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Be Grateful, Unless You’re A Chicken At A Croc Farm

In between our Dogon Country trekking in Mali and our first week of volunteering in Tamale, Ghana we spent four nights in Ouagdougou, Burkina Faso. We were here primarily for one reason; we needed to apply for visas to get into Ghana.

I would like to say we did a ton while there, and of course any time you are travelling in Africa the simplest things can be an adventure, but truth be told much of our time was just spent roaming through the city centre, drinking our Nescafe at the Pavillon Vert where we were staying, and catching up a little on our blog. It was nice to take a break and not do much for a few days.

I did however, spend one morning out at the Bazoule Croc Farm, which led to a pretty interesting tale. Here is your advance warning: If you are a PETA member, save yourself the heartache…stop reading.

Mohammed and I on our way to Bazoule

Bazoule is about 15 kms out of the city, and Mohammed, my guide suggested we leave early when the crocs will be hungry. He picked me up on his motorbike at 8AM, and off we went.

What happened after arriving at the reserve was fairly straightforward: First off, we find the 150 year old crocodile, and they give me the opportunity to sit on him. I won’t tell you I was completely fearless. I had no desire to become breakfast for this old fart of a crocodile. But I did follow through, squatting on his back and petting his leathery skin.

You want me to sit...WHERE??!!

After this, the guide led me down to the lake, which, at last count, 219 crocodiles called home. We had our bait, in the form of a young chicken…still living. For the next half hour, the guide taunted half a dozen crocodiles with the squeaky chicken, bringing them onto dry land. At one point I was surrounded by six of them, and was very glad it was the chicken, and not me who was attracting all the attention.

In the end the bird was thrown up in the air, amidst four of the hungriest crocs, and was swallowed in about 1.8 seconds. Nighty night.

Mohammed charged me 10,000 CFAs (about $20 CDN), which included transport to and from, entry into the park, and of course the purchase of the chicken. A fair price, for a good time had by all.

The Moro Naba

On our way back, Mohammed wanted to show me and area of Ouga where once a week the where the Moro-Naba Palace Ceremony takes place. Basically every Friday morning, the government consults the emperor of the Mossi, in a local but brief ceremony. Should we have wanted to go the next morning (we couldn’t as we were leaving) , at least I knew where to go.

We pulled up to the grounds, but without the emperor present, it really didn’t appear to be much more than a dirty park, and so our stay was brief. As we were about to head out, we were stopped by a young boy. He was speaking French (quickly), and so I couldn’t understand him. He was begging, this was pretty clear. But the details of his situation, translated back to me by Mohammed, really got my attention.

His name is Ali.
He is 15 years old. He is from Guinea – he was nearly 2,000kms from home. Why or how he actually ended up in Ouaga was never really discovered, but he has been homeless since arriving, being kicked off every bench or out of every park he ever tried to sleep in. He required an inhaler, but his was empty. He had malaria. He was talking to us, in tears – stopping only to run to the next tree to throw up.

Ali needed to get to Bamako, Mali. There, they have a Guinean embassy, and they would, he had been told be looked after from there. They would be able to send him home to his family. However, Mali was 845 kms away, and he was penniless. He told me the price of a ticket back to Mali was 30,000 ($60CDN). I had no money on me, so we left Ali and went back to the hotel. Shawna and I talked about it, but the decision was an easy one. We needed to go back and give him the money…which we did.

I am not writing this because I am asking for praise, or to make Shawna and I feel better about ourselves. But this was, for me, the saddest moment on our trip to date. I almost felt like I was going to be ill for most of that day. It seems so crazy that I am spending money to watch crocodiles eat a chicken, while Ali, at fifteen, is sleeping in a park, diseased and dying, thousands of kilometres away from his family.

Of course that doesn’t mean we will stop travelling, or touring, or living the best life we can…. But for me, it was a strong reminder to be extremely grateful for the moments we are experiencing, be they on the road or at home. We have it pretty damm good. And so do you… don’t forget it.

Don't worry, be happy - life ain't so bad...

Oh yes, almost forgot…we have made our decision on Madagascar!

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2 Responses to “Be Grateful, Unless You’re A Chicken At A Croc Farm”

  1. Erica December 5, 2011 at 1:57 am #

    Oh wow. Just wow. That is definitely quite the day. What and emotional rollercoaster for sure.
    Erica recently posted..Crazy Cartagena Independence: Colombia

    • Skott December 9, 2011 at 11:59 am #

      Yeah, that is one way to put it :)

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