Nigeria - East (Blue car)
Day 116 (29 January) – Abuja to Dolphin hotel
Niels left Abuja early. Senna is ill and there is not much I could contribute and I could join Sebastian and Birte with there old Landcruiser leaving for Cameroon. We planned a route using the info from Stefan and Haike, who we met in Benin and had very detailed info (see their website).
Our 116th day was on a Saturday and it appears police has a day off since we only found one manned check post. Driving in the weekends in Nigeria is therefore much recommended!
The first stop was not far in a small town at the Dolphin Hotel. You could basically choose your own price for camping although the manager said it should be N1000 per vehicle. After discussion with the manager I choose to pay N600 (3 Euros).
Besides having the cheapest beer ever there was not much worth mentioning about this place.
Day 117 (30 January) – From Dolphin to Drill
Our next stop would be the Drill Range. For anyone that doesn’t know what a drill is, it is an endangered large monkey (see the many photos below). We had some tracks from Stefan and Haike, but decided to take a shortcut. And so we went straight were we should have taken a right…
We ended up driving a very narrow dirt road through beautiful countryside. Something you would not expect from Nigeria. We were also heading in the good direction so no need to worry. But… Soon we came to a small bridge made up from beams. Inspecting and jumping on it the bridge felt solid. I drove first over it with some speed. Made it… Than the (heavy) Landcruiser, made it! I would not have liked to do that again, but we were on the other side. We continued through some small villages and locals seemed friendly and surprised to see us, we kindly waved at them.
But not much further on the road we drove through a town and all the guys, that seemed to be busy with the daily routine of hanging around the bar, were yelling to us to stop! ‘Stop stop stop!’ Still knowing we are in Nigeria we stepped on the gas peddle and continued quickly out of town. But then at a next small farmers house an old lady made gestures to stop and that the road further on is no good… We stopped and soon all the bar-hanging guys arrived on their mopeds to tell us (with much confusion for us) that the next bridge some 20 meters in front of me will never hold a car!!!
We had to turn back and came back to the small bridge. The Landcruiser went first, making a hole in the bridge… Than I still had to cross… No other way than going fast and crossing my fingers… Go go go… Made it! But definitely do not want to go over it again. It is a good thing the locals did not follow us to back to the bridge because I’m sure they would have made us pay for destroying their bridge. Luckily we were only with 2 cars because I don’t think another car can cross it. So for other overlanders: better take the tarmac and don’t take a shortcut…
We went back and took the tarmac road around our off road adventure. While continuing, GPS showed nicely that we were only a kilometer or so away from were we had to turn around…
To reach the Drill Range we had to take a dirt road into the forest. They cleared some patches in the forest for overlanders to camp; it was remote and all surrounded by dense forest. Amazing place to sleep!
Day 118 (31 January) – Drill Range
The Drill Range was a nice place to visit. One of the few (safe) sightseeing places in Nigeria. The range gives a home to the endangered Drill monkeys that cannot return to the wild anymore. They keep them in fenced forests the size of an enormous garden. They have all the freedom to wander around with all the security the range can offer. Only during feeding times they come to the fence and you can see them. Besides Drills they also have a group of chimpanzees and (unfortunately) an orphan gorilla named Lucky.
Lucky is one of the few remaining Cross River Gorilla’s (a subspecies of the Western Lowland Gorilla of which only an estimated 300 live in the wild) and was found in one of the surrounding villages. He was returned to the wild to one of the groups but Lucky walked back to the range. It is said that they can only return to their original group and it is not known to what group he belongs or to what has happened why he is by himself. The Cross River forest is so dense it is extremely difficult to find any group of gorilla and these gorilla’s keep on moving around through the forest. Lucky is an amazing animal!
We had a tour over the range and could see the Drills and chimps when they were fed. One of the caretakers of the Drills also took us on a tour through the forest and over the canopy bridges. These canopy bridges were less impressive than the ones in Ghana but it was a nicer visit because you didn’t go in enormous groups. We ended at a waterfall were we could take a swim after the sweaty walk: rainforest is so hot and humid, you just keep sweating let alone when you hike through it!
Day 119 (1 February) – St Peter’s in Ikom
I decided to make an extra stop in Nigeria before crossing the border to find out how things are going with Stanley, Julia, Eowyn and especially Senna. I stopped in Ikom at the Saint Peter’s Church. They aloud us to camp on their lawn and even prepared dinner for us if we hadn’t gone into town for food.
One of the common African customs is that if you see a nice lawn and you just have to go, you let it flow just there. So also at the priest’s house where this little girl just went peeing on the lawn in front of the house. Without any shame as if it was a normal habit, and in fact it is normal! No one looked up or told her otherwise.