Traveling the road to Tera is always an adventure. You never know what you're going to see or what is going to happen. This is true at no time more than the rainy season, which corresponds roughly to summer in the northern hemisphere. I have already posted a blog on the back road. Now it's time to talk about the main, paved road.
Shortly after Suzanne and I returen to Niger on July 30 after our summer vacation, we tried to return to Tera. At first, we heard that the back road had been washed out by heavy rains. At the same time the ferry wasn't working, so the main road was also not an option. We had to stay in Niamey a few more days than planned.
Finally, on Monday, August 6, we heard the ferry was working, and we could get to Tera. However, we were not informed of another hazard, and just a few miles outside of Niamey, we came upon this scene:
Now what should we do? It was already after noon. There was no way to get to the other side of the canyon. There didn't appear to be any detour around. Would we be able to get to Tera at all? This is what I mean by adventure.
We learned later that the bridge had been washed out by a wall of water that came down the creek on Saturday night, August 4. Over four inches of rain had fallen that night, and it was too much for the bridge. Probably the water washed away the road at either end of the bridge, causing it to collapse. Normally there is no more than a trickle of water flowing in this creek. I've never seen angry floodwaters in it.
At the time of the bridge collapse, a bus or taxi loaded with people was barreling down the hill from the other side. It dive-bombed into the canyone which had just been created and twenty people were killed. We heard by the grape vine that eight people were washed downstream and that their bodies were never recovered. Whether that's true or not, we don't know. In any case, all this happened the same week as the major bridge collapse in Minneapolis. Though this bridge was much shorter and only one vehicle was involved in the accident (in contrast to the many scary stories we've heard about the bridge in MN), this one produced more deaths.
Suzanne and I did find a way around the bridge (at that point it was a scary detour of about 5 miles which included lots of sand and mud) and we made it to Tera where we were able to stay for a week. The way around has now become a permanent detour (it has been graded and new dirt has been laid on it), and there is little risk of major floods now because the rainy season is over. We won't see much rain between now and next May.
In September, when Nancy came home, we took a lot of pictures of the broken bridge and the canyon created when it collapsed. Here are a few of my favorites.
Me standing on the old bridge at the bottom of the canyon.
Nancy at the brink!