With the exception of Pendjari Park in Benin, virtually all of our camping thus far has been within the grounds of some establishment, for which we pay the average of about $10. While we had not planned it, for completely circumstantial reasons we are doing a lot more camping in the wild here in Burkina.
Our second night in from Benin we were en route to Ougadougou late in the afternoon down a good paved road through classic Sahel landscape, sandy and desert-like but with some trees and scrub. We could have made Ouaga that day but decided we did not want to arrive in the late afternoon, the risk of getting lost and driving around in the dark in a strange city, poorly lit city is no fun. Instead, we took from the Bradt African Overland guide about a campement located about 5km off the main road some 50 kilometre east of Ouga. We arrived there about 5:00 PM to learn from the attending gardien that it is only open for business on the weekend. A telephone called to the partron confirmed he was not keen on us camping on their grounds, although we could take a room for the equivalent of $40. Clearly he had a particular idea of what a campement is. We were not keen a spending that much to take a room in an empty hotel that was not even offering meals. The late hour, the threatening rain clouds closing from the south and the vast exotic landscape in which we found ourselves inspired us to set up camp in the wild, midway between the campenent and a village called Wakpati near what has to be the largest baobab tree I have ever seen.
There is something a bit unnerving about camping in the middle of nowhere is a strange country. You are never sure you are alone, and in this case we did see a few people passing on foot and on bicycle to and from a nearby village. But once we were set up and the stars came out it was quite special. We were visited in the morning by someone from the campement who apologized for us being turned away and he gave us some pintade (guinea fowl) eggs. No hard feelings. By 10 we were back on the road to Ouagadougou.
Our next experience with wild camping also provided some great off-road 4×4 fun. It was a couple of days later when we left Ouga for Bobo-Dialassou.
We had read of a Campement Kaicera at the halfway point, billed as 7km off the main road. This turned out to be a very long 7km was across a dirt track along the base of power lines, bordered on either side by rice that was just started to grow. Recent rains had reduced large sections of the track to mud. We followed it for 8 km through the mud in search of the campement but concern that further rain that night would submerge the already barely passable track in another foot of water led to us decide to turn around and go back toward the main road. The trip in was a bit scary at first, travelling through mud in a truck laden with all our gear: two weeks supply of food, a heavy fridge, a 55 kg tent and 40 litres of water. Most of it was done it 4WD low, which takes some getting used to, you have to shift to 3rd before you get to 10 km/hr, and once we realized how the Landy was able to carve through whatever we came to we relaxed, blasted some rock music and forged on. There were a couple of times when it started to slow down and we thought we might be getting stuck, but somehow it just grabbed and kept going.
An hour later we emerged back on high ground in a very dirty Defender (which we had had thoroughly washed the day before in Ougadougou to get the mud from Pendjari off) to set up camp in lovely bush, not too far from the track where agricultural workers would pass in donkey carts on their way home from the fields.
The terrain here is completely different than that east of Ouga, much greener and wetter, in many places muddier.