The Ruins of Loropeni
I move in an Easterly direction across Southern Burkina Faso, at first on decent sealed roads, then on extremely dusty and corrugated red-dirt roads. At sunset I arrive at the Ruins of Loropeni, which is deserted. The guard shack is vacant, so I drive in and setup camp right at the ruins themselves, cooking dinner in the quickly fading light.
In the morning I wander around the whole site, enjoying the peace and quiet. It’s nice not to have a guide talking ‘at’ me, as is so often the case here. The guard at the entrance is more than a little surprised to see me, and after I explain my late arrival, he seems to calm down. After a wait the head guide arrives, I pay the entrance fee, and he explains the site. Loropeni gained UNESCO World Heritage status in 2009, though it is still not well understood.
Built roughly 500 years ago, it was probably a stopover point for people traveling from Northern Mali to the Coast in Ghana to trade and fish. Among West Africa’s very few stone remains, the structure was probably made out of stone to protect from the wildlife that still inhabited this part of Burkina Faso back then (Lions, elephants, etc.) as well as any unfriendly rival tribes. The guide also mentions other Overlanders have stopped in and camped here in the past, though after thinking for a while he guesses it was three or four years ago – apparently this place does not get a lot of visitors.
The Sunday market in nearby Gaoua is bustling, and I enjoy wandering around and stocking up on much needed supplies. Everyone that makes an effort to talk to me is extremely friendly and welcoming, and they are happy to see a tourist in this part of Burkina Faso.