We leave Niamey the next morning on a taxi brousse (bush taxi)—it’s a little truck that has two bench seats along the sides in the back. The men chatter as they stand around waiting to depart. My friend and I say little. We don’t speak a lot of Bambara and the men seem to have equally limited French, but there are nods of good will. The driver signals that it’s time to leave. Being the only females taking this particular taxi we’re invited with a series of gestures to sit up front in the cab. We know the trip is going to take several hours so we gladly accept the men’s chivalry.
We drive through an unending landscape of savanna that looks much like Mali. If there was a border crossing somewhere along that trail, I don’t remember it, but I do remember driving and driving and driving. A tire blows out. The truck stops and we all get out and wait while the driver changes it. We pile back in and drive and drive and drive. Another tire blows, another descent from the vehicle, and another change. We note with interest that there are six tires tied to the top of the truck. So we can have four more blow outs before we reach our destination?
Night falls and still we drive. Are we going to make Parakou in one long day? Suddenly the driver stops, turns off the motor, gets out of the truck and lies on the ground cradling his head on his arm. The men clamber out of the back of the truck and lie down on the ground.
My friend and I look at each other. We get out and lie down on the ground.
to be continued