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Nigeria

Nigeria

(163 470 km)

*Day 103:*
Wednesday January 10. 2007
Zinder-Nigeria border-Kano
* *
Getting closer to the border of Nigeria, and the entering of this huge,
scary and notorious country, the feelings in the car was mixed and the
tension was somewhat higher than normal. Nigeria is the largest country in
Western Africa and contains 1/5 of all the people in Africa (official
numbers 140 million); it also has sharia law in the north, where we were
entering and are notorious for it crime level.
As it turned out our anxiety about the crossing into Nigeria was exaggerated
and we actually had a really nice first meeting with the Nigerian border
officials. We were the first tourists to enter through this border in 2007
and the border guards were extremely friendly and welcoming. They were
really keen to have someone to talk with, especially to hear about our trip,
the Norwegian soccer players, our favourite teams and in general our plans
in Nigeria. After sorting out all the red tapes and a security 'interview''
we were off after about two hours, with lots of smiles, handshakes and even
the chief of customs giving Axel a big bear hug (what else do Arsenal fans
do?).
It was Axel's last day with us and we were keen to get the most out of it,
speeding towards Kano. However the speeding was short lived as the first
police checkpoint were only about 300 meters or less from the border post.
'You must understand that those over there are Immigration Control, we are
the Immigration Patrol'', and so they continued almost all the way to Kano!!
We counted 16 check points this day alone! But only two places they were
hinting for gifts ('so what have your brought to us from Norway'') and
those two took 'nothing'' for an answer straight away and vowed us of with a
smile. Yiha!

We entered Kano with only a few hours of daylight left, or daylight are not
be the right term in Kano. Being a town which population is said to be
somewhere between nine and 18 million inhabitants, and presumably every
single one of them is driving a scooter, together with the hammatan winds,
the air was just awful. We probably breathed more exhaust than oxygen that
day, leaving the nose, throat and eyes sore.
We went out to see the old town, the museum, the dye pits and then off to
some food and drinks.
After about an hour or so at a pleasant courtyard bar, we discovered that it
was actually a whore house. This discovery was made as Axel headed for the
toilet, going past 30-40 rooms with small beds where girls sat bidding them
self off to him. Subsequently all of us had to go to the toilet, just to
have a look of course Axel got closer to some 'meat'' that night than the
rest of us: When entering the toilet, two huge rats ran between his legs.
We ended the day over a sheep head soup and a couple of beers, Axel having
the honour of getting the sheep's right eye. Delicious. Or not!
*Day 104:*
Thursday January 11. 2007
Kano-Abuja
Started the day by driving Axel to the airport at 0530. Aught!! It turned
out to be an easy trip and we were soon back in our bedsJ. We woke up a
couple of hours later ready to drive towards the Nigerian capital, Abuja.
Only one problem, we had no money?! Reluctant to change some hard cash
(€/$) we spent some time looking for a ATM that would accept our visa
card, without any luck, we ended up changing 100 € on the street hoping
that we could find a ATM accepting visa cards in Abuja.

The trip took a boring five hours on good roads with nothing to look at as
the harmattan wind is laying a thick 'fog'' like haze over the area. We
ended up in a very expensive hotel (who did not have a shower or hot water.)
The prices in Abuja are two to three times higher than the rest of Nigeria
and accommodation here is difficult to find at reasonable prices.
*Day 105:*
Friday January 12. 2007
Abuja
We got up early to try and find an ATM that would accept visa cards.
Crisscrossing the town in a taxi from ATM to ATM and into various hotels we
were unable to find any ATMs accepting Visa. Instead we headed to the Angola
embassy hoping to get another kind of visa. Hopefully this was going to be
quick and easy as we were promised in our talk with the Consul in Lome,
although this is told to be one of the hardest one to get in Africa. Getting
the visa was luckily as easy as promised; an hour later we walked out with a
multiple entry visa to Angola!! Big smiles and time for lunch.
We decided to go to a place called Mc.Dowalds and after going to two former
sites of the restaurant, we finally found one that wasn't demolished. Here
we met a Lebanese gentleman willing to change some hard cash at a good rate,
but before concluding our business we were invited home to him for dinner
and spending the night. Rudy, as our new friend is called by friends, turned
out to be the owner of the restaurant (former 3 restaurants) and two more
constructing businesses. After half an hour and a tea with him in his house,
he said he was going to the Friday prayers at the mosque, telling us to feel
at home in his house, leaving us alone there, totally trusting three
strangers. It is somehow ironically that we experienced this in Nigeria of
all places. For sure, such a thing would never happen in Norway,
Our stay in his house with the family and his friends was a very nice
experience. The evening went on in Lebanese traditional way, serving us a
several course dinner on the floor, watching them play cards, seeing a movie
and just enjoying life and discussing differences between European and
African (western and Arabic) culture and perceptions of the world. The
evening was great giving booth parties much in understanding each other. It
was very interesting to hear about the conflict in the Middle East from an
angle we are not used to.

