21st of October – 30th of October 2019:
Already in the preparation phase of this trip, Nigeria was always a hot topic for discussions. Until now, we did not know if it was possible to enter this huge country. In addition, we were worried about all the security warnings from all sides and therefore did not give us a lot of hope for a safe journey.
At the border, everything went smoothly and we could enter the office of the immigration officer quickly. Thanks to the air conditioning, we waited feeling cold until the rather lazy employees checked our documents. One of the officers saw through our scheme and blamed us to be tourists and not to travel to Nigeria for business. We could not convince him otherwise, so he called Jeevan and still did not believe our story. After calling the local manager of the company in Lagos, who told him our unofficial plans, he agreed to let us enter Nigeria.
We knew from the beginning that we would need an escort form the border to the approximately 100 km remote airport in Lagos. An Egyptian was at the border as well and we shared the costs for the official, which accompanied us. Surprisingly, we could even convince him to let follow us while cycling. Quickly, he realized that we were much slower than his car and he shouted “faster, faster” out of his car window. After 20 km and more than eight checkpoints where the police and military checked our passports, our escort told us that his car loses petrol.
At another checkpoint, some soldiers insufficiently checked our luggage and offered us wife’s in exchange for our bicycles. Since we already gave all our local currency to our escort, we had no money left for food. After we told our preferences to one of the soldiers, we asked him if he had something to eat for us. Immediately, he accompanied us to a restaurant and said he would pay for the bill. The woman who prepared the food and all other people surrounding us, were surprised that we eat African food.
A few kilometers further, the road turned extremely muddy or we had to cycle over rocks. Cars and motorbikes approached us from all directions and we hardly moved. Suddenly, we saw our escort in a new car and the new driver was wildly gesticulating. We stopped and the official was very angry and upset. He screamed at us and told us we have to load our bicycles into the car immediately, since he had no more time and motivation to follow us.
Due to his temper, we had no choice and had to surrender. Therefore, we drove the first and hopefully last time with a motorized vehicle with our bicycles inside. At the airport, everything went quick and we finally got our visa and the entry stamp.
Due to our vehement search after contacts in Nigeria, we met Olabisi and she helped us even before we arrived in Lagos. We could stay at her place as long as we wanted.
Charles, a friend of Olabisi helped us to organize a SIM-card and whereas explained us the mentality of Nigerians. In comparison to the previous countries, people in Nigeria behave differently and therefore such tips are welcome anytime.
By bicycle, we went to the island, where the city center of Lagos is situated. We could profit from a bridge built in the water as kind of a viaduct and therefore we avoided cycling through the city. In the center, there is so much traffic that there is always traffic jams. Partly the roads are destroyed and therefore almost impassable. At the Cameroonian embassy, we were lucky to meet friendly people and in one hour, we had our visa. At least the most expensive visa (120 USD) so far, was easy to get.
Lagos is a gigantic city with smoky traffic, skyscrapers and countless slums. The contrast between rich and poor is humongous. With more than 22 million inhabitants, Lagos is most certainly the largest city in Africa and the metropolitan region is one of the most populous in the World. After independence, Lagos was the capital from 1960 up to 1991. Since then, Abuja is the capital. Lagos is still the cultural center of the country and therefore responsible for the production of the famous Nollywood movies.
Together with Olabisis and her fiend Mercy, we discovered the neighborhood and ate some meals we never tried before.
Motivated, we left the loud and lively metropolis and took the express highway northwards. Repeatedly, there were traffic jams due to different reasons, despite the road had three or even four lanes. On the opposite traffic lane, the traffic stopped completely for some kilometers and suddenly all motorbikes came towards us on our side of the road.
When we crossed a broad river, we realized that the river was too high and therefore flooded many barracks. We saw people who were in the water up to their heads, saving as many of their belongings as possible.
While we lay in the tent, not far from the main road, four locals from a nearby village visited us. Two of the men carried machetes and this did not scare us, since that is normal. The men explained us that they wanted to check who we were, since bandits kidnapped some people form their village lately. Now we knew that this time the machetes served as a weapon. Both parties were relieved and even though we were a bit confused, tried to sleep.
The two- or three-lane road was partly in miserable conditions and sometimes excellent. At countless roadblocks stood police officers and militarists with Kalashnikovs in their hands. Many shouted something in our direction; some imitated our cycling while dancing and only one time we had to show our passports. Just one police officer asked for presents and the rest he did not care about.
Generally, many people shouted funny things in our direction. For example: “White, how far?” or Chinese. A couple of times, we were surprised by hard rain and when we did not find shelter, we were soaking wet.
During another downpour, we took a break with some people in front of a shop and had a lively discussion about the differences of our countries. The friendly men in their twenties asked us what we eat, how our country looks like and how the weather is. Some of them already had a wife and children. However, they did not have a job and earn their money by being tricksters.
The landscape got hillier and we climbed many ascents. The smoky and completely overloaded trucks exist in Nigeria as well and increase our risk to get cancer every time they overtake us.
