We are all finally back in Lagos, but not without some drama! Having arrived on time with SAA, we had to wait over 2 hours for our bags to arrive in the ‘baggage hall’ at Murtala Muhammed Airport. This is nothing surprising and having checked in 10 bags, I was just happy to see all of them spit out onto the conveyer belt. Evidently ‘priority’ labels on the bags mean nothing at MMA!
The interesting piece of drama however was when we were leaving the airport building. As is the usual procedure – you have to dodge, beg and bribe the vultures that are known as ‘customs officials’. They really are a scab on this country. They are the first Nigerians that many people encounter and no one I know has ever said it was a pleasure to have been welcomed by them…
As I was waiting for my bags, I walked around the luggage collection area and watched how they would stand there scoping out who they are likely to get a sizeable bribe from. Then they all dash over to the identified victim, halt them and demand that they search through all of their bags. Typically they are looking for expats and affluent Nigerians, using as much intimidation as possible to try and speed up the payment process.
It was when we were leaving the airport that the most bizarre thing happened. A Nigerian man, as he was approaching customs, suddenly pulled out a small Nigerian flag and started waving it frantically. His ‘entourage’ were pushing his trolley with his bags and were stopped by customs. He refused to be drawn into the arguing and bickering that ensued, choosing instead, to stand there and flap his flag constantly. And what happened next is something that would not and could not happen in any other international airport in the world.
The customs officials simply refused to let ANYONE leave the airport until this dispute was settled. Effectively, everyone had to wait until the bribe was paid before being able to depart, which took approximately 15 minutes. Can you imagine heathrow not allowing anyone to leave the airport because of a handful of corrupt officials???
As a friend of mine said to me once : WAWA. (West Africa Wins Again)…
So Willem came back from his epic cycle journey last week and amongst all the hubbub and excitement, inevitably, the talk of what would be the next crazy trip surfaced. A few suggestions later and a plan was hatched.
Staying on the cycling theme – the idea is to head from Nairobi, Kenya to Pretoria, South Africa. A total of about 4500km, Epic journey – through some of the most remote and beautiful areas on the planet – Serengeti, Kilimanjaro, Lake Malawi, Victoria Falls… I made the decision that if I say no to this, I will probably never do an adventure like this.
I am so excited that I am already looking into routes, bikes, equipment…
In the little research that I have done, this bike is looking like an early frontrunner. According to this review this is a top, top bike and ideal for this type of adventure. It also one of the better priced bikes and if I am not mistaken, it is possible to get the 20% VAT discounted too if shipped outside of Europe.
There is so much to think about. Obviously, doing something like this is a huge challenge and as a result, it would be great to raise some serious money for charity. I have read a couple of blogs of guys cycling across, through and round Africa and they have all raised money for charities providing mosquito nets to help prevent malaria. Sounds like a good plan.
I am initially calling this adventure – Big Bike Africa. Let’s see how many other crazies want to do this…
One of the reasons that we decided to come to Lagos was that it would present a great opportunity to see other parts of Africa. Due to the Eid festival this weekend, Monday & Tuesday were declared public holidays here in Nigeria, so we used the opportunity to dash to Ghana for the weekend. We flew into Accra on the Friday evening and headed to Elmina – a fishing village just west of Cape Coast. The Coconut Grove Beach Resort provided comfortable accommodation, spectacular sea views and amazing, fresh seafood!
Using Nigeria, and inparticular, Lagos as a benchmark for other West African destinations is probably not a good idea. The smooth, un-chaotic roads; the pleasant shops; restaurants and side street bars made Accra look a million miles apart from Lagos. It is hard to believe that it is only a 1hr flight difference between the two cities. It really show you how corruption, fighting and bad governance can really drag a country down. Nigeria, with all it’s wealth, should be streets ahead of neighbouring (and dare I say all other) African states. But unfortunately for the majority of her people, non of Nigeria’s wealth from their natural resources is finding it’s way anywhere remotely close to them.
Anyway – leaving the comparison to Nigeria aside (as we could be here all day), it is understood that Ghana is a relatively peaceful nation with a stable government and economy. We certainly found the arrival at Accra airport to be a welcoming one. With information for tourists, ATM machines, restaurants and taxis all close by, it felt that Ghana is doing it’s best to hold it’s arms out to people and say “Come on in!”. First impressions evidently last. Let’s hope and pray that the the recent finding of oil in the west of country has a positive impact for them. When we arrived in Accra we stopped at “Papayes” which is said to be the best chicken takeaway in Accra. And there were no objections to that statement as the food was excellent.
The drive to Elmina was long and a bit treacherous. The roads, although smooth and well sign posted, are single lane and most people we encountered on our journey to Elmina did not seem to have any regard for the ‘solid line’ in the middle of the road. We were lucky enough to dodge a car coming towards us, head on in our lane! A good piece of advise would be to drive during the day.
Ok – this is one of the reasons why we came to Ghana:
Simply stunning. Miles and miles of unspoilt, pristine coastline. You would have to be mad not to enjoy this.
If you like seafood, then you can do a lot worse than this:
Part of the attraction of Elmina is it’s long and partly gruesome history – the worst of it can be told by a visit to the Elmina castle. The Portugese and the Dutch really knew how to disregard the value of human life back in the day.
This is the entrance to what was known as the condemned cell. No food and no water until you died. If you were led to this cell, you would not see the light of day again. The only way you left it was when your carcass was removed and I cannot imagine that that would have been done in any hurry after you eventually died.
The castle and the guides are fantastically informative, the best has been done to convey the harrowing history and stories that the castle has to share. It has been recently renovated by the local government and sponsor groups and has earned the status as a world heritage site. If you have the chance to go, it is well worth the visit. At the time of our visit entrance was GH¢9 ± $6 for an adult.
Elmina also offers a close up look at the hustle and bustle of a West African coastal village. From the resort it is a few minutes walk to the fishing landing site where you can witness the women hard at work preparing the fish – salting and smoking using traditional methods. Continue along the road along to Elmina and the it soon opens up into a free-for-all market, trading in anything from Chelsea shirts to huge cooking pots!
It is quite safe to walk around and soak up the hustle and bustle. The majority of your energy will be sapped from negotiating with traders and fending off people wanting you to sponsor their ‘soccer school’…
Here are a few pictures from the trip:
On our way back to Accra we stopped at the side of the road to witness someone cooking ‘grasscutter’. From my earlier post I included a photo of a West African man selling grasscutter at the side of the road. Well now I had the privilege to witness it first hand: