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Across Nigeria. Day Three.

(My Nigeria crossing starts with the story Into Nigeria. You should begin reading there)

Again we are up and moving early, and again the pace on the highway is frenetic. Days are blurring together, so I drink more coffee and eat more fried plantain chips, which of course only makes things worse. Eventually the highway becomes narrow and windy and four lanes eventually turn into two. If anything, the pace only increases.

I am again shocked and disoriented to whip past another dead body in the ditch on the side of the road. Much like the last one, this person appears to have been struck by a car, possibly a few days ago. Again, nobody stops or seems in the least bit concerned.

Police and military checkpoints continue in much the same way, though now the military often have sandbags blocking the road and are clearly more heavily armed, with light tanks and large guns visible. The sandbags are setup to reduce traffic to only one direction, and to proceed I must weave around them at a crawl, obviously to prevent someone plowing through at high speed. A military man stands in the middle giving vague directions, and when I misinterpret his waving, he gets extremely angry at me for coming inside the sandbag area. He yells and waves loudly, and I actually reverse backwards through the artificial S-Bend, and past all the waiting vehicles, much to his amusement. Luckily when I come through properly three minutes later, he does not seem to care about my previous mistake. I think I paid my dues by doing as he said.

Cresting a hill I see many slow vehicles and assume another military stop, though I quickly realize that is not the case. A mini-van has rolled into the ditch, and judging by the scene and number of stopped cars, I would guess it happened only minutes earlier. Onlookers are frantically dragging bleeding people from the van, and I see a pickup with four people in the back who are all badly injured. One man holds his bloodied head in his hands and does not look at all good.
The consequences of this nutty driving are all too clear, though it does not seem to change anyone’s behavior one bit.

I contemplate stopping to help, though conclude my presence can only make things worse, and there are already many onlookers doing what they can. I have been warned repeatedly traffic accidents in Africa can quickly escalate and become violent, and often any white person in the general area will be blamed. The general advice is not to linger, and so I keep moving, feeling terrible about what I have just seen.

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The broken road South to Calabar

Around lunchtime we arrive at the famous town of Ikom, only 15 miles from the border with Cameroon. We have driven clear across the entire country of Nigeria in only three days, without any issues. Here we turn South, aiming for the big city of Calabar where we plan to acquire yet another visa. The road quickly deteriorates into severely broken pavement with monster pot holes. Our progress slows to a crawl, and combined with constant military and police stops, the sixty miles takes over four hours. Somehow we can’t find a “food is ready” place in any of the little villages we pass through, and so lunch is a papaya bought from a lady on the side of the road.

Calabar is a monster city, bigger and more modern and organized than anything I have seen for a very long time. We drive right into the center of downtown and pull into the fenced compound of a nondescript hotel. The security men are actual Nigerian Military, complete with uniforms and AK47s. They are very friendly and happy to chat, though they insist I can not take any photos because they are moonlighting working security here.
One almost lets me hold his rifle, though his buddy suggests that too is a bad idea.

jeep nigeria dan calabar 720x480

In the hotel parking lot, Calabar (photo taken by military guy)

We are impressed and more than a little skeptical to hear the hotel has a “sound proof” generator, and are assured we don’t need to worry that our windows open directly onto the concrete yard with the generator. The toilet does not flush, the “hot shower” is freezing cold and the shower head is broken, though none of that seems to matter in the least. We are inside the compound and there is a soft bed.
Again it’s Jollof rice – this time with beef – for dinner, and again I collapse into bed utterly exhausted.

Day three in Nigeria.


14 Responses

  1. Pat says:

    Dan! Another great post from Africa! I’ve been following your blog and vehicle set up for sometime. I wish you safe travels during your adventure and truly hope you organize these blog posts and pictures into a book and/or DVD when you’re all done – I’ll preorder both right now!

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hi Pat,

      Thanks for the kind words!
      I absolutely plan a picture book when I am finished in Africa, and actually I am slowly getting closer to my first “print” book about my Pan-American drive.. hopefully it will be done in the new few months.

      A DVD is an interesting idea. I will give it some thought!

      All the best!


  2. Adedayo says:

    Interesting stuff. I’m Nigerian and I’ve been waiting for months to see your account of this section of your trip.

    I’m glad to hear that the experience is not so bad. Can you post a map graphic of your trip across Nigeria?

    Btw, 2+2 in Nigeria is equal to 4. Those food vendors were only trying to exploit you because you’re a foreigner.

    Enjoy the rest of your trip.

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hi Adedayo,

      I also have been looking forward to Nigeria – there are so many mixed reports I am excited to experience it for myself.
      On the whole it’s been mind-blowing – Police and military are friendly, and always say “Welcome to Nigeria”, etc.

      I am headed into the mountains soon and am really excited for that!


  3. olof says:

    Why in the world do you do this? To eat Jolof rice? From your posts it seems like you are driving, then being hassled, than driving more,and then hassled some more, then fooled by vendors and merchants, and then locking yourself up in high security hotel to avoid being robbed or kidnapped. I really do not understand what you find enjoyable about this?

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hi Olof,

      When crossing an entire continent you must take the good with the bad, sometimes there is no other choice – like when I drove across Honduras in a single day. Read more on the why of Nigeria here – http://theroadchoseme.com/into-nigeria
      It really is the best option right now.

      Also, I enjoy a good challenge. I feel more alive in the last year in Africa than I did in the four years combined prior to this working at a desk!


  4. K.C. says:

    I have no idea how your blog popped into my Facebook news feed a few months ago, but I’ve been thoroughly enjoying it from my desk here in my windowless office in Encino, California. I look forward to your posts and have read through almost all of your Pan American blog as well.

    Thanks for taking the road less traveled – and thanks for sharing!!

  5. Chris says:

    Hi Dan,

    Thanks for the kick-ass Nigerian travel updates! This adventure was a mixed bag to say the least. Please keep the Jeep pictures coming…(Name?) looks great and seems to be handling the miles quite well.

    Safe travels

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hey Chris,

      Thanks! The Jeep is named “Sandy” in honor of my $450 Subaru named “Rusty” that I had for years and years before Sandy.
      Yes, she is doing great!

  6. CMSMSJ says:

    Good afternoon!

    Thanks for the update again, we’re loving it.
    Two question though;
    1) Where can we find the exact route(or at least more detailed) you guys took through Nigeria?
    2) Do you know the opening times of the consulate where you got your Cameroon visa?

    Thanks in advance,
    Again, great blog and stay safe!

    Warm regards,
    Shakura and Martin

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hey guys,

      1) I don’t have any gps track or anything like that. Basically I drove straight across the country on the biggest road you will see on any map. That’s what basically all overlanders do.

      2) no idea officially, I think we got there just after 9am and it was open, and I imagine it’s open until 4 or 5. It was extremely friendly and accommodating and easy. I think it’s a certainty to get the visa.

      Have fun!


  7. Guy says:

    good to see you learnt quickly about the Generator noise issue – and stuck to jollof rice- the local food might have been a bit of a hassle if you had tried it out. were you not intrested in historical places in these locations you pass through? is it only the thrill of the road? perhaps the security issue took exploring off the table though i guess.

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