Nigeria – Feb 5-13, 2017
1. Black Market Money. Because of inflation, the Nigerian Naira is devaluating rapidly and a black market exists for the naira. The official rate is about 330 to the US$ and the black market rate varied with location and time. We received 440 at the border and 480 in Abuja five days later. Larger bills get a better rate both for the dollar and for the Euro. The euro rates were much worse than the dollar – 450 at the border and 500 in Abuja, but only for larger bills. Smaller bills received only 470.
The message here is don’t use ATMs or credit cards as they receive the official rate. Only change US dollars with money changers on the street. Bargaining will get better rates and have no qualms about walking away, they will usually quickly offer more.
2. African women. African women are very attractive and present themselves in a sexually seductive way – great attention to hair, makeup, big lips, big breasts and big bums – all accentuated with their clothes showing lots of visible cleavage, big breasts, and tight at the waist and rear end so their bodies are well displayed. But they age poorly especially if they’ve had children. Those big boobs get very saggy, they all develop bigger bellies and gain weight.
Making money from sex is part of many young Nigerian women lives. And they are very different from Western prostitutes whose only livelihood is from sex, are hardened women and often supporting a drug habit. These women have normal lives and often have a job or are students and simply supplementing their income. They are offended if called a prostitute. But they almost always expect to be paid if you have sex with them. It is a completely different attitude than Western women who would never ask for money and may have sex with relative strangers only because they are sexually attracted to them. They are generally disease-free and very conscious of practicing safe sex.
Besides sex for money, buying several beer is part of the bargain. Add in a hotel room and taxi and it can get quite expensive. Pay for the hotel with a credit card and incur exchange costs using non-black market money.
If not interested in paying, you can make that clear before you start and they may still be into it if sexually attracted. But even then, they will probably be offended by not being offered something for their services. It is part of the culture – they are relatively poor and you are rich.
Nigeria is a pulsating powerhouse: as the most populous nation on the continent, it dominates the region economically and culturally. Lagos is bursting at the seams: with burgeoning technology and telecommunications industries, posh restaurants and clubs, and an exploding music and arts scene, this megacity is the face of modern Africa.
In villages and towns outside Gidi (as Lagosians call their city), you may feel LIKE a lone explorer getting a glimpse of the raw edges of the world. Immersing yourself in the deep and layered cultures, histories, and surroundings – ancient Muslim cities of the north, the river deltas, Yoruba kingdoms, spiritual shrines, the legacy of tribal conflict and the slave ports, and stunning natural environments.
Official name. Federal Republic of Nigeria
Capital. Abuja 9°4′N 7°29′E
Largest city. Lagos 6°27′N 3°23′E
Languages. Official – English. Major languages: Hausa Igbo Yoruba
Government. Federal presidential republic. President Muhammadu Buhari. Upper house-Senate. Lower house-House of Representatives
Independence from the United Kingdom. Unification of Southern and Northern Nigeria 1914. Declared and recognised 1 October 1960. Republic declared 1 October 1963
Area. Total 923,768 km2 (32nd)
Population. 2015 estimate 182,202,000 (7th). 2006 census 140,431,790. Density 197,2/km2 (71st)
GDP (PPP). 2016 estimate Total $1.166 trillion (20th). Per capita $6,351 (124th)
GDP (nominal). 2016 estimate Total $484.895 billion (21st). Per capita $2,642 (122nd)
When to Go. Oct–Jan: Your best bet for dry weather. Dec–Jan: Lots of events and festivals; also the busiest and most expensive time of year.
Jun–Aug Nigeria’s rainy season and usually quite wet, but not necessary to avoid.
MONEY. Naira (₦) (NGN). Exchange rate (Feb, 2017 www.xe,com): 1US$ = 440 N at border, 480 in Abuja. 1 Euro = 460N at the border, 500 in Abuja but only for large bills.
Credit cards are not accepted in many stores or even hotels in Nigeria.
ATMs. Most accept both Visa and MasterCars/Maestro. Usually located within the premises of most big Nigerian commercial banks including their branches and outlets. Be aware that these machines only allow you to withdraw 20,000 Naira at a time, which is a relatively small amount in Nigeria. This means you will have to make multiple withdrawals at a time, and for each of those transactions you might have to pay a hefty Cash Advance Fee depending upon your bank policies. Also, most ATM’s allow a maximum withdrawal of 100,000 Naira per day. Use Diamond Bank, who gives you NGN40,000 per withdrawal.
