This is part of the twelfth section of our around the
Complete Trip Overview & Map
Coming from Nigeria or read
our previous visit to Niger
5/9/06 We crossed into Niger at the same border used on our last visit but remember little of the indistinguishable border. Back to a French speaking country we could not be asked in depth questions with our limited knowledge of the French language and were quickly passed through immigration and customs. It had rained overnight and some of the usually dry sandy creek and river beds were flowing strongly. Sand had washed across the road in places and the potholes were full. This region is enjoying a good wet season and the crops are thriving. Niger is unfortunately a lesson for the world as to where we might be heading with our increasing population and using up of resources. Niger's population is growing at almost 3% annually with more than seven children born to each woman and half of it's population currently below the age of sixteen, it's reliance on overseas aid in the future seems assured. Nearly half of the government's budget comes from donor countries and imported food aid accounts for 50% of the countries GDP. Well meaning aid agency's digging of wells allowed for increases of stock and a population explosion that has accounted for deforestation and degradation of the fragile soils. With the encroaching Sahara in the north and the population being squeezed south towards it's borders and with it being currently unacceptable to tie food aid to contraception, Niger's ever increasing population is likely to become more and more dependent on foreign aid without any prospects of getting out of the downward cycle. What will be their situation when the current 12 million population doubles within the next 25 years with the remaining arable land shrinking? We rode onto Birni N'konni for the day and were pleased to see that at least this year there should be a good harvest.
6/9/06 There have been no open signs of petrol smuggling from Nigeria to Niger however we were offered petrol at our hotel this morning. Yesterday at the border locals were paying small money to the immigration officer to cross the border as I waited for her to stamp my passport. The agents were also paying customs small money to clear trucks across the border. Small money being a couple of dollars. Again I find this stealing from the poor, having to pay people abusing their power and government job, distasteful. The people of Niger, despite their hardships, are happy and friendly, as is often the case. The wealthier we become the more complaining we seem to do. People wave as we pass by and children begging with their bowls wait patiently at a polite distance hoping we will give them some of our meal's leftovers. Signs of the recent heavy rains are everywhere. Sand was being dug off the road at causeways and the main road was blocked by flood water forcing a 23 km detour along a sandy dirt track. Trucks had been accumulating, waiting for the track to open and were now causing a traffic problem on the narrow single track detour. A couple, trying to pass bogged trucks had sunk into the soil, their load shifting and overturning the truck. We carefully weaved our way around whilst others will be there for hours or days waiting. The locals gather hoping to earn some cash digging or pushing out bogged vehicles. At one waterhole we gave a local some money to walk through barefoot to check the depth rather than getting our own boots wet. The rest of the road was good to potholed asphalt and an amazing encounter with 17 desert giraffe made our day, just 50 km from Niamey. Most had just crossed the road but six remained. These tall pale beautiful cousins of East Africa's are more striking in their size and demeanour. Used to wandering past cattle and goat herders they were unafraid and even interested in the motorcycle. We followed them across the stony field where they grazed less than 15 metres from us, towering above. It took about half an hour for them to slowly walk beyond where we could follow.
7/9/06 We camped, at the edge of town in a great setting with trees, tables and chairs. Unfortunately the area became a bar with music at night and the temperature hot. A Mali visa was $US 40.00 available tomorrow. Internet and sweltering under our tree filled the rest of the day.
8/9/06 Dust in the air had been increasing and dark clouds greeted us this morning. The lightening storm started early and by noon it was still raining. We had collected our visa and decided to leave, now cool riding, towards the border, a good road and easy border crossing.
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