Nov 072013

Lots of pics of my day in Niamey, so I’m going to split this day into two parts to make it a bit easier to read.  Slept in a bit this morning, and definitely needed it. I felt like I’d hit the ground running when I landed in Benin several days prior and hadn’t let up until now. Plus, the room was nice and cool and dark so pretty easy to sleep.

Made my way down to the hotel breakfast, and there wasn’t much there except a few baguettes, a jar of store-brand hazelnut spread (aka imitation Nutella) and some instant coffee. It was pretty sad, but I was starving and it was only 3,000 CFA (around $6.50) so I went for it. Plus, it would allow me to wake up in the safe confines of the hotel while coming up with a plan to tackle my day.

The strategy was to find a driver who I could hire for the entire day who would take me to the sites I had read about online, as well as show me some things I might not consider. After breakfast, I headed out into the courtyard area of the hotel to hang around and see who approached me. Didn’t take long until one of the guys sitting around under the trees asked if I was looking for a taxi. First strategy “sure, how much would it cost to take me to the museum?” “Hmmm, 10,000 CFA” “That’s pretty steep – let’s say we do that and make it the whole morning, how much then?” “20,000 CFA” You see where this game was going. Finally, I asked him a price for “3 hours in the morning” then “2-3 hours in the afternoon after lunch” and finally take me to dinner, wait, and bring me back. “30,000 CFA.” I knew $65 was a fortune for a day’s work in Niger, but considering I was trusting this guy with perhaps my one and only time ever in Niger it would be worth it.

He seemed very happy with the deal, and was very anxious. He didn’t speak a word of English, but was very easy to understand in French, and I feel like even if I overpaid I got some great French and cultural lessons out of it too. Told him first thing I wanted to see was the Niger River. So off we went. The car even had AC, and he had no problem turning it on. It wasn’t very powerful, but just enough to turn unpleasant, dirty, dusty, smoggy air into mostly clean indoor air. I’ll take it!

First stop was the “Pont Neuf” or “Pont Chinois” – the “new bridge” or “Chinese Bridge.”  Built by the Chinese just a few years ago, this was the second bridge in Niamey over the river.  Until this, all traffic was on one narrow old bridge.  Not exactly a picturesque river:


Not a bad bridge though…


The mud on the banks of the river give you an idea just now nasty and brown it was.


Mmmm….dirty muddy water, but my favourite shot of the river:


My driver was quick to point out that while it was nice to have a second bridge, the construction was terrible and they didn’t expect it would last 10 years.  He didn’t like driving on it for fear it could collapse any day.  Note the gaps:


One more shot of the river from the bridge:


The sign on the bridge…aka the “second bridge of Niamey”


There’s not as much on the other (south) bank of the river.  It’s mostly residential, but the one interesting thing my driver wanted to show me was the university.  Here’s the university hospital, complete with emergency room:


Entrance gate to the university:


Next stop was the National Museum and the Zoo.  I’d heard it was pretty sad, but a must see, so I paid my entrance, my driver parked, and headed in to see what I’d find.  First up was a pretty sad looking lion:



…and what a worker told me was the “only dinosaur fossils in Africa.”  Sure, why not:



The highlight…the hippo keeper seemed very anxious to get the hippos to perform for me.  After assuring me he wouldn’t mistreat them in order to get them to come out, I told him to go for it.  He ripped some branches off of a nearby tree, and started throwing them into the enclosure for noms…


Note his hand holding out the branch…


Happy, happy hippo!


Open wide!


Now THOSE are teeth!


Now, don’t get too close to the hippos lest you get eaten!


There was also, right next to the hippos, an emu…what YOU lookin at?!


The National Museum was a group of pavilions, all completely uninteresting.  There was however, the Petroleum Pavilion, sponsored of course by the oil companies and detailing the benefits petroleum was bringing to the people of Niger.  Mmmmhmmm….





…and what museum would be complete without a giant kitschy giraffe statue?



I was pretty over the museum/zoo by this point, and let my driver know I wanted to try and find postcards.  He also wanted to show me the market, so suggested he let me out in the market for an hour so I could wander.  Mind you, it was HOT at this point, and the market was outside.  I wandered for an hour, taking several breaks for water, and amused many a local asking where to find postcards.  Many of them had no idea what the word even was…the concept was just completely foreign.  I had a couple of great chats with small kids who clearly didn’t see many white people, and wanted to know if I was famous.  Hah, um, no…

Some scenes from the market:



IMG_1164 IMG_1167



My driver was awesome, and met me exactly when and where he said he would and we took one more shot of the river before heading back to the hotel so I could get some lunch and cool off.






Did I mention it was HOT?  Loved this pic on the Grumpy Cat weather app…it was crazy hot…and yeah, it smelled a little bit.



Bit of a rest, cooled down, and it was off to tackle more of Niamey!

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