Nigeria

Ikom to Abuja

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Well why the Heritage Hotel was recommended, we do not know. Turns out that it could have been nice about 10 years ago. What we do not get yet, is the African bathroom scenario. Firstly, the shower (if there is one) is never attached to the wall so you wet the whole place whilst you use it and washing your hair is a practice in spraying the toilet (which is usually next to the “shower”) This place however, had a new contraption. A bath……the first we have seen since our visit to Zack in the UK, BUT alas, our joy was soon over as we realized there was no plug. Our enquiries were met with blank stares as the staff  clearly never heard of such a thing and pointed to a small bucket in the bath. That , for goodness sake, is the way to clean yourself!! Next problem is that Nigerians might have a fetish about clean cars, but this certainly does not extend to their bathrooms. Not exactly what we needed as we were covered in mud from head to toe not to mention the cuts and bruises all over from the sharp thorns and blades of grass on the side of the road.

 Some "lovely" decorations in the hotel Some great roads

The evening meal turned into another circus as we ordered chicken and rice steering well clear of the proudly listed “bush meat” on the menu. What we did not know is that all food in the south of Nigeria is covered in a fiery sauce. Your eyes water just looking at it, Stewart struggled through the meal and was eventually blowing smoke out of his ears, mouth nd nose whilst I enjoyed a huge plate of rice. The next morning at breakfast we met 2 Nigerian businessmen who informed us that the problem with the place is that the owner is not there and he left the running of the place in the hands of staff. The first thing we noticed was how well informed these guys were from everything to politics to African affairs etc. What we enjoyed the most though is the Nigerian way of loudly complaining if things do run as smoothly as they should. Add to this the fact that they are always ready to teach a life lesson and you have  theatre in the making.

 Lots of fresh fruit available at roadsideAlll the bible verses everywhere

We set off on the road to Abuja and marveled at the Nigerian way of living. EVERYTHING has a name related to Christianity. “Gods own mechanic” “Good grace garage” “The ‘sacred’ life hairstylist” and many more. Even the trucks are named with “sacred” verse! The best was listening to the local radio station where the DJ announced "as zonk by Maduuna" !!! You work that one out. Besides that , the country is jam packed with people. There is hardly a square meter open and where there are no people, the land has been cultivated everywhere. Another oddity is the way they speak, they swap some of the letters so ASK becomes AKS !  We were in high spirits and not even the police road blocks could get us down as we greeted them in our most jolly way. They do ask every time “What do you have for me” and are satisfied if we say nothing. Stewart tried to be a wise ass once and told the guy that we have a lot of love for him. He quickly asked Stew “How do you eat love? Show me. ”  Except for one incident where a young policeman stopped the car, promptly pointed a gun right in my face and started screaming at Stew to turn the car off and STEP OUT! (thank god he was reprimanded by his superior) we found the police blocks less and easier than in Cameroon. Our next experience was unpleasant, but we soon got over it. We stopped in Makurdi for diesel. The garages here all have different diesel and petrol prices and even though Nigeria is an oil producing country, the diesel is extremely expensive here. Between R10 and R11 per  litre. The attendant proceeded to fill the tank and then with a smile pointed out that he filled our  tank with 106 litres of fuel!! This is in a tank with a capacity of 100 litres and it was still a quarter full! A huge argument followed which ended with Stewart leaving the money for 85 litres which is what we calculated the fuel to be, on the ground and me speeding off in Stan. Phewww

 

Unfortunately Stan decided to try his best to change our positive attitude and besides the ever slipping gears, the oil light came on. After checking, we saw the oil was full and to prevent any further damage, turned around to the nearest village. Stew phoned Tony of Roverland in Cape Town (thank you Tony) as we had no idea what to do. Turned out it was a loose wire and in true African style we quickly found an electrician (these people always just seem to appear) had it fixed and were on our merry way.

 Abuja Changing money nigerian way

We made Abuja in good time thanks to the relatively good Nigerian roads and were blown away by this city. It was planned from scratch and built during the 70’s as the capital and believe us, they did a stunning job. Abuja truly is the most beautiful African city outside Cape Town. It is well planned, easy on the eye with tree lined boulevards, stunning buildings, wide highways, traffic that flows and no rubbish lying around. There was even a “no smoking in any public places “  law!

 

 We got lost of course but quickly found a willing taxi to follow to a hotel I found in the Rough Guide (which unfortunately is 5 years old) The taxi guy got a bit lost too, but great was our joy when he happened to stop right in front of an official Landrover dealer on one of his wrong turns. Both of us being African and the eternal optimists, we could not wait for the next morning when we will get back here, ask them to fix Stan once and for all and then continue our journey. 

 The cathedral  and the mosque

Our arrival in Abuja was also unfortunately marred by the very sad news we received as we got there. One or our dear friends, Sandy Germanis sadly passed away in Cape Town. Sandy was truly one of God’s  angels and we treasure all the time we spend with her. Our support and love to Spiros, Alex, George, Jason and Eleni. We are so sad that she will be unable to hold her first grandchild who is due in October.

