Elephant Safari

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Africa » Burkina Faso
November 16th 2009
Published: June 23rd 2017
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Geo: 11.1697, -1.145

To get back on the beaten path (if there is such a thing in Burkina) we decided to take a ‘short cut' through the Nazinga Game Ranch, a 94,000ha park, for a West African safari. DH has an absolute fixation with elephants, particularly since our East African trip a couple of years ago, and with over 800 elephants and numerous other mammals in a relatively small park, sightings had to be guaranteed? We knew that during the rainy season the road to Nazinga from the west is not passable- what we didn't know was that just after the rainy season, the road is just barely passable. With a reasonably trustworthy 4x4 we started out at 3:00am and started ploughing through some dense brush and long grass- I don't know if we were the first vehicle on this road since the last rainy season, but there was no obvious road and we were admiring our drivers ability to keep us on track when he promptly hit a tree (that everyone else in the truck saw) and put a big dent in the hood of the truck. Fortunately the engine was fine and, as with many things in Africa, this was not a problem- only through the power of positive thinking can you class being stuck on a road that has had no obvious use in months, potentially stranded miles from anywhere, as not being a problem. Because of the oppressive humidity we had to keep opening the windows to clear the windshield for the driver- this, of course, let in insects that looked to be mutant rejects from some science experiment gone horribly wrong…and there were bitters in their midst- are we having fun yet?? We did eventually get to the main camp of Nazinga where we picked up a park ranger who would guide us around the park-to enhance his ability to spot the animals, he sat on the spare tire on top of the 4x4, and because I had the camera, I was stuck up there as well. At first it seemed to be a good idea, but some 4 hours later with no significant sightings, an aching backside, and numerous scrapes from low hanging branches, I was ready to give up. The rainy season had been particularly enthusiastic this year and as a result there were numerous watering holes for the animals, and the grass was high enough to provide an impenetrable cover for them. We dropped the ranger off and we were making our way out of the park when we spotted a lone female elephant who gave us a bit of a show before wandering off. Not sure it was worth it but DH had her elephant fix.

For the afternoon, we headed for the small town of Tiebele in order to see the painted homes of the Kassena. The walls of these homes are painted with a repetition of coded geometric signs. The most popular symbol is the fragmented calabash (drinking cup, paint-pot, tombstone, receptacle for sacrifices, etc), but there are also bat wings (a house without a bat is an evil one), sparrow hawk wings, boa constrictors (hold the spirits of grandmothers), crosses, and tortoises among others. One stop was with the village chief- just outside his compound was a large mound of dirt that was used for broadcasting messages to the village (and which contained the placentas of every child born inside the chiefs compound).Because of the siege mentality of the people in the area, the homes were moulded out of mud without windows, and hollowed out low to the ground (going from blazing sunlight to complete darkness apparently gave residents time to defend themselves). The doorways are low, tiny entries with a low wall immediately inside that force you to crawl in and over giving residents plenty of time to chop off your head. The houses within each compound are circular, square, figure-eight shaped, and are coloured depending on the status of the inhabitants. The roofs are typically flat and can be used for sleeping in the hot months and are also used to store crops and dry vegetables to keep them away from the animals. Although the wall paintings were a bit faded when we were there (the paint has to be re-applied each year) you still got a sense of the amount of pride and energy the people here put into their homes (without the assist of a Home Depot just down the block).

This was our last day in Burkina Faso but we were too late to make the border crossing so we crashed in Po at the Hotel Esperance Tiandora (which sounds much nicer than it actually is) where we met a couple of tiny French girls who had been lured to the area under false pretenses although with the French-English thing, I couldn't quite figure out the specifics- it was nice to meet other travellers after not seeing any for quite some time.

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