DAY SIXTY-NINE We got up with the sun after a cold night and packed up.
The Niger border guards were friendly and totally corrupt so for £30 we more-or-less went straight through!
We drove across the 15 KM of sand that makes up no-man’s-land to the Algerian side and our troubles began.
The Poms¹, as we had feared, weren’t allowed through. A telex to Tamanrasset got permission for Scotty to go through as he is the driver but Snake, Craig & Ian were out of luck. We drove back to the Niger side and dropped them off to make their own way back to Kano and fly home.
We returned to the Algerian side and sat there all afternoon only to be told that they weren’t going to let us through because Scotty didn’t have a letter of authorization to drive the truck. That was complete bullshit of course, as he has a briefcase full of papers for the truck but they were adamant.
We camped the night out in the desert and everyone tried to blame Scotty for our trouble which is pretty typical². Scotty solved the problem by getting pissed!!
²By this stage of the journey, a faction of people, led by an Australian fellow called Russ, who had been a travel agent, that were discontented with the way the trip had been organized, had begun to oppose every decision and to blame our driver, Scotty, for every mishap, even those that were outside of his control. Eventually, these people would leave the trip for an extended period, a situation that actually made the coming journey through the remainder of Algeria and into Morocco a much more pleasant experience for the rest of us.
DAY SIXTY-EIGHT We left the camp at 7:30 and drove into town to retrieve our passports then drove out to the Hydroponics Garden about 4 miles from town where fresh veggies are grown for the French staff at the Arlit uranium plant. The garden is an oasis in the middle of nothingness with healthy rows of corn growing in border-dyked plots and all manner of vegetables growing in air-cooled hothouses. We bought some leeks and marrows then bade civilization goodbye and drove into the desert.
Baking heat and scorching glare accompanied us all day as we bounced across the flat, endless expanse of nothing. Totally devoid of life, the desert is completely awesome. The heat rolls in shimmering waves across the bare sand and silver mirages shimmer and ebb in the ever-changing air currents.
There was no road as such, just tracks left by other vehicles and concrete-filled drums every 1 kilometre to show the way.
We reached the border station in late afternoon, too late to go through so we camped out in the desert. Linda has a cold now & she went to bed early. We slept on the ground some distance from the truck with a trillion brightly-shining stars above us and the cold desert air all around us.
DAY SIXTY-SEVEN We had an early start and headed up the tar-seal road towards Arlit. The road was very well made to carry the uranium which is mined at Arlit.
We left the last traces of vegetation behind on the three-hour drive to Arlit and when we got there the police took our passports and told us we couldn’t leave till the next day. This is the usual procedure & ensures that people have a full day in which to travel up to the [Niger-Algeria] border.
So, we booked into a camping ground outside of town on a flat, featureless plain and once again we were pestered by salesmen, Touregs¹ this time, peddling junk. I bought a Toureg sword for 100 FF & Linda bought some bracelets for presents.
In the evening, a local killed & cooked a goat for us which we ate with spuds and mint sauce.
DAY SIXTY-SIX Everyone went their separate ways for the day. Linda and I had a bowl of lovely yummy ice-cream at the local ice-cream parlour across the road then went for a walk to see the market. We were pestered by Filani salesmen to “come and see my shop” but ignored them.
I bought a turban of black, silken material for the desert & then we went to the silversmith’s workshop where Linda bought a pair of silver earrings.¹
I was getting buggered by this stage se we went back to the hotel & spent the rest of the day sleeping in the shade. We spent the night on the roof again.
¹ Linda also bought a silver bracelet which, in later years, she gave to me. I still wear it to this day.
DAY SIXTY-FIVE Agadez is built entirely of mud and stands at a crossroads on the edge of the desert. We reached it in the middle of a hot and windy afternoon. It had been a very long and hot drive from our night campsite, on a well-made road which passed through the last of the Sahel country and out into the desert.
We booked into the Hotel de l’Air and were assigned the roof to sleep on.
A very tall Fulani¹ man came and offered us a goat for tea & I went with him on the back of his motorcycle to see it. It was scrawny but eatable so that night we dined on oven-cooked goat.
The night was spent on the roof was very comfortable and wonderfully cool.
DAY SIXTY-FOUR We left early and were at the town of Zinder by 10:00. We bought food in the market & had cold drinks then carried on.
The country rapidly turned from scrub to stony desert as we headed north.
The highlight of the day was at mid-afternoon when we stopped for water at a well. They were using camels to hoist water out of the 120 foot deep well and there was a hive of activity going on around it as local tribesmen fetched water.
We carried on and stopped in the late afternoon to set up camp. Linda and I slept on the truck.
DAY SIXTY-THREE We left Kano mid-morning and drove north through the continuing barrenness of the Sahel.
I was a total wreck with the severe symptoms of a cold and felt thoroughly miserable all day. Even though it was very hot, I shivered and ached all day.
We reached the sandy compound of the Nigerian border at 1:30 and completed formalities without any trouble.
No-man’s land between Nigeria and Niger¹ is 10 kilometres wide so we got to the Niger side in the mid-afternoon & ran into our first truck search. The sloppy, petulant guards had us unload all the luggage then they went through everything with their greedy little fingers. Needless to say, we were all pretty fucked off by the time they had finished. It was another 35 KM (!) to the customs post but the formalities there were quick. We drove for another 20 minutes then camped.
DAY SIXTY-TWO Linda, Chris and I walked up to the Post Office to post our mail and there was a letter there from Joe. In it was two photos of Mick’s new farm¹, a nice-looking block, along with news of the impending sale of Rollesby, Stanton and Pukaki Downs²
We spent some time buying some stuff at a sidewalk artisans’ stall and added to our treasure trove of souvenirs some necklaces of clay beads, 4 masks and a few other bits and pieces.
At 12:00 Adu came for us in a little three-wheeled mini-cab called a tuk-tuk to take us on a tour of town. He took us for lunch at a little hidden restaurant where we had salad, plantain & chicken then to his house which is provided for him by the government. It is a very comfortable little two-room place set in its own walled courtyard. Furnished with settees, carpet, TV etc it was a hell of a lot nicer than most of the houses we have seen. We assured Adu that it was a great home but I’m sure he was aware that it is pitifully small compared to our houses in the west. We took some timer photos of the three of us and promised to send him copies.
On the way back to camp through the bustling late afternoon streets, we stopped by the abattoir so I could get a photo of the action there.
I started snuffling and sneezing in the evening & by the time bed-time came I had a full-blown cold. I spent a very uncomfortable night sweating, shivering and aching in every joint.
¹Our cousin, Mick Gillingham, had just bought a hill country farm in the Danseys Pass area of Otago on New Zealand’s South Island.
²These were High Country sheep stations (ranches) where I had worked during my time as a shepherd.