Well here we are in Nigeria and it is pitch black. Something we try to avoid at all costs. There seems to be never ending villages and then crazy police/military/vigilantes shining bright torches at us. Stop, stop nearly every 10meters. They are brandishing guns and or large sticks. Apparently, the borders are closed to goods so they all are checking what we have on board. Absolute madness!!! We find the first hotel we can and stop. Not the best scenario as the generator is roaring on one side of us and the nightclub on the other. Definitely a sleeping pill night! We head off in the morning. It is Friday and we have only 80km to get to Lagos to the Cameroon Embassy to get our visas.
Hmmmmmm! Broken roads, mud and then finally motorway. We should make it, but a wrong turn takes us to truck gridlock a mere few kms from Victoria Island, and 2 hours in total gridlock means we arrive late. The ambassador has gone. We will have to wait until Monday. We head to a hotel complex that has a huge carpark and take a room if necessary. But again, traffic is gridlocked. There is a massive party (we discover it is for the death of the King) and the carpark is packed. One crazy story though: At one gridlocked intersection there were about 6 guys (military & police) who practically came to blows when they try directing the flow of traffic. A lot of yelling & shoving! Eventually we find a small hotel and end up camped outside. The next day we head back to the Eco Resorts, park GR2 in the huge carpark and settle in for 2 days of enforced R&R. There is a lovely pool and it will be our last relax before the long haul through our last section of this trip. As we head out for dinner one night we are amazed at the queue of expensive cars & the huge number of guards with large guns – inside the complex!
Monday morning, we head to the Embassy & 30mins later we have our visas. The very helpful man rings the DRC Embassy in Yaounde – and yes, we can get visas there. Fingers crossed all goes well there – this will be our last visa to collect. So, we plunge back in to the Lagos traffic, but apart from the area around Vic Island & Lagos Is it is flowing smoothly and continues for the rest of the day. We drive across an amazing bridge that edges the city, then motorway for miles – and yay no police stops. This of course changes once we turn and head east. On the whole they are easily distracted by me saying “Good Afternoon Sir “and “Is this the right way to……….” and generally chattering on until they wave us on. We end the day at an hotel at Ore (a much bigger town than marked on my map) & squeeze in. Noisy, but they have a pool!
Ready to leave bright and early, but squeezing out is tricky. I get extremely flustered trying to give directions with 10 locals all yelling different ones! After filling a pot hole that threatens to tilt GR2 into a nasty wall, John manoeuvres her out. Phew. All day driving today. Lots of great double-laned roads, but plenty of broken up stuff too. Main roads that have closed down, meaning detours through mud and heaps of police stops. Our last stretch is appalling. We move at a snail’s pace, totally relieved to find our hotel carpark in Enugu.
We cannot use the main border as it is closed to foreigners so we are heading north to cross a small border at Gembu. The day we left Lagos a Secret Service officer stopped us and spent nearly an hour going over maps and working out a route for us. He even rung a few people to check road conditions, so we will follow his instructions. Fingers crossed.
So again, another day driving. Fortunately, the guys at our hotel tell us about a better road heading north (better than returning to the main road on that nasty broken up stretch) – it is awesome and we soon find out why. There are height barriers. Fortunately, we can squeeze around them, but large trucks wouldn’t be so lucky. Back on the main roads of course there are more potholes and police/military stops (64 today). Many ask for water, but when we offer them some they say” No, No, money to buy some”. We arrive at Ghoko by 3pm. A bit early to stop but there are a few hotels here and who knows how long it will take to get to the next decent town. Our third attempt finds Jovan Hotel with a big enough entry and carpark. And the generator is turned off as they don’t have any other guests
We wake early/it’s still dark, when the groundsman starts washing GR2. At least we can leave at first light. The roads are generally better now as there are a lot fewer trucks. Sadly, the police stops are not reduced. Today our total is 120 in just over 300km, taking all of 9 hours. Most are Ok but a few are a real pain. One even had a list of crazy infringements to fine us eg overloading: excuse me have they looked at Nigerian vehicles! Scenery wise everything is lush & green, there are countless mudbrick/thatched villages & larger scruffy towns. People are everywhere and the number of school kids is booming. Maybe it is something to do with no electricity at night! When we stop for diesel, we are the circus freaks. Don’t think these kids have seen whities before! We pull over for the night at Matum Bigu – there are 3 guesthouses on our list, all rather hard to find. The first 2 have arched entries. Our friendly motorbike helper leads us to the 3rd one, again down a dirty sandy track and yes, we can fit. Awesome. A night on the street surrounded by dozens of kids doesn’t sound like fun. Oh and today I broke my camera again (the on/off switch this time) so it is back to the box brownie!
Again, an early start. We are turning off the main road to head south east to our border. Who knows what the roads will be like – so we plan to drive about 200km and stop at the National Park. To our surprise we get there by 11.30am as the roads are pretty good. The Park is flooded, so we decide to continue our drive to Gembu, straight up to the mountains on a crazy broken up road. Slow going, but really gorgeous. Then on to high plateau. We could be driving through NZ farmlands. And of course, there are the numerous stops. The villages are pretty poor & scruffy so we really want to find our hotel before dark, but the stops (naturally) get more bothersome. It is nearly dusk as we wind down a narrow back street. I am crossing all my fingers hoping for a tall entry gate and Yes, they have one. Gech an House of Hope in Gembu is a lovely place to stay. They run a hospital, guesthouse, restaurant & church. Here we meet Jeff who is a missionary working between here and Cameroon. He fills us in with border info & Cameroon as a whole; we shout him dinner: it is money well spent.
Our final day. We have to back track 40km, then we have 80km of rough 4x4 driving to do before the border. And what a challenge it proves. Absolutely no sign posts, just follow the most used track. Fortunately, it is mostly dry, but there are huge sections of rock, very steep sections requiring low range 4wd, rivers to cross, huge ruts and some very dodgy bridges. As we end up following a convoy of overloaded old Landrovers we assume this is the correct track, and then the worn track where small 6wd trucks carry cheap fuel to Cameroon. Then the border formalities, followed by another 40km of just as bad road on the Cameroon side. Phew. A huge day with some of the hardest 4x4 driving we have done in GR2.
John reckons the first words they learn in English is “give me the money”. Oh, and in total we were stopped well over 300 times. (I forgot to count the first night in the dark!)
Goodbye Nigeria – this has been one crazy ride. I for one am glad to leave you!