So it turns out that traveling from Cinkassé (on the border of Togo and Burkina) to Niamey (the capital of Niger) is not really possible in one day - at least not if you take a bush taxi, which we thought would be a good idea.
Amanda and I took a bus to Koupela, which is half way between Cinkassé and Ouagaudougou. We got out here to take a bush taxi to Niamey. Had the taxi gone straight there, we could have arrived around 8 p.m. Instead, the first car dropped us off aboout two hours later in a place called Fada N'Guorma (maybe). Then we had to wait about two hours for the next car to leave. This car's driver was a wonderful man, who thought nothing of cramming about 25 people in his 15-seat car. Amanda and I were on the bench closest to the front, and I was pushed against the door. I spent a good part of the ride hanging out the window, because that was comfortable. Then, at one of our unexplained stops (where the driver picked up MORE people to shove in), the door fell off.
Because we stopped about three times along the way, we didn't even make it to the last town before the Niger border. There, the driver left us to sit while he unloaded all the yams we'd had underfoot before picking us up to take us to the station. I was hoping we could just spend the night in a cheap hostel or something, which another passenger assured me was possible. We got to the station, where someone told us we were going to continue (we had all already paid the full fare to Niamey). We got in another car - also overcrowded - and chugged along in the dark, all the way to the border. The guards collected our passports and identity cards, we pooled money so that they would let us go through with all the baggage on top of the car... and then the border closed. And Amanda and I spent the night at the border. In the parking lot. On a mat that someone lent us. I slept well until 2 or 3 a.m. when a semi pulled through and I decided it must be time to wake up. But no... it was not close to dawn and there were still several hours of tossing and turning and hugging my camera bag to my body left.
So! Lessons learned: if you don't want to go to Ouaga from Cinkassé to travel to Niamey, the Koupela bus leaves on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 8 a.m. To get this bus, you'd have to spend the night in Koupela, because I don't think the Burkina border opens before six. Bush taxis are a really rotten idea and bush taxi drivers are the same, it seems, in all francophone West African countries (in Ghana, everyone gets their own seat in the bush taxis). Finally, there is no where to sleep at the border of Burkina and Niger except the ground.
But when we finally arrived, we had showers, some beers, lunch, naps and then more beers at a bar overlooking the Niger River. Today we paid about $80 to drive out to see the last herd of giraffes in West Africa - very touristy, but very cool AND there was a baby AND two of them were fighting. Then we went to a mosque whose building was funded by the Libyan government and next we're going on canoe rides on the river.
We leave for Ouaga tomorrow morning on a bus. No more bush taxis for this trip.