From Lagos to Chaos

February 21, 2020

After a rest day in Lagos I left the chaotic city with some caution. The general advice of foreign affairs is negative. The risk of getting robbed or kidnapped is high in this country and therefore I’m taking some safety measures. I’m not wild camping and not cycling during the night. I made a strict plan on where to sleep and limit the amount of km’s so I won’t get surprised by anything.

City hopping

Safety

From Lagos I immediately head east and since I’m trying to keep up to my plan I cycle on the big roads. This is not very nice and almost up to 20 times a day I pass by police/army/??? checkpoints. Mostly these guys are heavily armed with machine guns, making me feel so very safe… Sometimes they are armed with sticks and golf clubs and I wonder if some of them are official or not? Most of the checkpoints I just have a small chat with mostly the same results:

  • What are you doing? Where are you going?
  • I’m cycling from Belgium to Tanzania, I covered about 11.000km so far
  • NO! Thats’s not true, you’re lying! It’s impossible
  • Yes I am, I can prove you, showing the map and trying to convince them I’m not a spy or anything (seriously, some of them are convinced I am)
  • What ??? That is unbelievable (with lots and lots of expression and intonation in their voices) !!!!

Then we laugh and chat and I continue. Actually a fun distraction for them and me.

meeting some nice guys along the road

But about 2 – 5 times a day some checkpoints ask me money/present/”water”… Some of them are trying to intimidate me by asking what’s in the bags, tapping it with their stick or gun. I’m not letting that happen and every time I politely tell them I don’t do that, or that “I have water in my bottle, thank you!”. I sometimes think about how people warn me for armed criminals trying to rob me, doesn’t seem very different than those guys. This is sad because people on the street don’t seem to take them seriously and it gives a bad name to the many really nice people I meet.

Many times on the street people just shout at me “white guy!” or “Chinese” or many different things. That’s in the whole of Africa already and I don’t mind, most of the time it’s just for fun and I just wave at them. Occasionally I stop to have a conversation. Most of them actually never spoke to a white man before and some kids even come and touch my skin and my hair.

Road safety

Cycling the bigger roads is not great at all! Nigeria is the most populated country in Africa and like most countries, they love cars. People drive like crazy and I’m very often scared for my life while cycling here. A couple of times a truck just forces me off the road, if I wouldn’t do that they would just hit me. That pisses me off and results in a lot of yelling and swearing at the truck…

Irritation

After a couple of days I get sick of it, I just have enough of it and having a hard time. I feel isolated and lonely in this big chaotic country. Luckily I still meet nice people along the road, but when cycling and at night, I feel alone. It’s a struggle every day: corrupt police, crazy truck drivers, terribly bad exhaust fumes irritating my eyes and lungs,… I’m getting to a point I want to just stop…

I see the light!

On the road I meet Chris again, the Swiss guy who’s going to South Africa on a motorcycle. This is a relief and great distraction. We decide to meet up near Enugu. We both read that there’s a Christian monastery (the first one in Nigeria) with some waterfalls and decide to head up there. The best choice I made! This place is a haven of peace and quiet: no busy traffic, no shouting people everywhere, no corruption,… There even is a waterfall nearby and we decide to take a rest day there and visit that.

Solar sisters

On my rest day I decide to visit solar sisters. That’s an organisation that invests in woman’s rural communities with sustainable products (like solar panels) in Africa. Excuse me the copy/paste from heir website but I think they explain it best:

Solar Sister believes women are a key part of the solution to the clean energy challenge. This is why we invest in women’s enterprise in off-grid communities. We see the opportunity to empower women and to reach those who aren’t reached by business-as-usual energy models. Centering local women in a rapidly growing clean energy sector is essential to eradicating poverty and achieving sustainable solutions to climate change and a host of development issues.

Solar sisters!

They took me to one of these communities where they had a meeting. It was a great experience to see how they all support each other and where bonding and helping each other like real sisters. In a very African way they had this meeting: starting and ending with their song that actually is quite catchy. I’m very thankful to have visited this project and will do so in Tanzania. If you want to know more please visit their website and make a donation today! I will, like some other previous project I visited, raise funds by giving presentations for this cause!

Thanks to my sponsors to make this project possible, give them a thumbs up!

and thanks for the great support!