Writing The Journey : From Bombai to Burkina by Nike Ojeikere

Posted: November 11, 2009 at 7:10 pm

Bamboi our first stop on the morning of Sunday, photo by Uche James Iroha

Sunday, 8th November (Morning)

Sunday; and the sun in Bombai, breaks over our skyline and our heads in a brilliant shine. Bombai is little lay-by town in Ghana’s North. We revved ourselves up with body stretches, leg jigging and breakfast from an open-air roadside “restaurant”. The coffee is manned by a cheerful owner. Some of us are going broke already and cannot eat breakfast or buy water having run out of carry-on cash. We had submitted some of our travel money to corrupt customs officials earlier on in the journey to gain legal access across some Frenchified borders, so, rather than drink hot coffee; they have grudgingly elected to drink in the morning sunshine. Tempers are slithering quietly like vipers behind invisible borders…

entry into Burkina Fasso, photo by Amaize Ojeikere

We study our map.We are f-a-r from Burkina yet! We are taking the less known route which takes us uphill and upcountry from Bombai through Maluwe, to Signekura. Signekura calls to mind the beautiful Obudu Hills in Cross Rivers State Nigeria, with its low-lying, moisture-laden rolls of clouds grazing the green grassy hills. All through this trip, we see differences in language and attitudes of peoples, but we see much more similarities in flora and fauna between our country and the ones we pass through… they all could well have been one single country without bothering borders.

From Singekura , it’s Sakpa, Seribe, then Bole and the charcoal territory of Gbiegdaa with its piles of charcoal-laden sacks awaiting the excitement of fire. Soon, we enter the Upper West Region: Gbogdaa, Sawla, Nakwabi and Kpangiri flash past our window and after a long while we reach the two- lettered city: Wa.

Wa is the Upper West region’s most important city. Solid structures, a university, and a line up of banks with functional ATM machines are a welcome sight after hours of bush travel. We refinance our dry pockets and fuel the Ford to continue.

photo by Amaize Ojeikere

We drive headlong till we reach Jirapa. Fried yams under a Jirapa tree in front of the Inland Revenue Service constitute a warm welcome for our hungry stomachs. We alight. I wander around and notice something like Garri in a shop. I move nearer. It is Garri! In the Northernmost part of Ghana. And it is called “Garri” here too! I buy some – just for the fun of it. The shop owner asks where I’m from. “Nigeria”, I say with pride. “Nigeria!, she exclaims; “He is from Nigeria”. She is pointing to her neighbour, a young man in yellow t-shirt. I introduce myself and ask his name. He is Chibuike from Enugu State; he followed his brother here to sell auto parts. His brother is Amaechina, Meche for short.

Meche is glad to see his us, brethren from Nigeria, in this literal end of the world. He receives us very warmly and treats us to ice soft cold soft drinks. We chill out, under the big shady tree in front of the Volta River Authority Revenue office, opposite the American Consulate – a wooden shop painted in American colours, in end-of-the-world, Jirapa.

Then, another sight for sore eyes: a young American? lady rides very leisurely past on a bike, and then, two others pop out of God-knows-where, on their bikes as well. As we ponder their mission in this back of beyond, Cap 67 expresses the suspicion that they could well be on espionage duty-whilst posing as AID workers!

“The Road is still far!” photo by Uche James-Iroha

At Jirapa, the road as we’ve known it ends and a dusty laterite road takes over.We run this quiet, almost desolate course for about 3 hours until we reach the Ghana-Ouagadougou border town of Hamile. Hamile@ Ghana border treats us to traditional warm Ghanaian hospitality while the Burkina end treats us to classical Frenchified show-me the-money “hospitality” .After the traditional time-wasting, but no-cash-dropping exercise, we remind them of the ECOWAS treaty and how Frenchified excesses, were standing against its laudable intentions. Almost grudgingly, we are permitted to enter Burkina. Donkeys ferry our luggage to the Bus station where we sit under the hot blue African skies and take pictures whilst awaiting the bus which we had been told “is caming” for over 2 hours…

photo by Amaize Ojeikere

Sunday 8th November (Night)

When the sun has drained us to our very marrows, and we have drank lots of water, and taken tons of pictures under the techni-colour sunlit spectacularity of this little known town, billowing dust announces the arrival of the “caming” bus. It’s a radical departure from the Blue Ford that brought us here. It is a well -battered, formerly white Urvan bus, decorated with rust at several points; its guard laden with dusty hefty luggage of all sizes and colours. No doubt, this bus has crossed several borders.

The nondescript building that serves as the bus station comes alive. Its only claim to bus-stationhood is a lovely painting of what looks like a “Bolekaja” bus on the wall. A broken wooden window, off one of its hinges dangles besides the painting. This is fine art- we click cameras.

Soon we huddle into our bus. And we are on our way through the untarred stretch. Despite closed doors and windows, dust finds its way into the bus, so we stuff our noses with cotton wool. It’s a funny sight and we cannot help but laugh it off. When we alight to conduct departure formalities just 250metres later, we are all coated in dusty tee-shirts, lashes, beards, hair and all.

We cross to Hamile@Burkina.The officer- in-charge; a good-natured Burkinabe turns out to be a former classmate and friend to Ali Kabre -friend of Director of Espionage and Curly Curly! It’s a small world after all, literally.

We take pictures, and move on. Our destination is Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina’s second major town after Ouagadougou. Darkness falls at 6.PM. We shoot through the blackhole of the road in a never-ending journey to Bobo. Most of us are at our tethers end, wondering when this journey will end.

The journey end s about 5 hours later. We have been travelling for 48 hours plus since we left Accra. We are fagged out, not to mention famished, or filthy, or broke. We stop by an ATM to get the much needed CFA and pray hard that it works; otherwise, no Bamako tomorrow. Bobo may be Burkina’s 2 IC town, but from the little we have seen of Bobo this tired night, it is a far cry from say, Kaduna or even Abeokuta. Street lights work at full blast but the houses bear none of the sophistication of a 2nd in command town, as we would expect. But, the ATM works, mercifully, with ease. No network failure, no story. We are grateful!

Our host at Bobo-Dioulasso is the kind photographer, Paul Kabre- and his lovely wife. He is a good friend of Dreadlocked Kangool. The couple has rooms prepared and we eventually settle in about 2.00AM, after a late-night dinner or-is it early morning breakfast? We task them no doubt, but they remain warm and welcoming with smiles for everyone. We have crossed so many borders both internal and external; it is now time to take a well deserved rest. ZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

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