Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Out of money; still in Africa!

I got through the border of Ghana on the wise-mans [link] motorbike and upon reaching the Burkina Faso side I stepped off in an awkward way and burned my leg on the exhaust pipe. Within seconds a huge blister had formed.
“Stay there! I’ll get some ink!” shouted the driver as he jumped back on the bike.
He came back five minutes later and poured blue ink all over my wound. Then another man had the opinion that toothpaste would help and before I knew it he was spreading toothpaste over my blue-ink burn with a tiny corner of toilet roll.

That day I managed to reach Banfora, a small town in the south west area of Burkina Faso. A guy I met in Mole had given me a phone number of a Couchsurfer in this town. With no money for access to
the internet, I had no choice but to take opportunities and chances like this. I phoned Soma and explained my situation and without any hesitation he took me in for a few days. He even accompanied me to the hospital one afternoon to sort out the blue-toothpaste-burn on my right leg. The doctor said he could sort it out for me, but first I needed to buy him some clerical gloves from the pharmacy across the road. He peeled away my skin, and the blue toothpaste mess along with it, which definitely made the list of the most painful moments of my entire life.  One day, driving there on his motorbike, Soma and I visited the famous waterfall where we spent the whole day swimming in the most beautiful location for a bath which you could ever imagine.

Over the next few days I had to cross Mali. Still officially at war, I decided to miss out on the tourist attractions which are concentrated mainly in the north of the country, and where the danger is apparently still lurking four months after the burst of terrible kidnappings and killings of foreigners and the beginning of the French military intervention in the country.

I'm not sure exactly where I spent the following few nights; I was given free rides on public buses all the way across the country, but as I mentioned previously, typical African transport is pretty unreliable. One night I had to sleep rough under a tin roof in the parking area of the national buses. Others who were also waiting for buses the following day slept beside me so there was no reason for me to feel alone or scared. Another night, after more burst tyres than I could count (and more heart pouncing moments of me thinking that the sudden bang was a terrorist gun-shot) we found ourselves stuck in the middle of the desert in the darker than dark night with no more tyres available. The bus was too hot to sleep in so everyone lay together on the desert floor until the morning when another bus drove past. I only realised later on how dangerous this was; hyenas, wild dogs, snakes, and scorpions all call the desert their home!

I made it across Mali alive and into Senegal just as easily. They say you never really travel without money until you really have no money. It’s true. I'm a budget traveller and when I say budget I really mean budget. I can go days without spending a penny but in the end I still spend a penny. This time I had no more pennies to spend. And the result was that I found it easier to get on with no money than on a budget. I didn't have to think about budgeting because there was no budget.

Getting from Mole National Park to Burkina Faso and onwards to Mali and Senegal was probably the some of the easiest travel I've ever done. People understood my situation and passed my story on to others who could possibly help in more ways; I was given further rides and meals at cafes and drinks from shops. After feeling slightly sick for weeks and with not much appetite since the fish basket incident in Tamale [link], this gave me the chance to offer the bulk of my meals to kids living on the street. Sure, they were grateful for the food, but they always gave the idea that the huge never-ending smile was because I was a rare white stranger who sat with them whilst they finished the meal.

For the entire few weeks I made this trip with no money, I had this incredible sense of sharing and giving and just how powerful that was. I think I just found the answer to world peace.