The Longest Week Ever - Part 2
So after meeting the crew, we set off from Balleyara to begin our three day journey. Well, it was the final three day leg for the everyone but me and Cathy. The plan was to cover roughly 30km a day which would include staying in Hamdallye for the second night and enjoying a bed, showers, and good food at the peace corps training site.
For the most part the walking wasn't too bad. Luckily it is cold season and we had a cart to carry all of our gear. Two people could ride on the cart while the rest of us walked or rode the horse. I spent a great deal of time on the horse, frequently pulling out my backpacker guitar and playing as Lola (horse) followed the cart.
On the first day we stopped at a school and read "Ichi may falala" (sp?) which is "The Giving Tree" in Hausa. The school teachers translated from the Hausa to Zarma since the kinds did not hear Hausa. It was a lot of fun and the children seemed very excited to have us stop and visit them.
We didn't quite reach our planned destination the first night, so we stopped one town before as the sun had already set. The Maigari there hooked us up with water, food for the animals, and a place to sleep that even had posts perfect for tying mosquito nets. The next morning, Cathy and Kristen stayed behind to do a brief program on breast feeding as they were then going to hop a car to go into Niamey. Cathy was leaving for vacation and Kristen wanted to go to the COS party. So we lost two of our company.
The second day was quite random. Among some of the hi-lights were having a bush note dropped from a speeding truck (from Cathy and Kristen) and receiving a visit and candy and water from Laurent and Sangare (Bureau staffers). We also had the stay at Hamdy too look forward to. However, that was not to be, do to more randomness.
It was already dark and Kate and Nathalie had walked ahead of me and Alkazoum and Douwe and the animals. We thought we were only about 3k from Hamdy. But one of the cart's tires kept loosing air. The three of us with the cart refilled it about three times before Kate and Nathalie came back saying they could see the cell tower in Hamdy, but that we were actually another 7k. Well the cart just wasn't going to make it and it was too dark to patch the tire. So we had to figure out an alternative.
This was where I was finally really useful as a Zarma translater (everyone else only spoke Hausa). We decided that Kate, Douwe, the cart, and I would stay in the random village we found ourselves at at the time, while Nathalie, Alkazoum, and the horse would push on to Hamdy and tell them what was up and that in the morning they would come back with someone from the training site and help us fix the tire. So I went into the village and explained our situation to the Maigari and said that we needed a place to sleep that was safe and some water. Well, not only did he give us matresses, and unlock the pump, and bring us dinner, he also kicked somone out of their hut so we could have a place to put our stuff. It was awsome.
In the morning some PC folks showed up, fixed our tire, and sent the cart with Alkazoum and Douwe while we got a ride back to the site for the breakfast they had set up for us. Alkazoum and Douwe caught up with us there and also got some breakfast and a break. After breakfast, I set off with the Nigeriens and the animals while Nathalie and Kate went and greeted the Chef de Canton and read "The Giving Tree" for some kids.
The rest of the last day was pretty much just a push for home. All the animals were tired, we were tired, and we were so close, yet we still had about 32km to walk. We only took two breaks that day. One was for the nice lunch that Chris and Mary (more staffers) brought us, containing cokes, cheese, and M&M's. The other was when we stopped and took a nap while some random villagers fixed our tire for us again. Other than that it was a straight push.
When we finally reached the outskirts of Niamey, about 8:30PM, I felt like I was dead on my feet. My whole body ached as I had not been on the road as long and my body had not gotten used to the rigors of the road. The last hour and half walking through Niamey is a blur of dodging traffic and the others asking "is that the bureau?" But at 10PM we finally made it to Chris Burns' house and got some Gazpacho and were greeted by numerous PCV's there to watch the Michigan vs Ohio State game.
The next day I woke up and I felt like I was hungover. I think it was just pure exhaustion, but it was still lame. Especially since I knew later that day I was going to be leaving to go help out at Camp Hamdallye, a 3 day program for kids from the American Internatinal School of Niamey where they learn about Zarma culture. I still don't know how I got signed up for it, but it meant there was no resting for me. Just Go Go Go.