Continued from "Must See"-Tips
During the morning of my third day in Timia, again no vehicles passed by. Even the truck that was expected yesterday, hadn’t arrived yet. I had given up hope to be I time for the Cure Salee festival and spent another couple of extremely lazy and enjoyable silent hours at the cascade when suddenly, around 11am, Moussa came running down.
“We go Agadez, hurry”, he shouted completely out of breath. And then out of nothing, a cloud of dust came closer and closer. I saw two Landcruisers and a Pick Up coming down the hill. A German tourgroup from an organisation called “Oase-Reisen”. They where kind of rushing to Agadez. While some of the group members jumped in the pool, their leader Klaus approached me. Klaus was a man with more than 15 years of travel experience, mostly in the desert regions. He had good heart and loved the Sahara and it’s inhabitants. He invited us to come with them if we could travel with the pick-up that carried the cooks, helpers and all the gear. Of course! I was so happy!
We had to depart immediately as they were in a hurry to reach the Festival as well (the group didn’t realise that they were already 1 day late). This was a big offer for me as I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye and thank my host Ahmed, Conan and the all others that made my stay in Timia great. Conan planned to fill a small box with presents for his sponsors, that he asked me to post in Niamey or Holland. But there was no time for it now…
We kept following the main track. Both the camels and I were completely exhausted. It was dark now and nothing to enjoy anymore. I had a really hard time now, after 10 hours on the saddle. I couldn’t persuade my camel anymore to follow the others. “More only one hour”, Moussa – 50 meters in front - shouted.
I was in a state of giving up, and became unreasonable. “We stay here”, I replied to Moussa. I must have sounded upset, I guess. Moussa stopped, gave me a good torch and convinced me to continue. The last half hour I walked besides the camels, slowly slogging through the sand.
Continued at "Must See"-Tips
But still, I was so happy to have the ride. Late in the afternoon we reached Agadez. Next day I left for Ingall, where the (official) Cure Salee Festival still lasted for at least two more days (check out my Ingall page).
When I returned from Ingall I met Moussa again. He told me still no other vehicle had arrived from Timia...Sometimes travellers need some luck…
Next day, on Thursday, it took another 8 arduous hours before we reached Agadez. We stopped near the scenic valley with El Meki village and made several other, rather shameful photo stops.
At one of these several occasions we passed a small camel caravan and however I agree it was photogenic, the way the tourists behaved struck me. The cars halted, a dozen of white strangers jumped out and immediately took positions to shoot the family with their outrageous cameras. No greetings, no asking for permission.
Some minutes later we left again in the dust, leaving the perplexed family behind with some small presents.
We drove for 4 dusty, bumpy and hot hours and it was hard for me to imagine how this could be fun for 5 or more days, driving every day for many hours. The scenery was unusual, the shapes of the peaks extravagant, but also quite monotonous and sombre.
The group turned out to be very hospitable. Moussa and I were invited to share their excellent meals and that night at the camp around the fire I listened to the great stories Klaus had to tell about the ancient caravan routes. Moussa on the other hand turned out to be an attraction for the group members.
Despite the steady pace and sparse breaks, I enjoyed the day a lot. The monotonous barren land soon gave way to spectacular rock formations and land covered with zillions of stones in all sizes and varieties as far as I could see.
We climbed up a little hill and when we reached the top I was stunned to see that we were actually on the rim of what looked like a gigantic partly collapsed crater. The “walls” preciously towering hundreds of meters high above the valley ground. “One tiny earthquake and the world would collapse completely”, I thought.
We went down and 3 hours later up again, where we reached the main Agadez – Timia track. The camels did a great job here, as did the camelboy.
We encountered several rocks with carvings that are believed to be at least 8.000 years old.
In the Aiir Mountains there are quite a bit of sites with carvings like that, along with discoveries of tools from the Stone Age.
This doesn’t only prove that the area has been inhabited for a long time, but also that the world looked very different by that time. The carvings even show elephants, giraffes, and other animals that are only found several 1000 km. more south these days.
The next morning we left early on my request, by 7am, after prayers and – of course – a session of strong Tuareg tea and a selection of fast food.
The plan was to reach Timia today, but the distance was quite huge and the terrain became harder now. Moussa was quite focussed. For him there was the bonus of less cost for the camels than planned, and to be honest I preferred to reach Timia as fast as possible as well.
At this stage my body started to hurt so much that I decided to continue by foot for a while, but although the animals seemed to move pretty slowly, there was no way of following them in the soft sand.
It was clear that Moussa aimed at reaching Timia by tomorrow night and he wanted to reach today as far as possible.
It became darker now and I thought it was enough for the day. We made our camp right in the riverbed and Moussa marked it with the two saddles.
The camel boy that accompanied us knew this area good enough to know that we were close to a small plantation of grapefruit trees. He took some of our stocks of Tuareg tea, and came back with fresh, juicy grapefruits as much as he could carry. What a great treat was that after a day of borehole water, which was clean enough to drink untreated but tasting awfully and too much heated in the sun.
Towards the end of the day we passed a couple of temporary settlements, where some families raised livestock. People here were celebrating a wedding, with women making music and men on their best camels circling around them.
Nearby, Moussa traded some of our aspirin for tasty home made goat cheese. Money is much less in demand here as there’s nothing to buy!
The scenery was quite monotonous, especially considering the 3,5-4 km/hr pace of the camel.
Sand, much of it covered with lava stone or grasses, strange outcrops, sometimes bush (that disappears not long after the end of the raining season, which just had ended) and of course the thorn trees that like the specific climate.
The first day we rode for 5 hours, stopping once for prayer annex fast food annex toilet. Much of the time we followed the riverbed, dry for 11 months a year, with left of us the weird shaped mountains consisting of enormous eroded piles of stones and rocks.
Since we wanted to make progress fast, we took the most direct route to Timia, following a dry riverbed between the mountains for the first hours of the journey. T
he alternative was much more appealing – involving 2 more days - , traversing the Bagzane mountain range with an option to summit Niger’s highest peak (2022m.). According to some reports that shouldn’t be too hard and is a great side trip, but we didn’t opt for it.
My only experience on a camel dated back from 1,5 year ago, and the circumstances were slightly different now. In India we wandered around a bit for 6 days on relatively easy terrain. The camel was then tied to my guide’s animal, and the saddle was especially made convenient for me.
This time the camels were the only suitable means of transport to reach Timia. To cover 50 km. of inhospitable and uneven land in the fierce heat by foot was not a great idea, at least not for me…
There was no tourist class camel this time. I was to control the camel myself and the beautifully decorated traditional saddles of the Tuareg, made of leather covered wood and positioned a bit on the front of the hump, were a must for the eye, but not too convenient for an inexperienced camel driver like me.
Around noon we reached a small village not far before Tabelot. Moussa and I got off the truck here. Left of us bare mountains rose from the dry and barren land.
Moussa pointed that way. “There’s Timia, 50 kilometres, I see friend for camel”. The truck faded in the dust. It was too hot to move and I retired to my prayer mat in a small shelter where one after the other curious man dropped in. A colourful mix of mostly Tuareg men and boys, but also a minority of sword carrying Fulani and Hausa people.
An hour later Moussa returned with a young man and two camels. They packed the animals and we departed, towards the mountains, towards Timia…