Kano, northern Nigeria, 13.6.77

Yours posted 1/6 arrived here on 8/6 and was retrieved by me this a.m. It seems I last wrote to you from Tamanrasset, so I am now 2 countries behind. Even "dry", desert-bound Tam was not without its highlights. Some of us wandered across to a Tuareg village and were invited by an important (!) family in a tent to take the obligatory 3 cups of tea. In return we made them gifts of safety-pins. Watched their artisans making silver jewellery.

The Dutchman discovered the "lost" camera in his Land Rover. Toc, toc!

We got to sleeping outside our bungalows in order to avoid the beasties inside. Took a 2-day excursion into the spectacular rugged mountain formations of Atakor (cf. Warrumbungles, Meteora, Dolomites right in the middle of the Sahara!) and visited the hermitage of Père de Foucauld, an early C20 friend and lexicographer of the Tuareg, killed in a WW I prison as a hostage, revenged by Tuareg and subsequently exhumed ("miraculously preserved") for a more fitting burial. Stayed the night in a roofless, rocky shepherds' shelter in blissfully cool (rather, cold) weather.

Stayed an extra night in Tam on account of 103°F temp of one of our number (a Swiss) who spent the night in the grotty hospital there. For all we know, he may still be there, since we left him behind. We may stay a few extra days here to wait for him to catch up (no hardship, as will become clear) but our Nigerian visas last only 10 days. If his insurance will pay for it he will fly down – otherwise he'll have to wait for the Dutchmen or hitch a ride as we saw a French couple doing on top of a truck. No fun at all, I imagine, being exposed to the fìerce elements that way.

The desert after Tam is much more severe – our water was rationed (2 stretches of 2 days without resupply, and that only because all went well). It is just a waterless, trackful wild, temp. c. 45°. Quite a penance just to sit in the back of a bumpy truck. We were followed by two Swiss in a Land Rover whose fan smashed the radiator in the middle of emptiness – we towed them for 1½ days into Agadez. Shows how easily desperate trouble can start.

While I was writing this the Swiss fellow mentioned above arrived after hitching from Tam in 5 days. Looks thinner and dirtier and tireder but v. pleased. No doubt his girlfriend will also be pleased.

To get out of Algeria we had to wait for 2 hours in searing (49°) shadeless heat while the brainless border guards had their lunch, pestered us and chose a new page in all passports to scrawl their stupid farewell. I think we thought it was worth it to get out of Algeria, unwept by any of us.

Finally found water in an oasis border post on the Niger side and had a shower (!) under a sulphurous water tap. The fine sand-dust gets through everything – even under the skin it seems. The Niger blacks were more friendly, but their vicious sandflies were not. Camped the night while waiting for our passports and having every single article examined, more, it seemed, out of inquisitiveness than anything else.

Interesting piebald camels (or rather dromedaries). Stopped on several occasions to give water on request to Hausa tribeswomen in the roadway. Stopped to observe a camel auctions (thousands of beasts for sale) where there was no visible settlement and were assailed by spoiled Tuareg who clambered over the truck asking for cigarettes and caused a violent outburst from me when one dropped hot ash down my bare back.

Nearing civilization one night we camped in peaceful conditions and were hit about midnight by a violent sandstorm. Spent two hours in the tent hanging onto the poles for dear life while others kept hammering in pegs. Eventually gave up and with great difficulty removed the poles, put a table on top of the tent and huddled in sandy, eye-stinging confusion in the truck for the storm to blow itself out. Next morning a several-mile reconnoitre yielded two stretchers, several pieces of clothing and no sign of a first-class sleeping-bag which disappeared over the horizon (there was nothing to stop it of course). Thus we had a glimpse of the treachery of the desert.

In Agadez we finally found beer (imported Heineken at about 80c/can) and some of our number had more of it than was strictly good for them. Bought trinkets and camped outside town in an expensive but clean camping area with bucket-showers (!!), toilets (!) and frog- and slime-filled swimming pool (!!!)

After Agadez the desert is less severe and alternates with savannah-like country with low sparse dry scrub. Stopped to watch donkeys and camels drawing water from a deep well (80-100m) by being attached to rope and driven away from the well. Met another north-bound EO truck with two-thirds girls to the delight of some. Camped the night together and did common cooking. Not surprisingly, they too would have preferred a different ratio of the sexes, perhaps more strongly than our group. They told of constructing umpteen bridges in Zaïre, difficulty in crossing from Kenya to Tanzania (lost a week), black biting flies and mosquitoes in the jungle, places to buy ivory and silver and beer.

At Zinder we reached the sealed road (had almost forgotten what it was like) and spent several hours wandering around their fly-blown market and consuming beer and pineapple-juice and fighting off hustlers various.

Niger is really quite pleasant – the people are simple and friendly (though I simply hate the expressions "ça va?" and "cadeau"). They have villages of grass huts with pointed roofs and raised coffee-pot-like grainstores (also in N. Nigeria – same tribe). Found peanut-butter, mangoes, limes and pestle-beating of grain.

Usual hours lost in border inanities and found ourselves in a country with English as the official language (!), high prices and a thriving black market in currency. In Nigeria, too, there are lots of termite-mounds, vultures, baobab trees, bad drivers, horns, more cars (inc. many Mercedes, Volvos etc. - oil money), orange-and-purple lizards (goannas?), men doing washing by the roadside. Less friendly atmosphere and lots of chaos in the cty. We are in a rudimentary campsite (facilities are 2 taps) beside a "golf course" and cricket pitch. Wheedled our way into the Kano Club (weekly membership is N6) (1 naira = c. $A1.20) by denying our overlander status, where we while away our days by the swimming pool with cold drinks. Got to get up our strength for the jungle.

Rainy season began here 2 weeks ago, so extremely humid – lots of sweat. Played squash yesterday and nearly died – our driver took the skin off the bottom of his foot on the hot concrete floor of the court.

Had to stand two-hour guard (2400-0200) the other night but since then we have hired black guards for the nighttime. Most expatriates here have them for their houses.