Burkina Faso

FlagGetting to Burkina Faso

I’ve arrived and according to the locals I couldn’t have chosen a better time of the year to be here. November is the dry season but still hot – by my standards anyway, 370C today!

I’ve had all the jabs imaginable on top of my Covid booster: Hep A & B, polio, MMR, rabies, typhoid, diphtheria, meningitis, cholera, yellow fever, hay fever and Saturday Night Fever.

Burkina Faso map

Obtaining a visa was tricky. No Burkinabe embassy in UK so I had to apply to their embassy in Brussels.

The money is something I’ve never come across before. It is the West African CFA Franc, a shared currency between eight West African countries and the value pegged to the Euro. In 2019, it was announced that the West African CFA franc would be reformed, which will include renaming it the Eco and reducing France’s role in the currency.

Ouagadougou AirportI couldn’t find a direct flight from home so it was a case of travelling Air France via Paris. I arrived in the capital Ouagadougou and made a great discovery, the airport, the Thomas Sankara Airport (more of him another time) is in the city and I could walk to my hotel – never had that before on my travels. With it being the dry season the air is thick with an orange dust.

I thought I’d treat myself to a bit of luxury at the beginning of the trip – after all its not real money is it. I chose the Bravia Hotel – solely because I love the way they fold the towels.

Bravia Hotel

Burkina Faso Travel

A well written travel blog can take you to your destination and you can almost imagine you are there. This blog by Joan and Lou Rose does just that. It dates back to 2005 when they toured Africa. With Joan suffering from heat exhaustion, Lou takes off alone on a 48 hour round trip to Gorom Gorom in the north-east, somewhere people are advised not to travel today because of the terrorism threat. Rather Lou than me!

Burkina Faso Food

Peanut StewMargaret kindly served up our first taste of Burkinabe food last night. We found this enthusiastic lady, Estelle, on YouTube and her peanut butter recipe.

A visit to a local African food shop on Clifton Street and Sainsbury’s was called for to assemble the ingredients. That’s a chilli in the pot by the way, not one of Margaret’s fingers.

It was very tasty indeed. Quite heavy – you wouldn’t want to go for a five mile run straight afterwards. Already looking forward to having it again sometime.

Another night we tried Riz Gras, the national dish of Burkina Faso apparently. And very tasty it was too! Thank you again Margaret.

I had a go at making Ragout d’Igname (Yam Stew) and Burkinabé Tô. It was supposed to turn out like the picture on the left and take about five minutes to prepare. It didn’t. Note the lack of Burkinabé Tô in my picture. Millet flour took about 2 hrs to track down in the shops. My mix was grey and runny – not possible to form into balls (we are convinced the proportions in the recipe were wrong). The Yam Stew was a lot better though not as picturesque as in the recipe – and about three hours longer in preparation.


Went out to dinner one nigh to get a taste of West African food. Visited Afrikana on City Road. I had the I had the ‘What Cheese Said’ – butterfly chicken breast loaded with melted cheese. Served with jollof rice, kachumbari and plantain. Margaret had the ‘Fried Chicken is Life’ – crispy deep-fried chicken breast tossed in a jerk sauce, served with rice and peas and plantain. The restaurant was busy and vibrant and cosmopolitan as only City Road can be – very nice.

Burkina Faso Literature

American Spy – a good read – very much enjoyed it. Not by a Burkinabe author the book certainly provided a good insight into the country and its history. Inspired by true events when Thomas Sankara, a popular Marxist revolutionary led Burkina Faso from 1983 to his deposition and murder in 1987. A fine first book by Lauren Wilkinson. A couple of copies in Cardiff Libraries.

The only English language book I could find by a Burkinabe author was The Parachute Drop by Norbert Zongo. It is about a fictional African country with a despotic leader who comes unstuck. I’ll let you guess which country was actually being written about and which leader. Zongo was an newspaper editor and was assassinated after this book was written.

Burkina Faso books

Burkina Faso Sport

So you join me today on my way not to Burkina Faso, but on a mad-dash trip to Algeria. For the sporting part of the challenge I am going to watch Burkina Faso play their last match in the World Cup Qualifiers against Algeria later today.

I was up way before dawn to make my egg and sardine sandwiches before setting off for London Gatrow. My Air Algerie flight leaves shortly from Terminal 3¾. I’ll just have enough time in the air to finish brushing up on the National Anthem, team news and some key phrases like “Offside Referee!”

