Monday, April 16, 2012

Take Me Home Terrible Road

I know it seems kind of random to write about Niger when I'm in England, but I've never had a chance to write about our experience traveling back to Niamey from Maradi. So, if you'll excuse the disconnect.....here we go on a road trip in Niger!


We left Maradi around 7 a.m., knowing we had about a 12 hour trip ahead of us.  Thankfully, we knew the worst part of the road was the first part.  Once we got through the first three hours, it would be smooth sailing from there on out!


The road between Galmi and Maradi is pretty much destroyed.  Some parts of it you can't even tell that it was ever paved.  Other parts are still paved, but full of potholes  (the disappear to China kind!).  At other places it's just easier to go off the road and drive beside it.


We were making good progress when we heard a strange noise.....there were three others traveling with us.  We stopped the car to look and we had a flat tire.  So, John decided it would be a good idea to pull the car off the "road" a bit more.  Major problem....the car wouldn't start up again.


He opened the hood to discover that the battery was caked up with acid and couldn't make a connection. I "just happened" to have baking soda with me which we mixed with some of our drinking water in a bowl we also "just happened to have and John used J's toothbrush to clean the connections. Often that does the trick, but, nope, the car still wouldn't start.


Meanwhile, the temperature was rising, the wind was blowing, and there wasn't a speck of shade anywhere.  You'd be surprised, though....by walking far enough we did find a place to hide behind for our "rest area".


So we called our Security Officer and told him what was up.  He said he'd send somebody out with jumper cables, but they couldn't come right away.


So, in the mean-time, we pushed the car off the "road" a bit more and got the tire changed.  Not long after that our friend called and said help was on the way.  But not even five minutes after that, a van carrying friends from orientation, showed up. 


So we decided to push the car and see if we could start it that way.  It worked!  We called our friend back and told him to not bother sending the jumper cables. And we were back on our way, bouncing and thudding over the potholes.


Once we got to Galmi, friends fixed a delicious meal for us.  John took the car into the town to get the tire fixed, but none of the little tire repair shops were open.  It was Friday afternoon and everybody had gone to the mosque.


So after our break there, which was a little longer than we intended, we were back on the road.  A couple villages down the road we saw another tire repair place open, so we stopped.  John got out and they pulled a screw out of the tire and patched it.  But then they saw a slit in the tire which they said they couldn't fix.  Most tires here use tubes but since our car was brought in from Switzerland with five nearly new tires, we have tubeless tires.  He said he could put a tube in it, but we'd already spent half an hour there and it would take at least another half hour.  We decided to go on.

Thankfully, every time we stopped our car started.  We did leave it on while at the tire repair shop, though, and I think everybody but John had a little nap in the air conditioning!  I know I did.
Onions, onions everywhere.

We pressed on, driving as fast as we could, knowing darkness would descend before we got home.  We called a missionary family and asked if we could stop at their house to use the bathroom.  They graciously said we could, but before we got there we encountered a car with smoking coming out from under it.  We stopped to help, though there wasn't much to do.  We did get their phone number and gave it to our missionary friend to give to his mechanic.  Hopefully the mechanic was able to go out and rescue them.

The last two hours of the trip were in the dark and it really was stressful.  It's hard to describe....the roads don't have much of a white line along the side so when a car comes towards you, you lose sight of that line.  Then many of the cars don't turn their brights down, so you are blinded.  Broken down trucks are parked right in the road and it's hard to see them until the last minute.  Then there are the speed bumps.  I cannot tell you how many towns had speed bumps and how many towns did not give you any warning that there was going to be a speed bump!

Cows looking for shade
Once we arrived in Niamey, we needed to deliver our passengers to their homes, so there was quite a bit of driving in Niamey....with pedestrians, bicycles, and animals added to the general confusion of driving down streets whose street lights don't work!  Our neighbor had made supper for us, but I was too tired to even eat.  I had driven all the way from Galmi to Niamey because John was having problems with his glasses.

All we could do at the end of that day was go to bed praising God for taking care of us and protecting us.  Monday morning saw John out buying a new battery for the car!

1 comment:

Beth said...

Wow!...That literally was a terrible place to have to stop...no shade at all. I see the blog renovation is underway..looking good!