Feb 9, 2009
|Ok so have been tied to the keyboard and made to update out Blog which I am ashamed to say is massivly behind.. Apologies (and for the spelling)!
Not entirely sure where we left off but needless to say after a particulalrly missable (we could have driven past it) border and the most laid back security (a man and a donkey) we entered that much feared country Nigeria - famous for Oil, Corruption, Kidnapping, Guns, Credit Card Fraud, Pollution, Decemation of the Natural Environment (Rainforest)and everything Dodgy you could think of.... So it was with much trepidation that we proceeded...
Typically the reality couldnt be further removed - I think we spent the first two days waving and smiling at delightful kids and beaming adults, shaking hands, sharing meals and jokes. I guess its one of those global oddities - the less people have and the less influence with the outside world the nicer everyone is! There are a few truths however - the Pollution is rotten, the concept of putting anything in a bin is unheard of - you just throw it anywhere and when it gets too much you set fire to the pile and anything else in its way or near area! The roads are cluttered with wrecks of burnt out lorries and cars, the Traffic is horrendous, The rainforest is non-existent dust from the Sahel got worse by the day..
We were very very amused one morning when we were stopped at a roadblock by a couple of officials in dayglo bibs (with a gun)and we were informed that we couldn't proceed any further as it was 'Environment Day'...!!! What? Next to him was a pile of burnt tyres, smog was belching from the newly opened Chinese Cement Factory, A goat was being slaughtered in the building behind, a man was peeing the other side of the road, chickens were pecking in the sewer, women were washing their clothes in the typhoid polluted river that used to meander through the ex-rainforest and three of the biggest most fume belching trucks I have ever seen crashed passed us.. ENVIRONMENT DAY?????? After a brief conversation and the exchange of a couple of bucks we were off!
Despite all this Nigeria is actually one of the nicest countries we have been to yet - We visited a national Park called Yankari - apparently it is the number one visited attraction in the country (there must have been all of oh 10 other people there apart from ourselves!) We camped in the park and defended our truck and tents from a constant barrage of Baboons - highly intelligent creatures.. Sadly after numerous thefts and finding one in our tent all kindness, politically correctness and being nice to the lovely little animals in a protected area went out the window and we resorted to lobbing rocks and sticks at them!
Yankari as well as having game - Elephants, Lions, Baboons, numerous types of antelope.. (anything else had mysteriously migrated a few years ago) also has hot springs that are squeaky clean and were a fab place to cool off after days of bushcamping in the deserts of the north. We met some lovely locals who spent the afternoon chatting away and gave us an interesting insight to the country. They also returned the following day with their extended families for us to meet! how cute.
A few of us did manage to get arrested in one city (will update name when my diary is to hand) Apparantly you cannot take photos in certain places without asking for official permission from the government of the local area - Typically several people went off snap happy around town... just as we were about to leave the truck got stopped and 3 of us volluntered to go and meet the chief of police - Dont worry we were not in the wrong at all and it was fairly farcical.. We got taken off to the 'Department of Tourism and Precious Gems' which was next to the SSS - 'Special Secret Services'- and were made to write out and sign an official confession. The form had on it 'Official Interogation Form'. And had our photos taken (just like being arrested) profiles, face on and for some strange reason the backs of our heads! We were then interviewed about our forms - they couldnt understand why we didnt fill in the section asking for 'Tribe' and why none of us had more than one sibling.. evidently in Nigeria you have at least 10 brothers and sisters!
We were next interviewed by the head honcho - interestingly all his staff were terrified of him - he was a cross between Idi Amin and Barry White- quite funny actually. After about 10mins explaining and apologising for our error he let us go with a slap on the wrist. Definately not your everyday event but at no point did we feel intimidated or worried! In fact it was all very very tin pot!!!
Jos was an interesting city - made so by the fact that the FCO web site bans all but essential travel to the region and also (allegedly) states that there are 24 hour curfews.. not the case! From here it was on to the Capital - not Lagos as you may think but Abuja. Kind of reminded us of Canberra in that its new, modern and has absolutely no personality - quite a culture shock compared to the rest of the country! We stayed at the Sheraton - no not in a posh room with en suite and air con - but camped in the back of the staff carpark next to a massive oil burning generator! The highlight of Abuja was however the British Council - which was like an oasis for us! We had a jolly good lunch on the roof (Steak) and spent the afternoon in the pleasant Air conditioned computer room!
Next stop that well known country Benin - We will let you know all about Voodoo and the world of Fetish... TBC