After returning to Niger in January, we hit the ground running! We had to get over jet lag, move into and set up a new house (including dealing with electricity and water issues and buying a fridge), and get the girls started back to school all within 4 days! It did take longer than 4 days to finish setting up the house and unpacking…but by the end of the 4 days we were sleeping in our new house and had enough unpacked to find clothes and make food.
With a start like that by the time March came we were ready for a break! We wanted to get away as a family and relax. But what can we do in Niger? Well, we have a camping spot that we like to go to when we need to have some time for R&R. Trust me…preparing for a campout…especially here… is not the easiest, but it was definitely worth the effort and we made some great memories!
So, here’s how camping in our neck of the desert looks…
1)Preparation – Skip the tent, pack the mosquito nets and mats; skip the ingredients for s’mores, pack one bag of fruity flavored marshmallows; pack as much water as you possibly think you may need – there isn’t any running water at the ‘camp site’ and you can’t drive to the camp store to buy extra…so unless you want to drink river water…bring lots of water; pack food and dishes for dinner and breakfast the next day – don’t forget anything – remember there’s no camp store; pack binoculars for possible hippo viewing; pack plenty of solar powered lanterns – it gets dark here! After packing all of that stuff our car was full to the brim and Mounkaila looked at us and said…you’re only going for 1 night? Yep, just 1 night…
2) Arrival – We call the guy who owns the camping plot (also called the mango farm) and he takes a boat from his village across the river to begin sweeping and preparing the camp site for our arrival. He has to get out the table, chairs, tire swing, and sweep up all of the leaves and sticks…you know, to give us nice clean dirt to camp on! When we arrive we set up our mosquito nets, hammock, unpack our things, and then the fun begins.
3) Fun- Here’s what we do for fun on camping trips – go fishing, but fully expect to catch nothing…mission accomplished, but still fun. Oh wait, we did catch an old fishing net someone had left in the water.
The girls love playing on the tire swing.
They also love playing near the river and in the tree house.
Other things we have done are play hide and seek or climb the mango trees. And of course it’s always fun on a camp out to sit and watch the fire and roast marshmallows.
Also, on this particular trip we were able to see lots of hippos! They were close enough to get a good viewing, but far away enough to not be worried about them. Yes, we know they are dangerous! But they also don’t want anything to do with humans, so as long as we don’t do anything to make them feel threatened we can camp in harmony.
4) Food – We remembered our Cedarville cross country team roots and made hobo dinners. This is something we did in college with the team each year and we still make these when our team gets together for campouts. If you care to know…a hobo dinner is a meal you can cook on a campfire. Inside of aluminum foil you place hamburger meat, sliced potatoes, onions, carrots, and ketchup or barbecue sauce. You wrap it up and place it on the coals, flip it, then you’re meal is done! Jody and I love this meal, but the girls opted for roasting hot dogs. For breakfast we had fruit, muffins, juice and hot tea.
5) Sleeping - I already mentioned that we slept under mosquito nets. It was pretty hot at first, but we had some battery powered fans and it cooled down as the night went on.
Just think…we’re camping in Africa, next to the Niger River, under mango trees, hearing hippos grunt in the distance, sleeping outside in this remote area…quite an unforgettable experience!