It had seemed simple: take the bus from Ouagadougou to Banfora, and then try to get to Sindou, in the southwestern part of Burkina Faso. We were well on our way on the smooth roads and in a fast bus, over halfway to Bobo Dioulasso, when the driver overtook a motor-tricycle where he was not supposed to, made an abrupt movement to the right, and I heard a loud bang against the bus. I had seen a few foreigners on the bus, but we had not been in touch; now, we crouched over the two bodies that lied a few metres from the road, motionless. Blood came out through large holes in their heads. We did whatever we could; administered first aid, talked to the guys, and asked for asssitance. Inevitably, it took the ambulance way too long to arrive; when it did, it turned out to be a mere 4WD with a removable bunk in the back. The men were off, we had another hour delay in the next town where the substitute driver paid a visit to the hospital (the driver who had caused the accident, had disappeared). In Bobo Dioulasso, another bus was waiting for us; by the time we arrived in Banfora, the last vehicle towards Sindou had already left. Fortunately, I found someone willing to take me on his motorbike, even though the images of the two guys with their gaping wounds was still vividly on my mind. Helmets are rarely used in Burkina Faso, even though there are motorbikes everywhere. The road was not tarred, but under construction. Trucks were driving up and down the road, trailed by a cloud of dust. At times, I just closed my eyes, but then realized I should try to look ahead, in case the driver would also have his eyes full of dust. The landscape was a fresh green: rice fields, trees, and hills around us. After some 80 minutes, a chain of jagged peaks appeared on our right. At first, I thought it was a peculiar landscape, but after a little while, I realized I was actually looking at what I had come to see: the Sindou Peaks. We were just in time to see the setting sun colour the rocks a warm orange. I took a cabin in the local campement; not ventilated.
Was it excitement that woke me up, or simply a too hot room? Fact is, that I was awake well before the alarm clock was supposed to do. I was quickly outside, but unfortunately, clouds covered the sky, where I had hoped to see stars. I needed a torch to walk the dusty road, and when I reached the point where the road cuts through the chain of peaks, light seeped into the night. I stayed on the western side for a while, deliberately: the peaks were silhouettes against a sky that turned whitish-pink. When there was enough light to see clearly, I ventured onto one of the trails. I had imagined the peaks were an inaccessible range of rock formations, but to my surprise, I found out that many trails cut across the mountains. Sometimes you have to do a little rock-climbing, other times the terrain is easy-going. Some trails are a dead-end: you reach a vertical drop-off, and realize that, in the rainy season, this is a waterfall. I found some small pools of water, and could see the marks of water in many places. Oh, to be here after heavy rainfall! There must be tens of waterfalls, water cascading down the landscape of rock formations. At one point, I decided to walk down on the eastern side. The sun was trying to pierce through the clouds as I walked past palm trees, with fertile grounds on my right. I did not see a soul, but birds were all around me. The craggy rocks provided for a perfect acoustic, and the lovely sound of their singing surrounded me. Tiny birds were flying over me in small groups, while bigger ones were circling the sky high above me. At one point, I reached a crossroads, with a wide trail leading to the left; I assumed this would go straight to Sindou. I found a rock that was easy to climb, and I installed myself there to see the sun set the surface of the Sindou Peaks on fire. From here, the views were fantastic to all sides. I saw a large part of the chain, with turrets and pillars in all kinds of shapes. Some were slender and tall, while others were plump and sturdy. The rising sun cast always different shadows of this wonderful landscape.
Meanwhile, the trail below me had come to life. Small groups of mostly women were walking both ways, invariably with loads on their heads. Wood, big trays with fruit, and a whole array of other articles was carried through the Sindou Peaks. There were girls timidly following their mothers, and young boys herding big bulls over the trail. I carried on, came across more funnily shaped towers of rock, and some where small boulders were precariously balancing on top of a pillar. Here, the landcape was more open; the chain was broken in various parts, and I hiked back through groups of pillars. The village was surprisingly close, and I feasted on some mangoes for breakfast. I waited until the heat subsided a little bit, and the light was getting better, and returned to the peaks. I found new trails, walked through canyon-like alleys of rocks, felt dwarfed by the many big rock formations. I found the perfect spot: somewhere in the middle of the Sindou Peaks, a big boulder that could easily be climbed, and that was high enough to allow views over the plains and the chain below. Now, the touch of the sun on my skin was pleasant; moreover, there was a little breeze to cool me off. I could have stayed the whole night, and enjoy the stars that can be so overwhelmingly bright in areas without much electrical light - but I also wanted to explore more. So, I found my way down, hiked through other alleys, and reached a wider plain: this is where I found the main trail I had seen in the morning. The rocky pillars around me were slowly turning into silhouettes again, and before my eyes, they now seemed to turn into massive statues of people. I could recognize men and women, some solemn, others appearing to be more involved. In several cases, I even thought it looked like statues of people talking to each other. Or was it just that I got carried away by my imagination? When I returned again, the next morning, there was not a single cloud in the sky - this was the sunrise I had been hoping for. I quickly walked through the wide canyon again, surrounded by black peaks. Then, I saw always more light in the sky towards the east, until the big, orange disc appeared above the trees. I sat on "my" rock again, and watched the rays of sun set the landscape before my eyes on fire. I was very happy I had decided to stay two nights - I walked back to the campement to catch the bus back to Banfora with a deep feeling of satisfaction.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Sindou Peaks (Burkina Faso). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Sindou Peaks. Read more about this site.