Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Nigeria -Obello -Shagamu -Benin City - Onitsha -Enugu_ Ikom -Cameroon

13-09-2011 Nigeria Obello- Shagamu – Benin City—Onitsha-Enugu-Ikom Cameroon13-09-2011 
Now what shall I say, how do I start. 20 Control points in 60 km. 14 times we were stopped, sometimes, get out of the car; give your passport and then the questioning.” Why are you here?”And “What is the purpose of your visit?” and “How do you find Nigeria?” while one of the other officers fill in a register. Another officer wants to inspect the vehicles.
Nigeria is to my opinion not a Tourism friendly country. The Roads are the worst we had. I know you think this is impossible. Freeway has 4 lanes, a truck coming from the opposite side, in your lane.  All you can do is move out of the way. Coen was nearly caught head on with one of them, he didn’t see. Potholes so deep that Coen’s Land Cruiser bumped its tow bar a few times.
Once again we must do 174 km. Then the traffic came to a stop. An accident on the other side of the freeway, 3 trucks collided. This is understandable no signs or any warning, the next moment a Truck is coming from the front. Can you imagine a high way in SA and a big truck coming from the front? Surely there must be an accident within a kilometre.  They closed the freeway. All the traffic is now transferred to these 2 lanes. I can see another after dark reaching our overnight stop. These kilometres are going to take hours.
One after the other police checks points and Immigration and Customs and Traffic department. Most of them was friendly and waved us on our way, after a few questions about SA. The last question was always ‘WHAT did you bring for me from sa.  Hans always answered I am a Christian therefore i bring you the love of god” they then just smiled and wished us a safe journey. Then the next traffic check point came. The officer said his Boss want to see the drivers; he was sitting in the shade. Hans took all our documents. According to him the Carnet de Passage was a French document. Hans showed him the Nigeria stamp. Then he said according to Nigerian law, a right hand driver car was not allowed in Nigeria. Hans said they stamped our documents and imported the car to Nigeria. He was extremely difficult, but then Hans can get just as difficult. So Hans won and he said we can go without paying a bride.
We entered Benin City in the dark, no clue where the Hotel is. There is no camping in Nigeria. Hans stopped and asked a guy the directions for the hotel. When we got to the point where we must turn, Hans asked a guy on his bicycle. He said we must follow him, so we did at a record speed. After 500m he stopped and said we must turn right here and follow the boards. That was easy but the hotel was full. They directed us to Osio hotel, basically across the main road.
Beautiful Steel Doors, big Industries in the towns
More off their work
We all got our rooms. Hans said it’s a typical African hotel. We were all so grateful just to be safe and a place to sleep, the rooms didn’t matter. They were clean and had the basics.
Tonight our menu was even simpler, 2 minute noodles and old bread with sardines. Elisme took a baby standley the flask to Stephanus and Mariana. Tea was what Mariana needed after a tough day. She is slowly getting better. The coartem is doing it work. She was holding a face towel on her head the whole day, wetting it with ice water. The road and police stops were of no help to her condition. She is tough and was just smiling and saying the pain stiller helps.
Wednesday morning we all woke up early, ready for breakfast. To our surprise, knock on the door. Breakfast came on a tray, with one cup with hot water, 4 slices of bread. Hans said he thinks it was half an egg scrambled with tomato and chilli. Elisme had the mug with hot water, Cocoa and evaporated milk, very nice. Mariana asked “we’re two and only one cup” the waitress said no a room gets only one cup. We remembered this is Nigeria.
I think Hans, Stephanus and Coen got the road directions from one of the local guys. To get through Benin City without directions it is not so easy. The GPS is once again is not so reliable. tracks for Africa need to upgrade some West African countries. Coen is struggling with map studio maps. They don’t even have Benin City on it; the city has existed for more than a thousand years. Hans is very impressed with Michelin maps they are on the spot, this far on the trip.
Highway to Onitsha
Benin City has no electricity except for private generators. This is strange for an oil producing country. Benin City is the capital of this state.
The road to Onitsha is a highway this one is in an excellent condition. Strange we passed two farmers chasing their cattle on the highway.
