24-May-2005 -- We woke up at 6 a.m. planning to reach 2 confluence points. The first point seemed pretty easy; the national road map indicated a major paved highway would take us to a secondary road, which would put us within 2 km. A quick turnaround and we would drive on to the second point in time to find some place to sleep. Oh, what a day this would turn out to be.
Within just a few kilometers of our guesthouse in Bobo, we quickly came to realize the map was very wrong. Not only was there no pavement, but also the road itself was in terrible condition. Tire destroying potholes, washboard, debris and some deep sand kept our top speed to 40 km/h. Driving the 99 kilometers to the town where the first turnoff should have been located seemed to take forever. At this point, we had resigned ourselves to obtaining only one point.
The national 'map' showed there to be a road cutting directly between Boundoukui and Solenzo. The point lay just off this road halfway between the two villages. The teenagers giving directions pointed behind us, in the direction we had just come. We turned around and a few hundred meters back found a path wide enough for a donkey cart to traverse. Turning there, we were still 27 kilometers from the point. We drove to within 18 kilometers of the point where the road took a wide turn to the Northeast - away from the point. A few kilometers down the road, we came to a town and asked about the road to Solenzo. They said we'd passed the path; it was behind us. Tami and I exchanged glances; neither of us had seen another path. Driving back a few kilometers, we found a tiny path cutting off in the general direction of the point. "Let's try it." You could tell from the path that people used it, but only for bicycles and foot traffic. We crawled along this path and others like it for almost 10 kilometers until there were no more paths. The terrain was totally overgrown with no chance of going further in the 4-wheel drive Mazda pick-up. It was about 11:30 a.m., 42°C and more than 8 kilometers from 12N 4W.
8 kilometers. Shouldn't be too bad, we thought. We took some water, digital camera, peanuts, crackers and the GPS. Leaving the truck, we were still in good spirits. 1 km further, though, we were quickly disappointed. All paths ended because there was a gulley cut into the earth with a muddy, nasty stream in the bottom. I picked up a sizeable limb to use as a walking stick and went into the stream. It was about chest deep and some 20 meters across. Finding a suitable crossing point (thick briars were on either side of the embankment), I went back and helped my wife get across safely. The water was refreshing, but the wet shoes and socks were miserable.
7 kilometers later, we had walked in the direct sun for almost two hours. We were sun burnt, terribly hot and suffering from the blisters caused by the wet shoes. Oh, joy. But we were at 12N 4W, 1:39 p.m. "Quick, take a picture of the GPS, there's N, W, S, E. Let's get out of here."
The combination of slow walking and extreme heat caused us to drink our water faster; usually one can find a well close by, but it wasn't to be the case this day. Making it back to the stream was torture in itself. Crossing it and knowing there was 1km to go was a pretty good feeling, though. Reaching the truck at almost 4 p.m., we decided to bypass the second point (another 120 km NW off the terrible road) and drive back to Bobo (80 km SE). We made it back about 7:30 p.m. and decided to go to the Chinese restaurant for supper to celebrate. 3 cokes and 2 bottles of water later, we were starting to feel pretty good about the day.