 

The hotel, by the name of Retsham Cloistres turned out to be an overpriced second rate “losieshuis” but it had a huge bed with clean sheets, the same kind of bathroom as the night before, except there was a hand held shower over the bath so we gladly settled in.

 

We rushed to the Landrover dealer the next morning not even waiting for breakfast, only to have our bubbles burst as we arrived. We were told in no uncertain terms that they can only help us in a weeks time, sorry.(Compare this to Toyota dealers, the car of choice for everyone traveling through Africa except these two potato heads and who , we have been told, helped everyone we met IMMEDIATELY.  GO TOYOTA) The one mechanic took pity on us and suggested we get hold of one of their ex mechanics who now apparently works for himself to take a look at Stan. The guy arrived, had a look at Stan and promised to meet us back at the place the next morning at 8, when he will fit another new disk. He promised we can be on the road by 2 and agreed on a price of US$200 as we are supplying the parts.

 

We were disappointed to once again have no choice but to use a backyard mechanic but at least have the fact that Ghana will be better to look forward to. We then had Stan washed again as the inside was still completely caked with mud, had the wheel balancing and alignment done by an “official” looking place and spend another night in our hotel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abuja to Owo

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We arrived at the place bright and early all ready to met the mechanic and follow him to his workshop. Alas, that was not meant to be, 15 minutes became 30 minutes and longer. Eventually Stewart phoned Tony of Roverland again . He gave him instructions to check a certain valve which could cause the problem and also said that we should be fine to drive at least to Ghana where we hope we will be helped MAYBE if we are lucky by Landrover. There was nothing else we could do, so we set off on the way to Ibadan to get as close to the border with Benin as possible.

 It says"PMT a gift from God" the owner is obviously not female!

For some unknown reason we were still in high spirits and were discussing the fact of how great we find Nigeria, laughing about the shit way they are driving and enjoying the energy of the place. The atmosphere of the day unfortunately started changing somewhat when we were stopped by none other that the “Highway rescue” men. We were informed in a very unfriendly way that we are breaking the law as we are driving a right hand drive vehicle! Hey were not interested in hearing anything we had to say and was clearly waiting for a bribe which we refused to give. They then instructed us to follow them to their office where a very obnoxious man was waiting for us. As usual I find it very hard to keep my mouth shut on  occasions like this and I was telling them in no uncertain terms how sad it is that they are now spoiling our positive view of Nigeria. His answer was “Woman do not speak” For sure the worst thing you can say to me!!! Stew continued the argument and thanks to him we were finally on our way without paying a cent despite them trying to convince us that we are committing a serious crime. (So remember guys, if you happen to drive through Nigeria, please have a spare vehicle with left hand drive available, maybe tie it to your roof?)

 

From this point , despite us trying to laugh it off, unfortunately the day turned into a nightmare. The gear-slipping saga raised its ugly head again, we got a  bit lost and stopped at a group of guys fixing a truck (or so we thought) for directions. Whilst I was chatting to the one on the drivers side, another guy went to Stewarts side and pointed out to him that there is oil spurting out of the wheel. We know it sounds strange but with Stans history so far, we were fast losing all our faith in the car so at that stage we could believe anything. He quickly directed us off the road into an area on the side of the road where he offered to take a look at it. However, I had a very bad feeling about the whole situation. Unfortunately we were very far from any city or town, and added to that the fact that neither one of us had enough knowledge of how mechanical stuff work, we had no option but to listen to him.

The scam artists before werealised what stunt they are pulling

 

These guys are complete EXPERTS in scamming. They had Stew wrapped around their little fingers whilst they took the whole wheel apart in seconds despite my objections. Needless to say, they found a broken part…….surprise surprise. What was more amazing is the speed at which a guy appeared out of nowhere with the exact part that was needed!! By this stage we were truly ^^&%$$ed as a part of the wheel was in pieces, there was no way we could put it all together (this whole dismantling took about all of 5 to 10 minutes) and the guy with the part was demanding 110 000 Naira, the equivalent of R8000. At this point the bottom fell out and we both fell apart completely.

 

To me, this was the end, Nigeria and Africa has truly beaten me. I fail to get why we have to go through all of this. We are supposed to be following our dream, we have been good to everyone we met, we have stayed positive in the face of many negatives, we kept believing in Stan who proceeded to let us down as much as he could, we have spend thousands of dollars thus far on fixing him, so much so that we are unable to complete out trip and here are these scam artists that are now taking our hard earned money, the amount we had set aside for our volunteer work in Ghana.

 

Eventually 3 armed highway patrol guys arrived at the scene and were so obviously part of the scam that they were not even listening to our story. They just stood there and watched with their bloody guns. I fell apart when we finally left after payment of R6000 (maybe my cursing was worth R2000) and the gears still slipping.  So, here we are, in Nigeria, trying to get to Ghana in a car that is falling apart, no money and with broken souls.

 

We have no idea how to continue from here, but will keep you all updated.

