Burkina Faso

There is a remarkably rich music scene in Burkina as well as in the adjoining countries, with lots of reggae, salsa, soukous and traditional orchestras and bands playing in a lot of venues, both well known and hidden. Any local will gladly take you to some events where men and women eat, drink, dance and have a good time in a very safe, almost childlike manner, rather uncommon nowadays in western countries.

Starting in Gorom Gorom, you can take a camel ride out into the desert and even sleep out there on the sand. Guides can arrange this for you from Gorom Gorom and it can be expensive if you do not pick your guides carefully. Take warm clothes and good blankets if you plan to sleep in the desert. Women should bring pants to wear on camels because skirts especially African pagnes tend to fall open due to the shape of the saddle.

There is a beautiful hike alongside the waterfalls outside of Banfora. The admission price is one or two thousand francs. Be careful not to spend too much time in the water - tourists occasionally catch bilharzia, also known as Schistosomiasis, from swimming in the falls. The locals will tell you that swimming will not make you sick, but it can.

Also near Banfora is a lake more of a pond, actually where you can take a trip out on a pirogue to see the hippos. Do not expect too much. Often all you see of the hippos is ears sticking up out of the water. Remember, hippos are dangerous animals who do not like being bumped by pirogues that get too close, so be careful. This will cost two or three thousand CFA per person.

A couple of hours West of Banfora is Sindou, with the Sindou peaks. These rock formations are somewhat like the North American hoodoos. They are needle-like peaks that have shaped by wind erosion. The Sindou peaks are a great spot for a short hike or a picnic. A guide is not necessary to find your way around but can tell you many fascinating facts about Senoufo culture and the time when the village, which is now at the base of the peaks, used to be located up on the plateau. Look out for the thorn plants on the plateau - the Senoufo imported them from Mali to use the thorns to make poisoned arrows. Admission is 1000 CFA. You will need to give the guide a tip.

Buy fabric and get an African outfit made. In Ouagadougou, you will pay 3750 CFA for "three pagnes" of fabric. You can then take this to a tailor and have three items made - for women this is usually a shirt and skirt then a length of fabric left over to make a wrap-around skirt. Men can have shirts made. The going rate for a woman's outfit and skirt is 3500 CFA. Fancier models and embroidery will cost extra, as much as 20,000 CFA if you want elaborate embroidery.

See the crocodiles at one of the crocodile lakes outside of Ouaga, on the road to Bobo-Dioulasso.

Explore the mud mosque in Bobo-Dioulasso. An Imam's son can serve as your guide. Remove your shoes at the entrance. Dress modestly. Women should be prepared to cover their heads, although this is not always requested. You will need to pay admission 1000 CFA, give a tip to the guide and give a tip to the kid who guards your shoes while you are inside.

Explore the elaborate mosques in Bani, near Dori on the road to Ouaga.

If you are interested in helping to save lives in Western Africa then Burkina Faso, hit by severe drought and poverty in the last decade, would be ideal for a charity-holiday. Medical staff are also sorely needed, so any volunteering doctors would be greeted warmly.

The Peace Corps is active in Burkina Faso and constitutes a large proportion of the Americans living in this country.

Burkina is a great country if you are interested in learning West African drumming. Bobo-Dioulasso, the second largest city, is perhaps the best place to learn to drum.