West African Memories – Niger into Burkina Faso

Continuing on with my flashback to 2006, we start this week in a country many people don’t know much about – Niger, a giant, desert-like country north of Nigeria.

The Niger River in Niamey.

The Niger River in Niamey.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A way away

Well a post has disappeared…. It wouldn’t save a few days ago and now it’s gone….
I noticed In Niamey all of a sudden how poor the place really was. In fact I suddenly realised that it was the poorest place I’ve ever been in my life. Perhaps when I left Australia I was prepared all ways but mentally. But in Niamey suddenly I was being followed everywhere by children asking for money, which I didn’t really notice on the first day.
I had someone steal my mobile, but I got it back, on my second day in Niamey. There is famine here in Niger, and perhaps the city is overcrowded with people and beggars because of it. It has wide boulevards and nice buildings too…. but the poverty is inescapable.

Niamey Market.

Niamey Market.

Government building in Niamey.

Government building in Niamey.

A sad looking vulture in the Niamey 'zoo'.

A sad looking vulture in the Niamey ‘zoo’.

The museum was rather small, and attached to the zoo. The animals were in reasonable condition I must admit, but their cages were generally far too small. Four vultures in a cage the size of my old backyard aviary says it all.
Then I fell sick and had made an amazing friend who lives in Niamey. I stayed with him a couple of nights before moving on here to Agadez. An amazing town almost exclusively mudbrick, not quite in the middle of the desert but not far from it. Over 900 km from Niamey, I am almost in the middle of the fat bit of Africa.
I visited an animal market with beaucoup de camels, there is an amazing mudbrick mosque in the centre of town, the streets are sandy and it has a wild frontier feel to it. I am heading back to Niamey tomorrow and onto a new country (Burkina Faso) on Thursday. Niger has certainly left a huge imprint on me, more than any country this trip…. not sure what it is yet…

Grand Mosque

Grand Mosque, Agadez

THOUGHTS: So it’s a bit of a pity that I posted so little on Niger. As you may remember, I did a Sunday Spotlight recently on Agadez. I was in total a week in Niger, maybe eight days. The temperature started quite pleasant – around 32 degrees my first day there and I was thinking ‘this is all right’, and then ‘BANG! Forty!’ I remember that zoo well, I think I made it sound better than it was. I remember the friend I made, Halassi. He was a genuinely kind soul and wherever he is now, I hope he’s doing okay. I left West Africa without the chance to change my CFA – the West African franc, and I sent him a DVD with all I had left (quite a bit) hidden in the cover. For a while he was on email and he got it, which made me happy.

Niger in itself is a country that challenges, and the capital Niamey was where I saw the most poverty of the trip. Or, I’d have to say, ever.

banner niger

 

Friday, February 10, 2006

Push Pineapple

Yesterday I arrived in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. A marathon journey had preceded the arrival, two days ago I left Agadez for Niamey at 7am in the morning, arriving twelve hours later. Then I ‘slept’ at the bus station and caught a 6am departure for Ouagadougou which got in at 2.30pm. So that was a lot of travelling for me.
Well; I was happy to leave Niger. Here the poverty is not nearly as obvious and people are generally friendly. The hassles appear to come from people trying to sell you things.
I have been trying to work out if it’s a government initiative in the whole region which has people out in the streets with lots of various goods to sell to anyone who walks or drives by. This includes shirts; clothes, shoes; sandals, medical tablets (I never knew there were so many brands of paracetamol in the world!!) perfume, and recharge cards for mobile phones. Yes, the mobile revolution is huge in West Africa!! Lots of people have them; seems to be far cheaper than the land lines.

A blurry pic of the Ouaga streets.

A blurry pic of the Ouaga streets.

Party time in Ouagadougou.

Party time in Ouagadougou.

Gang at the hostel I stayed at in Ouagadougou.

Gang at the hostel I stayed at in Ouagadougou.

Ouaga is much more laid out than other cities I visited, and laid back as well. It has a friendly vibe and is nice to walk around, found a place with half decent pizza as well…mmMMMMmmm pizza. Yes I seem to be having a better time now. But I’m off to a new town tomorrow. I get my Senegalaise visa this afternoon (touch wood) which is the last one I need and I’ll be off to Banfora where I aim to relax for a couple of days, hire a mobylette and see the surrounding area….

 

THOUGHTS: And HERE it is. The big moment. Everything in full swing and I felt like everything was finally going my way. I had a couple of really fun days in Ouagadougou. I found a wonderful Lebanese restaurant that did all manner of vaguely familiar foods, I met a bunch of other travellers and had a chance to chat with them and hang out, and I really felt that finally things were on the up in this trip which had for the most part been a real slog. I have learnt never to trust that feeling again.

banner burkina faso

Next week you’ll see how things can turn sharply and quickly on the road from happiness and relative comfort, to… whatever the opposite is! May the Journey Never End.

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