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December 30, 1997

Back to Filingue
Last night I couldn’t sleep. I drank cold green tea with dinner and stayed awake thinking about the woman and the puppy. Uschi said she couldn’t sleep either. The sun rise this morning was so beautiful. Last night Uschi and I were walking the dogs and I was suddenly aware of the fact that I was in AFRICA, and seeing a camel walking in the distance seemed so natural. I think, up until that moment, it had just not seemed real.

Today, we go back to Filingue to get more water - maybe get some pictures of the gray dog we saw there earlier. We sidetracked to a “ranch”, an experimental station for breeding animals for milk and cheese production. Decided to try for a tour. They people were very friendly. One man even spoke broken English.   We were able to get some water there and also, some nomad goat cheese. It is made in thin sheets, tastes OK, but is not great. We were also treated to some fresh milk. COLD and FRESH. It was wonderful.  We had Manioc cakes in Filingue, they were much better than the first ones that I had tried a few days before. There is a lot of sand inside though!

We got a guide in Filingue to help us find the road over the mountain to Ouallam. He took us to where we could go through a pass for a pack of Marlboros. The Dalal Bosso is the lower part of the Azawakh Valley.  The mountains rise high, but as you go up, you stay up on a wide plateau for several miles, before going back down gradually. Going through the mountains was very beautiful. There were deep crevices and high peaks. On the plateau, were plains of cram-cram grass, millet fields, and small storage huts. The cram-cram is awful. It is like grass with small cockle burrs, that stick on ours and the dogs feet. If you don’t get it out it will fester and it hurts like hell going in and out. The dogs have it a lot worse than we do.

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Amazingly, the natives and their dogs romp over the cram-cram with their bare feet. Never seems to bother them at all! They must have feet like stone. The small huts are all over the country. They store mostly millet inside but sometimes, you come across a whole village deserted and used only during the growing and harvesting seasons. One such was Maiyara. We came upon two kids on a donkey laden with millet straw and a deserted village. We stopped at the well and discovered the name of the town and the well maker - Abubakar. It still had water inside but was very deep. A young Wodaabe man came out of one of the huts and Reinhard conversed with him. The way today was overland, no road mostly, just driving by computer.

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Tonight, we camp on the plateau. It’s mostly barren, in between Filingue and Douda Bangou. The terrain is very flat, the ground baked and there are lots of dead and fallen trees.

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Not too pretty, but lots of easy firewood and no cram-cram grass. Thank God. Before stopping, we came upon a small lake. There was a herd of camels watering there. We got lots of good pictures. So pretty and picturesque. Wish we had stayed there for the night for it must be watering place for area wildlife. Saw the first wildlife today, a small ground squirrel and some birds resembling guinea. We see the holes of lizards, ant hills and termite mounds at the time, but nothing real, like mammals and birds.

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To backtrack, the other thing that was interesting at the ranch, was a tree, literally covered by huge bird nests. Don’t know what kind of birds, but they must have been monsters. Odd thing was, that it was only in one tree. Also, while we were driving today, Reinhard stopped in this rocky gorge. The rock was really eroded from rain. It looked almost volcanic in nature. I picked up a few small ones as souvenirs. The
gorges were really interesting. 10-20 feet deep, with trees growing inside. Looked like the moon or “Clan of the Cave Bear” territory. For fun, Reinhard took the truck up a big rocky hill, pausing before the summit to take pictures of the truck on the hill. Uschi and I waited at the bottom with the dogs. She said, “We must be alive”. I agreed. We walked up after the truck was safely on the top. 

Tomorrow, we continue to Douda Bangou and on to Ouallam. After that, back to Niamey, so we can change money, give Don’s friends their gifts and shop!! Uschi said there are lots of good markets there.   Reinhard bought some really cool toy vehicles made from aluminum wire that I would like to buy.  Everything on them works.

A jackal visited in the night. Uschi and Reinhard heard him, I was sleeping. We started across country again in the morning, stopping once at a nearly deserted village in the bush to ask directions to the pist (road). We finally found it, but it was little better than the cross country way. The terrain was mixed rocky/sandy/flat/brushy. The sides of the truck is so scratched by the acacia trees. While we were driving, we saw a baby camel tied to a donkey. It looked kind of funny.

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