The real expedition has started, we are off!

We have left. For real. This morning a wakeup call at 5 am, breakfast, packing the truck, and off we go at 6 am sharp. The plan, suitably vague, for the next few days – two, or maybe three, equally vague – is to visit some villages in the south of Chad, including nomads, and including some local ceremonies.

a dusty village along the road

But first, we have some significant driving to do. On an initially very poor road. But the good news is that outside Ndjamena we can take pictures again. And the countryside is entertaining enough, villages passing by, with what I think are several family compounds, each with a number of round huts, covered with thatched roofs – there is hardly any corrugated iron here, very unusual in this age of progress. Would the people realise that thatched roofs are actually much cooler than tin sheets? Occasionally there is market, more often the market area is empty, I suppose markets are only every five or six days. Also outside the city, a large refugee camp, Chad gets lots of refugees from Sudan and from CAR, but also from Boko Haram-threatened  areas in Cameroon and Nigeria.

with round huts and thatched roofs

the thatch being collected for the next roof repairs

one of the rather large refugee camps (I think)

the now empty market, used by locals for a picknick

herder walking his goats

the goats find something to eat everywhere!

cattle near a rare pond

otherwise the cows are watered at the pump

Economic activity along the road is mostly animal husbandry, whether cattle or goats or camels. There is not much that grows here, although closer to the river, some small rice paddies are being cultivated. I am being told that in the wet season much of this land is actually under water. Hard to believe, if you see how dry it is now. This is largely Muslim area, and many of the villages have a small, very charming mosque – not easy to photograph from the moving bus, but I did manage a few.

a rather incredible sight in this dry area: rice paddies, with irrigation from a nearby river

a charming little mosque

and another one, not patched up recently

and what about this one?

Koran classes outside the mosque, it is Friday afterall

one of the women curious enough to join us for watermelon

a beautiful lady, at a local market

the interior of the bus, with some of our group members

We stop for cappuccino and apple pie with cream…, just kidding, we have water melon and pineapple along the road, there is a woeful lack of tourist infrastructure here, no restaurants, no fancy fuel service stations. The bush is our toilet. By now, all the water we are carrying has become warm, almost undrinkable so, because outside it is hot. Very hot. You know the feeling of a hairdryer in your face? That’s what it feels if you come close to the open window. Maybe I have to elaborate a little on the truck. The cargo space has been transferred into something closer to a bus, with sliding windows, a door with metal stairs, a table in the middle on three sides surrounded by a total of seventeen chairs, fairly comfortable touring car-type.  We are thirteen in  the group, fourteen including Alonso, our tour organiser and driver. For the rest the outfit is pretty basic. No air conditioner, of course, that’s the hairdryer feeling. Most important asset: a charger, for 220V, with enough power to charge an army of mobile phones and cameras. No exploration anno 2023 could go without.

we are not the only ones travelling in a group

the large mosque of Bongor

and another corridor, along the main square of Bongor

obviously, I also have to check out the market of Bongor

including attractively looking fish

the chief chief, and his sous-chief, in Gongawa

Another three hours later – it is now close to three – we reach Bongor, where we meet up with the local NGO that is our host for the next few days. It is a Chadian organisation with local contacts, and amongst other things a cultural promotion program. We leave the truck behind, transfer into four 4×4 vehicles, and continue our way to Gongawa. By the time we arrive here, it is already dark – we have been twelve hours on the road. Gongawa is the central town in the Moussay area, the tribe that is going to hold the dancing and ceremonies. We meet the chief chief (we will meet other, local chiefs later), who welcomes us – I said earlier that the people look healthy, not obese, but this doesn’t count for the chiefs, or heads of police, or other important office bearers, they are all, without exception, rather large and heavy. Must be the lifestyle.

it is getting late, this ox cart is on its way home

there is even something like a sunset

Before we continue, we also have to pick up a permit from the police, so we all, four cars in convoy, drive off to what looks like a mosque, or a building attached to the mosque. Here are assembled a whole range of other important people, in a large airconditioned (air conditioner!!!, after a whole day in the heat). Unfortunately, we receive the permit in 30 seconds, so we can leave again. Leave the AC behind. But more importantly, leave the formalities behind.

Or so we thought. Apparently the permit was not OK, or was, but someone checking didn’t think so, long story short, we had to return to the place we had just left. Luckily, just one car had to, so we in the rest of the convoy found a local bar, where I had probably the best beer ever, or at least it tasted so. Another hour, and a lot of confusion, later, we finally continued to our final destination, Djodo Gasa. Where we arrived close to ten at night. To set up the tents in the dark – we are camping, the next few days. Not exactly an upgrade after the rather spartan Catholic Mission.

Did we voluntarily sign up for this?

next: in fact it is not so bad…

the local bar that brough relief, like in the best beer ever

he doesn’t need a tent

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One Response to 8 March 2023

  1. Thea Oudmaijer says:

    You must have known this expedition isn’t very luxurious 😜but it’s a great challenge! Enjoy

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