Road Travel in Nigeria is Horrific!!!

Trip Start Feb 01, 2010
Trip End Feb 19, 2010

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Where I stayed
Our hosts' house in Ogoja province

Flag of Nigeria  ,
Friday, February 5, 2010

Feb. 5, Friday
We had breakfast at the Guest House, in the main house. Our host prepared a nice breakfast for us. Then we loaded all up again and set out to find a bank for E and then off to the Hilton in Abuja for them to buy their air tickets for their upcoming trip home in May (to visit family and go to doctors). We went in at both places and took in the lay of the land and ways of the people. The Hilton was a stark contrast of opulence and beauty against the mass of humanity we saw along the roads! Such an oasis of space and quiet and nice amenities. We also went in with E to his bank. It was interesting. Security men are at the gate to let you in and more at the door to the bank. Then, the entrance looked like a time capsule or something. A curved glass door opened to let you into the "capsule" and another opened next to let you out into the bank interior. It takes so many bills to pay for anything (because they don't have any really large denominations), that you carry out your withdrawal money in a shopping bag!!)

Next, we embarked on about an 8-hour drive to Ogoja. This was no ordinary road trip, however. Remember what I said about the driving practices. Well take it up to 70+ mph (at least in spurts), add more lanes and way more motorcycles and overloaded lorries (trucks) plus a few speed bumps or pot holes thrown in (not to mention next to no shoulder and often a trench or very rough sides of the roads … and way more people whenever we got to a larger village, with the random times of them trying to cross all the traffic (sometimes whole families) … and you begin to get a picture of what that trip was like!! One impression I had of the sights was just so many masses of humanity—and all squeezed in so close!!!! There was so much garbage and, of course, dirt (it is the dry season—no rain since October) everywhere. It was just a much uglier picture than I remembered. But then, there are many more vehicles than were here before, too; and plastic has arrived in Africa (creating most of the garbage). We saw kids pushing wheelbarrow-like things holding big yellow jugs of water they were peddling. We saw that water in a jar and it was brown! Ugh. I had to wonder how so many people found enough water to survive.

I was relieved when we eventually came to more wide open spaces and less people along the roadsides and we began to see the old traditional mud brick homes –many still round—with thatched roofs. It was comforting to see this had not totally gone away. And I was happy to see women and kids still carrying loads on their heads. Some things are still the same! Along the roadside in the populated areas, there were many shanty-like structures with things for sale – everything from mattresses to hair bands to car parts—you name it! We stopped in one of these places for lunch and ate at a "fast food" place that sold rice and chicken. E & W say they like to stop there, so we trusted the food.

Late in the afternoon, we stopped by a roadside stand, where several women and girls were selling oranges, mangos and other fruits and W stocked up on these. She bought “cashew fruit” for us to try. (One cashew nut comes from each fruit—hence the expensive cost for cashews!) (We ate these the next day.) E explained that the nut (or/and the husk) is very high in acid. Their son once had a few in his pocket for a while and he got a burn on his leg. They have to be roasted out in the open air, because the acid is released as they roast. They told a story of a missionary wife who tried to roast them in her oven; when she opened the door to the oven, the acid fumes coming out in the steam gave her serious burns to her face! The fruits are very juicy and acrid as well as pleasantly sweet. Hard to describe, but the juice actually really dries out your whole mouth.

We crossed a large river on the way, the Benue (pronounced “ben-you-way”). The last couple of hours or so of the drive became even more hazardous, due to potholes. Now you had to watch for oncoming traffic that might be all the way on your side of the road, not because of passing vehicles but in trying to avoid potholes. “Pothole” is an understatement, really. The pavement simply is breaking up and is altogether gone in many places and you drop into a well of sandy dirt. (You can just imagine what this translates to in the wet season!!). The final half hour or so was on the very worst road, where there was very little pavement left – just enough to create high places between trenches and gullies. Needless to say, we were all so very relieved and happy to finally arrive at their house, just after sunset, whole and safe! :)

Boy, after that trip, we all feel such a wonder and gratitude for E & W 's generosity in doing all that they are doing for us. We said before we left that we probably couldn’t have made the trip without them. Well, now it is undeniably the only way it is possible. We wouldn’t have even survived the trip from the airport into town for the first night’s lodging on our own! We never could have rented a car or done this kind of driving. Just coming to just pick us up from the airport meant two days of that horrible driving for them!—and that’s not even mentioning all the driving yet planned!! One interesting side-note: they do drive on the right side of the road here (at least when they’re obeying the proper rules). E said that they switched from English way (left-side driving) a number of years back to driving on the right—and made the change basically “over night!” He said that they did it in a very organize, orderly way (and before there were this many cars). Amazing!! Not too much else seems very organized about Nigeria today.

We had a good spaghetti supper (which W had made before they left for Abuja to make it faster to prepare today), after which we watched their video presentation on their work here (used to help raise funds to support their work). E also put in the Jesus movie which was dubbed with all the speakers speaking “Pidgeon English” to demonstrate what that language sounds like. The very nice thing about the trip was that we had lots of time to talk and heard many stories that E & W had to share about their first time here and about this “second missionary journey”, as they call their current posting/calling.
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