Original Touring Africa Diary – Nigeria

Nigeria, Nigeria where to start, well everyone has seen the news and read the papers, the horrors of this fearsome country full of thieves, kidnappers and other evildoers waiting for any white man to venture into the unknown so they can do him harm. Well how wrong the media is. Just because one part of a country has a bad reputation doesn’t make the whole place terrible. On the contrary Nigeria and Nigerians are great.

Arriving at the Nigerian border buildings, we quickly went about the business of trying to get some stamps in various documents, having been warned about Nigerian officials being corrupt etc etc… We were a little apprehensive but to our astonishment they were friendly and didn’t even request a bribe. We changed a few dollars at the worst exchange rate ever just so we had some local currency.

Once we left the border officials the road deteriorated to a slow crawl with some very big puddles every few KMs, much to our amusement our biking companions occasionally had to go straight through and got a tad wet.

We didn’t make it very far, and we nervously started looking for a bush camp having been warned by previous traveller’s websites not to bush camp, we were rather surprised that once we set up camp a happy group of farmers approached us with their kids and had a great conversation in some unknown language. We offered them our usual stash of promotion V6 sponsored by our dear Anina in exchange for some photos of the beautiful forest dwellers. The next morning we set out at a lightning pace of about 10KM/H. After a few hours of driving Louise and I got that strange feeling in our feet like the suspension was broken again after a quick check; sure enough the Malian weld was no longer holding. Quick decisions were made and the next village with a welder would be fixing the car. We pulled up at Kaiama at about 3.30 and set about looking for a mechanic or welder. We found one that felt like it was bang smack in the middle of the market. Since he was only a welder, Reinier and I pulled apart the car while the girls stood guard over the gear as we were surrounded by 50 odd curious kids and men. For the next 3 or 4 hours under the careful instructions of Reinier the welder constructed a plate that was fitted above the existing suspension area to strengthen the whole thing. As we were putting the suspension back in a big storm started to brew, within minutes a torrential downpour soaked us to the bone. With the car back together we asked our welder friend if there was a hotel in town. Sure enough there was and we had a night out of the rain in some cheap rooms.

The following day we headed in the direction of Abuja where we bush camped one night before arriving at our intended destination, Abuja. Now this is such an un-African city. It has been planned from the start and is only 30 odd years old, it’s what Nigeria’s oil money has paid for. We stayed at the Sheraton (N09°03.791, E007°29.136) for a few nights for free, apparently the manager is South African and he allows overlanders to camp in the back parking lot for free, though who knows if that is true. We met 2 Dutch couples travelling north and exchanged info on the roads ahead. Louise and I are really starting to wonder if only Dutch people travel overland. Maybe Holland is just too small to host a large population of orange lovers? While in Abuja we attempted to get an Angolan visa, that was a no go unless we wanted to wait a few weeks, so we headed over to the Zambian embassy to get one of their visas, we think we can use this to circumvent the “you don’t have a visa for onward travel” situation at the DRC (Zaire) border. The embassy couldn’t issue us a visa but provided us with a letter stating that our visas will be available at the border when we drive there. Once we got that in our hot little hands we were quick to decide it was time to get out of Abuja. Though Reinier delayed that by a few days with a mild dose of malaria.

After some extra days of R&R at the Abuja Sheraton we bid farewell to a large group of Dutchies and set out towards the northern border of Cameroon. Our first night was a bush camp somewhere just before Jos (just after Akwanga: N09°09.808, E008°25.321), the next one being after Jos 40 km’s before Bauchi (N10°12.738, Eoo9°31.868).

