Always in the deep woods when you leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place there will be, along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is an ancient fear of the unknown and is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into. What you are doing is exploring. -- Wendell Berry

The TRIP: GUINEA - wonkifong --> MALI - bamako, djenne, douentza, Dogon Country --> Burkina Faso - ouagadougou, bobo-dioulasso, bala, ouagadougou --> GHANA - tamale, mole national park, tamale, yeji, volta lake ferry, akosombo, accra, green turtle lodge, elmina, cape coast, accra, hohoe and wli falls --> TOGO - kpalime, atakpame, lome --> BENIN - cotonu (transport stop) --> NIGER - niamey, tahoua, agadez, camel trek in aiir mtns, niamey --> BENIN (abomey, grand popo, ouidah, ganvie, cotonou) --> CAMEROON (douala, buea, top of Mt Cameroon, limbe, sangelima, yaounde, kribi, douala) --> MAURITANIA (nouakchott, atar, chinguetti, camels into the sahara, terjit, choume, ride the coal train, nouadhibou) --> MOROCCO (western sahara, dakhla, agadir, essaouira, marrakesh, imlil, summit of jebel toubkal, fes, chefchaouen) --> cross the Strait of Gibraltar --> Malaga, Spain --> fly to Geneva, Switzerland --> Les Grangettes, France
Click for a map. Updated April 30, 2007

vendredi, avril 20, 2007

Horse Races – Tahoua, Niger (April 14, 2007)

The local showing Patrick and I around began running as shouts erupted from the crowd. The first of three horse races of the day had started. I followed him to see a pack of horses in the distance. The track was in the desert on the outskirts of Tahoua, Niger. Its oval-like shape must shift constantly as the winds blow sand, creating rises along some stretches and depressions in others. The sand is not hard-packed, but deep, soft and shifty.

The horses rounded the final bend to finish in front of the grand stand erected for the event. Their muscles working hard through the sand, the horses finished to a wild roar from the spectators. It seems as if some family livelihoods depends on the races. The 10-day international horseracing event had begun. This event happens each year in either Niger or Nigeria. By chance, the race was in Niger this year, in Tahoua, and on the Saturday we arrived.

Using Patrick and I as his “ticket,” our guide walked out onto the course after the first race had finished. We followed him to the finish line where we sat us down on the sand in the front row. I felt awkward being placed in such a good seat but the people sitting there welcomed us onto the sand with them. Here, we were treated to finish line seating for the next two races.