Nigeria, definitely not for the faint of heart, and I honestly wouldn’t recommend it for a first time trip to Africa or first time “adventure” type trip. It can be daunting, intimidating, overwhelming and just plain scary at times. For those looking for a destination that is way off the tourist map though, Nigeria has a lot to offer. …and I don’t want to start off making it sound like the dangerous place most often associated with the name. Get to know the people and learn a little bit about the culture and this area of the world, and Nigeria begins to show other sides to itself.
This wasn’t a fly in fly out type of trip, this was a drive through type. From the upper Northeast, just below Lake Chad, to be spit out two weeks later in the lower Southeast right along the Atlantic Coast into Benin. Actually started driving from Douala, Cameroon, headed up towards N’Djamena, Chad …but, as Africa often does, SURPRISE, military coupe in N’Djamena that day. OK, make a left…
Before entering Nigeria just below Lake Chad , we spent a few hours in No-Man’s Land. For those who don’t have the delightful experience of “No-Man’s Land”, they are the strips of land in between many of the countries of Africa where there is a large in or outflow between countries. Often a few miles wide, and encompassing whole towns or villages, many people live here because, well, taxes are often non-existent, laws are often a bit lax, and there is a constant stream of travellers to make money off of, which also attracts the less fortunate a lot of times. Some of these No-Man’s Lands can be very dangerous, being the dividing lines between rival governments, local tribes or even religions. This particular one in between Cameroon and Nigeria, not the worst I’ve seen but a bit rough to say the least. …although I did have a nice conversation with a Nigerian customs official on the subject of wives and children. He had four wives, sixteen children. All in different houses. A few years back five of his children died in a car accident …but not to worry, he still had sixteen to care of him. I mean, that is why you have children, right? To take care of you when you’re elderly. Ahhh, the introductory conversation to Nigeria.xxxxxx
First stop, Maiduguri. Capital and largest city of Borno State in the northeast. Maiduguri sits along the beautiful Ngadda River (pictured below). Big, brash, crowded, loud and heaving. Witness to large-scale ethnic and religious violence and riots over the past half century, this city is definitely not for the “faint of heart”. Perfect place to do a bit of food shopping. Intense is probably a good word to describe the city.
Moving along quite nicely now. This article, not the truck (if case you haven’t seen the roads or traffic in Nigeria). Off to Yankari National Park, home of the Wikki Warm Springs in Bauchi State. As for Yankari, definitely one of the most interesting national parks I have ever seen, or actually, experienced. Absolutely gorgeous clear blue hot springs, elephants coming down to test the waters on one side, a newly born litter of baby warthogs residing on the other. Daily battles between the resident baboons and warthogs, which makes for great entertainment by the way. Since then, warthogs have become one of my favorite animals. So ugly they are almost cute and cuddly. Able to create “lines of defense” and “battle formations” when going against the baboons and wandering around camp like domesticated dogs, these guys definitely got game. No one ever really got hurt in the daily battles… The warthogs would move in and scare the baboons away. The matriarch baboon would come sweeping in, arms flailing and bark a barking, and the wart hogs would scatter. The warthogs would regroup and sort of charge in in a line or circle. …and so on, and so on, pretty much all day long. There were a few “respites” and quiet moments though, where everyone just relaxed. Ahhh. Add in a lot of elephants, giraffe, various monkeys, the occasional lion (which we didn’t see), a few hippos, bats, bugs, alligators, a couple of high school field trippers from various cities around Nigeria and, oh yeah. Whats that clicking noise? Why is my foot starting to sting? Hmmm, let me look down. AHHHHH!!! Fireants! Note to self: never pitch your tent over a fireant hole in a field covered with fireant holes. If warthogs are one of my favorites, fireants are one of my most feared. These things are big, scary, noisy when provoked and come in the millions, if not billions. I would almost rather take on one lion than a million fireants.
A few days at Yankari, soaking up the warm water as we watched and listened to the new family of piggies playing on the slopes above, listening to the roar of elephants, going on a few safari drives, being scared of stepping on those damn ants again, fighting off baboons in the morning, waking up with the warthogs, and taking walks around the park and we were ready to head into Central Nigeria and towards the megacity and infamous Lagos. I do say “taking walks” in a loose sense of the term though, as one day me and Inga took a backwoods walk off the main road. Didn’t find out it wasn’t allowed until we were picked up and whisked away into the “discussion room” of the head ranger in the park where we were lightly interrogated in a room with just a small window, dirty desk and lots of baboon skulls. I guess the guy had a point, just wandering around in a forest full of lions, alligators, hippos, elephants and such probably isn’t a great idea most of the time, it was fun though.
A great start to our Nigeria adventure (actually a few days in now). Some beautiful scenery, great landscapes, wonderful people and exciting experiences, along with a nice “discussion”. Add to that no one got Malaria yet, shot or beheaded, and the whole Sharia law thing hasn’t stopped anyone from having fun (although “common sense” type fun – if you’re not familiar with Sharia Law, just google it), not to mention no serious animal attacks, except for a whole hell of a lot of ant bites, YOW, or food bourne illnesses, and Nigeria is turning out to be a lamb in lion’s clothing …OK, sort of, but not really. Still have a loooooong drive to go though.
So enough for now. Trying to keep these around a thousand words each. “Nigeria – Part II – Headed to Jos” will be up in a few days. Until than, you can take a look at most of my Nigeria photos here.