First off, here's a map of West Africa, showing the little detour I take:
I already have visas for Guinea and Senegal, I just need one for Côte d'Ivoire (or is it "Ivory Coast" in English ? whatever, I'll use the French name). This guy is a PITA to get, they've introduced a new biometric visa which needs a complicated process in a designated visa center; that seems a bit over-the-top for a country that hasn't been very attractive these times. Maybe they're trying to cut down on Burkinabe people moving in, a very political issue: the elected president had been accused of being not a true Ivorian, which eventually led to a civil war and the country split in two. More annoying it costs more than 100€, placing it among the most expensive in Africa. There's a way around though, it's the "Visa d'Entente", a multi-country visa that's much cheaper, but only available here in Ouaga. And it's very easy to get, so after a couple days I'm all set for the trip to Dakar.
My bike also deserves a once-over for the rest of the trip: in the rubber department, I've put on a new rear tyre before leaving Ouaga with Cécile but I'm afraid it won't last until Europe (it's a TKC 80, it's good but doesn't last long). I expect to be riding on tarmac or good tracks across Côte d'Ivoire so I put back the old tyre that I'd saved, which is not completely worn. In the front, I've managed to buy here a second-hand but still good road-oriented tyre (yeah, 21'', it's a bit lucky though) and I'll save the new front one that Cécile has brought me for later. I try to be smart but I really don't know what kind of road are ahead of me; as you will see later I'll find myself in an uncomfortable situation with useless knobby tires strapped to the back:
I've just changed the chain kit, so that'll bring me home easy. All geared up, I'm excited to leave for this new leg of the trip. I take again the road to Bobo-Dioulasso, this time not stopping on the way. It's only 350km, on tarmac, but a bit boring. In BF there are toll booth on most tarmac roads, charging 200 CFA per segment (I think). I'm pretty sure the bikes don't pay the tool, so I always pass them without slowing down, as there are no gates, and nobody seems to care. On one occasion though, the police is there blocking the roads, stopping everybody right after a booth. I'm not able to show a ticket, so they give me a fine. It's not very costly, maybe 3x or 4x the normal ticket price, but still I couldn't help but make my point to them that they never stop any local bikes, only me because I was sticking out like a sore thumb on my big bike and white complexion. This is probably true but equally pointless of course, as they couldn't care less. Before it gets too heated I pay the fine and get off, with a receipt
Digression: It's immediately clear when you arrive in the country that the main means of transportation here is the scooter or moped.
Yamaha had opened an assembly plant in Bobo and you can still see thousands of old battered orange scooters all around (seen here behind the Peugeot moped).
Nowadays though, the imported Chinese bikes are cheaper than the Japanese and the assembly plant has been closed.
One problem though with the small, unreliable scooters, it's not really convenient for long distances.
Undeterred, they take the long-distance bus and put their bike on the roof. This way you have a vehicle for the last few km from the city to your destination! Nice. That's also the reason they use strong Mercedes Varios rather than the cheaper Toyota Hiace used in other countries. As for the push bikes..
In Bobo I end up in the hotel of a French expat where I can camp in the yard. For a few months I've noticed my tent is slowly but steadily wearing off, and the zippers are in a pretty bad shape; it's every day a little more difficult to close them. A zipper is one of those things that wear off from normal use, like a motorcycle chain, no surprise here. These are pretty high quality so they served me well, but now I could use a new set. I head for the market with my tent and visit the tailors for somebody who could source me an unusually-long and high quality zipper to replace. No such luck, they only manage to find some crappy chinese zipper that wouldn't last very long. I pass.
The guys are nice (one of them wearing my home team's jersey so I feel connected..) and they try to fix the slider as best as they can, but I'll need a better solution as soon as I can.
The main trading road between Burkina and Côte d'Ivoire gets me through Banfora (again) and on to the border, all on pretty good tarmac. This doesn't help drivers from crashing and dumping their ever-precious cargo on the shoulder. I imagine it must have been pretty difficult for the crew to fend off the Brakina
connoisseur.. As for me, I come too late.
The paperwork at the Burkina border post is quickly expedited, then there's a few kms until the first Ivorian police checkpoint. The cop skims through my passport, hands it back to me: "you have no visa ?" I explain to him I have the Visa d'Entente
, which he reluctantly agrees to consider as valid and waves me off without much ado. The proper border post is further down the road. My visa passes muster at the immigration and I'm stamped in for 1 month. I was about to leave without much consideration from the customs, as I used to do for the last few countries, when a guy yells at me and scolds me for skipping his office. I pretend I was actually looking for it and I follow him inside the house. They were probably looking forward to selling me a passe-avant
, but I take out my yellow Carnet de passage
and show it to the slightly annoyed clerk. He obviously has no idea what to do, and asks me to wait for the boss who's out having lunch. As usual a small crows is hanging out here and we have a little chat. There are no money changer here, obviously, since both countries use the CFA, who are always a pin to get rid off. I get it from them that they don't see much tourist traffic here, and even the trade hasn't picked up. The Burkinabé have got used to using the Benin ports for shipping, and the traffic to Abidjan port is picking up very slowly.
The head of customs comes back from his lunch, eager to show to his subordinate why he's the boss. Actually, he's got no more clue what to do with the carnet, so I help him out filling it out and stamping it. He asks me if that's it and I say that yes, that's it. Sometimes in Africa it's also much simpler..