Smooth border crossing into Nigeria, having got the car fixed, apparently the suspension bush had mangled itself after endless hours of battering from the bad roads. Once again the local guys came to our rescue, including the mechanics Aunt who took us into her mud hut and gave us fermented millet to drink, a strange concoction and definitely an acquired taste, Michael quite enjoyed his,possibly because it packed a punch ! Whilst in the hut I took some instant polaroid photo’s of her and her children which they loved , we were then able to continue on our journey. In Nigeria we were given an extremely warm welcome,both by the police and the local people,who, in the villages would run after the car waving and smiling ! All was going well,we’d found a bank,filled up with Diesel, had plenty of time -we thought.Then the road turned really rough and because it had rained ,we were going through massive puddles/potholes,the light was getting bad and we still had some distance to cover to get to a resting spot for the night. We didn’t really want to wild camp,as it was nearly dark and you are never quite sure if you’re going to wake up in the midst of a village,as there’s no light, so we continued,once again driving in the dark,which is not particularly sensible. Went through several unofficial roadblocks with guys shouting pull over pull over, I could see the nailed planks they use as enforcement measures – the infamous “stick men “ luckily I managed to force through with Emma unaware, saying “but they wanted you to stop” when will she learn !
Finally, we arrived after 3 hours of very rough roads in a town and staggered into a hot stuffy little room with a very intermittent fan, but were so relieved to have reached our destination, we went out like a light !
Next day we headed for Abuja,capital of Nigeria, lots of road blocks, one very aggressive traffic police officer throwing his weight around but we smiled and got by. Not far from Abuja, going into a town called Suleja, another road block in slow traffic by yet more “stick men bearing nail studded planks, trying to force us off the road wearing fluorescent jackets, I refused, thinking blocking the road would be the best option which turned out to be a good guess as there were many other people around and it caused quite a commotion. Attempts at getting money were refused and after about 20 minutes they removed the spiked sticks and off we went. Several more were met going out of the town, tactics by then were to drive towards them at speed and they jumped clear. Not very pleasant at all.
Spent a night camping at Abuja Sheraton (of all places to be allowed to camp!) where we met Brett & Mary again(our sometimes travelling companions) – not bad, it’s normally $350 a night but pretty cheap to camp – some official use of facilities etc and better still,we managed to blag a Cameroon visa in 2 hours by chatting up the two nice reception ladies who fought our corner. This saved 4 days of waiting due to weekend/ bank holiday etc – major success!!. We also had several snarly Rottweilers to keep us company in the compound at the Sheraton so we felt quite safe and secure!
Just have to say,driving into Abuja on the motorway was the most hairy experience,I’ve ever had,besides them all driving like lunatics,it seems quite acceptable to do a U-turn through all 6 lanes on a motorway here! There are no roadmarkings, bridges are taxi ranks, everyones flat out in any lane they want. People are selling stuff which drivers just stop and buy, the number of deaths is huge.Nothing like it anywhere else we have ever been. Then a very good surface justs stops for 50m of very rough stuff – chaos followed by army roadblock where you are funnelled into a single lane London has got nothing on this its like driving in the country in comparison.
Heading out of Abuja with our South African friends we were confronted by some more unpleasant traffic police,early in the morning,but this time we were travelling in convoy and after some debate they let us go ….just after money again,no doubt,but we stood our ground and safety in numbers helps!
We wanted to get out of Nigeria,but not before we had spent some time at AfiMountain Drill Ranch, a conservation project to breed and release Drills, the third largest primate in the world.
We cannot recommend this place highly enough,it is currently run by an American volunteer called Chris and a team of extraordinarily knowledgeable team of locals.
Here you can experience the stunning views over the mountains in the jungle,we took a vertigo -inducing rainforest canopy walk, the photo’s just don’t do it justice!
Had a delicious meal with Brett&Mary,earlier we had spotted 2kilo’s of fillet steak which we couldn’t refuse and were having serious cravings for Tims roast beef and yorkshires so we marinated it and cooked it over hot coals with scrummy potatoes and salad,we even had wine……..complete bliss,and all in the most incredible surroundings.
Next day had a wonderful time watching and learning about Drills and rescued Chimpanzees, (which sadly can’t be released into the wild because of humanisation as young animals. )
Camping in the rainforest and swimming in the Bano waterfalls(in a tropical rainstorm)
has been amazing,with me having to overcome my fear of all things creepy and slimy,especially when having to go to the loo at night, with only my head torch for company! Strangely quiet and quite eerie by night,and we’ve enjoyed it hugely.
Michael became mates with a young Civet( a weird,dog/cat/ badger thing ) very unusual to see one apparently, let alone handle it.
We were also lucky enough to spot
a Tree Viper-so I’m told !