kinda! – Hello in the local language.
First trip to Africa and my choice is Chad. Why Chad? Because accidentally I found a wonderful Archey canyon to see there, Also because I know nothing about this country and it’s not a tourist destination. So let’s go and discover it!
September-February is dust season. March-May – hot season. June-September rainy season, the worst one for travels.
First, making visa, everybody need to make a vaccination against yellow fever.
If you are not going with a tourist group, then need to have someone, who could prepare an invitation latter for you. Officially, it’s enough to have friends’ invitation, but local authorities complicate all stuff. My local friend wasted time on coming at local authorities and each time the officer was out or he had meetings or he was late or he was not in moods to accept requests. They just didn’t understand why my friend is inviting me – tourists have to stay at a hotel! – They say. They accept just invitations from hotels. Each time asked for a hotel booking paper without even looking at my friends filled in properly an invitation letter. Finally, friend went to a hotel and asked some help. In aim to have needed paper, he made a fake booking. I hardly could do it by myself being abroad. If you decide to stay at hotels, try not to forget that the cheapest hotel room there cost 70 euro per night!
After having that invitation letter, it was so easy and fast to receive a visa in Paris. It took me one week to have it in my hands.
Leaving! At transfer airport in Casablanca I was the only white in an airplane. From the Chadians reaction I understood that it’s not an often view to see a lonely girl going to such country as Chad.
Arrived. 4AM. At arrival need to pass throw passport check point, scan your fingerprints and show your vaccination paper to 3 competent guys. Sh….t, I didn’t take it with myself! I made a stupid face expression, started to talk a lot expressing my deep thought (at least to create image of well informed about everything, even if you know nothing, is very important). Luckily I had pictures of it in my phone, so it was ok. I was just lucky. Otherwise, they could make me make few new vaccinations, what my ass wouldn’t accept with a smile.
The airport is very small. I had an impression that all procedures are happening at the same tiny space. You simply get out entering it, so walk slowly. Adam (changed name of my local friend) was already waiting for me. He just came to my baggage waiting point (like there was no security, nothing), took my bag and we got out.
First views. Empty streets and walls covered with barbs. Stray, big dogs are everywhere. Nobody touches them or keeps home but people feed them. Dogs get use to it and live outside the houses protecting the territory.
Gates of our house were opened by a guard – guy living in a small room just close to the entrance. In lots of houses they have cooks too (kitchen building is always outside a house), so family has more time for enjoying themselves staying calm in their sofas doing nothing. Women usually live together and men separately.
Wake up…. breakfast is already waiting on a carpet. It is not so different from lunch or dinner. Traditional Chadian food consists mostly from meat, prepared in special souse, white bread, green salad with lemon, black tea. Don’t remember eating any dessert. The locals mostly eat dry dates, fruits and sugar canes. The biscuits they usually eat when having guests, in ‘special’ occasions or ‘on a way’. Local cheese is delicious (9 Euros/kg). It reminds a bit mozzarella but more salty and can be bought just in the northern part of the capital, outside the town, close to the farms. Popular drink is made home – buoille – made from milk, sugar, flour and nuts.
Local proud – kaisadra tree, which cure from rheumatism, cold….and can be used to prepare a tea too.
In the morning, friend’s family entered ‘my’ room just to say hello and to sit for a while. They don’t really care about talking. It’s in their culture to enter, to show respect, if passing by relatives, friends living place. It happened often, during my further trip, to see people coming and going out in silence. They enter, sit for 5-10 minutes and then go away….. seems, they pass by often…..
Went to pick up Ahmed (another local). First place we visited together was historical Gaoui village. Before visiting it, we had to see their ‘sultan’ (I had no chance to meet 4 his wives). He has to ‘bless’ us first. Short 10 minutes conversation with snacks and we were free.
In each village they have a ‘sultan’. He is like a local president, minister of culture, economic, security…. . When people have problems, they come to ask his advice and help. If it’s not possible to solve a problem friendly way, then they go to a police.
After deporting Ahmed at his place, we went to see Adam friends and cousins. Families and friends here keep very tight contact and there are really lots of them. I still don’t remember their exotic names. In the bars is possible to have an alcohol, mostly beer. Muslims go to Christian district for that in aim to avoid that someone from their family sees them. Keeping a good reputation of a serious family guy is important there.
Hate shopping? No problems. Lots of sellers come to sell stuff at bars, so while getting drunk, you can easily make full day shopping not moving your ass from a chair even for a second. Practical? Right. Go to a bar and get out with a full bag of food and items for kids just like loving, carrying family man. There Chadians are very practical!
