The morning after, Dan saw the three, Bob, Jackie and Caroline, in the Land Rover we had seen at the Algerian border and who had helped me get back into Figuig. Bob gave me a Lomitil (like Immodium) tablet for my guts which had no effect whatsoever. They said there was another, better campsite on the other side of town. They were moving and, apparently, Eddie and Harriet were over there. Also, we saw Erik and Evelyn and went over to give them a surprise. None of them had expected to see us so soon.
After a breakfast tuna fish and rice, we packed up to move to the other newer campsite. As we were doing this, Jackie came up in their Land Rover and offered us a lift over to the site. In my weakened state we accepted. I shoved my bike on the roof and Dan cycled into town to get money.
At the other site were, as said, Eddie and Harriet plus the three Australians in ‘Mule’. What a collection of people. Jackie made some lunch and offered me some. I accepted, gratefully. Eddie and Harriet were surprised to see us but understood when they saw the state I was in. Dan arrived back and we told them about the writing on the back of a road sign we had seen. Eddie and Harriet laughed and said it was their handiwork.
The campsite was new and brand new tents each of which contained six bunk beds. Dan and I were in one of them and it was a mighty relief to be able to sleep on a bunk bed for a couple of nights.
Soon, the Swiss bikers turned up and we talked with them a lot. There was a Frenchman in the same tent as us who had been working in Rwanda for three years. He was interesting. During the rest of our stay in Tam, we went to a local doctor and got antibiotics for our guts. We met a Togolese guy who asked us to deliver some letters for him on our journey through there.
Also, we went on a jaunt into the desert on a tour to visit Assekrem. A French priest lives in the Hermitage de Foucauld in the mountains there. It was a bumpy and dusty ride up with Jackie, Bob and Caroline, plus some other tourists. When we arrived in the evening, we dropped our kit in a basic hostel in the saddle between the hills beneath the hermitage before walking up the rocky path to the priests’ house.
The hermitage is built into the rocky ground and it blends in superbly. The French priest was a very friendly man in his late fifties. We had brought him up supplies which we had been handed in Tam. He accepted them gratefully and invited us to look into his house. It was surprisingly civilised and comfortable. We chatted with him for a bit and then went outside again to wait for the sunset on the mountains in front of us.
The sunset was stunningly beautiful on those mountains. It was just a pity that we did not have the excellent digital cameras we now own to take more photographs. Before it was too dark, we went back down to the hostel and ate supper with the other tourists. It was cold outside but warm in the building.
The next morning we were up very early before dawn so we could see the sunrise. We clambered up the hill again to watch the sun come up over the mountains. I had never seen anything so beautiful before. The clear desert sky made for beautiful tones of blue and orange emerge behind the volcanic mountains in front of us. It was stunning. Unfortunately, Bob, the Australian with Caroline and Jackie, piped up that it was not as beautiful as the sunset he had seen in the Grand Canyon. It was one of those moments when I think most of us would have like to have told him to shut up.
Back in Tam, we found a few places which sold decent sandwiches, patisseries and yoghurt. Food was now an obsession with us. Eating tinned tuna and rice was becoming our staple diet and anything we could find to brighten it up we devoured.
We visited the Nigerien consulate because we had been told by someone travelling in the back of an overland lorry that the British needed a visa for Niger. It turned out to be untrue (probably something that person had read in one the numerous guide books available and which you could people walking around the town as if they could not find anything without it). We had a certain amount of disdain for the ‘trippers’ in the back of the overland lorries. They were just coaches without the comfort and it seemed that people on them lacked the adventurous spirit and self-reliance of the independent travellers.
After much discussion, Dan and I had decided that we needed to put our bikes on the back of a vehicle to get to the Nigerien border at In Guezzam. The road from Tamanrasset south over the Sahara and into the Sahel turned from tarmac into sandy piste a short distance out of the town. The piste was marked by concrete posts until it came to the border some 390 kms to the south.
We weren’t certain about the ground and whether we could carry enough water over this stretch, so taking a ride on a pick-up seemed the wise option. It took us a couple of days to find a driver who was heading south and who was willing to take us. Little were we to know that the following 24 hours on the back of the pick-up was going to be bone crunching nightmare.
Will Hawkins lives in Lincolnshire with his family, works in a technology company in London and does as many micro-adventures as he can.
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