We see many interesting advertisement boards. This one was very funny for us there’s food nearby don’t die. Nigeria has got many Christians. One can see many Christian churches and the Psalm most used is psalm 91. We passed big beautiful churches very modern like the one in Moreletta Park Pretoria.
Shanhaz took this photo of the bridge 
Onitsha was another story. The high way we could not believe no potholes and no Police road blocks. The country site the vegetation was very topical. The bridge crossing the Niger River was 1 kilometre long. A round construction 10m high with bows. So sad but you’re not allowed to take photos of the bridge. Must say it’s really impressive. Then we reach the town, we enter the market and then the traffic came to a standstill. We waited and waited, and then slowly we started moving again. This was another merry go round as Hans said “how do you describe this”. Surely a muddy mess, pot holes like swimming pools of water, cars stucked in the mud. Trucks driving on any side of the road, taxi’s squeezing in where angels fear to trend . The three SA vehicles were ducking and diving and trying to explaining and waving.Eventually after a good 2 hour struggle we were through and on our way to Enugu.
There was no change in the road condition, very bad road. But what put a smile to our faces was the warning board. Next 10 km be careful of potholes. Then we were having potholes all the way. You can’t go faster than 20 km/h then a board reduce speed to 40 kph. Somebody in this country has a good sense of humour.  
Mansions on the hills.
Modern houses in a Enugu
Enugu is a big town with modern newly built Estates and very big individual houses. All the towns in Nigeria are very dirty with debris lying all over. Modern banks but we couldn’t find one working ATM. Then small shops selling different items, like a shampoo shop and then a water shop, Cool drink shop, Material shop. So they go on everyone selling these products - fresh fruit and vegetables rarely get. Agriculture is non-existent. As Shanhaz was rightfully remarking, what are the population of Nigeria going to do if the oil runs dry, a very fertile country, but very few are working the land.
Hans got a guy in a vehicle to drive us to the NIKI LAKE RESORT. We think this was previous owned by Protea group. This one was too expensive for us. We have no idea, where to in this Town? Shanhaz and Elisme negotiated for a better price, explaining we are Campers who sleep in our vehicle. Seeing that they have no camping facilities, please give us an affordable price. They asked our budget we said 50$ they settled on 70$.
The rest checked in after a very exhausting trip.  Shanhaz and Elisme took a taxi to town to exchange money. The hotels exchange on the dollar is 100 Niara for a dollar, then the rooms will just be too expensive. In town they exchange for 154 Niara to 1$. So there the two went, very anguished but, Shanhaz saying; what must be done must be done. Soon the taxi was in the middle of a rain storm. The sunroof was pouring water on Shanhaz, she moved over to Elisme. That was of no help, both of them was soaking wet after every turn and bump, water was showering on them.
The taxi driver pointed out a small shop in a small street. This is where we must change. Elisme thought this is it, nobody will ever see her and Shanhaz again. They fetched us with a garden umbrella as this was a major storm. Inside a desk and 2 benches, a curtain at the back wall. Elisme was very sure this is where they are going to disappear. Shanhaz first ask, do they change CFA  to NIARA. They did at a reasonable rate. While she was busy the Taxi driver, like a real father, came in and watched the whole process. He even checked the money, thanked them and let us walks out in front of him to the car. Shanhaz and Elisme were so grateful to him they even paid him his full asking price. They thanked the PRO of the Hotel for recommending him and said she must always recommend him for visitors.
Hans was by now out of his mind of worries about Elisme and Shanhaz. We left at 4 o’clock and only came back at 6.30. stephanus said they didn’t know where to start looking for them.
Once again like so many time on this trip god was protecting us. He gave us a wonderful man to gide us. Here in Africa you realise what it mean to trust god.  You can only lay your daily bread to him. Your children and your businesses in South Africa, he provide in every sense.  But the beauty is that he always keeps to his promise.
Mariana did a very nice platter with cheeses, tomato’s, avo and fish. She served it with a loaf of bread. That was something new for us after 3 months off not seeing a loaf of bread. Thanks to Mariana, who is now feeling much better? She finishes her coartem.
We all had a wonderful rest. Shanhaz and Coen were thankful for the peace and quiet of the hotel.
7 o’clock we were ail ready to leave. The boys wanted to cross the border to day at mfum then into Cameroon.
