Men with sticks and guns

Men with sticks, and guns….

Since we left Lagos we have stayed in Benin city Enugu and Takum as we make our way towards the Jungle crossing to Cameroon (the only one open to tourists). We will set Nelson up for extreme off roading tomorrow morning ready for that challenge (weight off the roof, everything low in the truck and tied down, ropes and recovery gear on top and accessible).

However to get here we have had the help of the very conscientious security services of Nigeria, today for instance we were stopped 40 times in the day, six immigration and visa checks, road safety checks, police checks, army checks. At each checkpoint there are guys with big sticks, sometimes barriers across the road, always chicane’s even though the traffic is two way, nearly always queues. This plus the bad state of some of the roads means covering 300km becomes a long driving day 8am to 5pm, with only fuel stops and snacks in the truck

In about 80 percent of cases we are asked for a bribe, we respond with boundless good humour, ignore the request, ask about the road ahead, repeat we are tourists, and if pushed we say we have our smiles and prayers for them.

Surprisingly it works, in each case so far we did not pay and left with friendly waves on both sides. It does get a bit tiring after 25 times….Occasionally they go hard after an infraction, first aid kit, fire extinguishers, warning triangles and international licence all have been checked many times and four times they have tried to say my RHD car is illegal. Fortunately the official looking Carnet with the stamp of the chief of customs at Seme border has worked once the difference between transit and import has been clarified. “You are absolutely right officer, if this car was imported to Nigeria it would be illegal, however it is not, it is in transit to Cameroon under the protection of the international Carnet de Passage here it is, stamped and approved by the chief of the Seme border crossing …..etc”

We are getting used to the traffic, first time we saw a dual carriageway with cars going both ways at speed on both sides of the carriageway we were surprised, now it’s pretty normal. In fact to avoid a massive truck snarl up of 4km east of Benin we ourselves went up the wrong side of the carriageway and did some epic off road to cross back in a massive water filled hole. That plus some navigation through village side streets saved us at least 5 hours.

At times where the road has been washed away into a single lane choke point we have had traffic on both sides three across head to head with the same coming the other way, Nelson had a wee bump when we heard a crunch going from six lanes to one when a guy tried to squeeze me but did not realise our door steps stick out, the door step is fine….and thankfully he decided to drive on after stopping in front of us.

In Benin we were camped in the parking lot of a fancy hotel where I was accosted by a real Nigerian prince (properly a Benin prince) who educated me on the ancient kingdom of Benin while sharing some tea. In the next place the governer of the province arrived for a meeting complete with a SWAT team of 12 some of who checked me out, thankfully deciding I was no threat.

Interesting days

Don’t come to Nigeria on your holidays, really don’t ….

This was our sixth passport and visa check team, the boss in the green,
They let Tony take a picture of me with the trolly they use to close the narrow gap, they even laughed when I said “what have you got for me?” Sporting my Nigerian trousers lighter and cooler than my hiking trousers
Some of the roads just a bit potholed, some long smooth sections but some awash pits of mud that only one truck at a time can pass through
Here a petrol tanker on the left has exploded taking out the truck on the right and a few other vehicles, still there weeks later
A prince of Benin, really, sharing tea and teaching me history
Squeezing six lanes into one narrow gap requires nerve and a strong step sticking out
We are on the right side of the road, these guys are three across in the wrong direction on the wrong side of the road, there is only one lane through the obstruction
The hotel driver told me I was the first white person he had spoken to in his life, we have not seen any other foreign people in the whole time we have been in Nigeria, as we go through the villages we are followed by shouts of “white man, white man”
This truck was overloaded with timber so the big crater in the road caused it to tip over, reducing traffic to one lane of crater, this is not a side road this is a main national route

PFalling over trucks due to collapsing holes in the road quite common this a couple on the way in to Takum still there since the rains last week

About Gerry Mulligan

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