DAY FIFTY-SEVEN Our first day in Kano dawned hot and hazy. We sat round in camp waiting for an agent from Criss Cross, the local Bureau de Change, to arrive to change money for us. They have a nice little system to drum up business. They will stamp the Currency Declarations without writing any figures so you can fill in what you like!!¹
Scotty, Linda, Craig, Pullar², Snake and I went up to the post office to collect our mail. There were only two letters for Linda and I, one from Pippa and one from Kate³, then to the Central Hotel for a beer. From the hotel we caught a taxi up to the old market inside the original walled city.
The moment we stepped out of the taxi we were besieged by touts wanting to show us round. We paid 2 of them 1 Naira each and they led us into the labyrinth of the market.
We wandered through the twisted maze of narrow alleyways between mud walls where merchants hissed and shouted to catch our attention and show us their wares. I stopped at a stall to argue with a vendor to buy one of the traditional hats, or Fotu, for each of us. We looked at fabrics and embroidered rugs and jewellery and all manner of strange food, gems, perfumes, gums and other exotic things.
The floor of the alleys ran with water and waste and from every corner beggars and ragged children peered. We spent a fascinating hour in there then got a ride back to camp on the back of a small truck.
In the evening, a mini-bus arrived to take us to a Chinese restaurant that Adu, our guide had booked for us. We had a sumptuous meal with lots of wine, followed by dancing, first to Western music then to the very different beat of Arabic music, provided by a group of Lebanese at the restaurant.
The mini-bus took us back to the Central for several rounds of Schnapps (hic!!) then Linda and I wandered (staggered!!) back to the camp.
¹Throughout Africa, you needed to fill in a Currency Declaration when you entered each country. Every time you changed money legally (ie at a bank) the amount of currency you changed was entered on the declaration and it was stamped. When you exited the country, the amount of remaining currency had to match the amount you had entered with, less the amount you had changed officially. This was supposed to stop black marketeering of currency and also the illegal export of currency. Of course, like any official system, there were ways around it. The black market rate was usually much higher than the official rate so it made sense to change as much on the black market as possible. So the forging of Currency Declaration entries was a matter of course. I was particularly good at it. My favoured method was to change a whole number of US Dollars or British Pounds, say US$10, at a bank, then change the 10 to 100 on the currency declaration. This allowed a further $US90 to be changed unofficially: a process which often involved a good deal of risk but was very, very exciting!
² Real name Paul. I’m not sure why we called him Pullar but I think it may have been because he was adept at “pulling” girls!
³Pippa and Kate are two of Linda’s friends from Rangi Ruru, the prestigious boarding school all three attended.