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.
DAY SIXTY Once again, much of the day was spent relaxing at camp or up at the Central.
The highlight of the day was in the evening when Adu organised a show of Nigerian dancing for us. The troop was made up of 10 dancers and 4 musicians and they whirled & stamped & whooped in a very interesting display.
Tea was at a local restaurant & nightclub called “Lily White’s.” The food was good but the music was SO loud we were driven out after only 20 minutes.
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.
DAY FIFTY-EIGHT At 9:00 Adu arrived with the mini-bus to take us all on a tour of Kano. First stop was the Criss Cross Bureau de Change where everyone changed money then we drove up to the Central Mosque. The heat and dust combined to form a thick haze which hung over the city like a shroud. In the square surrounding the mosque we photographed a horde of ragged children that gathered round the van.
From the mosque we drove to the Kano Emir’s palace. A rare surprise was in store for us. The Emir (the town chief) was about to make one of his rare appearances. His approach was heralded by a tall man dressed in a splendid red, black and green robe and mounted on a black horse.
When the Emir arrived he sat on a raised platform (no one is allowed to be higher than the Emir) and answered each question from the crowd by whispering to one of his green- and red-clad assistants who then spoke it aloud.
After the palace we spent an hour looking through the Kano Museum then drove via the old city wall to the old market. We spent a lot of money there: Linda bought a gorgeous woven blanket for 200 FF [French francs] and traded her watch and 500N¹ for a bracelet & a pair of ear-rings. I bought a bracelet for 25N.
On the way back to the camp we stopped for a local lunch at a canteen.