Thursday 22 Oct
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
A memorable minibus ride
Transport in Africa is always unpredictable and often painful. But it seems that if things are going to go wrong, then lots of things will go wrong during the same journey. This minibus trip started with a confusing argument about the price. I was so caught up in this discussion that I missed out on seeing how Jo's pack was loaded on the roof between a motorbike and a cow. That's right, there were two cows on the roof. I have no idea how they got up there, and I couldn't see how they were unloaded as it happened in a completely unlit place (smelling strongly of cow) in the middle of a forest off the main road (and took about half an hour). However at one point we did see a cow falling quickly past the window of the bus with its feet tied together. This was after we stopped for at least half an hour earlier in the trip, apparently so that the muslims on the bus could pray at the side of the road (although of course, no-one explained what was going on).
I might have thought I was lucky that my bag was inside the bus and not being nuzzled by a cow, but I would have been wrong. Someone thought it was a good idea to carry a large amount of some sort of curdled milk product in a sort of tarpaulin bag with holes in it. At some point during the bus ride we realised that it was all over the floor of the bus, and some of our bags were contaminated. Later it was discovered that my towel smelled heavily of cheese and had to be seriously quarantined. The most annoying thing about this situation was not that it was really difficult to make anyone pay attention and notice what was going on, but that the person who was responsible for the cheesy milk product was obviously on the bus and clearly had no interest in acknowledging or taking responsibility for the problem. This is one of many manifestations of what I have started calling "the vagueness".
We eventually arrived in Ouaga and discovered that the hotel we had chosen out of the book won the prize for the dirtiest walls ever seen (everything else, however, was basically normal: after much complaining we found out that this is because the building is going to be demolished so it's not worth repainting, although they seem to think it's appropriate to continue other forms of maintenance and to keep running the hotel as if everything is normal).