Before we descended a hill, Fabian noticed a slipper on the road and a motorbike in the bush. After taking a closer look, he saw the driver in the bush, who survived with only a few scratches.
After a night in an abandoned house, more and more people who were on the way to Lagos by bus gathered around us. Their bus had a flat tire, so they watched what the white people do. Quickly, the topic started to be religion. The group belonged to an international cult and therefore did not like to hear that Adrian’s is not religious at all. Despite all that, they wanted to pray with us and since we are guests in their country, we did not resist and therefore provoke unnecessary discussions.
Two boys who help in their parent’s restaurant on the weekend and after school surprised us with their professionalism. They served us food and the usual water in a plastic bag, as if they never did anything else. In most places in Nigeria so far, not even the locals drank the well water. Therefore, we had to drink the water out of the plastic bags.
At many military controls, we got as much water as we wanted and therefore had something out of the control as well. One specific checkpoint was particularly funny, since the boss rested on a mattress like a king and surrounded himself by snacks and water bottles, which he stockpiled. We assumed that every woman who wanted to sell things around the checkpoint had to pay some kind of tax.
We were resting in our tent only a few hundred meters from the main road, directly next to a small trail. After we installed our sleeping place, a young man passed us with his motorbike and said hello. We explained him that we wanted to rest for one night here and he said that would not be a problem and he left. A few minutes later, we saw a shepherd with some cows, otherwise the surroundings were quiet and we could relax perfectly.
We hardly started a movie on our laptop, when suddenly five men with flashlights came out of the dark screaming loudly. Quickly, we realized that the situation was serious and we had to be careful. Everything went quickly: They fired a shot, the men gathered around the tent and brandished around with their guns and machetes. On one side of the tent, they destroyed the mosquito net at the entrance with the machete, to haul Adrian out of the tent. Hardly outside, the leader of the gang fired the next warning shot in the air, directly next to Adrian’s ear, who did not hear anything at all after that.
The men pressed us on the floor and searched our tent. Whereas, one of the men slapped Fabian in the face, because he did not follow the orders immediately. They searched all our equipment for valuables, while they held us tightly. They did not find our money, but all electronic devices. Repeatedly, they said we should be silent or they would kill us!
The men were dead drunk and therefore the screaming went back and forth. Quickly, we realized that they did not even know themselves what they wanted. Repeatedly they asked us why we did not stay in a hotel. We explained why, but they did not understand or listen. Strangely, they said we would be safe with them, since they belong to the police.
After a while, they wanted that we transfer money online to their account using our smartphone, but we explained them that this was impossible. We told them many times, that we could go to the bank and withdraw money with our card. However, this scenario they did not like at all and after that, they said they do not want our money anyway.
After additional death threats and searching of our equipment, we though if we should just give them all our money, but were afraid at the same time that they would hurt us, since we only gave it to them now. In the beginning, we did not even think about giving them the money, since nobody specifically asked us. Until the end, we had no idea what was the reason for this whole attack.
Finally, they called the police and they really came. We took our material and drove to the police station with their vehicle. The only damage we carried away was that both Adrian’s ear and Fabian’s cheek hurt and part of the tent was broken. Under shock and with weak knees, we reached the police station and got a room for the night. We bought a large beer and some biscuits to digest the life-threatening situation.
The next day, we discussed with some police officers and found out that the representatives of the community were probably scared and therefore attacked us. Apparently, the life death threats were only to scare us, but this did not really help us change the situation anymore.
Since years, there are problems between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria. On one side, both want to see one of their own people as the president. Additionally, there are hundreds of tribes and all represent their own interest.
With mixed feelings, we left the police district to continue our trip eastwards. When we reached the spot, where the incident happened two nights ago, we both thought back to this inconvenient situation.
After a relatively flat, long descent, we reached the plain, where the river Niger runs through. An immense bridge led us across the third longest river in Africa that we crossed already in May in Guinea. Back then, we saw the river before the rainy season and only a couple of hundred kilometers after its source. Until the Niger enters the sea, it swells up extremely and grows unbelievably.
We followed the recommendations of the police officers in Agbor and asked in Awka at the police station if they have a safe place for us to stay. At the end, we could pitch our tent directly in front of the police station and therefore had a safe place to sleep.
To exit the city in a safe environment, the chief of police provided an escort for us, until we entered the next state. The further we got, the worse the roads got. The road during a longer had nothing left from the original road and we had to fight through the mud pools. All of this came with steady oncoming traffic and exhaust fumes in our faces.
On the way eastwards, we passed through the city of Onithsa (1.2 million inhabitants). In 2016, this city had the highest air pollution with particulate matter in the World. We felt this intense pollution and could only breathe through our nose, since the inhaled air would otherwise burn in our throat.
In hilly Enugu, we could stay with the brother of the police commandant from Agbor and his family received us warmly. All family members wanted to try out our bicycle to prove that they know how to cycle with such sports equipment.