28-Nov-2002 -- My wife and I recently made a trip all across the country of Niger, from the Niger River in the west to Lake Chad in the east, a distance of 3500 kilometers. We were accompanied by our English friends, Kevin and Sue Jarrett. I had explained to them about my involvement in the Confluence Project and Sue seemed particularly interested, wondering if we might visit a Confluence on the trip. Not a problem! So I researched the possibilities, of which there were several, but the most feasible one seemed to be 14N 13E, located some 30 kilometers south of Nguigmi, the easternmost town of Niger and the end of the pavement (what little of it there is left). I figured the terrain would be flat and without vegetation and that we could probably just drive from the road some two kilometers to the point.
So, after three days of bumpy travel in our old Land Cruiser, we neared Nguigmi and the confluence point, not too far from the Fulani village of Kabelawa. Coming abreast of the point we saw that the basemap was not too accurate, for what looked like two kilometers was in reality 3.4. No big deal, for as I had thought the terrain was level and barren, and there was not too much sand. So we headed due east following the go-to pointer. We crossed a couple of salt pans and skirted some low hummocks and a few trees and bushes, and pulled up right on the Confluence with zeros showing on the GPS. We photographed it, then I pulled the Cruiser to the shade of a nearby thorn tree and we photographed the point, the surrounding area, and then Kevin and Sue stood on the Confluence with my confluence flag.
As we were preparing to leave a herd of camels passed by and I photographed them as well. Heading back to the highway we crossed some tracks in the sand and realized it was the old route marked on the GPS basemap. So we turned north on that and it met up with the pavement after another couple of kilometers. In less than thirty minutes we were in Nguigmi, where we spent two full days, including a trip south to Lake Chad and another west to the Tal desert, some of the most beautiful white sand dunes I have seen. Lake Chad was special because I have wanted to visit it since my childhood in Nigeria. It was always a mysterious entity located at the extreme north eastern tip of Nigeria, largely unmapped, difficult to reach and thus seldom visited. We drove 50 kilometers from Nguigmi through the lake bed itself to reach the water at the fishing village of Doro-Lelewa. It was an up-and-down trip partly on the dry floor of the former lake, scattered about with snail shells and basically barren grey dirt, and partly on what used to be islands, some 10 to 15 meters higher and covered with loose white sand which required four-wheel-drive to negotiate. On the way we passed Boudouma villages and saw the renowned "floating cattle" whose horns are so large they supply buoyancy to the animals as they swim across flooded areas of the lake. At the fishing village we bought some fresh fish and cut some souvenir cattails to bring back.
That night we visited a Toubou village on a dune 8 kilometers east of Nguigmi and had the fish grilled by some Catholic sisters who live in the village with the Toubous. They are an international group, with Italian, Belgian, French, and Burkinabé sisters living together in Toubou tents on the dune which used to form the border of Lake Chad when it was much higher. The good news is that Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Chad are now cooperating to bring the lake level back up to its former expanse, which is doing good things for the economy of the area, helping in both farming and fishing.