. But it was pretty cool to hear them~!!

Four Park Rangers---the guys that hunt elephant poachers--- stopped and visited with us for an hour or more. They spoke good enough English that it was fairly easy to carry on a good lively conversation with them. They were nice guys…packing AK-47’s and hunting bad guys.

One of the day time “boss” men of the campground, who was a Muslim, had a very pronounced lump on his left jaw….about half the size of a softball. However it did not seems to hurt him.

The other day “boss” (who told us he was a Christian) left on his scooter one evening telling us that he would send others to take his place for the night.

It was very nice to be there alone for the next several hours.

Two young teenagers showed just at dark on their bicycles and they were there for the night. The next morning Lana and I were eating breakfast (the last of the food we had with us) and it was obvious the two boys had not had anything to eat. I took my rice over and gave it to them….they were very happy to have something to eat, and cleaned up every grain of it. We were leaving soon and we would be in the village in a few hours so I could eat then.

As we were about finished packing up to leave, I asked the two boys if we could pray for them, (we had already established that they were both Christians). They were very eager for us to pray for them, and we laid hands on them and prayed as the Holy Spirit led us.

Meanwhile the Muslim guy with the lump on his jaw was standing right there taking it all in. When we finished praying for the two boys, I felt led to ask him if we could pray for him ….and he said yes~!!! So we laid hands on him and Lana and I prayed for him as the Holy Spirit led us. In the end he was very grateful….although I don’t think he could understand what we were praying….at least not in English~!!! It is hard to say what the Holy Spirit caused him to understand…….but just as sure as I am setting here typing this to you on my lap top….the Holy Spirit DID cause him to understand something, because he walked away a different man. You could see it in the way he walked, the way he carried himself, and the look on his face. And his eyes were a bit moist. Something had changed deep inside of him and in a very profound way~!!! Praise be to GOD~!!!

We rode out of the campground on the 10-15 kilometer trail back to the village….arriving more than a little hungry.

Lana saw a young man with a cross on his necklace and she asked him if he was a Christian to which he replied and enthusiastic yes. The she asked him where there was a good place to eat. He points across the street. We ride our bikes to the “café” so we can park where we can keep an eye on them. We went inside this open air place…no doors or windows. We waited and waited and then it dawned on us the Muslim man running the show was refusing to wait on us~!!!! I asked him to serve us what everyone else was eating….goat and rice. He shook his head no~!! Finally a young man that was eating there asked the owner to wait on us and he still refused to do so. This fine young man asked us to step outside with him. VERY apologetically he told us where we could go find something to eat. He was very embarrassed that this jerk would not wait on us.

So we decided to go fill the gas tanks up on our bikes and find a friendlier place down the road……..even though I was very hungry as I had given my breakfast away. While we were at the gas station a young women came by carrying fried bread in a big bowl on top of her head. We bought some and it was unbelievable delicious~!!!! Thank you GOD……….. and down the road we went.

One other interesting thing happened while we were in Burkina Faso………

We pulled to the side of the road (as we do every 100 kilometers or every hour or so) to take on some food and some more water and stretch our legs a bit. Across the road and 100 yards further on was a cab over semi truck broke down. There was a guy lying on a blanket under a tree in the ditch and it looked like the trucks transmission was lying on the ground in front of his truck.

I walked over there with some crackers to give this man….and sure enough it was the transmission laying there. Now I have taken a few 13 Speed Fuller Road Ranger transmissions out of semi trucks using a transmission jack that is made for that job….and it is no fun at all, if memory serves me, they weigh about 1,500 pounds~!!! In fact it is a fairly difficult job.

I do not know what kind of transmission it was (it was not a Fuller) but it was every bit as big. Laying there on the ground were less tools than I carry on my bike….and no transmission jack. I was stunned that he was able to get that transmission out of his truck and had somehow dragged it out from under the truck to the front.

Notice the lack of tools he had to work with

About this time he is reluctantly getting off of his blanket and coming my way…. and I hand him the crackers….that is when I notice that his right thumb is wrapped in a very dirty and bloody rag. I managed to get it across to him that I was a doctor and asked him to come back to my bike. When I got there I told Lana to get ready we were going to help this guy out.

