Pat and Richard in West Africa 2011 travel blog

The mud mosque at Bobo

Mud bricks drying in the old town

Dried fish at the market

On Friday we left Bamako for the last time, to drive into Burkina Faso. We got our visas at the embassy yesterday so were all set to see another country.

It was a long drive of around 500km through some interesting country - it's very fertile in this part of Mali, with huge mango and shea butter trees on the sides of the road. Lots of little villages again, Bobo this time, and lots of sheep on the road ready for sale for the Tabaski festival. During Tabaski each family is supposed to purchase a sheep and cook it, and give one third to the poor, one third to friends and the remaining third is for the family.

The border crossing was very friendly, lots of big smiles from the gendarmes - a big difference to border crossings in Central Asia earlier this year - not a gun in sight! The first checkpoint out of Mali was for the car, to check the papers were in order. Next checkpoint was to get our passports stamped and then there was a third checkpoint for the car again, then into Burkina Faso for much the same again.

The road was very rough with lots of potholes and the car started to make odd noises towards the end of the trip. Finally reaching our overnight stop of Bobo Dioulasso, the car refused to get into reverse gear and we had to get pushed out of our nose-in parking spot. The hotel for the night was a bit seedy, but OK, especially as we knew we were moving to a much better hotel the next day.

On Saturday Kunta took the car to find a mechanic while a local guide took us around the town. Bobo is the second largest town in Burkina Faso and has a lovely laid-back feel to it. The main sights are the mud mosque, not anywhere near the size of the one at Djenne but interesting all the same, and the old town and market.

The mosque was built around 1890 and has the same construction as Djenne, with beams protruding from the mud walls - these form part of the framework of the mosque but are also used to climb the outside of the walls when they do their annual repair of the mud covering. This mosque has been painted too so is not the same deep red-brown of Djenne. Usually non-Muslims are not allowed in (apparently after the Paris-Dakar rally in 2000 too many people were found inside the mosque with their shoes on, so access was closed) but our guide managed to get us in and the Immam's son showed us around. Inside it is a maze of pillars with narrow corridors between, where the men pray. The women of course cannot go in and there is a separate section for them and also those who have not yet been to Mecca. We climbed onto the roof of the mosque to check out the view from there.

Back on the ground again we continued our walk through the old town - again, made of mud brick with narrow alleyways everywhere and of course all the children wanting their photos taken. On to the market which was the usual chaos with people everywhere trying to sell everything you could think of, from sexy underwear and household goods to dried fish and fresh fruit and vegetables.

After our tour of the town we went back to our new hotel, very comfortable with a lovely pool, and relaxed for the rest of the day. Kunta hadn't got the car fixed - the mechanic was too busy and as tomorrow is Sunday had not wanted to start the job. He said the car is driveable, just no reverse! We decided to rearrange our itinerary and tomorrow drive to Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, to try and get the car fixed there on Monday.

This evening we had a meal at a local restaurant then went to a bar where there was some live music on - and it was fantastic. West African music is so exciting, full of energy and you can see the musicians are really enjoying themselves. The audience too was getting up to dance the whole way through, those African men sure can move! We didn't leave until close to midnight and it was still going then - in fact, all over town there was music and we could still hear it at 3am. Needless to say, Sunday morning was very quiet when we left at 8am!

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