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Monday, 27 February 2012

Day 29 – 21/2/12

Ray went to collect the car from CFAO. A great big thanks to Pierre and the folks at CFAO. They had repaired the tyre Ray had plugged, kept the batteries charged and the vehicle safe. They also gave it a wash and before leaving. CFAO is a Paris listed company and has always been very professional throughout out travels.

We checked into Le Meridian; thanks to Peter in home office and SPG for the points. We went to the patisserie for lunch and luckily ran into our friend Denis. The visited Moussa to pass on our thanks for the trip and thoughts on improvements; tents that are suitable for the task and bake bread in coals in the morning.

Ray tried to look at getting some visas for Burkina Faso from the French embassy, but due to a lack of language was not successful. They suggested we try again tomorrow!! Then we visited the Immigration office to see if we need a permit to exit to Niger, again try again tomorrow!

We had dinner with Denis (who we had met in Zakouma and who assisted us in Mongo) and Gianni & Genevieve De Angelis who had recently driven the route to Niger. The information was that this will be a very hard drive.
Day 30 – 22/2/12

A day of rest and small chores. Denis came to the French Embassy to assist us in getting, but it is closed on Wednesday (not sure why they told us to come back on Wednesday??). Ray went to the Department of the Interior to get a travel permit to go to the Niger Frontier. We are not sure if this is needed, but it will not hurt to have it and it was no hassle to get it. We then did a bit of emailing and chatted to Moussa, the MD/owner of Chad Evasion about the trip.

It was a little bit like Christmas – we managed to get gasoil (you can just see Rays smile, hey?) and we found some Coke light!!

We had dinner with Pierre & Isaline, a nice relaxed evening. It is great to be able to sit and chat about things in English.
Day 31 – 23/2/12

A relaxing day. Ray filled the water tanks ready for the trip to Niger and we bought some fresh provisions; oranges and apples from RSA ($1/piece). Bananas & pineapple from Cameroon etc. Later in the day we get some take aways from the Lebanese restaurant.

Avril went for a trip to the Grand bazaar/market with Jerome. It is massive and spread over a large area. Lots of stores with the same things. She purchased the Chad version of chilli biltong.

It turns out that the French Embassy can issue visas for some African countries, but they need a few days. Pity they did not start a few days ago then!

Pierre & Isaline had kindly asked us to their place for drinks. and we met their wonderful son, Martin.

Day 32 – 24/2/12

A dirty day! After picking up some fresh bread we left N’Djamena heading for the Niger frontier. The wind started to blow and kept up all day. At times the dust/sand was so dense we could only see a few meters in front of the vehicle.

The road to Massakory is tar and we did the 147 km in 2 hours. We purchased a jerry can of gasoil at Massakory. After Massakory, the track follows a remnant dirt formed road. Rarely can we drive on the old road, rather there are tracks along the side of the road. These tracks have a huge number of ditches, holes and bumps – basically we spent the day sort of riding a mechanical bucking bull! We never got out of 2nd gear.

Massakory – Toumsari; 32 km, 1 hour. Toumsari – Ngouri; 53 km, 2 hours. Ngouri – Bol turn off; 86 km 3 hours. Bol turn off to camp; 50 km 2.5 hrs. About 10 km before the camp site we turned north and the remnant road stopped and we were basically driving on a paddock dirt track.

The dust was awful, every time we slowed for the road condition, the dust we had created caught up with us and enveloped the car. So, we decided to use the air conditioning rather than eat dust.

The driving was hard, maybe as hard as Angola. We did get bogged once, but that was due to a poor choice of route rather than the overall conditions.

We bush camped. The big news is that we passed 100,000 on the odometer (~ 25,000 in Africa).

The flies here are substantially worse than OZ; we never thought we would say that!! They do not even go to sleep – buzzing around way after dark.

Avril driving. 10.5 hours. 396 km. N 130 39’ 47.2’’ E 0140 17’ 30.8’’ 

Day 33 – 25/2/12

Lost!! Again an awful day for dust, the maximum visibility we had all day was < 100m. It is a little daunting to be basically in white out conditions not having full knowledge of the route and the actual track being variable and subject to some pretty deep/abrupt holes and challenging sand.

Given the conditions, it is hard to describe the scenery and vegetation, however it is basically very flat with a good covering of thorn/acacia trees. We also passed a number of dried out lakes (Lake Chad overflow??) some of which are being mined for salt.

The route we followed (and this is the same for all of Chad) is not a single track, rather there are a number of tracks going in the same general direction. There can be more than 2 km between the tracks. Hence, you never know 100% if you are on the right track. We drove quite easily to Lioua from our camp site. On exiting the town we followed the most obvious tracks. After about 30 min we began to get a little nervous. It is OK to go off the general direction for a while, but we were not getting back to where we thought we should be going. We asked a couple of people, but most folks up here are scared of white people and there is a general tendency to smile and agree. Eventually we turned back.

The latest information we had was that we needed to go to Rig Rig, but we could not see any tracks going that way. So, we followed a road shown on T4A that bypasses Rig Rig and it all worked just fine. Lesson – trust T4A. Along the route we saw some buzzards, gazelles and Papas monkeys.

Camp – Lioua; 23 km, 1 hr. Lioua – Kiskawa; 63 km, 2 hrs. Kiskawa – Daboua; 47 km, 2 hrs.

We completed immigration and customs at Daboua. Very smooth, all professional, no one asked for a bribe etc.

The ~ 20 km later, after 1 month, we left Chad.  There is nothing to mark the actual border.

Chad Summary

Forget the melodramatic descriptions in the travel guides and the sometimes near hysterical warnings on Government advisory sites (are they there to provide realistic practical advice or cover the bottom of a bureaucrat and protect careers??).

Our experience of Chad was fantastic. We did not experience any security issues – the theft of our spade and wheel brace to one side. In general the people are very helpful and more than willing to go out of their way to assist. Funnily enough, this did not apply to our difficulties on the road. A big plus is the total lack of road blocks, this makes driving a lot easier.

As reported Zakouma National Park is world class. The Ennedi desert is also great.

Negatives are the heat; make sure you come when the weather is a bit cooler. It is also a bit expensive in N’Djamena.

We rate the Lonely Planet guide = 2/10. The IGN map; well how do you rate a map that has the title of a major geographical feature in the wrong place. Interestingly, T4A has some nice roads and Points of Interest marked.

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