The first step was to clean it. Out came the exam gloves, a bottle of dish soap, Trace Minerals, drinking water, 2 x 2 gauze pads and a roll of tape.

I gloved up and carefully un-wrapped his thumb…..while he stood there like a rock. His thumb was crushed starting at the base of his thumb nail and clear out to the end of his thumb. There was simply no question that the bone was also crushed under the thumb nail. The whole thing was full of black gooey grease, transmission fluid, sand, dirt, and an entire host of things I could not recognize.

Before we got started I asked him if he was a Muslim to which he replied yes and I told him that we were Christians. It didn’t seem to faze him…..but he was in a tremendous amount of pain.

I asked him to set down and he didn’t want to. So with Lana’s assistance, I started scrubbing his badly crushed thumb with clean drinking water, dish soap and gauze pads. By the time it was clean he decided that he had to set down and he looked like he was about to vomit. The surprising thing is that he was able to take it as long as he did. This guy was as tough as an iron football (as my good friend Ben is fond of saying).

I helped him set on the ground next to the highway and we went back to work on him…..This was not the time to stop even though he was now in excruciating pain. As my Grandpa used to say…. “Never say whoa in the middle of a mud hole”.

Of course through all of this I was monitoring him very closely to make sure that he was not going into an irreversible shock.

I gently squeezed Trace Minerals into the entire open wound and at the same time gently as possible put the bone fragments back in some semblance of order. I then put all the pieces of flesh back where they belonged and covered it all with a non-stick gauze. Next came several layers of 2” x 2” gauze soaked in more Trace Minerals and then I taped it up. All the while this guy hardly made a face. I then gave him a big dose of Trace Minerals orally to kill off any infection, and made him drink a bunch of water. He set there for about 10+ more minutes and said he was ready to get up. I helped him up and he was steady on his feet. He was not as pale as he had been before I started working on him and he said he was much better now.

During all of this some other people had stopped by to watch the proceedings with great interest.

He went back to his truck and we rode off down the road saying a prayer for his full recovery…and his soul….he was a Muslim.

There is no question that in the very least we saved his thumb from a serious infection that could have easily turned into blood poisoning. He will be very sore for a few weeks but he will make a nice recovery.

Remember the first paragraph? Read it again

Bending over directly behind him was another guy with a short handled pick ax digging a hole in the ground. My first thought was… “Is this guy planting a land mine?” (That is just how my brain works.)

We came out of the corner into a village full of uniformed men all carrying single shot shotguns and some other long guns, all running helter skelter back and forth on foot and on motor scooters. A few guys were loudly shouting orders at everyone else….loud enough we could hear them through our helmets. I told Lana in our SENA Comms unit to roll the throttle on hard, that we had to get out of here right now……and that it looked like there was some kind of a militia uprising.

Things had obviously already gone way south and it looked like it was about to get a whole lot worse. We had to get out of there before we caught a bullet.

A guy that seemed to be in charge was frantically waving us on through the village…thankfully the same direction that we were taking to the Togo border crossing. By the time we saw this guy we had already pegged the throttles and were picking up gears. I was about to back off my throttle and send Lana to the front to get away from the BG approaching from our rear. About that moment I see all of these scooters ahead of us going the same direction as we were and everyone had at least one long gun on board.

CRAP. It looked like they were headed down the road (the same direction as we were going) to meet their opposition head on…

When we passed through the village they were also riding in the opposite direction….. as if they were going to meet their opposition from the direction we had come from also. Were they surrounded? If they were……then so were we.

Not knowing for sure which way the bad guys were coming from…or maybe from both directions, I decided to keep going towards the Togo border as fast as we could and maybe if we met the BG head on we could blow through them at high speed. That was the only chance we had…..and it really didn’t seem like all that good of one.

The Togo border appeared to be calm as we rolled up…and it was a very welcome sight to see. We never saw any BG so we still do not know what was going on.

We crossed from Burkina Faso into Togo very easily….and no TIP is required!

Below are a few more random photos we thought that you would enjoy.

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Hay baled by hand ready to be shipped

A typical passenger / freight van


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