Rudy in deep consentration over the cards
*Day 106:*
Saturday January 13. 2007
Abuja-Jos
We started the day with a huge breakfast and some healthy discussions around
politics (USA, Lebanon, Israel and Irak) and then said goodbye. We sat of
towards Jos. As we finally had some money, the spirit was high for about 10
minutes. We needed fuel and it turned out that getting fuel in Nigeria is
difficult. Apparently there is a fuel shortage (quite outstanding as Nigeria
is/was the 5th biggest oil producer in the world!!!) and the ques were
loooong. Some places more than a kilometre. Luckily for us petrol is in much
bigger demand than diesel and we were able to fill up at the 7th station we
tried at, without having to queue up (they all want petrol).
We had a 4 hour journey to Jos. Arriving there we found out it was very cold
here too, as the town is situated at high altitude!! Who would actually
think that Africa could be so cold?!?! Except from Abuja we have been cold
the last 2-3 weeks actually. Apparently, according to the news, it hasn't
been so cold around this part of Africa for 25 years.
Even though Nigeria has treated us very well so far, this is not the place
to drop your guard. The crime rate is extreme, and the locals here are
constantly warning us: 'Everyone in Nigeria is a thief''; 'The mafia is
everywhere''. Hopefully that isn't true, but there are signs of the chaos
and crime everywhere. In hotels everything that somehow is possible to move
away is barred in, locked up, often with several locks. Rudy, our host in
Abuja, had had three armed robberies in his house, his son one at the
highway (where he told us he shot two men (!)). The guidebook tells us that
60 % of the country's economy is black. Often we are seeing big graffiti
writings at walls of properties and houses saying: 'This property/house is
not for sale. Remember 419''. This is simply to prevent the problem with
thieves breaking into houses, emptying it and thereafter selling it (!) when
the owner is away. 419 being the penal code police is using for scams. By
the roads between the numerous wrecks from different car accidents, you see
out burned, stolen cars.
Talking about the roads, they are probably a much bigger risk for us than
the crime. They all drive like they have stolen their car - some probably
have - and the roads seem more like anarchy than any other place we have
been to. In the towns all the traffic lights has been turned off and police
has taken their place, because nobody respects the lights. Driving at a one
way highway every now and then there is a truck or a bus coming towards you
in your lane, even though they have their own highway in their direction 100
meters beside. The drivers have probably a left turn coming and think your
road is easier, better or shorter!!!
Saturday in Jos, the missionary headquarter in Nigeria, was very quiet, and
we went to bed after watching a soccer match at the telly
(Blackburn-Arsenal).
*Day 107:*
Sunday January 14. 2007
Jos-Gombe
If Saturday evening is quiet, Sunday morning is totally dead in Jos. The
complete town was deserted when we went for a morning stroll. They were
probably all in church.

After some e-mailing and some espressos we left for Wikki Warm springs. 230
kilometres further down the road we discovered we had missed the turn to the
park with about 170 kmL. It was getting dark, so we didn't want to turn back
and therefore decided to go to Gombe instead. In Gombe we ended up in a
government run hotel, camping in there huge backyard, as their rooms were
really expensive and because we tend to sleep better in the tents than in
the not always so clean and comfortable beds/rooms. Camping was Ok for the
boss and so we went for dinner. After a few bites a big man asked to have a
seat and presented a badge, telling us he was a federal agent. He had 1000
questions for us, which answers he was duty fully writing down. Apparently
our behaviour was in some way suspicious? With a paper full of information
about us and our trip he left. Wishing us a good journey!
We finished our meal and went to bed.

*Day 101:*
Monday January 15. 2007
Gombe-Cameroon border
Having breakfast we again got disturbed by the federal agent from yesterday.
He apparently had forgotten all the answers we gave yesterday and we needed
to answer several 100 more questions before he was satisfied... The
questions off course were asked to make sure we were safe when travelling in
Nigeria?!?!? Why were we live and what we do and the reason for our trip can
be a safety reason we didn't really understand.
We headed of east as soon as our questioning were finished and ended up
going for the Cameroonian border.
Ok, so we have become a little bit cocky about the border crossings in
Africa Arriving at the border to Cameroon things looked well and the
formalities at the Nigerian side was easy enough, however things soon turned
nasty..


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