Changing money. Buy Naira using foreign currency at the airports or near large hotels. Even here, only US dollars, pounds sterling, and euros are normally traded. Change your home currency to one of these three before you land in Nigeria. Changing large bills of US dollars or euros will give a better rate with professional money changers, such as on the currency exchange market near Lagos Domestic Airport. These are not formal bureaux de change and you negotiate the exchange rate. Count your money in front of the exchanger, and don’t be afraid to walk away if you are not happy with the deal. Be wary of your safety in money changing areas, and take care to make sure you are not followed when leaving them. Formal Bureau De Change in banks, but rates may be slightly higher.
Cash all your naira back into another currency before you leave Nigeria. The rate is irrelevant, as naira is not worth much outside Nigeria, basically worthless pieces of paper once you come out of the country. Banks will change foreign currency to Naira, BUT USUALLY NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND, EVEN THOUGH YOU ARE A FOREIGNER.
Street vendors – keep the money fully visible and count carefully with them, as they may short-change you. Naira is a thick bundle of small notes. Change Naira into CFAs (XOF) on the Benin/Niger side) or XAF (Cameroon side)).
Abuja and Lagos International Airport have several ATMs.
MasterCard / Maestro users can withdraw from ATMs at Zenith Bank and GT Bank, Ecobank, First Bank and Intercontinental Bank (red ATM sign outside). Visa is however a safer option if you are visiting the French countries around Nigeria as well, as Mastercard/Maestro is close to useless in these countries.
Western Union branches are useless unless you have a Nigerian bank account.
VISAS. Everyone needs a visa to visit Nigeria, and applications can be quite a process. Many Nigerian embassies issue visas only to residents and nationals of the country in which the embassy is located, so it’s essential to put things in motion well before your trip. As a rule of thumb, forms are required in triplicate, proof of funds to cover your stay, a round-trip air ticket, and possibly confirmed hotel reservations. You also need a letter of invitation from a resident of Nigeria or a business in the country. The cost of a 30-day visa is according to nationality.
Accra (Ghana) – best place in West Africa to apply for a visa, as no letter of introduction is required. Niamey (Niger) also claims to issue visas the same way.
Visa Extensions At the Federal Secretariat (Alagbon Cl, Ikoyi) in Lagos, but it’s a byzantine process of endless forms, frustration and dash, with no clear sense of success.
Visas for Onward Travel.
Cameroon. We obtained our Cameroon visa in 36 hours. Cost 100$US.
Benin: One-month visas, two photos, 24 hours. Cameroon (Lagos, Abuja and Calabar): A one-month visa, two photos, issued in a day.
Chad: one-month, two photos, the next day.
Niger Best obtained in Abuja and Kano, a one-month, two photos, issued in 48 hours.
Nigeria is often referred to as the “Giant of Africa”, owing to its large population and economy. With approximately 184 million inhabitants, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the seventh most populous country in the world. Nigeria has one of the largest populations of youth in the world. The country is viewed as a multinational state, as it is inhabited by over 500 ethnic groups, of which the three largest are the Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba; these ethnic groups speak over 500 different languages, and are identified with wide variety of cultures. The official language is English. Nigeria is divided roughly in half between Christians, who live mostly in the southern part of the country, and Muslims in the northern part. A minority of the population practise religions indigenous to Nigeria, such as those native to Igbo and Yoruba peoples.
As of 2015, Nigeria is the world’s 20th largest economy, worth more than $500 billion and $1 trillion in terms of nominal GDP and purchasing power parity respectively. It overtook South Africa to become Africa’s largest economy in 2014. Also, the debt-to-GDP ratio is only 11 percent, which is 8 percent below the 2012 ratio. Nigeria is considered to be an emerging market by the World Bank; It has been identified as a regional power on the African continent, a middle power in international affairs, and has also been identified as an emerging global power. Nigeria is a member of the MINT group of countries, which are widely seen as the globe’s next “BRIC-like” economies. It is also listed among the “Next Eleven” economies set to become among the biggest in the world. Nigeria is a founding member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the African Union, OPEC, and the United Nations amongst other international organisations.
