Woke up relatively early, because although things had gone smoothly until this point, I was still convinced that airports and flights in Africa could be seriously unpredictable, so wanted to get there in plenty of time. Check out at the hotel yielded a lower than expected bill – when I put my company’s name on the bill, they reduced it to the corporate rate which I hadn’t expected. Saved me over 15,000 CFA – $30+ and still a free shuttle to the airport. Can’t really beat that!
I was excited for this part of the trip. Ever since I had heard about it when I was young, I thought Ouagadougou had to be the coolest city name ever. I just hoped it would live up to the hype!
Got to the airport about 1.5 hours before the flight, and check-in wasn’t even open. There were some chairs in a covered area of the airport, and just a few minutes later they opened the check-in hall. We were the only flight leaving, and it appeared only about half full, so there would only be about 25 people checking in for the flight. Check-in was super easy, no problems, and 5 minutes later I was clearing immigration and security which were both also a complete non-event.
The waiting room for the flight was completely empty, but there was also a “VIP” room. It was nothing more than a couple of overstuffed chairs and sofas – nothing special, and I’d call it a nice quiet place to wait, but the regular hall was pretty quiet itself. I suppose it was probably a bit different when the Air France flight left, but today it was nice and quiet. A shot of the waiting hall:
An ancient Government of Niger 737 right outside on the tarmac:
Soon they boarded all of us in one bus and it was off to the plane. I was very curious what “business class” on a CRJ would be!
Air Burkina flight 531
Niamey, Niger (NIM) to Ouagadougu, Burkina Faso (OUA)
Depart 10:00, Arrive 9:55, Flight Time 0:55
Canadair CRJ-200, Registration TZ-RCA, Manufactured 2000, Seat 1A
…and it was nothing special. Two rows of 2×2 seats, exactly the same as economy. There were only 3 passengers so no telling if they would have occupied all 8 seats on a normal flight or not, and we even got the same “meal” that economy got:
Overall for a short 40 minute flight, service was good, and as much as I hate CRJ-200s, it was a pretty decent flight. Landed right on time, and then it was time for immigration. Here is where things would get fun!
You see, I’d called the Embassy of Burkina Faso in DC, and asked if the online rumours of a visa on arrival were true. “Probably” was the answer I got. No, they had how much it would cost, or if it was even certainly available. So, I was headed into the unknown in the airport, unsure if I would even be let into the country.
Into the arrivals hall, there were several police, and I told them “I need to buy a visa” and they told me to fill out the regular arrivals card, go to the immigration officer, and then they would send me to the visa desk. Ok, this looks promising. Presented my passport, said I need to buy a visa, and got stamped into the country. They directed me back to a window near the door we’d entered through, and I went up and told the, um, nice lady, that I wanted to buy a visa. She spat out that it would be 47,000 CFA and two photos. I filled up the form, handed over the money and photo, and she started writing more things on the form…and then told me to come back tomorrow and I could get my passport with the visa in it.
Tomorrow? I told her I was leaving in just under 24 hours and couldn’t wait until then? Wait…transit? She got visibly upset and disturbed, and pretty much tossed my photos and money back to me. “Just come back tomorrow before your flight and get your passport.” Ok, this should be interesting…I’d read about them holding passports for the supposed visa on arrival for 24 hours, so many that’s all this was. I’ll get a free 24 hr transit visa and all will be ok.
The immigration guys weren’t even in the booth any more, so I walked right out and met the driver from my hotel which I’d arranged in advance. It was about a 15 minute drive to the Laico Ouaga 2000 hotel, and soon we were there. The lobby was clean, cool, and quite modern. It was easy to forget I was in west africa. It all looked before new and modern…and the rooms lived up to the billing. Took a very short nap, then went downstairs to grab lunch and try and negotiate a driver/taxi.
I wanted to go to the Site de Laongo, a series of rock sculptures outdoors about a 45 minute drive from the city which had been created a few years prior. I figured it would give me a good view of the country outside the city, and see some cool sculptures. Eventually negotiated with a taxi that the hotel called for me, and agreed to pay 10,000 CFA for gas plus 20,000 CFA for his time – a bit steep, but was my only day there, and for another 10,000 he’d give me a two hour trip to the downtown area too. Sold. Drive wasn’t bad, and soon we were there. The tour was just me and two young French military guys, so we were pretty free to set the pace.
Overall, it was pretty weird. Tour was about 45 minutes to an hour and completely in french in the blazing hot sun. Interesting to see though:
Reclining naked lady sculpture:
…and a banana! Not suggestive at all…
Turtle and rhino:
Woman jumping rope:
Woman with fish on her head. Um, okay?
A couple shots I took on the drive back to the hotel:
The Monument des Martyrs, situated on a huge roundabout, a gift from who else…Comrade Qadaffi.
Unfortunately, that’s where my cell phone battery died. We drove downtown, and I wandered around the city for about an hour before getting too hot and tired and decided to go back to the hotel and lay by the pool for the last hour of sunset. A couple of cold Castel beers and the sun was down. The few early mornings were catching up to me, and I opted to hang around the hotel for the evening and relax. I wish I’d had a chance to see a little bit more, but at least I got to see one good site and wander the city for a bit which is better than nothing.
Dinner in the hotel cafe was pretty decent, and I ended up calling it an early night. It was off to Côte d’Ivoire in the morning…hopefully!