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After a very uneasy sleepless night due to the lions moving closer to the camp and roaring incessantly until shortly before dawn, we hurriedly packed up with one eye on the job and one eye on the surrounding bush. We had no firearms for protection so we needed to be continually vigilant, especially when answering nature’s call alone. I had visions of my father shaking his head in disbelief and uttering ‘ taken by a lion while taking a …….’ and my mother weeping inconsolably.
Another hot day was expected with more fires and more tsetse flies. An obvious sense of unease and anxiety overcame the group which was understandable given the uncertainty we were confronted with and the absolute remoteness of the location. We had no means of communication and although we travelled through three countries, there were no checkpoints. Unlike the Sahara Desert where we were required to register arrival and departure times from strategic locations, no such system existed for the Parc Nationale Du W bounded by Niger, Upper Volta and Benin. We had stocked up well on food and we had sufficient water and fuel capacity to reach the Benin border. However, should we have had an accident, experienced serious mechanical difficulties of some kind or if any of the group were to have become seriously ill or bitten by one of the numerous poisonous snakes we came across escaping the fires, we were potentially in real trouble.
After travelling contentedly for about 20 miles on a good quality road, our high spirits turned to despair when we became seriously bogged whilst negotiating a muddy backwater of the Mekrou River, a tributary of the much larger Niger River to our east. At 4pm in the afternoon, we figured we could get ourselves back on the road before sunset however by 7 pm we had not moved an inch and ‘George’ had sunk deeper into the mire.