Sunday, 20 April 2008

17th April 08

Date: 15, 16 and 17th April 08
Location: Calabar, Nigeria
Weather: Scattered clouds, very humid and potentially stormy. 35°c
Status: Everyone’s having a really good time, vehicles all good too.

A summary of the last three days as it’s been a whole load of driving, sleeping and not much else!

Over the last few days we’ve made our way from the west of Nigeria to the capital Abuja and tonight I’m writing the dairy report from Calabar in the west of the country, it’s a huge one but we’ve managed to get through it with little difficulty, effort and most of all no problems…yet!

We left the ridiculously expensive First Molac Hotel in Owo and started what we thought would be a simple four hour drive to the capital….it took eight and when we finally arrived in Abuja everyone was ready to eat and sleep.

Tris Bartlett, the uncle of my lovely friend Tabs in England, has been waiting for me to arrive for the last two weeks, with all the changes of my schedule and plans I think he thought I would never arrive. Tris works for the British Council and has the luxury of living on site at the rather palatial HQ, and it was a welcome relief to spend the night here after a filling fish dinner! I slept outside on the roof and loved the views over probably the most developed and advanced city I’ve visited in Africa. In the morning I had a good 2hr run round a route which Tris recommended and ended up getting totally lost so felt shattered when I got back to the others.

Later that morning I collected my birthday parcels from the offices of Julius Berger where another patient star, Poul Nielsen, had been looking after them for the last 4 weeks; taking up important space in his office. He generously donated a really good map of Nigeria and we headed out of the city, via the Sheridan Hotel where we met up with another group of overlanders, Patrick, Sarah and James.

We met them at Big Milly’s and left them a week ago, but with their speed as a single 4x4 and our lack of, with a Landie and truck, they caught us up in Abuja. Their destination is also SA so they’ve decided for safety and the ability to get pulled out of trouble by us, that they’ll join us for the trip down.

And then suddenly we were 3 vehicles, 10 people and 3000kms to travel!

So the 16th and another long drive, this time south to Muktadi which is on the banks of the Benue River, a tributary of the enormous Niger, where we found the run down damn expensive shit hole of a hotel where we spent the night. A good Chinese restaurant on site where we had dinner….eventually after waiting for nearly an hour! But it was good.

So this morning set off early as we had the greatest distance to cover and the least confidence in the roads yet, but again Nigeria surprised us and perfectly tarmaced surfaces, albeit with a few humugous potholes along the way! Again the usual number of police/military checks to contend with and the most frustrating/amusing of the lot was as we were heading into a town and were told that right hand drive cars are illegal in Nigeria!!! After half an hour explaining what the charity expedition was about we were getting nowhere, they wanted us to go to the police station with them, we had all of the correct documents and refused to budge and so we reached stalemate! Then Case suggested to the lead policeman that as we’re engineers we would change over the steering wheel at the side at the road for them! This was enough for them and they wished us well and let us go on our way!

We entered the outskirts of Calabar on time, and made our way with the help of a guide, to the Drill Monkey Sanctuary situated right in the centre of the city. A small grassy compound outside the gates was the location for the night, so the tents were pitched, dinner was bought from the side of the road; spicy rice and meat, and the movie started.

Another good day in Nigeria, this is becoming a habit! Tomorrow we visit the Cameroon Embassy to start the application process for the next visa…..

End of day location: Calabar, Nigeria
Distance covered: 280kms, 420kms, 550kms

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