Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Boat Ride from Cameroon to Nigeria

Route taken is shown in yellow below, starting in Idenau, Cameroon and ending in Calabar, Nigeria, through waters at the center of a heated border dispute (Bakassi Peninsula). Note the scale for reference.

The day we departed Cameroon started early. We left Limbe via taxi for Idenao at 6:15AM and arrived Idenao port at 7AM, where negotiations for the boat ride started and immigration stamped our passports (1.5 hours); the negotiations were over the fare and ensuring each of us had a life jacket (or tire inner tube). There are ferrys that travel from Idenao to Calabar but they take about 8 or more hours so we opted for the "flying boat" that would take 3 to 4 hours. The flying boat is an open boat (boats in foreground of image below), about 18 feet long, with one engine and two large fuel cans. The larger boats in the background are Ghana fishing boats.

In the port of Idenao there were many spectators watching us as we finalized negotiations and finally departed for Nigeria. The boat ride started out with calm waters until the captain drove directly into a black squall with INTENSE DRIVING RAIN and lightning. We were comforted by the fact that for most of the boat ride we could see land and Bob had a GPS so we could ensure that we were being taken where we wanted to go. The rain was stinging and pelting us due to the speed of the boat and the wind. It was coming down so hard that I ended up getting very wet even though I was wearing a rain jacket and pants. Our luggage was in plastic bags but some of it still got wet too. We did get pulled over by some Nigerian Police once we entered Nigerian waters but there was no issue... but the boat captain did get distracted and then grounded the boat on a sand bar, which luckily caused no problems.
This is the only picture that was taken on the boat trip; it was taken early, before the deluge began. There I am peeking around from behind Sharon! ; )
Coming into Calabar with the Nigerian flag proudly flying. Once we finally got to the port of Calabar (after the 3.25 hour ride) we searched for the immigration office, where our drivers and security were to meet us, and a suitable place to dock. we were very happy to see our drivers! There was no place set up to disembark from a boat this small and we eventually had to climb aboard another boat (see rusty boat in pic below) and then cross a sketchy ladder to get up to the level of the dock. There were lots of people around watching the "oyibos". We were greeted by Samual, a Nigerian Police man, who helped keep the atmoshpere calm while we made our way off the boat and to the immigration office, which was a smooth process where surprisingly no one asked us for money to facilitiate the paperwork.
When we arrived in Calabar we were expecting to see three drivers but there were only two. One of the drivers got into an accident along the way and rendered the car unfit for the rest of the trip. On to the Afi Drill Ranch...

1 comment:

Dominic said...

Very brave of you :)