Damn Good Biking

Damn Good Biking
Mammath Mountain

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I'm going to go and see a man about a horse, Attaboy.


Going to Niamey or traveling for that matter is always an encouraged event when needing to step away. Or if you want see some old friends taking off from Niger as they end this period of their lives and begin another journey as they step back into the unknown, the world we all left behind.

Its helpful to see them, gauge their mood and use it as a tool to cope with only having a short time here.

I have a little over 9 months left before my adventure changes again.


Trips often revel their true meaning as the journey develops. Sometimes on a good journey you meet new interesting people and learn a little more about the world through them. Or all kinds of fun challenges present themselves and provides more fascinating self discoveries to the limits of patience, or the levels of microbial infection one can weather on a pot hole road.

Adjusting to unexpected detours is part of the spice of life and as time rolls on you just go with the flow instead of fighting the forces of nature.

My trip to Niamey was swell, seeing my good friends Alex and Bri's village in the Balleyara region was both informative and a treat to see new country plus I was thrilled to be able work in their garden, and eating the spoils of their labor. Also conversing with like minded agrophilliacs about our experiances and work, is always worth the mulitple day trip it takes to get there.

Sometimes the road throws you a bone in the form of a taxi; empty, cheap, and with the same structural integrity of a slinky. But as it comes wiggling by, damn if its not a sight for sore eyes.

Afterwards I went back to my Native Hamdallaye and immediately heard "Nazifi!!! Nazifi!!! Barka da Zuwa!!!!! (blessings on your coming)

I haven't been in this place for nearly a year, how do they remember me?

Briskly pining over this, I reduced there are not a lot of white guys wearing a brimmed hats with bright red beards and a mandolin strapped to their back.

I spent lunch strolling down memory lane feeling like a an old veteran and talking about my projects and experiences.

A year ago I was one of them, any stimulus is good up on the desolated training site.

In Niamey I met a courageous married couple, he is a Swedish adventurer/math professor and she an Iranian hydrologist. Currently they are driving an 89' tank of a Land Cruiser all the way from Sweden, to the south of Nigeria then they are going to climb a mountain then move to America and work at Purdue University as a math professor.

Not a bad way to set off for America huh?

That's the beauty of being on the road, especially in Niger. A large part of the Nigerien culture is historically nomadic, and it seems that it attracts a different sorts of wanderers from all corners of the globe.

Last night we had a farewell dinner and party for our soon to be departed and estranged AG/NRM class of '07. It was a real joy to dress up again go to a formal dinner, and have a good time and put my dancing shoes one afterwards. Though I prefer the bush life and roughing it, sometimes a boy just needs to feel pretty.


Supposed to go back to Maradi this morning, but it can wait. Its going to be a long time before I see these folks again, besides until I buy my ox, I am kind of in a work lull.

Okay that about settles it, day after tomorrow I spread my wings and fly.

Till then sai anjima

Bought a horse. Wrong time to buy, but the right price; 100,000 cfa ($225-250). Thanks to the income boost going home receiving my income taxes. 1 horse, 2 books later, the remainder of my fiscal presence is no more.

I am starting to feel more like a start up farmer than a volunteer.

Feels kinda cool.

I bought him from a derelict owner, well I think anyways. He's a little starved, but has a frame for a good sized horse. Eight years old, willful, but kind. When I bought him he needed medicine for his eyes, back, and not to mention looked pretty aerodynamic, that is all ribs and hip bones.

Our first trip together into the bush showed me that he was a good purchase, I haven't rode much in the last decade and he immediately seemed to be a perfect match for me. Our 6km round trip showed me he is going to be an amazing horse despite his initial lack of health.

He has been in my care for the last two weeks and has already shown drastic improvements especially in his health and character development.

On the market day a week after buying him a lot of horses came to Dan Saga and the enthusiasm for a late afternoon horse race was the topic of the town. I love horse racing days, its not that I find 6 year old kids being in harms way while straddling expertly atop a racer particularly safe, but its impressive.

Plus this time I could roll in on my own.

Horse races bring out all the characters, kids, musicians, vendors, herders, farmers, drunks and all sorts of good common folk looking for a little entertainment.

Having a horse seems to be a status symbol, riding a healthy horse is like cruising about in a sports car, you get noticed.

I had the horse for about a week and had rode him once so far, but he seemed spirited for a ride and it seemed that kind of day to introduce Dan Saga's newest horse to the village.

It was going to be a good day Immediately after mounting him, something was different he was a different horse, he responded well, and immediately seemed eager to kick some dust up and put the village in the distance.

As soon as he saw the racing field and all the other horses, he needed no encouragement, he took off on his own, who was this stud?

We ran!!! And man it was fun

Not only that, I was convinced to enter him in the horse race and he performed wonderfully.

Came in dead last both races, the first he cut across the racing field nearly bucking his adopted rider, the next after the other horses started, he said, ah when I'm ready….

Then zoom!!

Waiting at the finish line proudly for my horse to speed past he came way behind the other horses, but still at a amazing speed for a starved horse. Dead last again, to the laughs of my villagers, and to the applause and cheering from his proud owner, he took shit from no rider, and showed amazing recovery.

Stubborn as hell, but also with a sweet side

Damn I am going to like this "doki" (Horse in Hausa)

He was barely able to walk when I bought him, and now he runs with spirit.

So what's his name?

Attaboy!! Attaboy!!

April 10th I have had Attaboy for nearly two months and he has excelled in every way as a horse. He "kira's" constantly at other horses or if the occasion beckons, he's competitive, curious, and proud. We could trudge through the bush in the heat of the day, exhausted. But when we get close to a village, he rears his head, puffs up, and starts wanting to show off.

I already receive enough attention, plus it’s a lot of fun run'n so why not



A couple of weeks ago I was riding back to Dan Saga with my friend on another horse, Attaboy felt spunky so he bolted, the other smaller, and thought to be faster horse caught up, Attaboy glanced back, at the horse and gave me the sign that he's about to kick it up a bit. 10 minutes I waited in my ville for the friend to come, Attaboy ran the whole 3km, and wanted more.


I would hate to be cliché' and say he eats like a horse, and about time, he hasn't been able to do that for a long spell. My rabbits are breeding like....you get the idea.

Anyways, a couple of weeks ago my chief and I were riding to a market down about 20km down the bush road and we came across a caravan of horses on their way to a horse race. One of the riders, my chiefs' friend asked if Attaboy was so and so's horse and loosly translated said 'HOLY SHIT!' "he was a hell of a horse"

A good investment indeed.

A sporty young horse that needed a second chance and wound up excelling, gotta love a story like that.

Having A'boy has greatly enriched my experience here, I lack the ability to explain what riding horseback in the sahelien full moon at a full sprint through the bush is breathtaking.

I am definitely going to want a horse back in the States.

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