06-Feb-2001 -- Mark Ledlow and I traveled from Niamey south to Tamou, near Niger's western border with Burkina Faso, to check out the town as a possibility for stationing one of our personnel. Jeremy, Mark's teenage son, went with us. The thing about Tamou is that it is inaccessible in the rainy season due to a portion of a long concrete bridge that has sunk into the sandy bed of a wâdî that flows into the Niger River. I saw on my GPS basemap that there was a track leading from the southern side of the bridge over about 40 kilometers to the main road leading from the border to Niamey and we decided to try and find the track, since we were driving an old Land Cruiser.
An added attraction was a confluence point, 13N 2E, which looked like it was some 3 kilometers off the track. We headed off the road on a donkey-cart trail where the GPS indicated and struck out in the general direction of the track. We knew that the basemap is often based on maps that are over 40 years old, dating from the French colonial era, but little did we know what an ordeal we were in for!
The original track soon petered out and we found ourselves on the edge of a huge ravine. After Jeremy and I scouted the trail ahead, Mark put the old Cruiser in low range and it took the ravine in stride. Then we began crisscrossing the track on the GPS trying to find the trail. This took us nearly an hour, but after cutting repeatedly across country through brush and over dry riverbeds full of sand we finally found a semblance of a trail upon which we could make fairly good time. Even on this, though, we found that it was often washed out and we would have to cut through the bush with thorns
scratching the sides of the vehicle.
It was getting late and I had already given up on reaching the Confluence when we had to detour through the scrub again and the left rear tire went flat. We had run over a small stump which had been angle-cut and acted like a knife to the sidewall of the tire. We were still about 10 kilometers from the Confluence and had been in the bush about two hours! We changed the tire and continued on somewhat gingerly, as we only had one spare and did not wish to spend the night in the waste howling wilderness! To my amazement the track we were following began to bend northward and eventually followed the second meridian straight to the point!
We reached there right at sunset and could not spend much time composing pictures as we were still some 20 kilometers from the paved road, which itself is not in good shape. We finally came out of the bush at Gueladio, a Fulani market town on an improved dirt road and headed northwest towards Kobadie and the pavement. Even the improved road was washed out at intervals but we made fairly good time in the dark. We were even glad to see the awful pavement as we came out about 30 kilometers from Niamey and headed home. We arrived at 8:45 pm after a seven-hour trip!