The Man With No Baggage
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Mon 29 Mar
Niger AgadezWhen I get back to the hotel at Agadez the room I had before has been taken by an Argentinean who has been on the road for six months. He has a round smiling face, dark Latin features, shoulder length hair and enjoys taking showers and sitting around in shorts. We have a quick chat and discover we're both planning to catch the same bus, the next day, to Zinder.

I collect the gear I left in the hotel store and that night set about repacking my rucsac and struggle to get everything in.

Tue 30 Mar
The next morning, shortly after I open my door onto the courtyard Osma comes out of his room with a cloth bag containing a bottle of water, and the most modest of rucsacs on his back; it couldn’t have been more than 30 litres. "I’m off to the bus station now, I’ll eat breakfast there, see you later".

Niger Aier Mts TabelotIt is 7:00am, two hours before reporting time. I go and buy a baguette. My thoughts are niggled. The Man With No Baggage obviously doesn’t carry a sleeping bag, fleece, waterproof [jacket], and mosquito net, Toureg headscarf, Bedouin head scarf, English cricket hat or a boater bought in Bamako.

I have breakfast, finishing the jar of chocolate spread. I expect he simply has two Argentinean football shirts (one to wear, one in the wash) and shorts: bet he doesn’t even have any long trousers. Towel? In this climate, who needs one? Alternative footwear? (Well he was wearing flip flops last night.) Socks? I doubt it.

I make a sandwich for lunch with the rest of the baguette and some cheese I’d bought the day before. I’m sure The Man With No Baggage doesn’t bother with spectacles, contact lens solutions, first aid kit, malaria testing kit, sachets, pills, lotions, ointments, insect repellent or sun cream.

I wash my plate and cup and think about packing. The Man With No Baggage obviously doesn’t carry a jar of mayonnaise from town to town, or a plastic plate, cup and metal cutlery courtesy of Cabo Verde Airlines. Tea bags, sugar, sardines, "La Vache Qui Rit" cheese and 100 napkins. The Man With No Baggage, he say "no".

I pack my trusty US$6 short-wave radio and my latest gadget: a boil-in-the-cup heating element, and tell myself it's foolish to go on acquiring things; I’d been thinking of buying a calculator ever since losing my mobile phone. With that attitude I will never be like The Man With No Baggage. I bet he doesn’t buy souvenirs, read books, or use a camera that needs regular CD backups and battery charging.

I pay my bill and make my way to the bus station with my manageable, but fully loaded, rucsac. There I find Osma, sitting on one of the official waiting benches outside the gates. He's pleased to see me; he wants to go for a walk and buy a cold drink. "Watch my bags for me will you?" My eyes fell upon an enormous pull-along suitcase under the bags I’d seen earlier. The Man With No Baggage was not the man I thought he was; he has baggage.

The Man With No Baggage
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