Later taking a walk, we saw a marriage. Why not to join? We went. Guards let us in after checking our bags. For sure, we knew nobody, but behaved like we were invited. What I liked, nobody paid attention at me, like I was one of them, invited. Nobody asked anything. At a party were just future husband family members and his friends. That ‘lucky’ guy was sitting, waiting for his bride to come. Everybody came to take pictures with him, so we did too. After maybe two hours, a bride with her family and friends arrived, so lucky guy went out to meet her and bring to already warmed sitting place. Finally they sit down together, in the middle of a huge attention of people who for a while forgot to make selfies pointing their telephones and cameras on a young, scared, future family. Young future family looked not in ease and lost of such huge attention, but nobody cared. After being satisfied with quantity of made pictures, people went back to their places and a girl hired to organise wedding party, started her show. She had to work hard to get all needed attention she wanted. First dance is for our happy couple and then others joined. Party started and we felt that it was time to move on to see other kind of local night life.
Huge crowd of people were going to RT concert. Ah yes, Chadians are going to the concerts too.
Evening is continued at Adam brother’s home with friends. I never had a feeling of being a stranger. I was always well accepted, just like family member. Relax 100%.
Chadians like to assimilate with other cultures as – Africans songs (Malian music is very popular there), Indian, European clothes….. In a capital civilian wear white scarves, military green ones (outside the capital there are less rules for that).
They are not so interesting in tourism in general. Party at home or in a bar with friends seems highly enough for them.
They live on a ground – sleep on a ground, eat….. Usually in a room they have a huge mattress or a few mattresses connected and that’s all (sometimes a small table or sofa). All house-life is on these mattresses or carpets and if someone is staying for a night, there is already ready warm place to sleep on.
Chadians often go abroad to study. In Muslim family, when a boy fell in love, he tells to his parents and they go to that girl’s family to check if she is a good housewife. If they are satisfied, then they ask her father to give her to their son as a wife. Marriage at 17 years old is ok.
Next day we were invited to have some snacks at friend’s house. Chadians never eat alone. At a room women were sit one side, men other. For sure, me as a foreigner could sit whenever I wanted. TV at home is usually on; it’s one of the greatest activities.
Sometimes they go for a picnic.
Popular card game is ‘arbatasha‘. People are not used to thank here. I hardly heard ‘thank you’ in this country. I heard it from some locals who used to study abroad and are more open-minded. Happiness in their eyes tells everything, words are useless.
After a snack, we went to see holidays resort Dougnia. It’s situated at the river with views at Cameroon. At a territory you can find cute houses and nice gardens, complete silence. Perfect place for family holidays.
December is a time of local migration. Sometimes tribes travel on donkeys till 300 km to find new living place for few months. They always know where to go, it’s all well organised in advance.
People in Chad are very relaxed, cool, no stress, no hurry because it’s they who control time as they say.
People don’t like being photographed here, especially women! Better to ask before making a move. It’s forbidden to picture a police, military and president palace too. Kids don’t care about being on the pictures but they all seems so shocked of seeing me and that metal box in my hands, that even if they would mind, they wouldn’t mind being photographed. So I used that moment till they realised what’s going on. Some kids, seeing me, cried like crazy. My personality was just out of their geographical imagination. Mostly, there were kids till 2 years old who expressed their happiness this way. I felt flatterer. Sometimes I got asked to make pictures as for locals it was a huge exotic to see me there.
The biggest surprise to me was to see a huge Christmas tree in the capital. I never expected to see this kind of a tree in the middle of Africa, but miracles happen.
People never bothered me on the streets, just sometimes in the villages I got too much attention, but curious people are just looking, keeping distance. In general, it’s a safe country. Military are everywhere, checking cars, especially at the evenings and close to Cameroon border, which can be crossed by bridge or boat.
There are no rules to drive. Yes, there is one – avoid having your car ass being kissed by another car. Such kissers are on every step but if you don’t pay attention, then your car will be not just kissed but and raped.
For sure, this trip didn’t go without any accident, even small, tiny one – I have got red dots on my legs and hands. It was not dangerous but African friends were joking that I brought European microbes to their country.
First thing I did Monday morning – went to register my arrival. Don’t forget to do it during 3 days from your arrival. There are usually lots of people and they don’t let bring any bag, to a territory, with you for security reasons. There is local disorder, so better to ask a local friend to help to make it work faster and smoother. -Where are you from? America? France? So where then from? What job are you doing? No job? What job? So why you are here? Tourism…? And long pause….. – why? Nobody comes there. – And that’s why I am here! Uffff. After passing all there interviews, you can make next step. Give them one your picture, but if you don’t have, no problems. In my case, one guy came with his old camera and ‘memorised’ me. I, advice to have some pictures for the further trip destinations as they can ask and not sure if there would be a photographer.
Getting out downtown. Streets are full of noise and people. Palms are full of birds too. It’s so cute to hear these noises of nature in such busy town, but when my friend throw a stone into it, I immediately realised that there were not birds at all, just hundreds of bats hidden in one palm. In the towns I don’t remember seeing any bird, just some pigeons in the cages. They are considered as beautiful, exotic birds (I see that no one haven’t shit yet on Chadians heads that they still spread such love to them).