Hans got a map from one of the local guys how to get out of Egunu. The town was still sleeping, so the traffic was kind. We move easily on to the road to abakaliki. This is the trans Africa road. This is very hard to describe the size of the potholes and the state of this road at some places. Then you get stretches that you can drive 100kph easily. The bad patches are really a disgrace for such an important road.
The road blocks now increase to every 600m there is a police road block. Always the question, “what have you got for me” Today I am sure this is the way god use us. We tell every policeman, we bring him the love of god and his blessings. Some just smile, some ask us are you Christians? Some agree they know god. Hans and Elisme know now what to bring them as a gift, a bible. Coen said some other Safari guys who went through Nigeria said the TRAFFIC OFFICERS HUNT IN PACKS, This is really true. Stephanus Said the whole training collage is there to stop us.
Ikom we reached at 3o’clock. The boys decided they will sleep here. The Cameroon border is now only 20 km. But the road is getting worse in Cameroon. That is Unthinkable; they say 60 km will take us 4 days???????
Hans sleep over place was, the st peters catholic church grounds. This time we got the place just as we enter town on our left hand side. The Father there was father Emmanuel his hospitality exceeded all our expectations. He said we can have rooms or just camp under the tree on the grass. Coen and Shanhaz decided to take a room. The rest of us just took a room to shower and use the toilet. We asked what we must pay, he said it was for free. He invited all of us for lunch, curry beef with Yum. He explained that the curry was made of a local plant. Elisme and Shanhaz could not figure out what it was. Hans and Coen dug in and said it was very nice. Yum grows on a plant like a seed. They make a mash and chips with it. The chips are very nice, the mash taste like maize meal porridge.
Camping at St Peters Catholic Church
Then it was time for Shanhaz to try and paste Hans tooth. his tooth broke in half and was now hurting him. Bush mechanics and now a bush Dentist. with half the tooth in hand, cleaned with alcohol and dried, everybody was giving advise. Shanhaz stayed calm and collective and put the half tooth right on the other half. she really impressed all of us. Hans was smiling again. we just hold thumbs that it will last. 
Mariana was preparing a Chicken A la King for us. Hans and Elisme went to explore the town, with one of the girls of the Church. In the street there was water puddle with green moss, mosquitos were swarming. The people were all greeting and telling us how welcome we are. The Nigerian people were really friendly, we were never afraid. Maybe we were just not in the areas where the danger are.
Soon it was clear we’re in for a thunder storm. This time rain, lighting and thunder were coming. This was showers of rain or shall I say buckets of rain pouring from heaven. No Awning helped and we 6 were soaking wet. The only nice thing of this storm was, Hans was washing the dishes under the water storming from the awning. The six of us were laughing and comparing whose clothes are the wettest.
Mkulu and Blink kas on their way
The next morning we were doing damage control. Every vehicle had problems to get stuff dry, clothes, towels and linen.  We are so organised by now, that not even a rain storm keeps us back. 7 o’clock we were on the road.
Our next border crossing Nigeria to Cameroon. Mfum. Nigeria insisted to see us all again. The 6 of us sat in front of this officer, like school children answering questions and filling in forms, the officer wrote everything in his register. He pass each Passport to the next officer, he controls and then pass to the Bose. When the Boss is satisfied he stamps the Passport. Not finished yet, go to the office across the street. A very important officer asks our Passports, he wrote everything in a register. After 1 hour, they were satisfied and said we can now go. They have big gates to block of the border post.
Cameroon was a different story, they were friendly, very efficient and soon we were on our way to the Customs Post. The boys did everything Immigration and Import of vehicles.
We must exchange money; this was the Girls’ problem. We checked the exchange rate on internet the previous day. There for we knew exactly what we were negotiating for. Eventually they gave us close to the right rate.
The Boys find out that we must have a guide, for all the bypass roads and the ‘informal’ toll gates. The officer at Immigration recommended Aba. Everything said and done, so we left with Aba.
The road soon showed us what it’s all about. That storm of last night was clearly visible on the road condition. We now realise why everybody said the roads in Cameroon are bad.
Landy pulling the Cruiser out of the bad obstacle
As we came round a sharp bench in the road, there was a vehicle stuck in the mud. No way can we pass. They asked Hans to pull them out. Soon the willing Land Rover was doing the hard work again. When the road was clear, we moved on. The landy went out, Coen followed. The Cruiser’s bull bar got stuck in the mud. The Landy pulled him out.
