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Camel World  




Travel Diary - 2003
5 January | Senegal
22 January |Gambia
18 January |Guinea
9 February | Mali
22 February | Burkina Faso
3 March | Ghana
19 March | Togo
20 March | Benin
25 March | Niger
12 April | Chad
15 April | Cameroon
16 April | Nigeria
30 April | Congo
24 May | RDC
31 May | Angola
5 June | Namibia
27 June | South Africa
30 August | Lesotho
10 September | Swaziland
9 October | Botswana
17 October | Namibia
19 October |
29 October | Malawi
4 November |Mozambique
16 November | Tanzania
12 December | Rwanda
16 December | RDC
18 December | Uganda
24 December | Kenya

Travel Diary - 2004
9 January | Ethiopia
6 February | Sudan
21 February | Saudi Arabia
23 February | Jordan
3 March | Syria
5 March | Turkey
12 March | Greece
21 March | ...And Home


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17 months, 43 countries, and 2 vehicles


Aïr Mountains, Col de Temet,

So we hired Ibrahim Kane Annour, an experienced guide and  very nice chappie, who firstly put us in touch with Simeon, Paco and Veronica, an Ivorian and two Spaniards who also wanted to travel in company, and we set out for the Aïr Mountains on an itinerary that included a bit of dune driving which would have been inadvisable on our own.

The next week was simply superb - despite all the digging and pushing that accompanies vehicles with tyres that aren't well suited to desert. We all tried our hand at driving on soft dunes, which despite the risks is an exhilarating experience. With tyres down to 1 or 1.5 bar we swept along crests, and swooped down cols, and, to be honest, dug and pushed a lot. The Camel definitely had the edge of Simeon's Mitsubishi, but we had our moments too. And to be fair they did have iced tea, which more than made up for their shortcomings....

The climax of the trip was our arrival at the Col de Temet with dunes that soar steeply upwards for hundreds of meters, and look as if at any moment they might engulf our vehicles, sweeping us into oblivion.  That should worry the parents.

It was a sorry moment when we turned South towards Agadez, though we still had a bit of fun with an under inflated tyre - by now of course we have no working pumps and our remaining spare was full of thorns, but we got creative with some rubber hose and a donor tyre from the Mitsubishi which had loads of spares, and after a successful air transplant managed to make it home without drama.


Agadez, 31/03/03

After a two day slog up from the Nation park de W (or double-ve if you're French) where the animals had better things to do than show off for us, we arrived in Agadez, the town in the middle of nowhere.

It's actually quite lively with a fairly high level of hassle as tourism is one of the main contributors to the economy. Internet is 7500CFA an hour and is probably slow, though I'm not going to pay to find out, which means that I won't be posting from here.

We are negotiating for a guide who hopefully will take us into the Aïr Mountains for a week  - in the meantime I am staying in the Sultan's Palace, which sounds quite grand although I'm actually camping on top of the camel in the courtyard with a pack of very noisy dogs and a guardian who spends all night watching very angry politicians on a very loud television - how peaceful the solitude of the Ténéré...


Niamey, 27/03/03

Niamey is a sprawling and dusty city, full of frenetic activity and busy market-places. On our drive to the capital we found that the food was lousy and the shops poorly stocked and expensive - it is a pleasant surprise to find that Niamey has great street food and all the conveniences of a modern capital (except foot-pumps).

Our base is the camp site in North West of town, from where we can get to pretty much anywhere in town for a shared cab fare of 200CFA (20p).

One of the cultural highlights of the city is the museum, which is a series of pavilions intermingled with some pretty small cages housing a menagerie of monkeys, a hippo and a few other animals. The pavilions are closed for the middle of the day, so while I waited for them to open I sampled some delicious brochettes, then shared a mango with Bebe, a delightful chimpanzee, who repaid the compliment by grooming me - very relaxing.

When I started drinking water out of a plastic sachet - almost everything in West Africa is available in a plastic sachet - she demanded her share - and managed to do a sight better then any of us by not spilling a drop (though she wouldn't give the water back to me...)

That's the great thing about African zoos - no rules and you can get as close as you dare - with the lions it probably saves on the feeding bill.

The other highlight of the museum for me was the fabled Arbre du Ténéré - the only tree in Africa marked on a Michelin map. This acacia is the sole survivor of the once great Saharan forests, and stood along some 400km from its nearest neighbour until it was knocked down by a Libyan truck driver in 1973 - I believe he claims it came out of nowhere. The sorry remains are now slowly decaying in a cage in Niamey zoo.

Niamey is also where we say farewell to Paul and the Truck - they are heading across Nigeria while we take our time in the North of Niger, and we are unlikely to meet up again until Cape Town. Good excuse for a beer then.