22-Dec-2005 -- Just before Christmas 2005 I worked up a desert trip with my good Irish friend, previous confluencer (16N 2E) and fellow desert lover Derek Johnston. He drove over from Ouagadougou with his daughter Rachel (also a previous confluencer) (see 14N 3E). We headed up to Agadez on 18 December, making the whole 950 km trip in one day, and spent a few days sightseeing, including a trip to the Tiguidit cliffs to climb around on some dunes for a day. While in Agadez we heard by phone that one of our young friends working in Tchin-Tabaraden might have to head home due to an illness of his grandfather, and because Rachel and Derek wanted to see this desert outpost as well, we decided to take in "Tchinta" on the way home. This would also enable us to spare our friends the bruising experience of a long ride in the open back of an ancient 4x4 pickup.
We left on the morning of the 21st and headed southwest on the tarred road towards Abalak. There we ate lunch in a rather bad restaurant which shall remain unnamed, accompanied by a high-pressure sales pitch to buy Tuareg jewellery, swords, etc. We had determined to try and find a track leading more or less directly to Tchinta from Abalak rather than taking the normal laterite road 60 km south of Abalak, since that one is notorious for its roughness. So we headed west towards the village of Kijgari. We tried two or three tracks, none of which ended up in the right direction, so when we finally saw someone walking in the wilderness I endeavoured to ask directions in my limited Tamasheq. The old Tuareg made it quite clear that there was no way we were going to Kijgari on this track! So, since it was getting up into the afternoon by this time, we put him in the vehicle and headed back to Abalak. He was appreciative of the ride, obviously his first in a private car, as he had no idea of how to open the door!
At Abalak we turned southwest again and took the laterite road north 80 km to Tchinta. We found our friends Bradley and Toby well and in good spirits, having recently returned from their first multiple-day trip on camels, although they were still a bit sore in the posterior! We spent the night outside, with only a few mosquitoes and in 15-degree temperatures (C). We had explained that, all of us having done Confluences before, we would like to try 16N 6E, which we had determined lay some 24 km northeast of the town. Bradley and Toby were enthusiastic, so we headed out around 08:00, following the pointer on the GPS.
We wove around some in the town before reaching the outskirts and finding a fairly decent cart track heading in exactly the right direction. The going was fairly smooth without many obstacles for the first 12 km or so, then it got a bit rougher, and we began to have to cross several "koris", or dried stream beds. These are all set about with thorn trees and they are not necessarily spaced to allow a vehicle through, so we had to feel our way, enduring the painful scratching sounds of the thorns on the sheet metal. About 4 km from the Confluence we completely lost the cart tracks and were obliged to head cross-country. In another kori we came across a Tuareg encampment complete with red leather tents. I am sure they were amazed to see a motorized vehicle in those parts, as we had spotted no tracks at all other than those of a few donkey carts. We did not stop to greet as we were by this time getting close to the point.
The going became progressively rougher as we traversed large fields of angular stones and a succession of ditches formed by erosion, but nothing stopped our Prado and we made steady progress. Finally, we were in an open area with no vegetation and the Confluence was at hand. I stopped just before arrival and took a shot of the Confluence, then we pulled up gradually to obtain the "zeros" on the GPS. We left the Prado there and explored the area a bit. Bradley and Toby found some stones that had obviously been used as tools, one with a hole in it, and a couple of others that might have been used as knives or hatchets. The area was not scenically spectacular, so I contented myself with a couple of shots of the area before we headed back, using the GPS to avoid the fields of stone before rejoining the original track. We made good time and ate lunch in Tahoua before continuing on to Niamey, arriving at 21:00.