Burkina to Niger

The Republic of

After a tasty breakfast, we stood outside our hotel .. the Rose de Sable .. at around 7.00 am, waiting for our prearranged taxi to arrive .. it didn't !! People were stirring on the streets and a young lad, noticing our predicament, volunteered to find an alternative taxi that his friend had. His friend arrived without his taxi and explained he had no petrol. One or two more false starts later, we eventually saw one in the distance and  hailed him. Arriving at the bus depot with only 2 minutes to spare before the bus's 8.00 am departure time, we waved our tickets, bought the night before and were bustled on board as it was leaving, exactly on time. Not the usual African penchant for timing !

The journey out of Ouaga was slow and drawn out in the rush hour traffic, with thousands of people in cars and on scooters on their way to work. We had a long stop on the outskirts of the city for papers to be shown and snacks to be bought.

To get to the Niger border took almost half a day and was pretty uneventful .. apart from a strong wind stirring up clouds of dust, obscuring any long distance views .. and a slight ruckus at the Burkina Border, when a young Nigerienne returning to Niger had mislaid his papers. Fellow countrymen, Alaghi and he had been chatting on the bus and Alaghi took on the role of advocate to try to extricate his new friend from the officials. I really wish he hadn't !!

On an on they argued, the rest of us were told to return to the bus and if I hadn't twice refused to budge from standing in front of it .. the driver would have driven off and left Alaghi behind ! Their  rigid adherence to timekeeping was commendable .. but I didn't fancy leaving Alaghi and entering a completely new country without my friendly faithful guide, who was supposed to be showing me his homeland and helping me get an entry visa which, was impossible to get in advance.

Not only did my good friend and faithful guide receive a right royal bollicking for almost deserting me in favour of someone trying to break the rules .. especially in Burkina Faso, where rules are rules and evidently aren't broken, especially at border posts .. but the rest of the passengers were not too pleased with him causing the extra delay to our progress. In any case, it had all been to no effect, as the paper-less traveller was refused passage and had been told to return to Ouaga.

Any annoyances were soon forgotten and the bus conversations centred on the usual subject of
'authorities versus poor travellers' as we headed towards the Niger border. Again Alaghi came out with a 'don't joke with the officials' warning, but here there was a completely different atmosphere. Smiling and friendly Immigration Officials who had no problems providing me with a one month, single entry visa for CFA 20,000. This is evidently a common occurrence as Niger has very few Embassies in the surrounding countries where one can get a visa in advance .. but travellers without visas must ensure that they arrive during daylight hours. Some borders close at night, meaning an

overnight stay in uncomfortable conditions, before being able to obtain a visa in the morning.

Our last views of Burkina Faso and first views of the Niger countryside were almost completely obscured by a thick fog of swirling sand caused by the very windy conditions. When we could see anything, there was nothing much to see anyway .. very sparsely populated with only the occasional small groups of huts, no signs of any birds and few animals.

  But occasionally, when the wind slackened, some scenes were worthy of photographs.

We stopped in a small village, which seemed to mainly consist of butchers shops, where the driver

and some of the passengers stocked up on various joints of sheep and goat meat .. even whole carcasses were stashed in the luggage compartments .. fortunately under, not inside the bus !

Kilometre after kilometre of dry and dusty, bare desert and scrub .. hour after hour of the same uninspiring scenery .. until we arrived in Niamey, the Capital City of Niger, in the late afternoon. Here at least was the wide River Niger and some greenery .. many large modern buildings and quite a few hotels .. all of which, after a considerable amount of driving around in a local taxi, were full !!!!

 Finally, after following a suggestion from one of the hotels with no available accommodation
( evidently there was a large business conference in town ) we found the Les Roniers Hotel

right on the edge of the City and booked into one of their rondavel-style rooms. The room was huge, with air conditioning and a large bathroom with hot water .. cold showers not being a favourite of mine.

Their restaurant was very classy and elegantly furnished .. but the rest of the outside of the hotel, including the swimming pool, was covered in dust and leaves and looked as though nothing had been done to it in the 40 years since it was built.

The staff, whilst very pleasant .. were all similarly ancient and without exception, walked at the speed of a tortoise on Valium. This is going to be interesting, we thought !!