Tuesday, July 12
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

The man in charge of night reception at the hotel I had chosen in Ouaga said he was sorry. All rooms were full.

It wasn’t the news I wanted to hear at midnight after traveling since 7 a.m. to cross the Burkina border. The Burkinabe sympathized with this weary wanderer and called a few nearby hotels to find me a room, then sent a hotel guard to accompany me on the walk there.

The streets were dark and empty aside from a few lurkers. So imagine my surprise when I saw two white guys walking towards us.

I squinted to see whether my eyes were playing tricks on me. Cedric and Ed! My friends from Timbuktu! We had parted ways in Mopti when I headed east for Dogon Country and they continued south to Burkina.

They, too, stared at me for a few seconds in disbelief.

“How’d you make it here in one day?” asked Ed, who knew I had planned to leave that morning.

The trip from Mopti to Ouaga had taken them two days, he said. But I had gotten lucky. Twice I switched vehicles just in time to catch one that was full and leaving right away.

And here my luck was kicking in again. Instead of staying alone in a sketchy hotel, I climbed under the guys’ mozzie (mosquito) net and drifted to sleep.

In the middle of the night, Cedric arose and made his way to the toilet, where he puked up the chicken he had eaten a few hours earlier. He returned to our room gripping his stomach.

“Africa,” he said in his German accent. “I am never coming back.”