coldturkey

At times writing is effortless. Other times nightmarish. But it's always therapeutic.

N’Djamena in a few days.

with 5 comments

This past year, in the cold month of July, I got to visit N’Djamena, Chad. I had always wanted to see the Sahel. The plane was almost hollow with around 15 passengers. The good thing about it is you can eat colossally. They start playing the film Smurfs and an attendant comes over and says I look ‘familiar’ to him. Honestly he also does and I say so. We can’t remember where we met though. Maybe it’s a high attitude effect, anyway.

He invites me to the back of the plane and man, I spoil myself. I’m pulling shelves and wolfing fish. I’m licking margarine and popping peanuts. I’m mixing juices as he cheers me on. “Eat man. At least you’ll die happy if we go down.” We sit there and talk about girls, marriage, growing up and all for 3 hours. He has been there, believe me. It’s the best flight I ever had.

We reach N’Djamena at night. It’s very well lit. The lean airport policemen with naked pistols on their hips ask for my visa which I don’t have. I however have an invitation letter. They ask me to leave the passport and pick it the next day after paying the visa fee. I’ll tell you one crazy thing; I don’t have enough money. Never travel without enough money. Well, it makes your trip fun since you will always have interesting stories to tell but things can go very wrong.

In the plane a man called Ibrahima had asked me what time it was and as we clear, he advises on what to do and not to, while in Chad. A Toyota Landcruiser comes for him and I benefit too. We first drop him and he asks the driver to take me to my hotel. Which hotel, man?

I give the driver a name and we go. They are asking me for 200usd a night! I have 150usd. I ask the driver to show me another cheaper place. We go to hotel du Sahel. They want 150usd a night, for a hotel with a hut for a reception. In Nairobi that would go for less than 1000KES. Life in N’Djamena is not cheap, as Ibrahima had said. It’s now 9pm. I tell the driver it’s all good and he leaves as I’m ashamed to have him chase cheap hotels all over town for an unprepared Kenyan. I then ask the receptionist to call me a taxi.

The RHD Peugeot 504 drives me around. I ask the driver, Mr Moudou, a very kind old man, to find me a place for about 30usd, untill I get more money next day. The first place he knows is closed. The other one is a missionary place. It’s full and the Philipino nuns can’t help me. It’s now 10pm, still roaming in city lights, tired. We try one last place which is a night club with lodgings on the side. I’m lucky but the guy nonchalantly says, rooms open at 11pm. We sit out with Moudou and chat. I ask him what those light far off are and he says that’s Cameroun. It’s so near and I decide to check it out before I leave.

I pay Moudou but he doesn’t have change. We drive to his house and back. People are sitting out on the sand under the lights chatting or playing cards. It’s so peaceful. The room has this dirty pillow, thin mattress, zero sheets or blankets. That for 40usd. I’m glad at least I can sleep.

Moudou picks me the next morning and we go to the Missionaires de Kabalai. The nuns give me a room – proper room – and heavy breakfast of cocoa and baguette. They are so kind.

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It’s on a Thursday and with 4 days to go in Chad, I tour the place. Chad may have been in a civil war but it’s such a lovely place. My road out of the city center passes outside the presidential palace with heftily military men every few meters. I have not seen young men look so splendid with new Kalashnikovs. The people are gentle. The streets are well lit. There are no traffic jams and fish is plenty and cheap. I spend the days working and in the evening my friend Vickery, takes me out. Their dancing places are so cool. It’s in the open and as the band sings under the star light, people dance in one wide space in the middle. If the song is well done, you walk up to the band guys and stick a note on their foreheads.

I’m really having a great time in the Sahel. One of the stuff I like about here is the Tagelmust. That’s the turban worn by desert people for protection from wind and sand, among other cultural reasons. I just want to tie one and have pictures taken in it.

I get to meet Madame Isabella who works for the government. On learning I’m from Kenya she promises to pick me after work which she does together with her husband. We go to another part of town to while the evening away with her uncles and friends. Honestly she is a stranger but I’m not any anxious. They are so welcoming. One of them is a Doctor with a research firm in Ghana. He is home for holidays. Another has been to Nairobi to have his appendix removed. We chat and eat more fish. They even want to get me a Chadian bride, which I’m ok with, as long as she can come to Kenya. They promise to get one from the South where it rains and people know how to farm.

One of the boda boda guys who ferried me around once, is called Prospere. As in ‘to prosper.’ We agree he will pick me on Sunday so we can cross over to Cameroun. I spend Sunday morning taking photos of ghekos outside my room until Prospere comes and we ride to the border town, Kousseri. If the soldiers know I’m a foreigner, I will have to pay which I’m not ready to. Prospere advices me to behave local. We ride and stop to take photos.

We cross a long bridge into Cameroun. They are so many bikes around and petrol is hawked on the streets, here. The petrol comes from Nigeria, from as far as the infamous region of Maiduguri where Muslims keep fighting with Christians. I stop to take photos with Cameroonian children near a Mosque. I then buy floor mats in Kousseri market and we ride back.

I leave tonight. Isabelle had given me a number of a Kenyan in N’Djamena. I call the lady and ride around with my friend Vickery, looking for the place. They are many other Kenyan working for NGOs and they have their monthly bash today. How great to find a party by your countrymen when you didn’t expect? We eat lots of peanuts, locally known as Mandawa, drink tea, dance and chat upto 9pm.

The flight is at midnight so we have time. We leave and go to the city centre where the government is building a huge Independence monument. We ask the military guards for permission to take pictures. It’s in the middle of the city and people just come with their bikes, park them and sit by the side for a tête-à-tête. Awesome N’Djamena peace and calm.

Vickery takes me back to pick my bag and then drops me at the Airport. For all his troubles he won’t accept a gift; typical Chadian kindness. It has been such a wonderful time in the Sahel. The best trips are never well planned.

The plane is super stuffy with smells of sweat, dirt, fatigue. I get the very back seat next to this long-legged guy from Rwanda. He has drunk all the scotch since it left Benin and he is high. I get my shawl and sleep until Nairobi.

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Written by coldturkey

February 20, 2012 at 12:39 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

5 Responses

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  1. Chad sounds like a very beautiful place. You certainly had a wonderful time. Welcome home though.

    Willy

    February 22, 2012 at 10:06 PM

  2. wow,you sure tell beautiful travel stories and take such ozam forros (awesome photos :-)..)…you should write for a travel blog..cos now i want to go to chad..just to see everything you’ve described…

    yella soul

    February 23, 2012 at 2:32 PM

  3. @Willy. It is, man. It’s people make it so. Cheers.
    @yella soul, A paying blog, right? thank you big time. I give you a Thai bow for that. :_)

    coldturkey

    March 3, 2012 at 1:15 AM

  4. I thought I had a place booked in your backpack? You went without me? I am so very disappointed in you! 😛

    Corvinus Maximilus

    March 19, 2012 at 10:22 AM

    • Hah! I so thought you’d not find this confession. Worry not for I have bought a better backpack which actually comes with chocolate cake in it. 🙂

      Cold Turkey

      March 19, 2012 at 2:27 PM


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