23 February 2011

Driving Along in My Automobile

I arrived in Galmi Monday evening around dusk.  Normally, the drive takes between 6 & 7 hours by car, but we had a few hiccups, and no one actually checked the time when we left, so it was probably 7hours plus a a couple of adventures.

Since Short-Story-Long Girl will no doubt strike again, let me hit some of the more I'm-Enjoying-This-Because-I'm-Still-Fresh-Off-The-Boat stories.

The view from my car window for about 85% of the drive.

Not to far into our drive we crossed the regional line out of Tillaberi into Dosso, which required stopping at a check point and greeting a gendarme.  Our CMO was driving, and he went through all the appropriate greetings in Hausa.  Now, these can go on for a little bit with a lot of back and forth: how'd you sleep?  how's work? how's the family? how's your health?  But this time, things went a little longer than usual.  After a few minutes of chatter, we were back on our way.  "What was that about?"  I asked.  "Oh, he has athletes foot and asks that the next time I drive through here if I'd bring him a tube of cream."

A dried up river bed.
There is one well paved road that runs out east and along the way there were many interesting sights.  Broken down buses and big trucks still on the road, in the lane where they sputtered their last.  Bush taxis and lorries that end up double their height due to the massive load they are carrying.  I saw a camel fall to the ground dead.  He was walking along behind his friend, when all of a sudden he dropped to his knees and collapsed onto his side; he tried keeping his head raised, but after a few seconds he was motionless.  It was sad.

Here, this is normal.
(NO!  Those are not ALL mine!)
When we were about an hour from the half-way mark, the truck started to drive really rough when we were cruising at 120km/hr.  And for the next while it just got worse.  We prayed we would make it to Dogondoutchi, a little city where we knew we could find a mechanic.  As we jerked into town, our CMO pulled off the road into a little market area.  L. made a phone call, and got the name of a trustworthy local mechanic.  We turned around to go hunt this guys's shop down, and before we knew it, there was a police man on a motorcycle telling us to pull over.

Turns out, we went out the in.  He made us turn around and go back where we came from.  While C. was off taking care of this, L. and I stayed with the car.  New white faces in town always draw a crowd and before we knew it, we were greeting and being greeted.  Everything seemed pretty typical, until a shady-looking young guy wearing an Obama t-shirt with a button down on top and more rings than he has fingers showed up carrying two walking sticks, both wrapped in brightly patterned fabric.  'Bonjour, madame.' he said to me.  'Bonjour' I responded.  He asked how I was, I asked him the same.  After the course of greetings, he informed me that I was in need of a souvenir, and he proceeded to take off one of his many rings.  I told him no thank you, I in fact did not need a souvenir, and politely declined his offer.  He persisted.  I got out of the car and joined L., who was now chatting with some older women selling a couscous type grain.  He began speaking to L. and only left when she insisted that I was not in need of any of his souvenirs.

Two boys selling water in a small town.
Before long, C. was back (thankfully sans ticket!) and we were on our way . . . but not before my apparently new beau leaned in the passengers side window and said 'A toute suite, ma chèrie!' ('See you soon, honey!')  At least he wasn't a toothless old man . . . I'd say that's a step up from the norm! :)

The other type of 'gas station' . . . those gin bottles are full of car fuel.
Even though we were leaving ticketless, we still hadn't gotten the car fixed.  So, off we went to find chez Etienne.  We found him, he found the problem . . . I took a few photos we were on our way.  Turns out our fuel filter was clogged, despite filling the tank at a proper gas station, instead of the more frequent petrol stands that keep the fuel in gin (and I saw one this morning that used glass Coke and Mirinda bottles!) bottles.  Seems the bush taxis have this problem so frequently, they have the fuel lines rigged up so that the filter is actually in the front seat with them . . . so when it clogs, they don't even have to get out and pop the hood!

A kid pours us tea in Koni.
(notice the 'objects in the mirror are closer than they appear')
Once back on the road, it was smooth sailing the rest of the way.  With just an hour left in the drive, we rolled into the boarder town of Koni.  This is where you pick up the road south into Nigeria.  And we arrived just in time for tea.  C. pulled the car over and before we knew it and kid was pouring a glass of tea outside his car window.  Tuareg tea is quite popular here . . . a little shot of strong (strong, strong) mint tea with lots of sugar and sometimes a dollop of frothed milk.  Talk about car-side service!

So there you have it.  Just another Nigérien road trip.  But I'm safe and sound at the hospital.  Trying to unpack and organize as best as I can.


Here are few shots of some of the passersby while we were getting the car fixed:
What a gorgeous smile!
They were two of the few that didn't run
away when I picked up my camera.

2 comments:

taxi said...

AWESOME......home sweet home welcomes you! SO great to hear you are there. And great to hear about your new hubby to be, only a 4 hour drive away. Very desert-y and accurate to what you were saying. Maybe you actually are going to the desert. Here I thought you were making it up the whole time. Shame on me. I've heard pictures speak a thousand words, but now I agree. Ps......tell me you didn't stop at the gin station actually for gas. In America, we have drive through fast food, in Africa......drive through gin. Again....thanks for enduring hardships.

taxi said...

AWESOME......home sweet home welcomes you! SO great to hear you are there. And great to hear about your new hubby to be, only a 4 hour drive away. Very desert-y and accurate to what you were saying. Maybe you actually are going to the desert. Here I thought you were making it up the whole time. Shame on me. I've heard pictures speak a thousand words, but now I agree. Ps......tell me you didn't stop at the gin station actually for gas. In America, we have drive through fast food, in Africa......drive through gin. Again....thanks for enduring hardships.