I went out to the countryside south of town on my bike this morning. It was a beautiful morning, not too hot, and the sky relatively clear of the dusty pall that has covered the city for the last couple of days. So I decided to pay a visit to an area that is marked on Google Maps as “Extension Ouaga 2000” but looked like nothing much on Google Earth. Obviously, the city government planners expect the city to grow in this direction in the future, but for now, there is very little. There is one thing, though, that is very remarkable in Ouagadougou, a place blessed by nature with an abundance of flatness. A hill. Complete with Banyan tree.
So, off I went. Down the main road southeast out of town that leads to the Ghana border, then down a big, broad, paved avenue with a few isolated houses – mostly half-finished – on either side, then a long, equally broad, dirt stretch, and then the aforementioned hill loomed up in the distance. As a guy who comes from the mountains, I couldn’t resist. I pushed my bike to the top and took a couple of pictures.
Those blue posts in the foreground are apparently light poles for the parking lot of the military camp that was inhabited by the Regiment de Securite Presidentiel. You can see the 2-meter concrete fence behind them. I knew the camp was just south of the presidential palace, which lies at the end of the main road leading back into town from the south. The green building to the left is part of the presidential palace complex. So, instead of retracing my steps, I decided to skirt the camp and the palace back by the American Embassy and then pick up the main road. Mistake.
Turns out that the Burkinabè are very sensitive about security right now. Who knew? Actually, I knew, but I assumed that since the camp had been abandoned after September’s coup there wouldn’t be any particular security concerns. Wrong. The Burkinabè have had the same reaction to the terrorist attack the other night as the US did to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 – they are trying to secure everything, whether it makes sense or not. So, the camp was guarded by nice young men with light machine guns in concrete blockhouses who were quite surprised to see a white guy come riding along on his bike. The first bunch of guards stopped me, but when I explained myself they told me I could proceed. The next bunch were like, “no, show me your ID, I’m calling an officer.” The officer showed up on a motorcycle after a bit, asked me who I was and what I was doing there. I explained myself, he hemmed and hawed a bit and finally directed me up a side path to a street that did not run past the palace, at least not directly, that took me back to the main boulevard. So, no blood, no foul. I wasn’t arrested or anything, just questioned politely and sent packing. Still, I bet there wouldn’t have been any questions last Thursday.
And then on the way back home, I stopped by the “Palais Omnisports” stadium, where I often get off my bike for a short break (my Ingress-playing friends will not be surprised to discover that it is a portal). And guess what, it’s closed by the security forces too. Can’t get in without an authorization. Oh, well.
And the Internet is still screwed up. Took me a good four hours to get these photos uploaded and this post sent off.