On we went, the wind still following us through Dogon-Doutchi where we met some Kiwis in a Land Rover. It was a hole of a town. At lunch, we ate some rice and sauce from a stall before moving out of town a short way, finding a shady spot and finishing off lunch with fruit, coffee and a snooze.
All the way into Niamey over the next few days, we bush-camped and saw a few local animals and insects on the way. One occasion was on Christmas Eve when Dan and I were sleeping away from the road. We went to bed in our sleeping bags, under mosquito nets and on roll mats only.
On Christmas morning, we woke, ate and started to pack up to leave. Dan picked up his roll mat and saw underneath that it had been eaten away along its whole length. There were hundreds of holes on it, so much so that it looked like a moonscape but in yellow. The mosquito nets had been nibbled away where they had been touching the ground leaving great holes, certainly large enough to get a whole squadron of insects through in formation. Some of the clothes we had left on the ground had holes in them too. That was a Christmas morning to remember.
On Christmas Day, we came into Dosso at lunchtime. Here, we bought some huge bananas, peanut butter (pate d'arachide), bread and a bowl of riz sauce. Later on, we came into a smaller town feeling a little miserable and tired, and looked to find somewhere to buy a fizzy drink to cheer ourselves up. While cycling around looking for somewhere to buy the drinks, some kids who had been jogging along behind us swiped a few of the bananas off the back of our bikes, which was infuriating.
Now feeling very pissed off, we found a bar and entered after a near-argument with a man outside who said we could not go in. We ordered a beer each and sat down to cool off. There was a man singing and playing a home-made ukulele. He was very good although I didn't know what he was singing about. This was our first taste of West African music.
After our experiences in Niger so far of people and children demanding 'cadeaux', or asking how much our bikes cost; a man sat next to us and started talking. He was very friendly and started buying us bottles of tonic water. We were very surprised but happy. We sat about talking for a while before making excuses and leaving.
That night, we had difficulty finding a camp spot because of the number of villages about. We found one eventually after riding in the dark for a while.
On Boxing Day, we rode the last 80 kilometres at a relaxed pace. The number of towns on the way to the capital was sparse so there was nowhere to stop to eat. We had to cook our own lunch and had pasta with tinned mackerel (which happened to be food-aid from Japan which was widely for sale in the markets).
The final stretch into Niamey was a little dull until we approached its outskirts. Here, the local police stopped us, wrote in our passports and then chatted with us for a while. Most of the police were nice to us and we got no hassle compared to travellers in cars and Land Rovers.
It was a long ride from where the police stopped us to the campsite, which led us through the middle of busy Niamey and out onto the north side to 'Camping Yantala'. We rode in, filthy, sweaty, smelly and unshaven. We must have been quite a sight. We filled in the forms needed to camp there, paid for one night and went in.
The first people we saw in the campsite were Eddie and Harriet who we had last seem in Tamanrasset. We went up to say hello. Harriet came out of their tent looking pleased and surprised, noting how dirty we looked.
We sat down after parking our bikes next to some nearby tress and talked with them. Eddie got some cold beers out which tasted great. We talked about their journey to Djanet (which took 9 days instead of the planned 5 days), a black guy they picked up who was walking up through Libya, our stories and also about a couple we had also met in Tamanrasset called Clive and Aroha who had their beautifully kitted out Land Rover and all their money and passports stolen by bandits who were posing as Tuaregs between Assamaka and Arlit.
Clive and Aroha soon arrived, surprised to see us. Understandably, they were feeling very depressed but they cheered over the next couple of days. Aroha had, in fact, managed to stuff some cash down her knickers before they were forced out of their Land Rover. The bandits had shot at them to force them to stop.
One of their grumbles was that their American Express Travellers Cheques, with a supposed guaranteed 24 hour replacement had taken five days to be replaced. In addition to this, they had to go to the UK Embassy in Abidjan in the Ivory Coast to get replacement passports travelling on a 'laisser-faire' pass. Poor sods.
We ate that night at the campsite café and ate steak and chips with Harriet's Heinz tomato ketchup, which tasted fantastic, with a few beers.
Will Hawkins lives in Lincolnshire with his family, works in a technology company in London and does as many micro-adventures as he can.
Don't miss a thing! Sign up to my free newsletter
Posts by Country