Pat and Richard in West Africa 2011 travel blog

Inside a Gan house

On the roof with the crops drying - sorghum, millet, maize and...

Lorepeni

More Lorepeni

The "princess"

The monuments to the kings

What's inside the monuments

Some of the kids who always want their photos taken

Bat-filled tunnel

Digging bricks out of the ground


Today (Thursday) we continued our journey towards Gaoua, a medium sized town in the south west of Burkina Faso, close to the border with Ghana.

The road between Banfora and Gaoua is dirt and in very bad condition in some places. The vegetation is tropical with lots of mango trees and palm trees, and the weather very hot again.

Our first stop after 200km on this road was the World Heritage town of Loropeni. This is a Gan village whose people originally came from Ghana. Around 1000 years ago the original people built 12m high walls around their town, to protect it from wild animals and also bandits. The walls are made of stone and are important in that there are not many stone buildings in this part of the world - most construction is from mud. The walls were quite impressive, there are still huge sections standing even after all this time. There were also lots of medicinal trees in the area so it must have been an important place in its heyday. Apparently there are around 200 similar sites between Ghana and Burkina Faso, though none as well preserved as this one.

Back in the car again we drove to a Gan village nearby to visit the monuments to their 29 kings (and 4 queens). Our guide was a "princess" - it was a bit difficult to work out the exact relationship but she said she was the 4th wife of the king. We thought the king might also have been her father, but we could have got the wrong end of the stick there! In any event, she does not live with the king but with her family, we couldn't work out why. The village children were obviously used to tourists as they pestered us for presents, food, water bottles and anything else they could think of - a big change from the children we have seen at other villages.

From the village we drove into Gaoua to find our hotel - the only one in town - and have a bit of a rest before visiting the museum.

The museum was a big surprise, it was really interesting. There were lots of exhibits and photos of Gan and Lobi people which gave us a real insight into their culture and beliefs. The photos dated from the 1930's so quite recent. There were 4 rooms, the women's room, the men's room, the culture room and the musical instruments. In the grounds of the museum they had constructed a Gan house and a Lobi house - there were big differences between the two. The Gan use mud and there is a room for each of the wives. The flat roof is used by the man for sleeping. No 1 wife has lots of pottery and this is how they judge her wealth. By contrast, the Lobi houses are also mud but have one large room inside and have pointed thatch roofs - no sleeping on these!

After this it was back to the hotel for a shower and a cold beer. Tomorrow we are visiting a real Lobi village to see how they live these days. Then it's in to Ghana heading towards the Mole National Park to hopefully see some elephants - hope they are not as elusive as the hippopotami!

We left Gaoua early on Friday morning and our guide led the way to a nearby Lobi village, which we visited. It was interesting to see a working household, made up of the man and his two wives and assorted children. We were shown the inside of the house with the rooms for each of the wives and an area for cooking and also for sacrifices and their fetishes, and also climbed up onto the roof where they were drying the sorghum, maize, beans and chillies. There was a fetish of the roof and they kept their medicines in front of it in pots. The women were not keen on having their photos taken. They had just killed a chicken when we were there and were busy removing the feathers over the fire.

From the village we drove to another place where the French had constructed a series of tunnels in the 19th century, to protect themselves from the natives. The tunnels were full of bats. We walked through the tunnels and out into the open air again where men were chopping bricks out of the rock - it looked very hard work, especially in the heat.

Then it was on to the Ghana border, another very friendly crossing with smiles all round. The Burkina Faso exit post was very run down, not a computer in sight so all passport details were recorded in an exercise book. The Ghana side was much better maintained, though still no computer. In Ghana they speak English so it was good to be able to understand the whole conversation again.

We are now in a town called Wa for the night and tomorrow we will head out to the Mole National Park to hopefully see elephants - everyone tells us we will!

Saw a motorbike at the border, with a coffin on the back - don't know if it was occupied or not!

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