Seabreeze to Nigeria
February 8, 2020
After Ivory coast I followed the coastal roads towards Nigeria. A welcoming change with more facilities but on the downside more chaotic traffic.
After my visit at SOS forêts in Abidjan I had set off towards Ghana. It is a bit strange to suddenly start talking English to people again. Ghana is (like most countries) very welcoming to me and when I’m cycling by lot’s of people are waving at this strange white guy on a bicycle. Because of the flat roads and pretty decent quality I’m able to make good progress and after a couple of days I arrive in Accra. The weather is getting pretty humid and warm here. Especially in the mornings everything is wet when I wake up in a big cloud. This is not helping with my moods when waking up and trying to pack a wet tent.
From Accra I get to Togo. There a corrupt officer tries to trick me asking 5000CFA (around 7,5 euros) more for a transit visa. I look at the visa stamp and indicates the right price. When I ask him why it is more he tells some lame excuse and I stand my ground. Luckily he gives it back without too much hassle and I’m free to go. His “helper” still comes after me and asks me some money which I politely refuse. When giving in to that I will make it much harder for others to cross and helping to support corruption, no thanks. This border crossing is easily forgotten by the very welcoming people of Togo, too bad I’m leaving the same day to enter Benin. I had heard that I could easily get a Congolese visa in Cotonou and when arriving it seems true. In 30 minutes I got my visa and I can catch up in a guesthouse with other overlanders. There I meet a Spanish couple who have just crossed Nigeria and a Swiss guy who will cross it with his motorcycle.
Nigeria has a bad reputation in the news. When I read other traveller’s stories I hear many good things about the country and its population. Still, with some worries I head off to Nigeria and aiming for the biggest city of this country. A massive city with 18 million inhabitants and chaotic traffic. When entering Nigeria I have very warm welcomes, the only difference here are the many (up to 20 or more) police, army, … checkpoints. Mostly I have a good time with these guys and they are just interested in what I’m doing. Their reactions are great as well, mostly extremely surprised about what I’ve done or will be doing, with lot’s, lot’s of expression in their faces and language!
One thing is true, Lagos is chaos! Lot’s of traffic, bad roads and people screaming everywhere. The reason they scream at me is mainly out of interest but I can imagine that it can feel quite intimidating at first. The traffic is dangerous but the way I felt it cities like Bangkok where more dangerous. The roads are bigger and better making the cars drive much faster. In here there were so many traffic jams that I was usually faster than the cars. In here you have to have eyes everywhere! I have a mirror on my handlebars and look at it regularly. At the same time I have to look sideways for cars merging in and in front of me. This to avoid potholes or motorcycles, small cars or even police driving in the wrong direction. then you quickly have to look in your mirror if nobody is about to catch you in, then to the front again, assess the situation very fast en hope to avoid the guy driving in the wrong direction. At the same time people are shouting at you (out of friendliness) to get your attention or encourage you. I’m very happy I already have a life full of cycling experience in BMX, Mountainbike and road racing, I can use those skills here.
I rushed to Nigeria because my visa was about to expire and I reached my goal. Here in Lagos I took 2 rest days. The first day I arranged my Cameroonian visa which was fairly easy and a same day process. The next day I met up with the cycling community for a bike ride in Lagos. This is a very well organised group of cycling enthousiasts and I’m the only one with a touring bike. All others have race bikes and when I hear that the ride will be 70km I start to have second thoughts. Yet we leave in the darkness (early morning ride) and I’m riding in group C. It’s not easy to follow these guys on my bike and I feel that this isn’t going to be a rest day after all. After a couple of hours we get back to the main spot and I’m ready for a second breakfast. That’s the good thing about a big city, food everywhere! Good to get eating and get some energy for the next days here. This ride was well organised, I think with all groups combined we were 40-50 riders and group C about 20 riders. We even had a car escort during the whole way which was a good experience to cycle in this city (broke my phone, no pictures 🙈😓).
I’ve used the rest here to plan for the next weeks ahead and I feel ready. I’m taking things a bit slower from now on. I’m way ahead of schedule now. They gave me enough days to stay in Nigeria at the border which I’m very happy about. I can explore more of this country with enough time and no pressure. Looking forward to that!
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