Into Lagos

Lagos Travel Blog

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Continental IAH-LOS meal

Four days before I was supposed to leave for Nigeria, I found out I'm needed in California for work the next day.. that meant hours of meetings and not able to finalize trip plans, pack etc.  I survived the California trip though and managed to leave early the last day.

My flight actually was out of San Antonio on Saturday, so I drove down and left my car at my travel bud's house, he lives very close to the airport so it is convenient to park there for the week.  When I arrived at the airport, the agent at the checkin desk said that my original flight was very delayed, but I had just enough time to make it on an even earlier flight departing 45 minutes before my original.  I just had my backpack as carryon so was able to make it through security just before they started boarding.

  That left me with over 4 hrs in Houston airport, so I just spent most of it sitting in the lounge and making sure I had all my paperwork and tickets printed out... I'd packed and left in a hurry.

Nigeria's reputation preceeds it.. it's chaotic and corrupt.  It is the home of the internet scams.  Kidnappings in the Delta.  A guy I know who has visited every country says it is his least favorite.  A ringing endorsement certainly.  Most of the issues seemed to be with Lagos, so I'd planned on getting out of town as soon as possible and heading northeast to the town of Osogbo, where the Osun Sacred Grove is, one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Nigeria.

The flight was nearly empty in economy, maybe only 25% full in the back, so nearly everyone had their own row of seats.  Dinner was uninspiring chicken+rice.  The Continental 777 has on demand entertainment even in economy, so I watched a few movies and caught a few hours sleep during the 10hr flight.  We arrived in Lagos about a half hour early, just as the skies open and it starts pouring rain.   Deplaning was through the steamy jetbridge as water dripped from overhead.  I had been one of the first ones off the plane from econ section so by the time I reached immigration there were only a few people ahead of me.  It is probably the quickest immigrations ever, which took me by surprise.   I was expecting bureaucracy, bribes, etc.

Lagos taxi bus
  My first sign that Nigeria may be better than expected.  I was through immigration in a minute and since I had only carryon, didn't have to wait for bags.

I changed some money then looked for the taxi to head to Ojota motor park.  One place wanted 5000 naira (over $30).  They recently raised the fuel subsidy in Nigeria, raising the price of petrol for everyone so all transport costs have risen substantially.  There had even been strikes/riots a few weeks previously after the new fuel subsidy price was raised.  I talked them down 20% but probably still paid too much.  I had to walk through the rain down to the carpark getting soaked in the process.  Then we set off on the long (much further than I thought, anyway) drive out to the motor park.

Ojota motor park
  It was Sunday so I was hoping traffic was lighter than normal; Lagos is known for 'go-slows' or traffic jams that can take hours to unsnarl.  Still lots of traffic though, Lagos has a population of some 14 million.   The local taxis/minibuses are all painted yellow and in various dilapidated condition.

We roll up to the motor park at 2:10PM, all chaotic with minibuses everywhere, all with hawkers shouting out their destination.  Luckily the rain had stopped by this point.  The minivans/buses all have signs on them displaying their destination.  I find the one to Osogbo... and it is empty. The shared taxis only depart when full, so I may be in for a long wait.  They quoted me 15,000 naira ($90) for a private transfer to Osogbo or 1600 naira ($10) per seat.

Ojota motor park
  A few minutes later another passenger shows up, but we end up waiting almost 2.5 hrs before we get enough people.   Even then, we were short one person so we all pitched in and paid a few hundred each to make up for the last seat.  Meanwhile, people are wandering around the lot selling watches, food, SIM cards, etc.  No hassle though, they will leave you alone after a polite no thank you.  Finally before we depart, we have to fill out a form giving our name and next of kin phone number (!?!)  Nigierian drivers are notorious for driving fast and accidents are common.  Then we are all Jesus-ed at by a preacher wishing us a safe journey.   We finally set off around 4:45 for the 3 hr journey.

I had been talking with some of the other passengers, though some was hard to understand their accent.

Ojota motor park
  They said the American accent is hard for them to understand too.  I guess that makes sense.  One guy worked for the Secretariat in Osogbo, he had come down to Lagos just that morning and was already on his way back.  He mentioned that tomorrow (Monday) was a public holiday in Nigeria.

The expressway was in pretty good condition all the way through to Ibadan.  Along the side of the road I noticed huge mortar/pestles for sale, most likely used for pounding fufu, a labor-intensive starchy staple in West Africa made from cassava root. About halfway to Ibadan we passed row after row of parked oil tanker trucks.. I'd never seen so many.  Not sure if these were 'legitimate' oil/petrol shipments or not.

Ojota motor park
.. some large percentage gets siphoned off at every stage of the journey.  When we visited Benin a few years ago we had noticed bootleg Nigerian gasoline was sold everywhere in old wine bottles.

We took some back roads through Ibadan which is a huge sprawling city, about 90 minutes after leaving Lagos.  It was still light at this point.  We head off to the east on the way to Osogbo and start hitting roadblocks every few kms.  These are setup by the police (or locals?) who put tires, trees, etc in the middle of the road and demand payment for passing.  It was laughable to see the 'Anti Crime Patrol' police collecting bribes, about $0.12 per vehicle.  In Cote d'Ivoire a few years ago we had to pay a 'road use fee' when buying our bus ticket that served the same purpose.  Luckily though we were never stopped, even with an obruni in the back.

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Continental IAH-LOS meal
Continental IAH-LOS meal
Lagos taxi bus
Lagos taxi bus
Ojota motor park
Ojota motor park
Ojota motor park
Ojota motor park
Ojota motor park
Ojota motor park
Ojota motor park
Ojota motor park
Ojota Motor Park
Ojota Motor Park
Ojota Motor Park
Ojota Motor Park
Ojota Motor Park
Ojota Motor Park
Ojota Motor Park
Ojota Motor Park
Lagos traffic
Lagos traffic
Lagos
photo by: marix_sublime