The trip started a bit rough, to say the least! Our drivers (Niyi, Kazeem & Benjamin) departed on Thursday, April 2, to drive up to Kano and pick us up at the airport at 6PM. On Thursday, they were stopped on the road and had to pay 35,000 Naira (~$230) for car stickers – Mobile Advert Agency (MOA), Loading and Offloading Agency (LOA), and some sanitation agency – stickers that we don’t need as we are not advertising or loading/offloading. That is Nigeria for you! What is odd is that one of the drivers from another company had the stickers, which did not bode well for our drivers talking themselves out of it having to buy them. We were also missing a copy of the Proof of Ownership in our vehicle so Bob had to get a copy for the rest of the trip and our driver Niyi had to dash (bribe in this case) the police man to get through the stop. The drivers made it to Abuja the first night.
On Friday around 11AM, Bob got a call from Niyi letting him know that Kazeem rolled his car (tumbled was the word used) near Kaduna and it was totaled and that Kazeem was OK but going to the Hospital to get checked out. They said the front tire blew out and the car hit the enter divider and then veered off in the other direction off into the bush where it rolled end over end (see below). We are not sure how fast Kazeem was going but likely faster than is safe (we tell the drivers not to go faster than 120 km per hour (70mph). We got conflicting stories from the other two drivers on Kareem’s speed but we think he was going too fast. Shortly after this news came, we got the news that our flight was delayed from 530Pm to 830PM, which sucked but allowed us some time to figure out what we were going to do and how we were going to get another vehicle. Jonathan, who thought fast, called Land Transport in Abuja and arranged a Land Cruiser with a driver (Bayo) and guard (James) to drive up to Kano and meet us on Saturday, to arrive about the same time Niyi and Benjamin would be making it up there after dealing with the damaged car and making sure Kazeem was safely on his way home. This car would only be able to take us in Nigeria and had to turn back to Abuja when we went into Cameroon, which caused yet another problem as Judith and Georgina did not want to travel into Cameroon with just two vehicles so they had decided to do the beginning of the trip with us and fly back to Lagos on Tuesday. Joy and Ryan, who did not have their own car, decided to stay behind in Lagos, save some vacation days and take a shorter trip to Krebbi, Cameroon which they enjoyed (Thanks for having us over for dinner to share stories).
Sunday morning we started with another shower, Indomie noodles and egg for breakfast, we paid the bill and departed with our guide to the oxbow lake in the Bade-Nguru Wetlands. If you are a birder, the wetlands are for you as it is the destination for over 350 migratory birds making the trip between August and May. The best time to visit is in December but a few species still remain in April. We saw egrets, blue heron, purple heron, glossy ibis, Abyssinian rollers, and African open-billed storks, to name the major birds we saw. We happened to arrive just at the end of a fishing festival and the fishermen were slowly making their way across the lake with their nets and calabash full of fish. We snapped some photos of the people, fish, funky beetles, and then continued on around the oxbow lake and back to the cars.
On our way out, the guides took us on the wrong road, a road traveled by huge trucks that have much more clearance than our cars did. The first car, a Land Cruiser, got stuck (high-centered in deep-rutted tracks) in the sand and then we did, the third car, a lower clearance Prado. The middle land Cruiser pulled out both vehicles. Check out the video of our car being pulled out backwards.
We turned around, went back through town to a quiet oasis where we set up camp, ate our dehydrated meals and went to bed. Shortly after we arrived, a Fulani man on horseback stopped by and Jonathan and Bob tested out his bow and arrow, which he used as protection from thieves. The picture below is of a Fulani man that stopped by in the morning but the picture of Bob is using the bow and arrow from the Fulani man that stopped by soon after we arrived.
Around 830AM, we headed into the dunes to Tulou Tulou a small village in Nigeria on the border with Niger. When we first got into the sand I was convinced we would get stuck in the middle of nowhere but the drivers did a great job even though they did not have any sand driving experience or limited 4WD experience it seemed. Most of the drivers did not know how to shift into 4WD nor did they know how to shift out of Drive and into lower gears when needed. Niyi, our driver, learned on the fly. The route took us into Niger, about 2.5 miles inland and the 12.5 mile traverse took us through Alkamari, Niger. When we arrived in Tulou Tulou, we had half a tank of fuel and needed to get some more to get back. We bought 28L in this remote town and added some fuel treatment in case it was bad. We also bought some minerals before heading back to Yusafari on a slightly different route. While we were there we snapped a few photos on both sides of the border.
We arrived at an opportune time as there was a funeral (third funeral of the year), a celebration of life, taking place for a local woman who passed away. Some musicians came into the area we were and they were playing and people were dancing. Three women came by us and started dancing and ululating (see video below). It was great.
After a drink, we went to where the main festivities were taking place and everyone was dancing in a cloud of dust, the men with swords and the women with bowls. That is the tradition. The festivities them moved up to her home where the dancing continued (video below).
From Sukur we drove up to Pilka and then to the border in Kerawa to start the long border process. About 10km before we got to the border, we were stopped at a police checkpoint when a man showed up on an okada as he heard we were coming (we sort of stand out in a Black Prado with tinted windows). One police man stepped in front of the car and cocked his gun to make the point that we needed to stop. The okada man was asking for our papers but we did not want to give them to him. Once we told the man we were going to Cameroon for touirsm, he was OK with us going through to the border. We got there about 12 noon adn went into a small, hot room to do the immigration papaerwork while took care of the car paperwork with the okada man. in another building. Other than taking time, getting out of Nigeria was easy at a crossing used oficially by very few people (10 people in the last month, 6 from Lagos that we knew). We crossed the border, a dry lake bed, into Cameroon. The process on this side of the border was a bit slow, partly due to the lack of a stamp pad then the stamp pad that was brought was nearly dry. We were approved for a 7 day stay in Cameroon despite having a 30 day visa; this was the first sign that Cameroon really makes it difficult for a tourist passing through by car (we have heard this form others who have not made it). Next we drove 10km to the customs office in Kolofata to get take car of the car paperwork. We had insurance for the car that we got through our company (leter was in English, should have tranlsted into French) for a total of 10 days but we only planned on staying in Cameroon for 4 days. We were told that we had to come and go from the same border, which was not our plan and while we were making our decision, the woman doing the paperwork decided to leave for lunch (230PM) but did not let us know. After we decided to go in and out of Cameroon through Kolofata, we waited for the woman to return from lunch adn got some cold drinks across the street. It was miserably hot! They eventually provided us paperwork to travel for 3 days and we were to stop at two other customs stations (Korghi, Mora an Maroua) to check in and get the additional day added to our paperwork. We had to pay an overtime fee as we were told the office closed at 3PM. Why did the woman go to lunch at 230PM? We were on the road at 345PM.
Our guide had not heard of a museum in Pousse so we had to ask for directions. The museum was simple, with 4 tall decorated mud huts. No other huts in the area looked like this.
Jonathan, the guide, Bob and Niyi.
On Sunday morning, we quickly walked through the Rhumsiki Market on the way our of town back to Maiduguri in Nigeria.