I will freely admit that I really had no idea where I was going as I sat in the front seat of the car driving along a bumpy, pothole filled “road” leading miles away from Banfora and all other signs of modern civilization. I had spent the morning enjoying the sunrise over Lake Tengrela, looking for hippos from a rickety canoe and then climbing around the relatively famous Sindou Peaks – all before lunch. Our next stop was the village of Niansogoni, located just 23 miles southwest of Sindou, but the poor condition of the road (and the fact that our car was not four-wheel drive) meant it took us hours to get there.
It was early afternoon by the time we arrived in Niansogoni and stopped at a small campement for a break. The village near the campement wasn’t our final destination – an abandoned village high up on a cliff was. After a cold Coke and re-application of sunscreen and mosquito spray, we headed toward the base of the cliff to start our hike. The sun was brutally hot by this point and I was wishing my hat wasn’t sitting back in my hotel room. The path itself was rocky and a bit steep, but nothing I hadn’t experienced before. We took frequent breaks and enjoyed shade when we could find it. All in all, it probably took less than an hour to reach the top.
So what exactly was at the top? Take a look:
These are the abandoned dwellings and caves of a troglodyte village that dates back to the 14th century, when the Wara Wara people took refuge up on the cliff from Senoufu tribes (by the way, troglodyte refers to someone who lives in caves – new word for me!). Amazingly, they were inhabited up until just 30 years ago, when villagers decided to move down to the lowlands. I climbed and crawled around caves used as kitchens or bedrooms and peeked in awe through windows and doors at what was left of the small dwellings and storage containers. Here and there, vases and bowls laid almost intact and I could see the stones that were once used for grinding grain.
I think my guide, Ibrahim, thought I was a bit nuts because I was so excited to explore this abandoned village, but I love this kind of thing. It was certainly one of the coolest sites I saw in Burkina Faso and I could have poked around for hours (or how amazing would it be to actually spend the night up there??). As it was, we spent under an hour up there before hiking back down – a hike that seemed much faster on the way down than it did on the way up!