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Road Trip 2014

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So, in line with my ‘Impact Making 2015’, I decided to make a road trip travel to Cote D’ivoire for an AIESEC project. Initially, I was so sure I was going to fly my way there. This was basically because of the fact that any form of road travel depresses me. Even in the campus shuttle in school, I always count the seconds to my destination. And here was a travel that would last for two days from Nigeria to Ivory Coast.

But after some serious ‘cheap flights’ scouting, I was faced with the eventuality that my restless self would have to sit on my butt for about 48 hours… no bathing.

So, it so happened that on Wednesday, 17th December 2014, at about 7am, I set out from Nigeria in a Chisco (co.) bus with about 16 other people (three of which I knew); to Accra.

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In retrospect, I think I underestimated my ability to abound and abase (like my mother would say). I’d like to share some experiences.

 

Nigeria-Benin Republic Border (Arrival: 1pm)

‘This border is the worst border in the whole of West-Africa’- My (awesome) driver.

‘Of course it is, it is the border that leads out of Nigeria’- someone on my bus

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I kinda agree with him. The journey through FESTAC, Ojo, Badagry had been quite peaceful (if peaceful includes strong Igbo music BLASTING through the bus speakers) and there was air conditioning so I didn’t even care. Plus they gave us food so I had something to look forward to in case I got hungry. I was just catching on to some Igbo lyrics when we stopped at the immigration point leading out of Nigeria: Little hitch. My driver knew them so he just spoke to them. But immediately we entered Benin Republic and had to stop at the immigration point leading into the country, I understood what my driver was saying.

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We stayed there for like 45mins. Military men everywhere. Traders all up on our bus windows. We filled forms saying we were Ebola free (and in my mind I was just like; ‘hmm… this is so ebola-efficient). All in all, it was annoying.

Finally, we got into the country… that day. They have a funny kind of ‘keke maruwa’. It’s like a cart, but has a motorcycle attached to it such that a bike man carries about 6 people. I couldn’t take a picture because… well, I was stupid.

Also! They have bike lanes. I mean, I knew this before but it was still ‘ohhh-ish’ seeing it. They have the ‘rough-ish’ feel that most parts of Nigeria have but that bike lane just gives a different look. There’s no bike cutting into the front of your car and there’s no swerving mad okada rider causing chaos on the main road. It was interesting to watch. Also, all ALL the bike men wear helmets (as should be). They have loads of palm trees as their country is lined by water; it gave off a tropical feel. Plus their rivers are so clean; people bath in it. They have the normal Glo, Etisalat, and of course; MTN

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Igbo music still blasted throughout this journey.

 

Benin-Togo Border (Arrival 4:05pm)

‘So, please help me just comply. You’ll all get down and they’ll ask you to pass through two tunnels. Pass through them and I’ll be waiting at the other side in the bus. For those of us that want to change our money to Cedis or CEFA; I’ll bring a guy to help you. Please ehn, just help me comply’ –My (awesome) driver.

I haven’t been to like Canada or even America, but Togo is my favorite country- aesthetically. How they were able not to be influenced by the ‘gra-gra’ from Benin Republic; I don’t know. They are so peaceful and calm (of course, this may be because the whole left length of the country is lined with sparkling emerald green water where children play and palms whisper). If you have to drive through that everyday to get to work or somewhere; you’re more guaranteed of a peaceful life – I tell you.

IMG_0848IMG_0896IMG_0862 At the border, we only had to wash our hands, check our temperatures and stuff. You know, for Ebola reasons. And there’s something about legging it into another country. I can be like; ‘Oh… pfft, what are saying I’m not physically fit; this lady right here trekked into Togo yo!’

Yaya changed our money for us. Because we (the three other people I knew and I) were proceeding to Cote D’ivoire, we only changed N1000 to Cedi and changed the rest of our money to CEFA. After the change happened, I felt very rich.

Togo is also a small country, so it took only like 1hour 30minutes to drive through it.

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And because Togo carries a special juju, the driver changed the music to old school blues. (very very very apt for that scenery. I though about all the unrequited love in my life and about my future).

Togo-Ghana Border (Arrival: let’s just say 5:30… in Nigeria)

‘What are you doing? Why are you carrying your bag? No o, this is not where we’re stopping. Get down and carry your box from the back, take it into that building for search.’ –My (cranky) driver.

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So, the Ghanaians…

I was quite impressed with them at first. At the border, you’d have to park somewhere in front of a building like this and bring out all your luggage, carry them into the building, drop them on a counter where inspectors would stare at you as you open your box. They would use their gloved hands to ransack your belongings, look at you suspiciously; ransack again; look again; until they find nothing. Then, they would mark your box with chalk and tell you to carry your box. Try to take pictures and say bye-bye to everything you ever held dear (it’s not this serious but do not take pictures).

It wasn’t until I noticed that the time on my watch was different from that on my phone, that I knew that we had entered a different time zone. I didn’t even know that Ghana has a different time zone from Nigeria. I commented to Glory; my seat mate, that ‘Today would be the longest day of our lives so far. We’re spending 25 hours instead of 24. This is your second 4:30pm today’. I don’t even know if it’s logical but I liked the idea.

Ghana is a really big country… I think. Because we drove all through to the bus station and got there by 9pm. (that is, 10pm in Nigeria)… and we hadn’t even gotten to the end of it.

There was a part of the journey where I saw a police man stop a bus; open the trunk; pull out a ‘ghana-must-go’ bag and he started throwing out all the clothes there. My driver told us that ‘Those clothes are contraband. It is not allowed to import Ankara into Ghana. You must use their own Anakara’… interesting.

I must however say that I had my worst experiences in Ghana. After the bus dropped us off at the train station, we (the four of us) booked another bus ticket to Abidjan, Cote D’ivoire. The journey was scheduled for 12 (1am at home) so we just decided to chill just outside the station. We were semi-scammed and extorted from. Plus we did not meet nice people. Maybe it was that I was already cranky from the journey or that they weren’t actually nice, but I was really really really looking forward to leaving Ghana.

Ghana-Cote D’ivoire (Arrival: 6:30am)

‘…….’ – My new apathy-ed indifferent driver.

I had a bad first impression of the Ivorians at the border to leave Ghana. Just when I thought the extortion was over, they asked the four of us to pay 10,000CEFA each. After arguments and stuff, I had my first taste of Ivorian kindness. Because although we paid that money (and I wasn’t even feeling so rich anymore at this point after the Ghana experience), we met nice impossibly nice Ivorians who interpreted, gave us their phones, told us jokes we couldn’t understand; bought us drinks; priced stuff for us and just kept us company.

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And even though I had to stand at their border for like 2hours 30minutes and take two shots to vaccinate myself from Ebola (and pay for the shots), I had a nice time at the Ivorian border.

We got to our destination: Universite Felix Houphouet Boigny; Abidjan Cocody around (a very late time. Night time)

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All in all, my 2014 road trip was an experience that I’m happy I had but I’m not so sure I would want to re-have.

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