The next morning, we changed $100 and escaped after dodging having to give our landlord a 'cadeaux' as well as our payment for a night in his hovel and doing some shopping. We paid a local to take us across the last 15 kilometres of sand to the border with Niger in his pick-up.
The border post was quite busy. We arranged a lift with a Nigerien and had our papers looked at by the Algerian border officials at 2.30pm. Dan hid the money for the lift we had arranged in his socks right under the nose of a policeman. From our experience coming into Algeria we were not going to let these officials have any opportunity to get any freebies from us.
At one point, our driver came in and spoke to one of the policemen. They looked over at us. Thoughts shot through my mind that we had been compromised by the driver who had brought us to the border post. I thought that our valuable taxi money was going to be stripped from us.
But, soon, we were passed onto the customs officials. We produced our currency declaration forms which were checked and stamped, and we were motioned to another desk. Here, we were told to bring our bags and bikes through, which we did lying them down outside the main hall in which the customs officials desk were sitting. Then ,we waited.
A customs man came up to us but did not say anything. Then, a policeman came up a customs official and started to talk to him and to look at us/ Blown again, we thought. Dan went to a different customs man and asked him if there was a problem. This seemed to confuse them and we were waved on. Perhaps, we looked as though we were more trouble than we were worth.
At once, we grabbed our bags and bikes, and headed for our lift. We secured the bikes to the inside of the Toyota pick-up and our bikes next to them. Soon after, we were speeding across 'No Man's Land' towards the Niger border post at Assamaka, which, at that point, was a clump of trees on the horizon. Dan and I were standing up in the back of the pick-up holding onto the rail just behind the drivers' cab.
We noticed the change between Algeria and Niger almost immediately. We were heading out of the Arabic and Berber world and into Black Africa. It was an amazing difference. We could see gun toting sporting mirror sunglasses. There was loud music blaring out and people lounging around waiting to cross the border or to trade. There piles of sacks and oil drums dotted about the place. The border officials were less officious than they looked and we were checked through quickly.
Our Tuareg driver filled up with fuel and we headed off across the desert to the Assamaka-Arlit stage of our journey into Niger. We were crossing 200 kilometres of 'bandit country' where several 'overlanders' had been attacked by them, having their vehicles and money stolen. (We later met some friends from Tamanrasset who had this happen to them crossing this part of the desert).
Fortunately, this part of the journey in the back of a pick-up was far better than the stage we had experienced from Tamanrasset. We stopped after a short while at a spring for a brief rest. We ate dates and drank milk made up from a powder. At 5pm, we set off and carried on driving as the sun went down. We came to a halt when it was dark where there was a lorry which was coming in the opposite direction on the piste. The lorry's Algerian occupants were very friendly and asked us to join them for some mint tea. That tea was so refreshing and they were charming.
We pushed on again into the night and arrived at Arlit at 11.30pm where the driver dropped us off at the campsite which was no more than a large, walled sand pit with a few trees for shade. We actually stayed in a bungalow rather than camp that night. We also bought some beer from a little shop, made supper and crashed out.
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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