The Fearsome NigeriaApril 9, 2017 in Nigeria
"Nigeria is not a great country. It is one of the most disorderly nations in the world. It is one of the most corrupt, insensitive, inefficient places under the sun. It is dirty, callous, noisy, ostentatious, dishonest and vulgar. In short it is among the most unpleasant places on earth". This is how one of Nigeria's most famous writers describes his country. So you can imagine I approach with just a little trepidation, especially when you add that the driving is known to be extremely aggressive and mugging, kidnapping and hijacking is not uncommon. The plan is to cross as quickly as possible in 2.5 days.
Day one goes relatively well. A full day riding with only a few interuptions from officialdom, no attempts by the famous 'stick boys' who shove a big plank of wood with nails in it across the road to demand a fee to pass. Also none of the absolutely kamikaze driving I was expecting. The only problem was 3 hours of intense rain, and a truck driving through a puddle, covering me in its bow wave. I arrived half way across the country and poured the water out of my jacket, trousers and shoes, but overall a success.
Day two was a little more challenging. It starts with incessant rain, so I put off starting until it stops at midday, leaving me with a lot of miles to do before dark. 5 miles in I've been stopped twice by the police, each asking for all my papers... and then some money for the service. The second stop goes like this. I hear the officer go 'white man', then smile and wave me over. He then conducts the entire stop in a fake squeaky voice with all kinds of sarcastic comments like "how can I be of service to the white man". Hmmm, maybe I was just lucky yesterday! I continue for the next few hours revelling in the surprising greenness of a country with 180m people. I was also enjoying petrol costing 30p a litre as well as a few random sites along the way;
- a naked man walking along the motorway, casually covering himself with a palm leaf.
- a navy campus 200 miles inland
I was making good progress when suddenly the road seems to end and I'm faced with flooded mud roads. After my short mud journey in benin, I'm rather apprehensive, but it goes ok. I can scoot round the edges of most puddles and it doesn't seem too slippery. That is until I try to go round the edge of one puddle to find the path stops. There's no way back, but the puddle looks OK. Well I slowly go into the puddle.... good, good, drop down 1ft, not so good, please don't stall, please grip...and I'm out, breathe again. After that the road improves to just be bad and slow and its looking difficult to get to my destination, Calabar, by dark. Then I get called over by the police again. I don't have time for this. I give my passport and registration and say I'm in a rush to get to Calabar before dark. This is a high risk move, either they understand, say yes and I can go quickly, or they will delay me to try and get me to pay to go quickly. It goes well the officer says ok, I can go...but just as I'm about the pull away the boss shouts over. He walks, ever so slowly towards me, then just says "do you have any money for the police". The rest of the conversation goes like this:
Police: Are you sure you don't have anything for the police?
Me: I have nothing to give, this is all I have (pointing to all my stuff)
Police: Are you sure you don't have anything? This is a lot of baggage.
Me: This is my house, I'm sure your house is much bigger. I don't have anything to give.
And I'm back on the road, and it becomes good again. Still I arrive in Calabar at dark, and get to the place to stay and find Nicholas and Olaf there. I'm dehydrated, hungry and tired, so a quick chat, some food and water and I'm off to bed. Only to have a terrible night with mosquitoes, a horrible mattress, noisy generator and sweltering heat.
Next morning I feel completely drained and still dehydrated with a headache. I know I've done too much in the last 2 days and not drunk and eaten enough. But it's fine, I'll pack away the water this morning, we'll get the Cameroon visa and be in Cameroon by the end of the day. Oh how ambitious! The Cameroon visa takes an age, then on leaving I get a flat tyre. Nicholas and Olaf, bless them, stay and help me fix it in the midday sun. By the time this has finished I feel pretty terrible, hot, tired, dizzy, a bit sick, even though I've had 3 litres of water. I say to the guys I'm going to stay in Calabar another night and find a pharmacy. They insist on looking after me, escort me to a nice hotel, check in with me and find a good medical clinic. I'm feeling even worse. After an appointment with the doctor I'm on a drip full of quinine, and staying in the clinic overnight. They think I have malaria. 2 hours later Nicholas and Olaf come back with some snacks, toothbrush etc - I'm a little out of it. Holding conversations and forgetting about them immediately after. Then come early evening, the nurse changes shift and I'm told that my new (and very cute) nurse "will be sleeping with me tonight". The best i can manage is a smile and to fall back to sleep. Test results back and I do have malaria, the worst kind...and I also have typhoid! Amazingly 18 hours after treatment starting I feel better again. Unfortunately, by this time the night nurse has gone.
Refreshed, it's onwards to Cameroon. Nigeria has been surprising to say the least!
Below is a link to the journey from Guinea Bissau to Nigeria.