In aim to save some time, with my locals friends, we wanted to rent a car. It’s a real headache to rent it – too expensive or no cars. Usual price is 200-250 dollars/day. Chadians take huge care of their cars, especially when need to go to a desert. Going there is a big responsibility and just the most competent are proposing their services.
Locals like stable, simply life, without getting out too much and looking for any adventures or troubles. It was hard to make them understand that I was not a ‘tourist’ but a traveller and that I was not a millionaire. I preferred to travel with the locals to understand better their lifestyle. So finally I went to Archei canyon using just the local transports. It looked crazy, as ‘whites’ here don’t travel this way. But I am happy with my choice, it’s a great experience. Tourists couldn’t retell real stories about Chad. They experience nothing (just seeing nice views from their cars windows) in here and had no so much troubles and fun as I did. I will try to introduce you shortly some of my know-hows and who knows and maybe it will help you to learn something new about this non-discovered culture. My adventure starts here.
Bus to Abéché leaves at 6.00 am every day. We are ready.
Chadians usually travel with huge packs. They take a huge carpet and other heavy house stuffs for sleeping. I proposed to use my sleeping bag – light and doesn’t take lots of place. But locals prefer to use their traditional way of travelling and take that pack which weight maybe 50 kg.
Finally on a way N’djamena-Abéché (bus trip price – 30euros). Road is safe. In a bus you can be tired and they give some coca cola for free. 10 hour trip. Bus was flying. Real meaning of this word. We, passengers looked like the flies in it. Sometimes I thought that my days were numbered. My ass was disassociated from a seat most of the time. It even didn’t have a chance to warm my sit, as I was keeping jumping while being on a road full of the holes. I didn’t panic. Seeing other passengers calm and completely relaxed, made me feel guaranteed that this trip is completely OK.
On a way we made 3 breaks. First break was made for a lunch and others, to pray, to stretch the legs or finally warm the sits. During the breaks or on checkpoints, kids were approaching the bus selling boiled eggs and snacks for travellers but most of them just asked for money, as their parents or teacher force to do so. We ate outside. Kids were standing close. We finished and they jumped on what left from our lunch. Sometimes the owner of a restaurant get out and take not finished food, put it separately in cups and give to kids to avoid their fights. Too many kids here. If you would like to help some, better give them some food, as they are obliged to give money to bastards adults. Money doesn’t feed kids. Lots of parents work far away, so they leave their kids with a teacher in coranic school, who use them, sending on the streets to ask for money. For sure, parents know nothing about it and kids are afraid to tell the truth.
In 1998 in Chad used to have 14 regions and now 22. These 22 regions were created because of rich people, who wanted to divide the country and have some territory to control. People between some regions are in conflicts but it doesn’t involve tourists in that.
Mongo region (in the centre, where we were) is the poorest one. So kids here have no lots of choice. In the villages, they still need drinking water, electricity….
Health, education and drinking water are 3 main priorities of the government of this country.
On my way, I mostly met doctors or students of medicine, as this specialisation is very important in Chad. There are lots of sick with paludism.
A break in one village. I was introduced to one guy – Mohamed. The way he introduced himself and the way he moved, brought me an idea, that he is not a guy who doesn’t have love feelings to girls. Gay in the middle of Africa. Yes, they exist here too. He is liked by all the girls of the village and the guys. Local celebrity. Girls like him because he is not ‘accessible’ guy. Forbidden fruit is sweeter. Guys like him, because he is still a guy and he knows a lot about girls.
Girls mostly party with girls and boys with boys. Boys are shy and have problems approaching the girls that they like. They ask Mohamed to introduce them to the girls and he arranges their meetings. He is like local love intermediary. But life is not so sweet to him, as this country doesn’t accept them with open arms, but he is still alive and seems being satisfied with what he has.
Chad had 7 years war which ended not long ago and for security reasons, they have lots check points at entrances to each bigger town. Check points are located about 5 km outside each town. Military after checking my papers take my passport and bring it directly by themselves to the main officer in a town, while I continue travelling by bus without any official paper proving my existence. Lucky, my passport was never lost. Lots of military even didn’t know how to read, so they had no idea where to look and just tried to show me that they work well. But no judgments! They are serious guys. They don’t know how to read but they know how to use phones. How they use them, if they can’t read? As they are analphabets, they keep all phone numbers in their heads and when needed, they just tape it and you get a call. Chadians have a good memory.
I had a nice surprise. On a check point one Chadian military woman run towards me, hugged and talked to me like an old friends. Wish to meet more people like this on my way.
