The Saratoga Sun -

Biking the Barrage

 


Roughly four kilometers from the little farming village I called home in Burkina Faso is something called “the Barrage.” Basically, it’s a dammed-up portion of a seasonal waterway feeding into the Bougouriba River to the north of us, and it’s a very picturesque and tranquil place.

I frequently biked there and sat on its south eastern shore, looking at the line of rocky hills lying to the north of the body of water and listening to the gurgling river passing underneath the road.

I’m not much of one for sitting when there’s exploring left to be done, however, and I knew from the moment that I laid eyes on it that I had to make a complete circuit of the lake.

My first two attempts at this were dismal failures.

On these occasions, I set off fairly late in the afternoon (Misconception #1: the size of the Barrage) and set out on a “Northern Route” that took me to a tiny village on the shore called Moutuori. Once there, however, I fairly quickly ran out of options.

The dirt moto path was in fairly good shape leading to the “village” (a very tiny market place, a loosely scattered collection of farms and one boutique selling batteries, candles and other basics). After Moutuori, the dirt path rapidly dissolved into swampland though.

With the sun descending perilously low in the sky and no clear way forward, I twice did the 180 degree turn of shame and headed home.

I resolved not to do so a third time, and thoroughly retooled my game plan. Several factors differentiated my third assay from its predecessors. To begin with, and perhaps most critically, I was now mightily pissed off and quite passionately (and irrationally) determined to succeed in attaining this arbitrarily arrived upon goal. I guess we all have our windmills to charge at, and circumnavigation of the lake had become mine.

It was with this renewed vigor and determination that I packed a bag one Saturday morning and set off on my quest. Leaving around 9:30 a.m., I dedicated my whole afternoon to the project and I packed for a whole afternoon as well.

Into the bag went 1.5 liters of water (Propel Gatorade powder-infused!), three bananas, a loaf of village bread, my journal and a pen (duh).

Despite the promise of another hot, monsoon season afternoon, I also made some changes in wardrobe, opting for 8-inch tall hiking boots and heavy duty jeans. Having twice been turned back by thorns and flood water, I knew I would have to be better equipped to forge further into new territory. Also, I reasoned, my chances of surviving a black mamba attack would be significantly higher in the tough-skinned water proof boots. Sidebar: the boots still serve me faithfully today.

Thus armed and enarmored, I bade my hound goodbye, mounted my bicycle and rode gallantly off into the midmorning sun.

Actually, I stopped and ate a riz sauce breakfast at the little boutique near my house first, but the first sentence certainly sounds more noble, so let’s go with that.

This time, instead of following the paved road all the way to the Moutuori path–the Northern Route– I turned west before hitting the Barrage, beginning my circuit on the southern shore. Earlier, I had noted what seemed to be a well-established path leading in that direction, and I was hungry for new sights.

Tune In next time for more adventures in Dagarra country, courtesy of Max Miller, Nipla fou extraordinaire (Go on, Google, translate that, I dare you!).

 

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