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Entering a traditional home in Tiabele

We ordered a private taxi to take us back to Domango where we would pick up a minibus heading back to Tamale and then north from there to the Burkina Fasso border. We asked that he make a stop along the way to a famed mud and stick mosque that’s over 700 years old in Larabanga – and it’s still in use today!

Here are the photos. These types of structures are most famous for being located in Mali, but they do occur in other places across this latitude.

At the Mud and Stick Mosque

Once we arrived in Domango we found a minibus that was slowly filling up to take people to Tamale, but it was progressing rather slowly and something just didn’t feel right to me when I was told that this was the “only” form of public transport going to Tamale. In looking for a bathroom, I stumbled across the public bus station and lo and behold but a large bus was about to leave for Tamale for the same price!! I was so mad and told them to wait before having to run back down the road, scream at Mike to come and demand our money back from the lying minibus driver before just making it and finding seats.

Though the bus was slow going and rough going over those famous Ghanaian speed bumps, we were glad to at least be moving, and we might have been waiting over two hours for the first form of transport to depart.

Once arriving in Tamale, rather strangely in the middle of a food market (what the actual fuck) we took a cab to the Tro Tro station that served northern routes to Bolgatanga. Since the Tro Tro was full, we were offered a private car for 25 cd’s each, but we had to wait for it to fill. So, we decided to pay for 3 seats so we wouldn’t be squashed in the back and we could leave sooner.

The driver of this taxi turned out to be a total douchebag and tried to charge us mid-journey another 5 cd’s each for our luggage in the trunk. We argued that since we’d bought the middle seat in the back, we would happily move our luggage to occupy the empty space between us – and he started arguing “what IF a third person was sitting back there – THEN where would you put your luggage?” I really lost my temper at that point and told him that the time to inform a passenger of ALL applicable costs was BEFORE the journey commenced and that he could take his illogical hypothetical nonsense and shove it because he was being an idiot. If he didn’t like it – we would get out of the car there and then.

I could feel Mike cringing next to me, but I’d had enough and was unwilling to let patience and politeness rule the day with this man. Fortunately, my abrasiveness paid off – he didn’t know what to do or say to me and kept quiet the rest of the way, even showing a willingness to take us further on to the Burkina border for a reasonable fare.

I guess he wasn’t used to having a woman stand up to him.

I was initially nervous about the border crossing and traveling there as Burkina Fasso had recently experienced an enormous drop in tourism since the two terrorist attacks by the Northern African branch of ISIS in 2016 and 2017. Over 30 people had been shot at the popular coffee spot “Cappuccino” on Kwame Nkrumah avenue and the Splendid hotel across the street in Ougadougou in January of 2016, then in August of 2017, 18 people were killed just down the street at Aziz Istanbul restaurant. Both attacks had targeted westerners/ex-pats and Burkina has seen a sharp drop in tourism since then.

At the Burkina Fasso Border Crossing

As it turned out, the border crossing was simple, and the customs guy on the Burkina side was overjoyed that two Americans were coming to his country. Plus, it was nice to speak some French again.

We had arranged to visit a unique set of villages in a place called Tiabele, which was only about 60kms or so from the border. A guide named Arnaud had been recommended to us to arrange accommodation and a tour of his home, made famous for both its culture and for how they are made out of mud clay and then painted in a variety of symbolic artwork and color.

We took a very very old and rickety taxi to Po, where we would be meeting with Arnaud. Burkina turned out to have the oldest ramshackled vehicles on the trip thus far, with drivers using brute force to change gears, or even open a window (with a wrench kept in the glovebox for this purpose.) Since we didn’t have a sim and we were running about an hour behind schedule, I borrowed the driver’s phone to let Arnaud know that we were on our way.

I was hot, dusty, exhausted and thirsty when we arrived and the very last thing I wanted to do was have a long conversation in French. However, when Arnaud suggested we start with a cold large beer for refreshment, that certainly perked me up somewhat.

Arnaud seemed very genial – he explained that his village system had a royal court/family and that he was a prince (ooh la la) and we would be staying at an Auberge only 100m from his residence in a traditional style hut with rooftops where one could take a mattress on hot nights to sleep outside. He suggested we get showers and a good meal tonight and then tomorrow he would plan a full day’s activities for us.

Once acquainted, imbibed, and a guinea fowl purchased (alive and presumably for Arnaud’s family dinner) we hopped in his rented vehicle and drove to Tiabele, arriving as it was getting dark.

Arnaud driving with the shortly doomed Guinea Fowl

We showered and walked over to the restaurant that Arnaud had arranged for us. It was a couple’s home, with a few tables and chairs laid out in their garden. The host was super gracious and friendly, and fixed a candle to the table itself by pouring hot wax first to hold the candle firmly in place.

Our bed for the night was a mattress on the roof of the traditional style home. In the morning, goats were frolicking about.

Our meal could only be described as maize based white sticky paste and a side dish of brown mush that may have contained some nuts and meat. It was edible and another beer helped wash it down.   It was the ambiance that was so indelible, and I joked with Mike (who is like a brother to me) that we were really missing out on this opportunity to gaze at each other, and drink some wine by candlelight in this romantic spot.

He laughed and looking around and seeing the family’s chickens, goats, cats and pigs all meandering around us, he replied, “Well, we do have SWINE by candlelight, for sure!”

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