After a mad dash out of the airport and into a taxi I have made it to the Stade Mustapha Tucker stadium at Blida, some 35km from Algiers. An expensive ride, but only in the imagination. There’s 14,000 supporters here, mainly Algerian naturally, all vaccinated with stringent health protocols will be in place. I was expecting fine weather but it is 160C and raining. Where’s my mac when I need it.

Algeria versus Burkina Faso

The team is nicknamed Les Etalons, which means “The Stallions”. It is in reference to the legendary horse of Princess Yennenga. The Burkinabe supporters have a percussion band with them making a heck of a din and mimicking the sounds of galloping horses.

I’m in the Burkinabe section and hoping for a miracle – a 13-0 win that will take us through to the next round of the World Cup qualifiers to be played next Spring. The African nations have just five places allocated to them in the Qatar World Cup due to be played at the end of next year. Here’s hoping for a Burkina Faso vs. Wales final.

The team news isn’t great. Bertrand Traoré, our star striker who plays for Aston Villa, is out injured.

The teams have just come onto the pitch. Now’s the time to sing the Burkina anthem with all my might – I’ve got the words written on the back of my hand. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Half time in a tense first half and it is one a piece. The Man City winger Riyad Mahrez put Algeria ahead after 21 minutes and Burkina Faso came back with a goal from Zakaria Sanogo who plays his football in Yerevan, Armenia.

I treated myself to a Mhajeb at halftime which is Algerian flatbread with tomato and onion stuffing. Yum yum.

An equally dramatic second half ensued with Sofiane Feghouli taking the lead again for Algeria after 69 minutes before Issoufou Dayo who plays for RS Berkane, Morocco, equalized again in the 84th minute. And so it wasn’t to be the 13-0 win I was hoping for but tense never the less. I’m off to share a strong mint tea with my new Burkinabe friends before heading home.

Postscript: Apparently they didn’t have to win by 13 clear goals, they just had to win.  Just goes to prove that my understanding of football can be somewhat lacking at times.

Burkina Faso Music

One of the pleasurable discoveries of this virtual challenge to date has been Burkinabe music. Something that would have been difficult to access a number of years ago is now easily discovered via Spotify playlists. Here’s my favourite Burkinabe playlist.  I also dipped into Volta Jazz and even some Smockey plus some traditional instrumental music too.

Burkina Faso Geocaching

Spoiler photoThe hobby of geocaching involves using a GPS or Smartphone to find a container someone has hidden. Some of the geocaches are puzzle meaning that a puzzle has to be solved first to get the coordinates of where the geocache is hidden. My idea for this ‘virtual’ tour of the world is to try and solve a puzzle cache in each country. I naturally won’t be able to log the geocache as a ‘find’ but it should still be fun. There are only 6 geocaches in Burkina Faso, 5 traditional and one puzzle cache so my choice was limited to one: Le Centre Noomdo.  It is an interesting cache and that has only been found once since it was hidden in 2017. I had soon solved and added to my ‘to find list’!  Just better to remember to take the photo with me when I go.

Burkina Faso Charity

I came across this charity when doing my virtual geocahe – see above. Le Soleil dans la Main (the Sun in the Hand) is a Luxembourg based charity providing education in Burkino Faso.

Le Soleil dans la Main

Burkina Faso Clock

Years ago I used to make clocks in the shape of different countries.  Shapes like Wales and Ireland were particularly popular.  I even sold them in local craft shops.  I thought for this challenge I would try and get back into making them. So after restocking some of the materials and bits necessary I sat down at the saw and manged to craft a Burkina Faso clock. It’s been fun getting back into doing some scroll saw work. I have a notion of trying to meet someone from Burkina Faso here in Cardiff, in a public place like outside the castle, shaking hands (or more like knocking elbows these days) and gifting them a clock.  So serious question, does anyone know anyone in Cardiff from Burkina Faso?

Burkina Faso clock

Burkina Faso Train journey

Our choice of where to go by train in Burkina Faso was rather limited – there is only one track. It runs 622km from Kaya, north east of the capital to the border with Côte d’Ivoire. The train used to run all the way to the Ivory Coast coast but because of the worry over Ebola the border has been closed. We picked the train up at the capital Ouagadougou. Again our choice was somewhat limited, there are just three trains a week, so you don’t want to turn up on the wrong day.

I say ‘we’, I was travelling in my imagination with my friend Ian, train enthusiast, and great organiser – there was no chance of me getting lost here. It was a bit of a surprise for him – in fact he’s only just found out.

All aboard at Ouagadougou station

They got some new trains in 2019. When I say new, I mean second-hand from Switzerland, so they know they can keep good time. We were worried we hadn’t bought enough sandwiches so looked out of the window to find there was plenty of people wanting to sell us snacks for the journey.

