"My Wife's Gone To Chad" *
13/6/05. N'Djamena, Chad.
BLOODY BASTARD. Hotel Hirondelle is run by Africa's most ungracious, picky, sour-faced git. A lot of bad things happen when I arrive, parched and knackered from the trip across two borders in one day (Nigeria/Cameroon and Cameroon/Chad), but I can't be arsed to describe them. The hotel itself is utter shit and laughably overpriced at $12. But the clincher is this; I explain, on the cusp of expiring from thirst, that I have no Chad money until tomorrow. Can I pay for the room and some beer then?
"Yes" says Git Man.
"Oh joy" I think.
Five minutes later he comes back and says,
"Room OK but no beer."
I begin to stomp about like a tantrum-prone four-year-old. All today's patience budget has been spent on border officials. He can't speak English so I insult him and his ancestors volubly. The red mist begins to descend.
Suddenly a man I take to be his father appears.
"Is good?" he says.
"No" I reply. "No beer, he say", I explain, Pidginizing idiotically.
"Hey!" old timer shouts at Git Man. "Give him beer!".
Git Man concedes. Result!
I'd love to be able to tell you about the mysterious north of Cameroon, but actually it was just 80 miles of sun-baked clay and sandy track. I absolutely loved it. It was good enough for 30mph most of the way, and once or twice 50. At 40+ mph you get a proper plume of dust off the back wheel. The most enjoyable off-tarmac day so far.
Time to correct some lies that appear in the guidebooks about Nigeria.
Firstly, having ridden 550 miles across the north, I paid exactly nothing in bribes. I was only asked for "something" (never money) twice in maybe 20 conversations with officials. All of them were smiling. On those two occasions where I was asked, an apologetic refusal ended the conversation amicably.
Secondly, we are led to believe that all Nigerian hotels are "squelched" - no water, electricity, door locks etc. Only one of the three I stayed in had no running water. It was $5 a night for a bedroom, a bathroom (admittedly a useless one), and a lounge (!) with a TV that worked (!).
I was even allowed pets
Finally, getting in and out of Nigeria overland is no harder than most other West African countries. Definitely easier than Ghana.
At the border on the way in, the vaccination-card-checking-guy said something like, "People say bad things about Nigeria and it's not true." I held my breath for 3 days - and it turned out he was right.**
No they're not
Er... I stopped taking it in Morocco. Don't like it. Haven't got Malaria yet.
I couldn't pick it up
A horrible moment today: halfway along the clay track in Cameroon, I pulled up under a shady tree and the bike broke. It was around 100 degrees, I had 0.5 litres of water left, and I was parked on some kind of Ant Theme Park.
A couple of weeks ago, I borrowed "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" from Doug. It says, more or less, "when it breaks, do something else. Think about something else. Do not act."
I was ready to flag down a lorry (one every hour on this road). But after 10 minutes tree-contemplation, I remembered a similar problem in Mauritania. A grain of dirt in the carburettor. Then, staggeringly, I remembered how to fix it. Three minutes later I was on my way, with the moto running better than ever. At least that's what it felt like.
If you find yourself in Chad, you will be faced with the choice of Gala or Chari beer. Go for Gala! It's great.
DISCLAIMER: I haven't tried Chari, and I was extremely thirsty.
Two milestones this week - I left the UK 9 months ago, and I'm also 10,000 miles from Islington.
I have taken to keeping one t-shirt for riding only. I have now been wearing it unwashed for 10 days and 5 countries. There's enough visible salt encrusted on the front to season a roast dinner for five. I know - I've just licked it. Nature's peanuts!
This week, clutch cables.
Nigerian fella: "You should have brought a spare."
Doug: "That is the spare."
"No of course not. She's in the kitchen."
** DISCLAIMER - Southern Nigeria is supposed to be a bloody nightmare.
Posted by Simon Fitzpatrick at 02:21 PM