Monday, 16 April 2012

12th - Burkina Faso

As predicted one of the trucks wouldn't start. This theme was becoming so familiar that we simply accepted it and went about trying to find a mechanic. Miraculously this time one was able to find a Nissan component to replace the clutch cylinder. Therefore our confidence in that truck began to grow a little.

By noon we had arrived at the infamous Bamako. It was in some ways, quite an attractive city. The irony here was that my navigation let us down a little (I could be defensive here and report that this was rare!). We had to do a U-turn in the entrance to a military compound. It wasn't until next day that Nick explained this was where the coup had started on 21st March and where, until very recently, they had held some politicians as prisoners. The term "staring into the lion's mouth" is conjoured in my mind.

Keen to make it to Ouagadougou (Ouaga) by night fall we pushed on, passing border controls between Mali and Burkina Faso with relative ease, or was it simply because we were becoming familiar with the complex bureaucratic processes?

By 5pm, Bob was concerned about pushing on too much because the road conditions were not brilliant. Personally I just wanted to get to Ouaga becuase I had a flight booked for home the next evening and I simply didn't want to risk either truck not starting. Therefore we pushed on but it was as though an invisible force was teasing us with our naive plans by presenting us with torrential rain, impressive lightening and deviations so off piste, at one stage I thought we had got lost in some woodland.

During this last lap I looked at the landscape and people we passed. The children walking home from school with their smart uniforms, the less fortunate ones walking around with tins slung over their shoulder asking for food from passers by, women cycling long distances with high stacks of wood on their crossbars or walking elegantly along the side of the road balancing a bowl heavy with fruit.

I saw the subtle order of the villages as we flew past, with evening activity begin to form round campfires. I smelt the wood smoke cooking their meals in oil. The sun was setting over the increasingly lush vegetation whose colours contrasted with the red oche of the soil. I had tears of happiness, relief and sadness rolling down my face. The majority of people we came across over the last 3 weeks were the most warm, inviting and helpful individuals we could ever hope to have met, yet we had hesitated because of the areas of conflict somewhere else. It was so sad because I felt these people were dammed despite themselves.

10pm and we finally made it to Ouaga. My journey, at least, was over. We had made it.

It took me quite a while for this significance to sink in since the last week in particular had been more taxing than any of us had anticipated. Even now as I finish this blog from the UK I can't quite believe it all happened.

I am so grateful to all my family, friends and colleagues for their undying support throughout this trip and I am particularly grateful to Nick, Bob and Ben who have been wonderful to work with during the last 3 weeks.

It has truely been a memorable experience and hopefully will help to save lives of deserving people.

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