This past weekend, I joined five friends and coworkers at Sahel Academy for a weekend at Parc W! After school ended on Friday, we drove a couple hours outside the city to spend two nights on an island in the middle of the Niger River. Parc W is a National Park covering parts of Niger, Benin, and Burkina Faso, named after the W-shape the Niger River forms. Our journey meant two hours on the road and about an hour more of driving through the Park to the boat that would take us to the island. We spotted buffalo and guinea fowl on our way and watched the sunset behind us, baobob trees silhouetting the coral, blue sky.
We parked the car to get into the boat, avoiding giant elephant footprints in the mud as we stepped! The sun had completely set by then and I lounged in the boat, stretching my arms above the river to feel it's coolness; tipping my head back to watch the stars twinkle.
When we arrived to the island, dinner was ready for us at the small restaurant: Capitaine fish from the Niger River, rice and fresh peas and carrots. For dessert, lemon meringue! We ended the night by finding our cozy cabins for two and figuring out the toilets. After laying under a blanket of stars and journaling a bit, I nestled into bed under the mosquito net. I listened to the purr-like roar coming through our windows, cuddled under blankets with socks, sweatpants and long-sleeved jacket to keep warm from the night-time cool coming from the river.
I woke up just in time to watch the sunrise and we all met for breakfast at the restaurant: fruit, yogurt, bread and jam, and tea! We set off for a guided tour of the river, soaking in the scenery all around. I drank in the clear blue sky, the still river reflections, baobob trees growing in the multi-colored rocks, bright green grass shooting up from the river bank. Birds of all shapes, sizes, and colors flew around, red dragonflies zipped beside the boat. Cows, sheep, and goats grazed. We passed villages that appeared to be in the middle of nowhere. We stopped to snap pictures of a hippo. We prayed for an elephant siting...and saw a herd of six! Spots of gray leathery skin showing through the dry mud, trunks outstretched for a green treat. Amazing!
After our river excursion, we came back to the island for lunch. An afternoon nap and a bit of time to draw in my sketchbook was a nice change of pace. Rachel, Lisa, and I explored the island on a hike, conquering the rocks, climbing the heights for a good view. We traversed the trails, finding trees and unknown fruits. We found a dead millipede, elephant poop, as well as birds, goats, and lizards. AND...as we walked the trail, a loud rustling sound came from the bushes next to the path. I looked over to find an elephant! Right next to me! On the river's edge!
We played Quiddler while we watched the glowing orange sun sink below the river. We waited for dinner: poulet, chou avec beurre, and puree de pomme de terre. Fruit cobbler for dessert! Lisa and I talked late under the stars, grabbing a blanket to lay out on the rocks. An African night sky seems to have so many more stars than any other!
I woke up before the sun to see it rise over the rocks, the baobob trees silhouetted against the hues of orange and blue. As we ate breakfast that morning, a herd of elephants was spotted across the river! Two babies and six adults, eating and drinking as they meandered down the river. I climbed to the top of the rocks for a better view. I think I could have watched the elephants all day!
Soon enough, we boarded the boat to make our way back to the car. Along the way, we saw a trunk peaking up through the water like a straw...sure enough! It was an elephant taking a morning swim! We watched him cross the river and climb up the bank. What an incredible way to end our trip!
We toured a bit more through the Parc as we made our way back to the entrance. I climbed to the top of the Land Rover to sit with the guide...I was living the African safari dream! The sun's heat, the wind in my hair - it was too good. We stopped at the look-out for lunch and finished our journey home after taking a look at the hotel and dipping our feet in the pool.
What an amazing weekend with some amazing ladies, witnessing the wonders of an AMAZING God! Check out more pictures on my Facebook!