I have been revisiting some of my old travel writing, from long before these pages were a twinkle in my eye. These were pieces I wrote for friends which I emailed around- and got promptly told off for being far too wordy. Nothing changes. I thought I’d add some of them to this site and let you wander through some of my journeys past.
This first account is from a trip I did while working in Niger, in West Africa, in December 2005. I had to visit a program in Mauritania for a few days, and had arranged a flight from Niamey to Nouakchott. Needless to say, being West Africa, all did not go according to plan…
How Not to get to Nouakchott
Last night I dreamt I went to Nouakchott again.
Actually, it was last week. And it was more of a waking nightmare really.
It was with a certain amount of trepidation that I headed off to the airport. I haven’t heard many wonderful things about airlines in West Africa, and this time I was flying with some of the old favourites- Air Burkina, Air Senegal, Air Mauritanie- and with a corker of an itinerary that saw me going from Niamey to Ouaggadougou, Ouagga to Bamako, Bamako to Dakar, then an overnight in Dakar before flying on to Mauritania the next morning. (West African airlines operate a lot like bus companies- they just swing past and stop at as many different places along the way in the hope of attracting passengers). It sounded like such fun I just couldn’t wait.
But I got to the airport at two o’clock on a stifling sun-seared Saturday afternoon, and the Air Burkina Fokker Fellowship managed to make it into the air without too much complaining. There is always a sense of incredible faith in the laws of physics when strapped into some of these aircraft, an acute awareness that what you are doing is ever so slightly at the edge of what ought to be possible, that you are effectively in a controlled hurtle skywards and hanging from a very fine thread while flaps and ailerons and elevators try and keep you from settling into an easy tumble. The safety briefing before take-off consisted of pointing out the exits and directing people to the emergency card in the seat-pockets; one is not filled with a sense that people would know what to do if anything serious happened. But despite all, we touched down safely in Ouggadougou, and it was hot and dry, and trouble kicked in.