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Monday, March 03, 2008

Niamey, Niger

Was in Niamey, capital of Niger, the poorest country in the world and the one with the lowest Human Development Index. Reached here after a very long and tiring bush-taxi ride over 600km across eastern part of Burkina Faso.
We were told the journey was supposed to be a direct journey of 7 hours but it took 16 hours instead and involved 4 different vehicles. Yes, they have a very loose interpretation of the word "direct". One bush taxi simply relayed us to another one and we had to wait for the second bush-taxi to fill up its 16 to 20 seats which meant a wait from anything between one to two hours. The same nonsensical process repeated three times across the day, not to mention the many times the vehicles, often with broken handles and cracked windshields, broke down due to mechanical failure or simply the lack of petrol.
Throughout our African journey, we have found local public transportation vehicles in very poor state of repair – vehicle owners simply had no money either for maintenance or as working capital. Many long distance bus drivers head for the petrol station after getting all the passengers to pay up – the former do not have money to buy petrol prior to that. Taxi drivers, too, sometimes ask for the agreed fare once you get up the vehicle so that he could buy enough petrol for your destination, even though the ride was supposed to be a short downtown ride. The car that we hired in Liberia for long distance travel to Sierra Leone had not moved for three days and the driver asked for a 60% advance for immediate servicing and repairs.
The length of the journey aside, the ride brought us across savannah land dotted with quaint mud huts with cartoon-like African rooftops. We also encountered exotic looking local people in colourful costumes. Now covered with sand, we told ourselves – we have to find ways to avoid bush-taxi's as much as possible!

1 comment:

NIGER1.COM said...

Hello I am from Niger and I manage the website www.niger1.com
I have been reading your blog and i enjoy it
May i ask you if you were in Niger for vacation or business if you don t mind
I am just trying to have an idea
but those pictures are great
email me at niger1.com@gmail.com