On arrival to Abéché, we were picked by Ahmed uncle. In few minutes we were at his house. His house like others had no any decoration. What for? Chadians ask, and they are right. The most important – hygiene items, place to sleep, some kitchen stuff and TV!
There were so many people coming and going, that I hardly got, who really lived there and who was simply passing by. Even students were passing by to see their professor and to have some chats with him.
Small walk in a market – people are kind, don’t bother me, tell hello and sometimes gathered at me as it happens really rare to see a white skin there, specially a girl. Even these who live in a capital usually send locals for shopping. White people just don’t go to a market here! They don’t take a walks at all. Tourists pass by, making pictures without even getting out their cars.
I loved to have my own space while being in a market. Sadly, they have no mirrors, so was hard to try on new scarves. Luckily, Ahmed with his uncle was patient enough to let me try women stuff on them. That became a funny attraction for the local girls. Somebody finally has to suffer from my ambitions. With their help, I found super nice fabrics. The best gift brought from my trip – few meters of cotton. Chad is proud of its production. I never saw before such type of fabric – thin and hard with nice pattern. When it gets wet and dries, it become even harder and clothes keep no matter shape. It woke up my creativity.
Each time being in a town, I had to go to migration centre to pick up my document. They have no exact working hours as at 20.00 it can be still opened. Once I met a white skin guy there. He looked at me with bigger eyes than the locals. His eyes told me more than wanted – there are no white women, I mean, white people in general, not because I was cute intrude in the middle of nowhere!
Met people were sure that I work here as a doctor or teacher. My truth about travelling for my pleasure shocked them.
Next morning we went to take a minibus to go to Biltim (village on the way to Fada, price-4000CFA). Hitchhiking is almost impossible here. Usually cars don’t move out a town till they are not overcrowded by passengers. It’s really hard to get directly to Fada from Abéché because the road is hard, long and few people travelling on it. It’s easier to make this way by parts. Bus net is well developed between big towns but the rest….need to swept first to get from one point to another. Solo, our minibus had to get out on a way at 9.00 but. It wouldn’t be Chad if it would be so easy. Here is super important to know people and 1, 2, 3, 4, 5,….. I am patience, but here…..303, 304, 305…. need a bit more of calculation………. 10023,10024,10025,10026 …….. We moved at around 11.00. Almost as planned. Here starts the most interesting part, which was not funny at all but now I remember it with a smile.
People often tell aloud what they think about you. They can easily speak of you while you are close and they don’t mind. So happened in a car. Ahmed translated me, what some girls were wondering about – why my friend Ahmed married me, the white one, while there are so many beautiful locals…. . I didn’t know an answer to this question. Maybe because I was more visible during the night :)… . They were really jealous. People here hardly understand how it’s possible to be friends and travel together without being married. I met lots of guys who had 2-3 wives and was wondering, how they manage their life, but then I found out, that, according to them, I was ‘married’ to at least 6 too.
All wives live separately, but there is always the main wife at whose place husband stays more often.
Women here are respected in this country. They are considered as mothers and nobody has rights to harm them. On the checkpoints all men had to get out each time. Military check cars but never bother any woman, just men and me.
After few hours of drive, I had a stupid problem at the check point. Military asked for my permit to go via these territories, and I had no. Officially it’s not obligatory, but they ask tourists for that in aim to complicate travel. So we negotiated. Then the bus driver told them about me in Abéché making pictures of the goats in a very dirty place. He didn’t like that and tried to create stupid stories to make them believe that I was really bad person. I felt like he really wanted to make more problems to me without a reason. He considered me as a spy who makes pictures of the worst places of Chad and who wants to destroy country reputation or bring more problems to Chadians. I didn’t get that. In a result, they decided to check my bag. They got on a bus roof to pick out my bag (this is rather long procedure, if you know how the bags are arranged and fixed). When they got out my bag, they decided that they don’t need it anymore. Finally the bus driver had to put it back with other luggage. Waste of time for nothing and lots of drama. Sometimes I felt really guilty, keeping all other passengers to wait. Luckily Chadians are never in a hurry, so they accepted in calm my adventures. In such situations is good to have a local close, who could explain everything in their language (lots of them speak french and arabic too) and calm down stupid misunderstandings.
Arrived late to Biltim. In a migration centre, military knew what Lithuania is, its capital, president name, population, new reformes……I was blown away. Wow. Never expected someone in the middle of Africa, far away from any civilisation, knowing so much about it! Yes, Chadians look TV and Europe for them is such exotic as for us Africa.
Staying with Ahmed’s family members. Staying in a dark. It happens often to live here without electricity for few days. Just a church and a hospital are provided with that. They told that there is one guy responsible for electricity. Sometimes he forgets to switch it on, so…. Due to lack of electricity, be sure to have some conserves and snack to eat. I don’t mind to stay few days in a dark, but just if locals put on bright clothes. Some bright spots could bring some light and help to focus my attention on a right direction.
