Sunday, April 12, 2009

This blog is really for all my canoeing buddies back home. Muskrat, I hope you log onto this to see these pics. 3 years ago, I almost put a small canoe or kayak on the container that came out here. At that time, because I didn't have total knowledge of our mission finances, I hesitated, then decided not to bring one. In hindsight, I should have pulled the trigger. I usually go canoeing at least once a month while in Indiana because of all the great creeks and rivers in that beautiful state. But, since being here, there is one river to choose from and that one is used by all. The Niger River.

You can see from the pics that we shy away from normal tents on these trips because of the heat. I slept under a mosquito net on the sand. I laid down a ground cover, rolled out my sleeping bag that just came on the container and fully expected to sleep just on top on the bag using it for only a cushion. However, during the night, a rather cool breeze kicked up and caused me to climb in my 50+ sleeping bag to keep warm. I suspect that most of you North Americans just coming off winter would not have done that. It was a beautiful night to sleep.

we put in down in Tera about an hour drive from Niamey and we had lofty goals to make roughly a 62 kilometer trek in a day in a half to land right on the back side of our campus. We pushed off around 2:30 in the afternoon only to face a fairly stiff wind. We had a place in mind to camp for the night because one of the guys scouted out a place from his plane the week before. The current on the Niger does flow, but not that fast as compared to the smaller rivers to which I have grown accustomed. So, you have a current with the wind, as soon as you stopped paddling just to look at things, if you didn't go backwards, you stopped dead still. Very frustrating because when one person stopped to take a drink or just to take a break, the other had a lot of work to do.
The girl you see pictured is Charity Bliss, who was my canoe buddy for the whole trip. We rode in a homemade canoe that was made in Ghana. Very nice riding canoe, although I am glad that there weren't too many rocks out there because I hated to hit anything for fear of scratching it. But, it rode so nicely. I would have loved to see what that thing could do on a calm day. Needless to say, we didn't make it as far as we thought we should because of the wind. Very slow. As darkness settled upon us, we had to begin looking for an island on which to camp. Of course, after passing so many islands, when we needed one, we couldn't find one. So, we kept going. The good thing is, is that the wind died down, so it got a bit easier. The down side is that we were paddling after dark. That is bad because the river was on its way down and you never know where the rocks are and you never know where the hippos that look like rocks are! As we came upon this one island that seemed to stretch out for 3 k, we saw many, many hippo tracks up on the island that we thought would not be a good camp spot because the hippos were already there. Hippos do not make for great sleepovers!

Anyway, as we were quietly paddling along this island, it was just about dark. You know where the water looks black and you can only see the fires of the Africans burning to cook their suppers. All of a sudden, this huge snort sounds very close to us to the left. And what do we see? A huge hippo rising some out of the water only about half way to shore. Needless to say, we all found some needed energy. There is only one thing worse than seeing a hippo go under the water, and that is not knowing where he will surface! Yes, Hippos are herbivores, unless they are really hungry or we have come between mommy and baby. With all the stories of those things and the amount of people who are killed by them every year, we like to keep our distance.

The next day was more of the same. You see Chris Chamberlain waking in a tent that lost its poles in the middle of the night. I am sure he will love me posting this picture! It was great to be able to get paddling again. I didn't realize just how much I miss it. Only to have my kayak here. Although, if I did, I would think that would draw lots of attention from the Africans.

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