 

 

 

Owo to Benin ( a.k.a. getting the #!*# out of Nigeria )

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Owo to Benin ( a.k.a. getting the #!*# out of Nigeria )

We had limped into Owo the previous night, feeling that it all was unraveling. Our lack of money after having been cleaned out by the scam artists meant we had to beg for a local hotel to accept dollars in lieu of the local currency. After hearing our story, they helped out, so we booked into the First Molac Hotel, on the other side of Owo. We spent a miserable night sharing a meal of “chicken” (looked more like a rat!) and salad. We had a look at our finances and realized that it will be impossible to still do the volunteer work we planned to do in Ghana as our tight budget will just not allow it. This made us feel even more depressed but we had to let Edward Adeli of The Volunteer Corps know as he has been a pillar of strength through all our troubles with Stan. We phoned him and besides being a great shoulder to cry on, he ensured us that a plan will be made and that he still wants us to do the program.

 

A new day brings new hope and new beginnings and this is especially true in Africa. So we started the day giving thanks to all the good things in life, to all the angels we met along the way and most of all to all of you out there that are supporting us. What made us finally realize that it is worth carrying on is the unwavering faith that our boys and Chrizel have in us, their unfailing support and love have carried us through many dark times and made us aware of the goodness in life.

 Our biggest inspitration THANK YOU guys and to al of you that care so much xxxxxx

 Stewart wandered off to beg a cup of coffee out of the receptionist, and then transferred the last of the diesel in the jerry cans into Stan’s tank, before chatting to the locals about the problem of Stan’s failing brakes. A local “prince” staying at the hotel offered to send his mechanic, but said as today was “Environmental Day” , no none  was allowed to travel on the roads until 10am,  so we would have to wait until after then.  The prince’s mechanic must be very environmentally conscious, as by 10h30  he had  not arrived. Another hotel patron, whose mechanic was literally dismantling and rebuilding his vehicle’s engine in the car park, offered his services, and the breaks were repaired to a state where they at least worked, even though the sounds emanating from the wheel the scam artists had worked on continued to be a worry. Most amazing thing was that this guy wanted NO money……a first in Nigeria!!!

 

We had decided to push on as far as we could that day, in the hope we might make it out of Nigeria. We made good time initially, but the sprawling mass of the city of Idaban took almost 2 hours to traverse.  We stopped at Abeokuta to spend the last of  our local currency on some more diesel, and pushed on  towards  the border, having decided to  try and make the border that evening.  Despite several wrong turns, we eventually found the road out of Nigeria.

 

With 5kms to go, we were again stopped by the local   “constabulary” and given a working over. Realizing we actually indeed had no money to give them, they let us go, and we made the border in the gathering gloom.

 Our final goodbye to Nigeria......how appropriate! CONOIL>>>>>CONLAND!!!

The border crossing on the Nigerian side was like watching paint dry, made worse by the constant stream of motorbikes and cars passing through the border  without even stopping, simply slowing down to hand the guy manning the boom a fistful of money!

 

We eventually made it through, and quickly passed through Immigration for Benin, who was as laid back as can be, did not even check for visas, just stamped our passports and told us;

1.      the Customs office was in the next town , Pobe, just 20kms ahead

2.      there were plenty of hotels to choose from in Pobe

 

So off we headed to Pobe, in the dark and on a deteriorating road – sound like deja vu?  By the time we made Pobe, we had decided to book into the first hotel we found, and to find Customs in the morning. A helpful local, when asked for directions to the nearest hotel, jumped on his motorbike and led us to probably the ONLY hotel in  Pobe, going by the grand name of Molotov Hotel! Besides a problem with the water (there was none), the night guard playing his music all night long, no curtains (the beach towels came in handy), no bedding (Kikois), we got a few hours’ sleep, happy to be out of the clutches of Nigeria.

 

 

 

 

 

Stats and Helpful Info

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The following are some stats as well as some info that might be helpful to future travelers:

 

(Please note that the prices are relevant at the time that we traveled and should therefore be adjusted. The cost of the accommodation does not include some “freebies” like staying at friends or bushcamping, and the amount reflected is per couple per night)

 

Country :  Nigeria

 

Dates:            24 June to 28 June 2008    

 

Exchange rate:       R1.00 equals 15 Niarra (pronounced “Nira”)

 

Number of Nights:  four

 

Distance traveled:  1 567 km

 

Average distance per day: 442km

 

Cost of Diesel:  between R9.30 and R10.00, depending on which con artist you get served by – and watch that the meter is zero before they start filling!

 

Average fuel consumption:  7.8 km per litre

 

Diesel used:  201 litres

 

Worst Road/s:  watch the potholes  north of Owo!!

 

Best Road/s:  the road system in Abuja

 

Favourite new destination:  the border post – leaving!!

 

Average cost of accommodation:  R438.75

 

Number of Bushcamps:  nil

 

Cheapest Acommodation:  Heritage Hotel, Ikom, R315 per night

 

Most enjoyable:  leaving it behind.