My fears about entering Nigeria have crescendo since the day I started this trip as this was the one country I didn't want to ride through. I hadn't heard a good thing about it & the more people I met, the more they warned about this volatile country. 'Do not go there', 'Be very Careful, Nigerians are very voilent, corrupt & aggressive' we even met people avoiding the country by catching a boat to Gabon or Sao Tome. I still wanted to get across it but was extremely dubious, particularly as a women. We discussed further about our route, deciding on avoiding the Southern Delta regions & heading north east up to the north of Cameroon.
Are they chasing us or helping us? Nigerian police officials
We camp in Benin near the ketou/Meko border, waking early to unsolve the mystery of Nigeria! We hit the border, Benin was a little damp uninviting mud hut across the road from a street stall where a women wipes her stale bread with a mouldy cloth. errkkk ex nay on the toast please. No probs with leaving Benin.
We actually enter Nigeria before the official immigration/customs post & an extremely lovely man directs us there with his gentle father on the back of his moped. The four of us nervously enter & sit anxiously on a wooden bench & begin to file through the usual procedures. The officers surprisingly starts asking friendly questions and even making jokes. I'm constantly told the obvious that I don't look Australian..... Japanese? chinwa? and wow, you must be strong women to ride that 'machine'.
One of them even offer their younger sister's hand in marriage to Dereck!! I think Dereck seriously considered making extra room on the back of his bike for another passenger. With the friendliest border post so far in Africa, we walked away with no bribes, no hassles, no bullets but instead smiles on my face as we head for Ibadan.
Girls with tribal scars near the border
We are reminded we are in Nigeria with the pillions of checkpoints, road blocks & noting of details blah blah blah. We eventuate to sneakingly trying to zoom past & before they have time to realise what has happened, they just decide to let us go. This proves to be quite difficult with a convoy of 4, the first 2 get through okay but the tail end charlies cop it. At one check point, the police panicked when we whizzed past, jumping into their old bunged up vehicles with rifles to try & chase us down. All hand shakes & laughs when we all turn around. Most of the official were surprisingly very pleasant along as all the paperwork is in order. A prime example of the generosity, when the BMW's starter engine konks it, 2 police sweated to push start the BMW!!!!
Finally make it to Ibadan, where we meet up with Alessandro & his wife Bernie who graciously take us in for 5 days, feeding us delicious food, drinking real expressos & lending us their drivers for an unforgettable kamakazi trip to Lagos. Lets just say I'm glad we visited Lagos in a van rather than riding on our bikes because it was insane crash derby style driving, extremely fast fast driving, no indicating, random swerves on the road, its like playinga grand Turismo! There appears to be no road rules except honk when you can.
Road side stop on a trip to manic Lagos
Stilt villages just outside Lagos
This didn't deterr us from a day of Nigerian bush riding & a trip towards Lekki beach with Alessandro on his Honda DR650 from Oz. More food and copious amounts of alcohol...... Its was great to have a snipet of a civilised world but after prolonged relaxation, we were keen to ride again! Thunderbirds are GO.
We sadly farewell hot showers & king sized beds to head to Abuja & hence Cameroon before our visas run out. The tarmac roads are in good condition but the drivers all think they are in the Grand prix, Gee Whizz. They zoom past at ridiculous speeds, overtake at the worst times & we even got run off the road twice! I am reminded frequently how easy it is to have an accident when we pass the hundreds of car, bus, trucks & van wrecks along this road. It's a hair raising car highway graveyard .
A brief road stop on the way to Abuja, Kamakazi highway
Safely make it to Abuja with no scratches, we head straight to the Angolan Embassy as we hear that Libreville, Gabon are no longer issuing visas and within a few hrs with visas in our hands, we then head to the Congo Embassy, another 15 mins later we leave with 2 visas. We ride to the Sheraton's as we heard that you could camp for free in the carpark but it's a derelict concrete enclave. We decide we would prefer to ride out of town and camp in a village, but only to be stopped by a TV production manager working for NTA, The Nigerian Television Authority. We then get filmed riding through their carpark & asked a whole range of questions about what the hell we are doing riding a bike through Nigeria.
Outside the grand mosque in Abuja
NTA, Nigeria television Authority head quarters in Abuja!
After our brief celebrity moment in Abuja, we head further north to the beautiful Jos plateau & as the further north we go, here comes the desert again! I never really expected it to be so dry but here we pass a small lake bed with hundreds of camels drinking. An amazing sight to see.
collecting their daily water, they were just as intrigued by us as we were of them
Posted by Amy Lee at February 18, 2007 12:47 PM GMT
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