Showing posts from June, 1998

Nigeria: Derelict palm-oil factory outside of Calabar

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold Mere anarchy is loosed upon the trip. Real feel of wind-down lately, and that's not just because I expect to be leaving in 7-10 days: many others are making noises about leaving the trip and/or flying rather than driving to East Africa. I plan to jump ship in Douala and spend a couple weeks in southern Cameroon before flying to Harare. Nigerian cities are loathsome, but the rest of the country isn't bad - in part, I think, because the roadblock police have been instructed to be nice to tourists, in part because of the World Cup, and in part because we're here at a time of transition what with Abacha's death and its repercussions. Spent the first night camped on a leafy side road surrounded by the usual crowd of villagers while Gavin went for a walk and became a temporary Nigerian immigration official. The next day, we had the fourth - and first heavy-duty - search & inspection, filing into the truck one by one to show off ou

Nigerian border post

It's quiet. Too quiet. This is the nicest border post we've been to so far. Quiet, relaxed, green, no hassle or hawkers, just roosters and sheep picking their way among the customs & police buildings. People seem pleasant too: guy - official? - just chatted with me about his friends, refugees in Canada. Customs just checked the truck, a barely-more-than-cursory search. Nigeria, so far, does not live down to its fearsome reputation. Went through two countries in the last week, but it feels uneventful. Headed from the Togo border to the hospital, where it turned out that Angela and Gavin - poster children for homeopathic malaria medication - had malaria. Went off to Robinson's Plage, nice seaside campsite with a horrible zoo and beach being eaten away by the ocean. But otherwise, honest, very nice. Back at the bar and slept in the sea breeze. Next day into Lome, where we (addendum: past the border, 10 mins drive, another police search followed by _another_ customs post) p

Ghana-Togo border

Red tape, wafting in the sea breeze. I'm paying 10 pounds a day for the privilege of being in Togo: hope I enjoy it. Strange to be back, on the move, with the truck. Can't help thinking - especially at moments like this - that it would actually be less hassle to be on my own. Well, maybe not in Nigeria. Reunited with the truck at the Accra post office and was lured out for a night of drinking at expat establishments ( a genuine Irish pub in the heart of West Africa) and the Novotel - very expensive. Sam showed up the next day, making us a full complement for the first time in ages. Back with the truck to Big Milly's, lounged around for a day, watched the World Cup on their battery-powered TV. Went off the next morning to a fetish-drumming festival with Kokrobite refugees Ron & John & Simon & Jennifer, plus Afro our drum teacher and this guy Adu. Stocked up on supplies and schnapps (a gift to the chief) in Accra and tro-tro'd/taxied to the village. 1PM sharp

Ghana: Hotel de California, Accra

We can check out any time we like, but we can never leave. A good week: the beaches and coastal castles of Ghana. Are due to rendezvous with the truck in four hours. Have met up with the long- elusive Chong, who's been bouncing from country to country doing visa & money paperwork: Sam's whereabouts are still a mystery. Although we're theoretically deep in rainy season, there's precious little rain to show for it. The Cape Coast/Elmina day trip was fun. Especially the transport. Ghanaian taxi and tro-tro junctions have to be seen to be believed: a field of dirt hacked out of the bush at a crossroads, attendants raising and lowering chains to make sure that no vehicle escapes without paying the fee, a massive congestion of taxis and Jeeps and tro-tro vans and pickup trucks, held together by spit and baling wire, all horns blaring at all times, with sacks of food and boxes of toothpaste and trays of smoked fish lashed to every conceivable vehicular extremity, women wal

Ghana: Happy Days Spot, Winneba

Eating: Fufu or rice balls, with pepper sauce and (surprisingly good, if suspicious-looking) fish bits. Coconuts. Pineapples. Avocados. Bananas & plantains. Green oranges. Sleeping: Massive amounts, generally 9PM-8AM, believe it or not. On foam beds that might be uncomfortable if I wasn't exhausted. Tonight's bed has Coventry City Football Club sheets and pillowcases, for that extra dollop of surrealism. Listening: To African music, which has some cool rhythm & bass going on under the sickly-sweet. Hymns sung on the street, and in one of the countless churches (still not sure if Christianity absorbed animism or the other way around, but on the surface, at least, it's a curious melange - Jesus-as-talisman). World Cup fever building on the radio. Walking: Everywhere. Klicks, maybe 10 a day, just roving around Accra's urban sprawl. My 10-pound sandals would still be a great deal if - God forfend - they fell apart tomorrow. LP describes Winneba as "pleasant,&qu