I am on the final count down to my list of 197 – just 7 more to go. Most people quickly figure out from that number the implication is that the remainder are largely sketchy countries. And they would be right. This week we have a trifecta of UN development index winners. There are only 188 countries on the UN development list (out of 193 UN sovereign states some like Tuvalu, San Marino and Monaco are too small). And this week I get to visit no.s 186,187 and 188 respectively. It will be an interesting week.
First stop N’djamena, Chad
The flight from Casa seemed unusually touristy, with a lot more pale folks than I am used to going to central or west africa. Turns out the flight was bound for Nairobi, and only 40 of us got off at N’djamena. The airport was clean and lovely, and staffed with more people than passengers. The men here are charming and I was asked out twice before i got out of the terminal (they must have a thing for grubby backpackers with wrinkles and grey hair). The lovely Toide picked me up and bought me to the Hilton – an extraordinarily lovely hotel that I had found a cracking deal on for 90 euros a night.
After a good night sleep and an excellent (if absurdly over-priced) buffet breakfast – I headed out to see the ‘sights’ of N’djamena. It is a little tricky to take photographs in town as the police are quite sensitive, so I had decided to go with a guide as at least that way I was less likely to get stopped, hassled and bribed. (At least two of the nutters facebook group have had probs with the police here, so i come forewarned)
Bustling street life
The streets are bustling… and N’djamena is wealthier than I expected. There is plenty of money in this town – lots of lovely hotels, new buildings going up, and vast numbers of shiny 4wds…. though undoubtedly the wealth is in the hands of the minority. The main avenues are broad and wide, with lots of commerce on the street, including a lively sheep market
Fossils in the museum
We headed to the national museum of Chad. Museums are never top of my list of things to do, but as trip advisor will indicate, there isn’t a long list of things to see in ndjamena. Honestly I get bored in the V&A so there was limited likelihood I was going to be enthralled by this museum. The museum was small but enthusiastically kept. There isn’t a huge amount to see but some of the Jewelry and fossils were fascinating. There is a bonus exhibition about independence from France, which consists of about 20 pictures of politicians, it was riveting.
Organised chaos at the grand Marche
Next up, my favourite thing to do in Africa – head to the markets. N’djamena’s grand market is true to African form – it seems chaotic but is incredibly organised. Each quarter serves a defined purpose – second hand clothing from Zara and mango piled high to be picked through, pharmaceuticals tended by white robed Muslims, women from the villages with fruit and veg, and the obligatory Chinese plastic tat which you find worldwide. We wandered round for half an hour soaking up the vibes and avoiding the kids asking me for cash.
A war of attrition with the souvenir stall holders
Honestly, I try and avoid visiting souvenir markets, but apparently there wasn’t much else to see and we had some free time (yes we have all heard that one before and I fell for it willingly). Business was probably pretty slow, so the fifty or so stall holders were pretty happy to see me. It was exhausting to be 1 tourist with 50 vendors, and it was a war of attrition I had no hope of winning. It is rare that I buy souvenirs, but some of the masks were lovely, so my pack is now weighed down with two more plus a very groovy comb. I would like to think that i held my own in the negotiations, but these days I am a lazy old tourist of the type I despised when I was backpacking around Asia at 20 hustling everything down to the last rupee. Now I don’t really care what the price is provided it isn’t daylight robbery…..
Celebration of ‘independence’
We headed to see the Place du nation. African nations do monuments to independence well! This one was a treat. The highlight for me was the world globe, mostly because NZ was actually on it! Taking photos here was a sensitive manoeuvre – we were only allowed to face in one direction with the presidents palace behind us. God forbid someone take a photo of the presidents palace. Idriss Deby is a model of African democracy…. he has been president since 1990, and he removed the term limits to enable himself to be ‘elected’ five times. He doesn’t hold the record – I think that is still Equatorial Guinea with 38 years of the same ‘democratically’ elected guy.
Across from the palace is the cathedral which is sadly closed for renovation. It was tricky to get a picture given the proximity to the palace but eventually a vaguely official looking dude in camouflage gear said it would be ok. I imagine it was lovely and will be again.
“No tourist card no photo” at the Mosque
We passed by the grand mosque and stopped to see if we could take a photo. The ‘friendly’ militia were adamant that I couldn’t take a photo without a tourist card – irrelevant that such a thing doesn’t exist. Oh well! Apparently I could be boko haram scoping it out for bombing (and they have executed suicide bombings in ndjamena numerous times). It isn’t the nicest mosque in the world in any case, but have popped in a picture from google images for your edification.
Sunning by the river
After that back to the hotel for a couple of hours sunning myself next to the river. Its incongruous hanging out in the Hilton in N’djamena, as I don’t really feel like I am in Africa. The guest list of the hotel was on display as i was paying this evening, and half the US consulate appears to be living here…., its not my typical African experience. Heading to Niger tomorrow at the crack of dawn, and normalcy will be restored as I am staying at one of the cheaper guesthouses I could find. I will be looking forward to a bed of any description after four flights with Asky tomorrow (N’djamena to Douala to Lome to Ouagadougou to Niamey), 🙂
6 more to go
N’djamena 20 August 2018
- I stayed at the Hilton N’djamena. It was lovely, staff were delightful! Shop around for a deal
- I cut a deal with the hilton driver to take me around town, you can contact Toide on firstname.lastname@example.org or +23566471272. he speaks english and french.
Side note – i still hate flights in africa
Travelling in Africa is never boring. The flight times are loose guidelines versus actual commitments. Getting to three of my last four countries in Africa was never going to be easy given the limited connections. I had constructed an optimistic flight booking through Casablanca to ndjamena, then on to Niamey (the neighboring country) via Douala, Lome, and Ouagadougou, then back to Bangui via Ouagadougou, Lome and Douala (don’t ask, I tried to do it in the other order but it didn’t work), then back to London via Casablanca. Things had already gone a bit pear shaped with Asky cancelling the first leg of the Niamey to Bangui leg a few weeks ago, but I had found an exorbitantly priced ticket on Air Burkina to replace that leg. And I was unsurprised when I got to Gatwick this morning to find my flight was delayed an hour. Given my connection time was originally only 75 minutes, I was not wildly hopeful I would make it with just 15 minutes. I did a dead sprint across the airport, smiled my way to the front of the security line and made it to the gate with one minute to spare! Happy to have done so, as the next flight to N’djamena wasn’t for two more days. Fingers crossed the rest works out….., I don’t expect it to, ….but thats part of the joy of being in Africa…., you are pleasantly surprised when stuff actually works.