|Lying in Wait|
Sat 3 Apr
As I get further and further to the east of Niger there are fewer and fewer creature comforts. What has been a good tarmac road has become narrower and fainter as it disappears into the encroaching Sahara sand. In the border town of Nguigmi ("Ing-goo-mee"), 1500km from the capital there is no guesthouse, no beer, and there are no more buses. To travel onward from here, the only thing I can do is to wait and hope for a lift across the border into Chad and for 600km on to its capital N'Djaména.
It's 10:00am. I buy some bread and make some enquiries about onward transport. There’s a marshal who organises such things. He invites me to sit in the shade with the others while he sorts something out.
I wait by the side of a dusty causeway, half a kilometre from the final police post. At 5:30pm the marshal, whose mat I have been sitting on, wants his mat back. I cheekily suggest he can leave it with me as I have nowhere to sleep. He takes me home and his wife kindly feeds us. I sleep in the courtyard, under the stars, next to the goats.
Sun 4 Apr
I wake about 6:00am. It's soon too warm to lie in bed (outside). I crawl into my host's "bedroom", sit on the floor, and get interested in CNN interview with Paul Kagame acknowledging the tenth anniversary of the Rwandan genocide.
By 8:00am I am dressed, breakfasted and back on the mat. Others are waiting too. Maybe today. If not, definitely tomorrow. Such encouragement. On the radio I find the BBC World Service. It's Palm Sunday and I listen to the Iona Community worship with their songs in happy harmonies to traditional Celtic tunes. Their thoughtful words conjure-up a scene of palm branches, hot dusty roads, and a man riding into town on a donkey; something I am seeing every few minutes.
By 4:00pm I am inclined to agree with the earlier pessimism and go for a walk around town. Perhaps a warm coke will pep things up a bit? Or I might discover an overlooked, never mentioned Novotel with swimming pool (OK, maybe the sun has got to me). On the other side of town I come across a huge open space, busy with people and camels, the air thick with dust stirred by foot and wind. Evidently, it's a market with groups of camels tied together, some further away and sat down I assume have already been bought, nearer ones parade and twirl in front of colourful “tribes” of travelling traders: Toureg, Peul, Arab, African, Muslim and Christian. This is a "port" where the ships of the Sahara rest on the shores of the Sahel.
I get back to the mat just in time to see a Land Cruiser with British number-plates disappear into the dust. Damn! I've waited two days for a chance and now I've missed it. The others are very excited for me: “Land Cruiser, going N'Djaména, one blanc only, he your country, you talk, he take.” Ten minutes later the vehicle returns and shortly after I am helping to dig us out of our first sand dune, but that's another story....
|Lying in Wait|