And here it is. Early in the morning I feel sick. Morning walk to a hospital. Here for sure, I had to make new acquaintances with n doctors before I received help. I have never been surrounded with so many doctors in my life as there. 24 December and I am dead. I was so kindly hosted in Abéché when I got sick. It’s all because, I think, of bad mix of the food – chicken with salad, bread, sweet milk with almonds drink, watermelon….. It’s so hard to refuse, as they keep insisting. My advice, better keep refusing than wasting one day staying in a bed.
Evening. I feel better and we went to a church to see local Christmas celebration. They celebrate with songs and music.
Need to continue our trip. Asking people about the transport. There are no schedules. If a car driver doesn’t find enough passengers, he won’t move. Everybody waits and has to adapt. I hoped to leave in the evening, but left just in the morning. 8 in the morning? Cool, it means, we could leave at 10.00. Most of appointments here don’t happen at time. People are not motivated to travel to the north. That’s why it’s sometimes very hard to find a car to go there or it costs very expensive. We found one driver with a car, everything seemed well till he told that he can’t go but he can give his car. I didn’t dare to take it. First, I didn’t know the way, second, it’s too dangerous and driving alone 300 kilometres in a desert is not a good idea. We came back to shared car idea. After few hours of waiting, finally we moved slowly, so slooooowly. Driver as in purpose, couldn’t get out easily from the town as his friends started to appear and he had to talk to everyone. Nobody here drives in a dark, unless they are late on arrival. It happened to have kidnapped tourists on a way. All the departures oversee early in the morning.
On the way, the car lost some bags, and then people were missed during the poses. All these attractions always take lots of time. If you find one disappeared passenger, it doesn’t mean that other won’t disappear till that time and vice versa. Later I just used to have a reflex to have everybody in my eyes, to be sure where someone is gone. We didn’t waste time on looking for them later. Driver was cool, we shared snacks, talked. First checkpoint. Military saluting me and talk to me like to his friend – this is the difference between analphabetic military and that one who knows to read. Driving again. Car windows were opened. It was driving so fast that all my small face wrinkles disappeared without any chirurgical intervention. I saw nice views too and saw typical villages on the way. Next checkpoint. Military were very cool guys. We laughed, drank tea, talk. Cool, I am already adapting to the local life. Suddenly.
– bumuquara !
– snotebemuliquabuh maliqualumpumursanam …!
– numulabalukulum purumsurupufaqivara !!!!
-…….. Here it is, they are arguing, my intelligent inner voice whispered. I couldn’t catch any single word. This conversation sounded like real word fight and complete mess. I felt really uncomfortable. They shouted loudly using their hands to express their feelings. Soon I found out, that they were not fighting, but ‘calmly’ talking about funny things happened during a wedding of cousin’s sister’s second brother’s son. My bad.
Kalait. It is a commercial town. Chad just starting to get up after the war. They don’t have lots of local production. The most of the imports come from China, India, Nigeria and Libya. Kalait is the first point where stop all the trucks coming from Libya to Chad. Arrived. Friend of a friend came to pick us and hosted for 2 nights. First visit to the town. There is nothing. Food here is the sand and dust. They drink a lot of tea. To show the politeness and acceptance, they make noise while drinking a tea. This way they drink just on the North-East part of Chad.
Our host kept pigeons home. These birds are considered being beautiful birds. Ahmed enjoyed them a lot, till one pooped on his shoe. His adoration finished on that moment and we never talk again about any birds. Day activities are finished.
First night here. It was ‘heavy’. We were sleeping outside a house on very comfortable mattresses. As the nights are cold here, our host brought few warm covers and putted on me. I would be very glad of that kindness if one cover wouldn’t weight 15-20 kg. I couldn’t move. Two guys had to put the covers up to help me to change the position. The host looked at me with eyes full of understanding and sympathy. He wanted to remove one or two covers to facilitate my life but after few seconds of thinking, he decided to leave all as it was. Security reasons. This way he was surer that I wouldn’t get out my bed and to take a walk in a dark as I liked.
Morning. Went to a military post. Their boss was out. Need to wait. In the meantime we were looking for a car going to Fada. The winter season here is the real wind storm. Sand is everywhere and if you don’t eat well to be heavy, it can bring you far away for free. I looked in the sky and I saw few birds just above my head. They seemed flying, but still at the same place. When the birds used a bit less energy into their wings, wind immediately brought them back from where they came.
It’s really ugly town-living area, just sand, stones, houses without any spirit and strong wind. There is nothing, and nothing to do.