We were going as far as Banfora, not too far from the Ivory Coast border. I hadn’t told Ian why – I’ll break it to him gently. Our train journey would take around 24 hours. It would have been faster by bus but where’s the fun in that. There was just enough time to have a quick wander around some places en-route. We stopped off at Bingo and in the 30 minutes we were walking around saw two fat ladies, Danny La Rue, two little ducks and a garden gate. The station building at Bobo Dioulasso was something else. Bobo is Burkina Faso’s second city and one famous for its music. They were playing Volta Jazz tracks at full blast.

BoBo train station

Back on board and onto our final destination at Banfora. The station here looked much more what I was used to. And so I broke the news to Ian that we were here to climb to the highest point in Burkina Faso.

(above ideas cam from and Journey blog from 2015 by Robbie Corey-Boulet and a 2019 blog from The Barefoot Backpacker🙂

Burkina Faso Highest Point

According to Wikipedia, Mount Tenakourou is Burkina Faso’s high point at 747 meters or 2,451 feet. One of the attractions is that the summit offers a view over three countries: Burkina Faso, Mali at a distance of 3 kilometres (2 mi) and Ivory Coast at 13 kilometres (8 mi). Important side note: the French apparently felt that Burkina Faso’s high point deserved to be a nice round number so they laid out a 3 meter high pile of rocks at the summit to boost the height to an even 750 meters. I checked with the highest authority on Welsh mountain surveys, who has red-carded them. That doesn’t count – the official summit is still listed as 747 meters.

Mount Tenakourou

We arrived in Banfora at 10h00, just in time to get a guide who ‘sold’ us a 4X4 and driver for R1300. There was no other transport except motorbikes, and considering my dislike for them, we paid the exorbitant price.

A dusty 90 km followed before we reached the village where we paid the chief dash and were given one of his wives to hike with us.

All along the way she gave us wild fruit she picked. The Cairn was the biggest I’ve seen. The guides wanted to take us to the waterfalls but we declined, and the dusty 90 km back followed, with a flat tire to make sure life didn’t get boring.

(Text borrowed and adapted from The Gray Mountaineer and Sunrise on Africa’s Peaks)

Burkina Faso Film

The Man Who Stopped the DesertBurkina is known for its annual African film festival called Fespaco and cinema going is very popular in the capital. I failed to find a feature length Burkinabe fictional film but watched some documentaries which gave a good insight into the country. The Man Who Stopped the Desert is about a local farmer that devised a way of growing crops and trees in an otherwise hostile environment by planting outside the traditional season, lower down and adding manure.

Burkina Faso Stamps

Thought I would try and get some stamps from each country – it may make a nice collection if I continue with the challenge. Aren’t the pictures on stamps wonderful.  My Dad used to like collecting stamps more for the pictures than their value.  He used to glue than into an album rather than use mounts of any kind thereby making them all but worthless but he got enjoyment out of them and that’s what counts in life.

Burkina Faso stamps

These last few sections actually came early on in my month in Burkina Faso when I was doing a lot of background reading.  They are a bit dry – after all I don’t want to mess around with important things like history and the economy:


A land-locked country. Arid in the north where it borders the Sahara.  Crops grown by irrigation. Limited natural resources.


A particularly low-income country with most people working in agriculture. Cotton is the main cash-earning crop.  Gold is also mined.


A former French colony, independent since 1960. French widely spoken though so are the local languages. Used to be called Upper Volta till Thomas Sankara came to power in 1983.  He is often referred to at Africa’s Che Guevara.  Sankara was assassinated in 1987.  He was replaced by Blaise Compaoré who stayed in power till 2014.  Compaoré has been living in exile in Ivory Coast and is currently on trial (in absentia) for involvement in the murder of Thomas Sankara.

Current Affairs

The trial of Blaise Compaoré was due to take place this month but has been postponed.  Terrorist incursions in the north of the country dominate a lot of the news. I picked up some snippets of news from BBC Africa Today.  Also looked at French newspapers online – now Google translates complete web pages painlessly things are a lot easier than they used to be.

Farewell Burkina Faso

Our time in Burkina Faso is drawing to a close. The draw will soon be made for the next place for us to visit.  It’s been a real blast learning about Burkina Faso; eating the food, listening to music, watching videos, reading blogs, taking a train, buying some stamps, reading literature, history and current affairs and a few other things. Still hoping to find someone from Burkina Faso in Cardiff to give the clock to.  Thank you for reading and I hope you will join me in the next country.

Progress to date:  Armchair Travel Challenge

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s