Our guide Aba was advising Hans at the top of his voice where to drive and how fast he must go. Hans being a novice on the Cameroon though this guy knows what he was saying. Soon we found ourselves slipping and sliding over the road, to the edge of a ditch. Hans realised he was going to slip in the ditch if he moves. He called for Coen to come and pull him away from the ditch. The road was so slippery that as the Cruiser pulled the Landy slipped in the ditch. We all thought the Landy was going to fall over. Then Hans called Stephanus in to anchor the Landy while Coen winched and Hans put it in low range 1st gear. They synchronised to winch, Hans slowly moved out, while Stephanus and the rest pull to keep the Landy from rolling. That was a nail biting experience. We got out safely.
Landy slipt in the Ditch as the Cruiser was trying to pull it away from the Ditch
Once again the Landy was in the ditch.
When going to the next obstacle, we saw this vehicle, not moving. This was a steep hill, looking like a ploughed land with big pot holes. There were deep ditches one each side. Aba was telling Hans give fire, give fire. We went up the hill half way and then we slide in the ditch. Once again the Landy was falling over. The boys tried everything. They winched it, just to get it slipping in the ditch again. Another Short wheel Land Rover came from the back. This guy stopped, got all the people out of his landy. He was taking control of the situation. Stephanus winched in, he got 10 people pulling the landy side ways out of the ditch and Hans in low range driving him out. They won the Landy was on the road again.
Stephanus was driving first now. Then he got stuck, the people pushed him and he was on his way. Reversing and going to the top. This time Hans did it his way. Low range 2 gear and slow. He went out with no problem. The Coen came and he got stucked. The 2 Cruisers help each other. Stephanus, pulled Coen out. This was at a point of a local toll gate. You don’t know what you’re paying for, the ditch stones and stumps or not paying and go through the ditch with nails and obstacles to hurt your tires. Who are we to complain, this is the system.
The afternoon was just too much, Coen got stuck again and Stephanus pulled him out. The problem is the bull bar, the holes are just too deep. This is very difficult to describe the holes and the walls of mud. There was this ditch on the sides.
After 20 km. We reach Eyumojok. We said to Aba this is where we’re going to sleep. He arranged for us at a nice spot. Shanhaz were doing Supper. Tonight we’re on Bully beef and Pasta.  Dates were for pudding. Shanhaz made a very nice Bully beef with fresh tomatoes and here special herbs. We all enjoyed it very much.
Shower time was all we were waiting for. Everybody was having mud everywhere. Hans parked against a wall and the Boys put a canvas from the Landy to the wall. First the girls were in for a shower and then the men. We all went to bed clean and tired.
Saturday morning was an early beginning; the day has just dawned when everybody was moving. We must pack and start the next shift to Mamfe.  
Hans slowly cruise through the obstacles
7 O’clock we were all ready to move. Soon we realise this is going to be the same story. The first obstacle was just a few kilometres out of town. This was really a bad one, very deep holes and ditches where the vehicles falls straight down. Hans now knows just what to do with these obstacles. He didn’t listen to Aba anymore. He learned his lesson. He went in slowly and just cruise the Landy through the obstacle. First you fall in this ditch then you must climb out again. 
Coen came in and then the Land Cruiser got stuck, same story the bull bar. The Land Rover could not come to close to pull it out. Stephanus got his towing rope; they joined the two ropes with an iron in the middle. Then the Landy pulled the Cruiser through the obstacle to the top.
The rest of the obstacles were just as bad. By now I think the Boys got wiser. The two Cruisers reversed them out of trouble. The Landy had a better day. Until Hans said he thinks the coil spring has jumped out again. He stopped and yes, it was out. They looked for a safe place to stop and soon the Boys were at work again. They jacked the Landy up, hit the coil spring back. This time they tied it with a cable tie.
Stephanus washed the lights of the vehicles and number plates. They were worried that we’ll get a fine if these were not visible. I don’t think the three Malherbe children have ever seen a vehicle of their father so dirty, and Stephanus washing it with a bucket of water.
