Thursday, 17 January 2013

A passenger and more vehicle problems.

My apologies for the shortage of photos in this post, but there seems to be a break in the record!
February 18 1953 (Wednesday)
Without too much of a rush, Mum and Dad packed up, leaving David and I at the swimming pool; they paid the hotel bill, got some more money from the bank and replenished the stocks of food.   They then went to the police station to collect our guns.   The key for the gunroom was with one of the officials at the law courts, so we had another delay while he was tracked down.   It was by now nearly noon and David and I still had to be collected from the Kano Club.  
A not very good photo of David and I having a last swim at Kano
This was an excuse for a final cold drink as it was so hot and then we were on the road once again for next part of the journey.    Notes from our trusty Trans-African Highways book read as follows: "Kano to Bangassou Distance 1509 miles:  The last 1108 miles of the route given run through French Equatorial Africa (including French Cameroons) and the first 401 miles through British Territory (mandated territory administered by British Nigeria and British Nigeria itself).   The question of the route to be taken on the last part between Fort Sibut and Bangassou (341 miles) is dependent on the time of the year and the state of the Lake Chad floods.   Although in the Rain Chart November to March are shown as dry months in French Equatorial, the inundations south of the Lake only recede completely for two months in the year viz. January and February.     During December and March it is necessary to travel via Bongor instead of Fort Lamy."   There was also an all-weather route, but this would have added miles to our trip.   We just hoped that the rains would not start early and our aim was to do the route as direct as possible from Kano to Bangassou.
The shock came only a few miles out of Kano when we were back onto dirt roads again, but other than that we had a pretty uneventful afternoon.   We drove through a few small villages where everything was very dry, waiting for the rains that we hoped to miss.    At 17h00 we found a very nice clearing and we decided that this would be an ideal place to set up camp for the night.    Dad tried the radio to see if we could pick anything up and sure enough we had some lively music to enjoy while getting everything ready for the night.   Several of the locals who were walking by were intrigued by the music and stopped to listen.    David and I made a fire in a cleared piece of ground, not because we were cold, but we hoped that it would keep away a few of the flying intruders, including mosquitoes, that were starting to move in on us.   We did not stay up very late and by 19h00 we were all tucked up and ready for sleep.
February 19 1953 Land Mileage 3173
After the usual early start, we had not gone far when we were stopped by a policeman who waved a letter at us.   We presumed that he wanted it delivered somewhere en route and we nodded yes, with the result that we had a passenger!  With Mum, Dad and David sitting across the front and myself in a small seat behind, there was really not room, but everyone squashed up and he managed to fit in.     When we reached his destination in Potiskum, he was a very much wiser and dustier man and I am sure that he will never hitch a lift in an overloaded Land Rover in the future.   As he was sitting on the outside he got the full force of the dust and he had been sitting there for around two and a half hours!   He was quite a sorry sight!
Dad then suspecting a problem with the Land Rover, had decided to investigate only to find that we had broken yet another spring.   We managed to find a garage where an African helped Dad to take the old spring off and replace it with our repaired spare.    This meant we needed to repair another leaf as soon as possible, so we had a spare to carry again.   We had been lucky enough to repair the last one in Kano.     The African who had been so helpful did not want to take any money, but Dad gave him the equivalent of ten shillings for his help and he was a very happy person!  We took to the road again and arrived at Maidugari, which was the provincial headquarters, at about 16h00.  We had to find the Police Station to get our passports stamped, so decided that we may as well stay the night at the rest-house, as it was already quite late.   Finding that the rest-house was full, we went on to the police station and they told us that we could park on an open piece of land opposite the station.   We decided that there would be too many neighbours at that particular spot, so that was also not a good idea.   Dad was quite worried about not having a spare spring with us, so he decided we should see if we could find a garage that was large enough and with all the equipment needed to repair the broken leaf on the one we were carrying.   While driving around, we came across an English couple (Mr. and Mrs. Price) who invited us in for cold drinks and tea.    The next thing we knew was that we had been invited to dinner and to stay the night.  The Land Rover was parked safely in their compound outside.
What wonderful people and very hospitable!   We all enjoyed hot baths and felt better than we had at any stage since leaving England.   We had the most delicious meal I think we had ever tasted and finally we all went off to bed feeling just great and very spoilt.
February 20 1953 (Friday) Land Mileage 3392
At 06h00, tea was served and we got up to an excellent breakfast; this was better than any hotel!   We finally left them at 08h00 and made our way to the recommended garage.   We managed to get a spring made up for an emergency, not the correct one, but anything was better than nothing.    We also went to the bank to top up the financial situation and then we were on the road again.
Leaving here, we drove through quite thick bush country and lots of it; the scenery was changing constantly and gave us plenty to look at and appreciate.   It was such a joy to see trees and grass around us once more.   We saw some beautiful crested birds, which again, we unfortunately were unable to identify, together with   many pelicans.     We hoped to take some photographs, but by the time we were ready to take the pictures, the birds had all flown off.   We seemed to be quite good at this exercise!   We also saw a troop of monkeys that crossed the road in front of us; this caused considerable excitement inside the Land Rover.   They were quite beautiful, most of them being a red-brown in colour, but there were some grey ones as well.   It was still very hot and at 16h00 we decided that it was time to find somewhere to stop for the night.
Mum washing the clothes; presumably they had checked that there were no crocs around first!!
We managed to get our clothes washed - thank goodness for nylon shirts, which dry quickly -   and we had a good wash ourselves.  Although there was no sand around now, the dust was still pretty horrific.  David and I again cleared an area in which to light a fire, in the hopes that it would keep the insects away as we ate our evening meal.    It was far too hot to sleep and it must have been close to midnight before we finally managed to doze off.  Apart from the heat, there was also the clamour of birds to listen to; what were they that made so much noise at night?  This was a totally different world at night now, as well as during the day.

To be continued :-) 


I have put this section of my life story on Kindle if you should be interested:-


  1. Another interesting chapter. The night in the English home must have been uplifting after your long dusty trip. Seeing the landscape change must have been rewarding too. The heat and the mozzies wouldn't be fun. We are experiencing that kind of heat right now but at least we have AC.

    1. diane b. We really enjoyed our night with the English couple, I remember that night so well. I forgot to add in the post it was also the first time I had seen a scorpion!

      Have just spoke to my sister-in-law she says Sydney is just too hot at the moment! Keep cool Diane

  2. Every time I read a new post I envy you! :-) I would love to have travelled through Africa back then.

    1. JM how I would love to go back in time and do this trip again. (Knowing what I do now and with a good camera) Trying to do it in today's political turmoil would be difficult! Diane

  3. Hi Diane,

    I realise that I had not read the last few chapters, so I am catching up with your adventure in Africa.

    I like the story about the radio and I understand the need for a fire because of the mosquitoes. Although I don't know what the mosquitoes in Africa are like, from experience of the ones in France, I can only assume that it's not nice! Take care.


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