Main attraction was the donkey season. People keep donkeys because it’s easier to look after them then after the camels. One donkey girl was standing on a small sand hill with tail putted up. She reminded me of the girls in red light district in Amsterdam. Bref. This way she was inviting all passing by donkey boys. Not all of them were impressed by her generosity but some couldn’t resist. One donkey boy jumped up, throw out all the luggage he was carrying and run toward that girl to make her future. After few minutes his owned caught him, bitted him. Donkey didn’t care anymore, as he already got what he wanted. He calmly obeyed and continued his job carrying luggage to the local market. Life continued the same wave. Nothing happened; just that girl donkey kept standing at the same place as not sure if it’s enough for today or to have one more shot.
Still no permission from military centre to let me to continue travelling alone without any tourist group. Drivers immediately ask bigger price as they see a tourist, that’s why Ahmed had to explain to everybody that I was his friend to whom he is making surprise, organising a trip.
Keep waiting for an officer at migration centre. Ahmed family keep calling asking if everything is ok. They really take big care and responsibility of their guests. The responsible came. He insisted that I need to have that permit from a tourism organisation. They didn’t approve my plans and had to go to talk to ‘suprefet’. To reach that place, need to go by car. Simply cars can’t go there, need 4×4. No other choice as to go there by a military car and this car is broken! Waiting till it is repaired. Patience, just patience. Chadians are never in a hurry and while waiting, I already started to understand how to repair the cars. It’s repaired. Responsible came to have a try-ride. I thought, he was gone for good, when finally he arrived and took as to that office. The car was used for prisoners transportation, in my case – me. I can tell one, it’s not so comfortable. Out. The responsible talked a lot, putting macaronis on my ears. They didn’t let me go to the North, because of the security and they told that I need that paper so military take responsibility of me. I wanted to call friends from Fada to come to pick us, but Ahmed didn’t let telling that he knows better and I had to accept. I wanted as well to go alone, to hide in a truck, but locals stopped me telling that as everybody in this village knew that I was there, they could transfer information to kidnappers, who would wait for me on a way. I just didn’t get one – if I go without any paper, then I can be kidnapped by boko haram, but if I have a paper then nobody would touch me and kill, right? No logic. Complete bullshit. My moods were totally destroyed. Before coming to Chad, at the embassy I was informed, that I don’t need any permits and here, they require (to make it, takes about 2 weeks and costs some finances). If you have local friends, to avoid time waste and problems, ask them, to make it for you till you arrive. Finally, I didn’t manage to continue to the North. Birds kept flying backwards.
The locals usually start their day early, at 6.00. I still need to get used to that.
Next morning a car is at 8.00. Before going to take it, always need first to ask people and make some researches about place of departure and to know the hours. Waiting for departure. It left just bags to fix on its roof. Passengers wait. Someone is late. Waiting. One woman is lost. The driver went to look for her. She arrived but alone. Driver is lost. Looking for a driver. But till guys arrived with the driver, other passenger is lost. The driver told to everyone that this time we really leave and asked not to disappear till he will look after other lost travel companion. We had no other choice. We waited. I am impatient. I seem being the most one motivated to leave as soon as possible. Finally all are here and luggage is fixed on a roof. The driver went to put on petrol without us. I forgot that petrol station there is just a small market place where boys sell it in 1.5-2 litre bottles! The car is big and consumes lots of it….. . Waiting. After more than 2 hours, everybody is in a car. They take time to get ready for a trip but to get inside a car, take just a second. Finally it was me who got into a car the last. On a way, the driver and some passengers met their friends, so needed to stop to talk and after some more such perturbations, we finally left the town. Going back to Abéché. Impossible to get out the car clean. Dust, wind, sun… I am really in a hurry and want be back ‘home’ as soon as possible. Pending passenger’s legs was the ordinary view from the car windows. Arrived. Till I got out the car, everybody was already there with all bags on the ground. what takes me 5 seconds, takes 1 for a Chadian.
Again staying with Ahmed’s uncle. Nothing has changed till that time. The same room, people, weather….. All visited flats in Chad look like after a war – full of broken stuff, dust, but people are happy. Having own roof and safety is the most important. Flats have just the most necessary stuff, no more or less. TV, I think is in every house. In all visited living spaces, I never saw it switched off.
At 4.00 a.m. arrived Adams father and picked me to Mongo, to meet his son and continue our trip to the South, to Zakouma national park.
Adams father had a good position in Chad and a right for a free movement whenever he wants without stopping at check points and he right to have a gun. It’s forbidden to have a gun in Chad, just military and politics have it. Travelling with him means that, nobody bothers you and no need to stop on check points. Such a release… We became friends. Educated Chadians are much more talkative, simple and easy going. For sure, they have their own traditions and specific points of view. For example. In Chad I was always eating with friends, but in this case, Adams father was travelling with his third wife and not to leave her alone to eat, he asked my favour. Local women and men at restaurants usually eat separate. We went with her to another restaurant corner, reserved just for the women. Chadians are super hospital. Father came time to time to check if everything is ok. He was in a hurry, so we left fast.