The latter bushcamp will forever be in our memories as we were enjoying a pleasant dinner in the bush Louise started to make a strange quiet but somewhat screaming noise and in a flash jumped out of her seat and hid behind Reinier. Suddenly everyone noticed what had caused her to freak out – a huge bug about 15cm long had crawled up on her chair and was taking a nice break on the arm rest! Everybody started to scream! What the hell was it!? It was massive and had pincers, so naturally nobody wanted to touch it. We all huddled together with our eyes focused on the monster while Milan found a big stick and played baseball with it. We ate our dinner as quick as possible so we could hurry into our safe tents when Milan felt something on his foot. He jolted up from his chair and screamed, everyone followed in unison of course. This time Anne decided to play a bit of golf with the bug until it was far far away from us. Such a monster bug – horrible.

That morning before leaving while going through the usual check the car business, I noticed a new crack in the suspension, but this time on the other side, not only was that cracked but a bolt on the rear suspension had sheared off. Once again it was time to find a welder. Luckily enough we quickly found an excellent welder on the outskirts of Bauchi, after quickly removing the suspension, as you can imagine we are quite good at it now, and setting the welder to work, I was taken into town by the owner of the welding shop to find a bolt to replace the broken one for the rear suspension. We have now removed the extra shock in the front suspension as we fear it may be the cause of the cracked chassis. It may not be long before the rear ones get removed as I am getting sick and tired of doing up the bolts.

Suspension fixed again we headed to Yankari National Park, Nigeria’s premier tourist destination. We spent a night in the car park, and were disappointed that we had to pay to camp there. They do have lovely crystal clear warm springs that made up for the lack of other facilities. Valid note however, the place has a lot of baboons and they like to climb on Landrover’s early in the morning peering into the tent. Another valid note, baboons don’t like bright lights in their faces, which is when a Maglite comes in handy, it can also be used to smack them in the face if they peer through the mosquito net of the tent.

The next day we were still heading in a north-west direction, the roads up until here had been very good, we decided to turn of the main road at Dumboa and take the shortest route to the border. It was yet another one of these famous, once was tarred now mainly potholed African roads. We slowly plodded along until it was getting a little late and decided it was time to look for camp. The bikes sent me out first and within 100 yards I had left the road heading for some trees off in the distance, the next thing you know we are stuck in the mud up to the chassis nearly instantly. Time to finally use that winch on the front of the car, hard ground is only about 5 metres away. It turned out to be the slowest 5 metres Edmund has ever done taking about 3 hours. The first 4 metres were done within about 20 minutes of winching and we got the front wheels on hard ground. This is when we realised the winch had wrapped the cable around the wrong side of itself and continuing to use it would mean no more winch. We started to dig and this was the heaviest thickest mud any of us had ever seen, after about 2 and a half hours and in pitch black we finally got Edmund out of his hole.

The following day, we got up extra early to fix the winch, a successful endeavour. The bad roads continued and just a few kilometres down the road from the mud fiasco from the day before was potentially an even worse one. The road was washed away and the only way was going straight through mud that looked just like the stuff from the night before. Expecting the worst I reluctantly headed for what looked like the best way through, this time being prepared made it a lot easier and even though I misjudged the track and drove over a large tree, Edmund passed triumphantly, lifting everyone’s spirits. We ended up walking the bikes across. As the day progressed the roads got progressively worse all the way to the border, having to cross a dry river bed just before getting to the Cameroonian border post. While we were taking care of official business the dry river bed became rather wet as water started thundering down from the hills.

Now in Cameroon the road got considerably better it was a reasonably good graded track but we ended up passing more and more water passages, either having to drive through rivers or very long puddles, the final one was the deepest, longest and had the strongest current, the bikes were walked across by Anna and locals while Reinier chickened out and sat on Edmund’s roof in his boxers and a singlet. We slowly plodded across the river having to constantly steer up river as the current tried to push us downstream. We ended the day driving around Mora at about 8 in the evening looking for accommodation. The 1st of August definitely marks the day of the trickiest roads so far having had to navigate sand, mud, potholes, rivers and swamps.

This entry was posted in Africa, Original Touring Africa Diary, Travel. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Comments are closed, but you can leave a trackback: Trackback URL.