Up at 6 and on desert by 6:15, again we were a bit cold but better prepared ...this time we actually reached a roadway around 9 and took a turnoff to Bol on a finger of Lake Chad where the cars had to go thru customs. This is where Mari took a pic of the lake and a guy turned us in so we were hauled off tyo the immigration authorities. Turned out not a big deal, speaking no French they no English the issue was dropped, Mari even met a 'brother', the guy at immigration had the exact same B'day, year as well! This whole series of events ate up a bit of the wait time which lasted until 2 pm. Jake and Mari joined the drivers(not my Muslim one) smoking a bit of shisha. We were thoroughly ready to leave when we finally pulled out to go the last 335 km!
The desert is not just bare sand, in fact, we traveled more thru savannah covered mostly by a plant Mari identified as Ephredra(Morman Tea) or a close relative and a type of milk weed. Plus it is not flat but rolling w/ valleys that tend to have more diverse growth incl palms and short acatia trees which yield the gum all collected by hand. In some parts they are also attempting to reforest with a hardy tree called by the locals prospus. We saw many roaming camels, herds of goats & sheep, even long horned cattle, al bagar in Arabic. They continue to harvest wood even in this dry, more and more denuded environment, however...it is their only fuel and given how cold it gets I fully understand the need.
Leaving so late we were bound to drive in the dark and the roadway was more difficult to traverse than the desert. With huge sections of powder filled(like talcum) potholes the cars often got stuck and in the dark it was more difficult to see getting out. Once we were travelling at a rapid speed and over a hill at the crest were 3 big potholes which we could not avoid...some little time later the SUV had to stop...yup, a rear tire completely shredded! Otherwise, the SUV kind of floated thru the stuff esp with 4wd on, but the front wheels of the cars could easily get bogged down(much different than the sand in desert_). These guys were really adept drivers and altho it happened several dozen times it is amazing how little we had to stop to dig out. In the dark not seeing ahead and with the air calm the powder just hung in the air like a fog visability zero so we tried to avoid following closely. We were constantly testing one side or other or middle to find the least problematice route...sometime we all went in the same direction others 3 different routes.
Finally, about 8 pm we reached a 100 km section of roadway that was my most memorable...driving on packed sand w/ shallow ruts, the road(now about 150' wide) became 'smooth" and Nahar seemed to relax and just flow with it.
We drove 50 to 60 mph and he mostly followed the edges where we'd drive in among bushes and plants...the vehicle almost floating, being dark tho w/ full moon and the sand white or light grey the sensation was very much like downhill skiing. The great part was the speed, the relaxed, easy gliding from rutted path to another, skimming by shrubs & trees just missing them. Nahar would be heading toward a fork and at the last minute choose one side or another. My confidence was so great I had no worries, just the pleasure of riding on 'sandair', inexplicable joy, truly poetry in motion. Unfortunately, we got to the paved highway, and an hour later, sometimes driving upwards of 85 mph we got to the capital N'Djamena.
Our arrival at midnite made our choice of O.N. problematic...afterall these 3 had not taken us here to then be put in the position of local taxi drivers, esp this late as they were tired as well. Went to one LP listed spot, VERY pricey and not great. Then to a place Mugtar recommended Lotakoh Auberge, cheaper, only 10,000CFA($20 US) but very dirty and looked like they'd had a huge party that nite even in the rooms. Not wanting to press on to another due to circumstances we settled on it and waited 20 min. while they changed the sheets and mopped floors etc. We were filthy so I took a shower, luckily our room had water...Jakes & Mari's did not.
Crashed only to get up and going by 8 so we could get registered(as LP & Chad say we must in every city we stay). Luckily it was easy( plus 6,000CFA bacshish) ...didn't need to return to O.N. hotel as LP says to have them verify. Went directly from immigration to Cameroon embassy by 9:30 and after handing over $100 US (out most expensive visa thus far), they readily expedited our visa which was ready by 11 am. They close of Fridays at noon so you see our urgency, no business again til Monday & we're finding Chad a tad pricey.
Wow, onward and upward we nabbed a nice taxi driver who ushered us to ck out of old digs and into new for same price but nicer, Cosmos Big Guesthouse Hotel.
Chad & N'Djamena in particular shows the extremes of poverty and wealth...city quite filthy in old and poor sections of town & just the opposite inside walled(with concertina wire or glass on top )compounds of rich and well off NGOs & corportations.
Nite time the restaurant/hotel was filled watching Africa Cup game, Ivory Coast & Benin. I.C. dominated, I stopped watching at 3 to 0 into second half
Up at sunrise...faucet outside our room was on & filling buckets(1st time since we arrived yesterday at 10am) still no water to rooms. We washed out some clothes, water was almost muddy, leaving at noon did not give enuf time to do more than Tshirts since they wouldn't dry in time. Rooms much warmer here plus an English speaking man came to door and asked if we wanted breakfast. YES! Not only that but a gal came with it to our room, roomservice...first time in our journey and in Chad no less! Blows my mind ever more than before, ha!