We made sandwiches and nice condensed milk tea. We were ready to leave for Mamfe. The road now was not so bad. We reached Mamfe without anymore obstacles.
Aba took us to the St Joseph catholic church. The Father there was very kind to us. He showed Hans all the rooms that we can use. Then he came back and asked, “are you all married?’  maybe we couldn’t have double rooms if we were not married. Coen and Shanhaz took a room. The four of us will sleep in our Boudoirs.

Father mamfred said Mother lillian will prepare rice for us, seeing that we are having a stew tonight. Elisme was doing Lamb shanks and a veggie pot. Immanuel who’s looking after the place went to buy Elisme some beans, tomatoes, cabbage, bananas and a big Pawpaw for pudding.
Mother Lillian laid the table for us and we had a lovely meal, while it was showering with rain again.
Father invited the Boys to meet the SGO, he is in command of the Police, Amy and Correctional services. The girls preferred it to have an early evening to catch up with their blogs and dairies.
Tomorrow we have a new guide. Father did some enquiries on Aba. He said he was not the right guide for us. We must pay him and then tomorrow his driver will take us further.
Shanhaz got something in her eye and then she has an allergy to something that stings her. The Father said they have a good clinic here. Shanhaz saw a good Dr. He decided to do a couple of laboratory tests. One was Malaria. He gave her a cortisone injection. Medication and the Malaria test were negative. Her eye is not so serious, she must see an optometrist. 
We woke up with Church bells ringing it must be 5:30AM still dark. Hans got the kettle going for coffee. They want to leave at 7 o’clock it is only 120 km to Bamenda but the road is under construction and some places very bad.
Everybody was saying their goodbyes and thanking Father Manfred for his hospitality. We put some money to say thank you and show our appreciation. We took Photos of Father Manfred and Micheal our driver. He will now go with us to Bamenda.
Tar strip through the mountains
Land Rover Slipping and sliding
The first part of the road was a tar strip, then gravel road with bad patches. We’re now so use to bad roads that this wasn’t so bad for us. Soon we find out the road is built in stretches of tar and then gravel again. The terrain was mind blowing beautiful. The vegetation was a dense forest. There are most exquisite trees with flowers, white and purple and red ones. You also get a big variety of ferns, and then some many different trees.
As we were slipping and sliding along, traffic was coming from the front. This was a mission to pass. Look for the right spot and then, pray that the other vehicle don’t slide in to your vehicle. The Chinese are building these roads. They work on the one from Mamfe to Bamenda and Ikon to Mamfe. This is an enormous contract. I wonder what the Cameroons are giving in exchange for this.

Cameroon has no donkeys so the motor bikes do most of the transport of people and goods. Children and woman are carrying the banana bunches on their backs. You cannot believe what a weight they have to carry.
There is only one school on between Mamfe and Bamenda, in a town called widicum the children stay with their relatives during the week and then weekends go to their parents.
They only vehicles you get on these roads are land Rovers and Toyota high lux bakkies . Louis and Anton will be impressed to see how they negotiate the obstacles. They are really excellent vehicles.
We were still climbing; Coen said the altitude was 3200feet. We started at 600feet at Mamfe. This was the town of new parish the vehicles were working hard through this mud and holes. One place the construction of the road gave way. It was just rocks and a waterfall coming down. This was very scary. We all got to the other side.
Micheal was leading us to take the right little roads and pass through many villages. Names like oshum, wozi, naaka, mbate bali. Shanhaz said on the radio, look out for the girls with half naked bodies and flower skirts. Father Mamfred said this is a Catholic country. Bali you can see there is stills a big Moslem presence. The truth is here in Cameroon we saw many Christian churches. The choirs sang beautiful hymns. Some nights we fell asleep with them singing. God is very present in Cameroon. This 120 km took us 6 hours. We arrive at Father Arnold who was expecting us; he made us feel really welcome. He showed us the rooms and said we are welcome to choose.
We all decided to take rooms, as the Boys want to clean the cars, we must unpack everything. The cars now were really as “Oupa Johnny” would say what a disgrace. They want to do damage control. Every one of them is complaining of their brakes. The mud at the bottom of the cars is now causing problems.
After a very tough 3 days, everybody needs a rest.
Next time the town of Bamenda.

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