In Mongo, to be sure that I stay safe alone, he left me at his friends, governor of Mongo house. After all the complications I have been throw, I was crazy happy to meet finally my friend Adam.
Minister of economy brought us on his motorbike to the place where we had to wait for a bus going to Am Timan. My survival instinct and experience of 1 week, told me that this is not the right place. We went to look for a bus. Found it. It had to leave in 30 minutes. Perfect. Waiting. In that time I met a woman who brought me traditional head covers. I love to have such trip souvenirs to add to my fashion collection. Such souvenirs are hard to find in a market or shops. Always need to ask people for it.
Finally the bus driver started to fix the bags on its roof. Ready. Everybody jumped into a bus. The bus was a normal antic European mini-one model made for 12 people just transformed here for 23!!! In 10 minutes I realised that nothing happens. People started to get out. Two passengers are lost. We can’t go without them. There are still two free places left. I would rather save a free space to put my handbag, not 2 asses more. It took 30 minutes maybe more to find these guys. They were disappeared as soon as they saw, that the bus is not leaving yet. They were in a bar. Some passengers tried to convince them to get out. They refused, as the alcohol was still served. Then they decided that less drunk guy will come, no need for that another then, but he refused to leave his drunk friend. We could do nothing. All 20 passengers and a diver were waiting till these guys finish their ‘procedures’. It took one hour more. Time was crawling so slowly, like a disabled snail. If I would know earlier about such experiments on my patience, I would join these two guys too. All passengers were staying close, ready to jump any minute into the bus. Finally alcohol was gone from a bottle and a table. I started to breathe faster but drunk guy refuses to go with us. He doesn’t need to go somewhere anymore! And his friend still doesn’t want to go without him. Some tried to convince them to join us. We couldn’t lose two passengers, what would mean that the bus would need to find new ones at their place and to wait till next day. Noooo………. I am very patient person but I started to feel like it was getting out my limits. Finally they were packed in the bus. I was relieved. We moved. It was impossible to change the position in this tiny bus. The heat was burning and we kept windows open. After few minutes of driving, Adams skin become whiter. We were slowly starting look old and dusty. 5 hours on a dusty road in the same position and you look like your parents never expected to have such result of their hard work. My advice – always take the diving glasses for this trip and something to plug all your holes and whatever else, what could be important to you! In my case, I would prefer to put all diving costume on me while this trip.
One passenger proposed to stay at his place for a night. So sweet. Arrived to town late. (No need for any registration here as this town is not considered being in a danger zone). Bus station is outside the town. Almost all locals stayed at place to sleep, so did our host. I couldn’t sleep there. I needed a shower! For 2000 CFA 2 motorbikes brought us to a ‘hotel’. Drivers told that the hotel price is 6000 CFA for two people. When we arrived, the price was 6500. When we entered a room, it was already 7000. Our room was, if I can call it so…..a space with walls and ground looking like after a massive disinfection of rats after long lasting partisan war which never saw any renovation procedures and never felt any soft hand touch. There was just a broken wooden bed, wooden table and that’s all. Ah yes, railings on a window and we standing in silence. We saw ourselves in a light. I never had been so dirty in my life! All my body was brown though I travelled dressed. My clothes changed colours…. My white mouth protection from inside was brown! Need a shower! It was outside. Needed just to pass 20 meters on loose sand and here it is….. It was not a shower. It was dark space with a bucket of cold water, which became dirty just after washing my face. From very dirty, I became just dirty.
Morning activity – to find a way to Zakouma. No busses and they even don’t go there. I am not surprised. As I mentioned before, tourists come there just in groups on rented cars or by airplane. We arrived by two motorbikes. Chadians know how to transport everything on a motorbike, so to fix me, my suitcase on its back, was not a big deal. 50 kilometres on these wild savannah roads for 7000 CFA per Moto. I was jumping on a bike like a piece of a meat on a trampoline. After 2 hours we stopped at the gates to Zakouma. A guard called to a tourist recreation centre to ask them to come to pick us.
Waiting. 5 kids around, to who I gave, finger toys. Kids like to share and called immediately their friends. In one minute we were surrounded by 50 of them. Kids living in peace zones are completely different from these from the dangerous ones. They are friendlier, smiling. They don’t know how to fight every day for surviving. They are lucky.
Car arrived and after 25 km we were in a hotel. Yes, the hotel, the real one. In the middle of the huge park, they have about 10 small houses for tourists (one house – 4 flats). All park administration was surprised to see us travelling so far on motorbikes. Nobody comes here this way (this place is mostly for rich lazy tourist). All workers were cool, easy going and we soon became friends, they liked us, because usually tourists prefer to be just served and live their own life. The only thing we found negative here – no local food, French kitchen!!!!!! What a disappointment. They are obliged to cook such meals, because the real tourists prefer to eat just what they used to eat. We felt a bit uncomfortable observing all these rich strangers. We were just travellers. Shower! I need to take a shower!!!!
