Friday, April 25, 2008

Catching up

Sorry guys, we've been in the bush for a while but are alive.
The road for Bre and me was a bit of a rough one to catch up. We decided to play it safe and go with the fastest and most convenient transport option possible. Way over my budget and totally not my style, but hey, we didn't want to get left behind. So there we were in a little air-con minibus rocket with 8 other people holding on for our lives as the driver raced to Lagos. It was insane. Most driving is insane anyway but this thing was not totally overweight and had some power for a change. Zoom to the right onto the shoulder, bump, bump, into the air but getting ahead. Then flooring it out to the left, Whoops! Abort! On-coming car! Slam on the brakes, head into the seat in front of you. These guys fight for every inch.
The frustrating part was having to cross 3 African borders in one day. One is a headache, two, torture, three, insanity..... The company had a minder at each post that tried to speed us through and made sure we weren't ripped off but it is still an ugly slow process as they are all major crossings with the bulk of the traffic.
We spent a grand total of 1 1/2 hrs in Togo and 3 hours in Benin and it was raining most of the time so I can't comment on them at all, other than to say in Benin there were a lot more motorcycles and roundabouts than there were in Ghana.
Lagos, the very word sends chills down most spines. Hell in Africa from what most people say and everyone seems to avoid it like the plague. The others drove the long way around Nigeria to avoid it. We arrived in the dark a few hours late (though how that is possible with the crazy driving we did I don't know). We never got right into the center of it but you can just tell it is huge and over-populated. There were no lights at all and the traffic is terrible. From above it must look completely black with huge rows of lights snaking all around a huge area. From inside our minibus it looked like a moving black mass with all the black people shifting around in a black background. Lagos traffic is vicious too. It is bumper to bumper and yet war is being waged behind the wheels, fighting for every inch. IT makes a huge difference and they don't give up easily. It actually looks like those scenes in the movies where someone is learning to drive for the first time and pushes all the pedals at the same time so it jumps an inch and stops hard. Yeah, like that times a million vehicles. After 12 1/2 hrs on the road, we decided to just stay in the little hotel right in the minibus company's compound and not go venturing off into the unknown.
The following morning we took another of the same minibuses onward direct to Calabar. Of course we took 13hrs which was a few longer than normal and the roads were not very good. We had to pass through the delta region and that of course is the area where the foreigners are getting kidnapped and all that too. Doesn't really matter though. The locals on the minibus (everyone was really nice in Nigeria actually) spent the entire ride discussing with each other the problems with the country (mostly crime and corruption) and the stories of the highway robberies and armed home invasions were enough to totally freak us out. Apparently they don't mess around, just shoot first and ask for the money later and then use the bodies to stop the next set of cars..... I hope it's an exaggeration but I'm afraid it isn't.
We made it alive though and the scenery was quite nice though Nigeria is seriously over-populated. The cities that we went through we filthy and it didn't help that the piled garbage was covered with mud.
Calabar is supposed to be a nice place by Nigerian standards but it was still too big and dirty for my liking. We met up with the others, they were camping on the edge of town at a monkey sanctuary. They are the most successful captive breeding program of primates in the world (apparently) and focus on the endangered Drill monkey. They are only found in that area and don't have any close relatives but they kind of look like baboons to me. The 4 young chimps they had were much more interesting though. We ended up there for the whole weekend waiting for our Cameroon visas. It gave us a chance to catch up and start sorting out are places in the new group. We also have grown in size with another vehicle joining us. Patrick, Sarah and James (the guys are S. African and she is English) are returning to S. Africa after living and working in England for years. We met them in Mole, Ghana and later they showed up at Big Milly's and met Ben. They are going the same way at roughly the same time so caught up with the others in Abuja, Nigeria and will join us as far as Namibia I think. It is great having a 3 vehicle convoy and 12 people now. I just don't know what to do with myself as all of my traditional roles of leader, planner, translator, etc have been taken by others. I guess I'll just sit back and enjoy the ride, it's sure to be a good one......
Ammon

2 Comments:

At 2:46 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ammon,
I was getting nauseated just reading about the trip, can't imagine the actual ride. I have often found that locals under report the violence in their areas, so can only imagine what is really happening.
Sometimes the most important job in leadership is letting someone else take over, and then being supportive of their different styles. Some people can't do it at all and begin to sabotage the new leaders in hopes of acruing power again.

Good luck with this stretch sounds like a refreshing change.

Cheers, and Big Bear Hugs
The Bear

 
At 4:09 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anda menyelesaikan beberapa poin di sana. Saya melakukan pencarian dengan tema dan menemukan sebagian besar orang akan memiliki pendapat yang sama dengan blog Anda.

 

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