Niamey to Ndjamena

Trip Start Oct 01, 2002
Trip End Aug 08, 2005

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Flag of Chad  ,
Monday, April 7, 2003

Well we have just come to the end of probably one of the hardest stretches so far. Seven long days from 7am to 7pm from Niamey, Niger to Ndjamena, Chad. The route took us along the Nigerian border through remote villages and towns and then through the sahara desert into Chad, around the dried up Lake chad to Njamena. The route through the desert was without a road, a very rough ride across deep sand which rocked and bumped the truck non stop. We really felt like we were locked in a metal cage and then being shaken about, setting off each day at 7 am and stopping just once during the day before finding a place to camp at sunset. We were without running water to wash ourselves and after more than 7days of +40 degres heat and clouds of sand billowing in through the windows, we were glad of our bucket shower in Ndjamena.

The landscape was absolutely beautiful, desolate desert areas and thatched hut villages springing from nowhere, changing to beautiful sand dunes varying from golden yellow to flat white salt pans into terracotta orange dunes. The sand was sculpted and it was really breathtaking. The desert floor can dip suddenly into an oasis of green palm trees swaying in the hot 'breeze'. You can drive for ages and see nothing and then out of nowhere a man appears, dressed in bright colours, striding across the desert. As you approach a village you start to see families on camels and men on horseback, dressed in fascinating outfits against the Harmattan winds, carrying swords, bows and arrows and wearing pointy hats.

Crossing into Chad was surprisingly hassle free, the police in this country have a bad reputation for being corrupt and subtracting bribes and 'tolls'at every opportunity. We took a hitch hiker at the request of the police and also transported a soldier to the next village. We then gave another 5 police and military personnel lifts to neighbouring towns 55 kms away,becoming the essential local transport as the first truck to pass through in 6-7 days. We decided this might help avoid searches and bribes at police stops and ease our journey. They did help at one small town where the police demanded a 16 dollar fee per person for registering and stamping our passports which was eventually avoided successfully.

We had to register in each town we passed through in Chad and encountered the stereotypical African bureaucracy. We were delayed 5 hours in one day through form filling and then waiting for 'the man with the key to the drawer with the stamp' who wasnt in town for several hours!! Nonetheless it could have been so much worse.

The desert landscape through Chad was strewn with scrap military vehicles and tanks from the recent-ish wars. There were also bullet ridden buildings. However, some of the small villages we stayed in were beautiful, the children eyed us warily at first before daring to come closer and touching our skin, examining us closely. They were delightful. We also encountered an unexpected traffic jam! In the middle of the desert there were about 20 trucks and buses waitinginline to cross an area of deep sand using sand mats,grass and rocks laid down one after the other. Paul took great pleasure in demonstrating his new skills by driving successfully around the queue!

Arriving in Ndjamena on 3rd April we were exhausted. We are now camping in the garden of a restaurant which is pleasant and quiet but the town does not have a nice feel about it. The people are either really friendly or completely the opposite, some wont even look at you or answer your questions when you need help. Along with Mauritania, this has to be the unfriendliest country so far. John had his watch torn from his wrist which can happen anywhere but compounds our already negative feelings about the town.
We are attempting to obtain our Sudanese visas here which we already knew could take up to 3 weeks depending on nationality and we have met a few Europeans who had to turn back towards Europe from the border because their applications were refused. We met a guy in Lome who's brother is here and we hoped he could help but he has spoken to the consular at the embassy and it seems it might be bad news. He said he would not issue us visas, on grounds of safety as banditry on the border has recently increased and therefore he says the route by road is not safe. We hope we can convince him as we have no other real options. All neighbouring countries are unsafe and we could turn back to Ghana and possibly ship the truck south but that would be a last resort. This could really scupper things up for us.

Anyway we are still gearing up for our next tough stint to Khatoum, Sudan. Again it will be a rough ride, even more so avoiding bandits!
Tijn has left the truck to go to Cameroon where he will work for a while which had always been his intention. Thankfully Sophie has left too, to join him. The whole truck has breathed a sigh of relief because we have been counting down the days to their departure. Hopefully things will look up from now!

Well we'll probably be out of touch a while, hopefully when we get to Khartoum we'll update you all.

Take Care.

P.S Can you believe it's been more than 6 months since we left Aberdeen!!
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