For the new arrivals, administration offers free ride in savanna. Hyenas were the most interesting animals I saw that evening. Next day we went for one more ride. Such a relax, silence, fresh air, wild nature, animals and no wind, no dust. Macaques are everywhere. Sometimes the antelopes passed through our living territory. It’s strictly forbidden to get out of it. Wild animals are everywhere, especially crocodiles.
New Year arrived. Tourists were tired already at 23.00 so with Adam and administration we left to enjoy some Chadian time together. Everybody told me that this country is dangerous, but I was scared here just once. A lion was walking close to our living home, while I was left alone for a while during the New Year.
If you expect to use internet or phone here – impossible. No connection. All the territory is isolated in aim to communication harder between areas. The only connection is possible using satellite phones.
Leaving. On a way to the gates, one scarred giraffe got out suddenly on our car. I just remember her legs and stomach just above us. Milliseconds mattered here. The driver was the best. He did all possible to avoid any accident. Bravo.
In a village we found 2 motorbikes for 15000 CFA to bring us back to Am Timan. This time 30 minutes shorter pleasure of jumping on a wild horse and I am blissfully delivered to the bus station.
People are much cooler in this zone (I still prefer the locals than being surrounded by tourists). I could take pictures without big complications.
Be careful driving here. Lots of animals are on the roads – camels, goats, cows, monkeys. Especially donkeys are the real suicidals. They just don’t give a shit about anything. Closer to the capital, more checkpoints. Arrived to N’Djamena at 2.30 a.m. though planned at 23.00. Almost on time. Bus driver didn’t want to give our bags. Usually when cars arrive late, passengers sleep at place or come in the morning to pick a luggage. Luckily, my bag was easily to reach, so I made a self service. I never saw aggressive, or stressed Chadian. They look cool all the time and accept challenges in calm.
Next day I was invited for a lunch. One of the friends was talking about me to another friend who got interested. When with Adam we arrived there, we found elder guys. As I discovered later, they were all politicians, bank owners and the main guilty organiser of this party was the right hand of the president – minister of security. Chad is dangerous? I think, I couldn’t be better protected than this moment. He was very easy going and we were speaking Russian! He heard about my problems in Kalait at the checkpoint. He confirmed that tourists don’t need any permits for travelling in Chad. There are just organisations that created a way to earn some more money and complicate holidays. He personally called to that military post that didn’t let me go to Fada and read them a moral of incorrect behaviour with me. I think, these boys didn’t expect such attention. He and the others confirmed that there is no more Boko Haram in their country and it’s safe so I could easily do whatever I wanted.
In Fada there is a military zone and next day some military were going there by flight. He proposed me to go with them. This way he was sure that I would be in total safety and will realise my small dream. I lost my speech. We were looking for a car to rent – but too expensive, but we didn’t expect to find free military flight!!!!! It was out of my imagination. Unfortunately I had to leave in few days and couldn’t accept this super, great proposition. My heart was bleeding. We still keep contact with that great minister and he promised to bring me there, when I return. I’ll be back!
-labar ko? (How are you?)
Some prices to give an idea about tip expenses.
N’Djamena – Abéché – 20 000 CFA
Abéché – Biltim – 4000 CFA
Biltim – Kalait – 12 500 CFA
Kalait- Abéche – 17 500 CFA
Mongo – Am Timan – 6000 CFA
Meal at N’Djamena restaurant – 4000 CFA
1kg of dates – 600 CFA
Am Timan – Zakouma – 2000 CFA
Restaurant Am Timan for very hungry 2 persons – 1500 CFA
Check point, getting out to the north from the capital – 500 CFA.
P.S. If you’re looking where to buy any interesting souvenirs, some interesting antiques you can find close to secured living territory for expats. At the entrance to this territory it’s possible to buy necklaces, sculptures, bracelets, masks…..
Ahmed told me that one short trip on a car per person costs about 50 dollars. In reality, a car trip costs 35 dollars per car. Please, never trust given information. Always ask the same questions to different people, and later choose that one which is closer to the truth or check the internet. From my experience, I would say that I was lots of times informed wrongly and it wasted lots of my time. If I would do everything my way, I would save money, time and I would visit Arch canyon. Ahmed told that he works as tourist guide, but I had the impression that I knew more about his country than he did. Always be sure who to trust.
My trips objective is not just to see, to talk and to use people hospitality. I feel great bringing some joy to them, even the smallest one. I always bring with myself finger toys and with kids we play some theatre. Usually in such countries people care just about money and kids never see any toys in their life, so such a small gift can bring smiles, at least for one day. Dear traveller, for you it can cost nothing, but for them it can be something extraordinary.