In the 2014 ebola outbreak, Nigeria was the first country to effectively contain and eliminate the Ebola threat that was ravaging three other countries in the West African region, as its unique method of contact tracing became an effective method later used by other countries, such as the United States, when Ebola threats were discovered.
Since 2002, the North East of the country has seen sectarian violence by Boko Haram, an Islamist movement that seeks to abolish the secular system of government and establish Sharia law. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in May 2014 claimed that Boko Haram attacks have left at least 12,000 people dead and 8,000 people crippled. At the same time, neighbouring countries, Benin, Chad, Cameroon and Niger joined Nigeria in a united effort to combat Boko Haram in the aftermath of a world media highlighted kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls and the spread of Boko Haram attacks to these countries.
Benin-Nigerian border. The crossing we used was Ketou, Benin and Alagbe/Ilara, Nigeria. It is not busy. Oddly the Nigerian road on their side of the border is not passable and we had to drive south to cross into Nigeria.
The immigration process was surprisingly fast by Nigerian standards. We did not have to present ourselves individually. We changed money at good rates but only for US$, the euro rates were poor.
We had a truck lunch just over the border. Five little kids were out scavenging for food, not from us but in the dry bush – grubs and insects. Aged from 3-7, all were barefoot and filthy. We gave them some bread. We bush camped about 30kms from the border and were visited by many from the nearby village. Several of the children had never seen white men before and asked if we were Boko Harm. Nigerian beauracracy is notorious – customs, police, immigration, state security and towns all wanted their “security” check on the road. The 100kms to Abeokuta had 22 “checks” on Steve’s last trip and we had 16 – seven over 1½ hours lasting a few seconds to over 7 minutes. One had a long form to fill in. Some entered the truck and met us. The next day, before Abeokuta, another nine checks over an hour lasted a few seconds to over 10 minutes when all the Nigerian visas were checked.
About 100km north of Lagos, Abeokuta is well known as the birthplace of many famous Nigerians, notably former president Obasanjo and Fela Kuti.
Olumo Rock. The founding site of Abeokuta, the famed Olumo Rock has a rich history and great spiritual significance. We hired a guide.
The ugly elevator with 3 stages connected by walkways is not used much and we all walked up the three levels on the rock. A guide explained the sacrifice shrine, where refugees had resisted arrest under a large overhang (there were several shallow areas where pepper had been ground), a grave, a shack where women with record longevity lived (we actually saw a woman who was 131 years old!), a sacred baobab tree, a climb through a narrow crack filled with boulders and then a short scramble to the top. Views of the entire town were great and several landmarks had signs detailing them. We took stairs in the elevator complex back down to the first level. Cost 700N.
Mark and I then got a taxi to Kuto Motor Park to leave the truck and go to Lagos for a few days.
LAGOS (pop 25 million)
Lagos is the largest city in Africa and the description in Lonely Planet paints a daunting picture. “It has wall-to-wall people, bumper-to-bumper cars, noise and pollution beyond belief, an intimidating crime rate and maxed-out public utilities. Elevated motorways ringing the city are jammed with speed freaks and absurd traffic jams (‘go-slows”) on top and tin and cardboard shacks underneath.”
Named after the Portuguese word for lagoon, Lagos has been a Yoruba port, a British political centre and, until 1991, Nigeria’s capital. The economic and cultural powerhouse of the country, and with much thanks to an absurd influx of oil money, it has an exploding arts and music scene that can keep you up until dawn.
Steve thought it would take about 2½ days to drive to Abuja and there was nothing to see on the way. Only bush camps would be used, so we couldn’t understand why we were the only two interested in Lagos. With not much to see for tourists, we were interested in seeing the madness up close and personal. It was also number 19 on my list (only Cairo to go) to visit the largest 20 cities in the world.
The truck’s drive to Abuja was a nightmare with many police checks. One area was particularly bad and the checkpoints made several issues: the truck is right-hand drive, had spotlights, the tires were 4 years old, did not have a license for the radio and did not have a rubbish bin. 50,000N was requested along with many other bribes. I do not know what was actually paid, but there were many difficulties in this corrupt country.
We had the comfortable back seat for two in a share taxi for the two-hour, 100km drive into the city to Oshodi Motor Park, a scene of bedlam. As it was around noon, the traffic was minimal. The market streets were packed with people and shops spilling into the streets. We stopped for some street food and eventually found our way to the big red city express buses. It was confusing to find the right bus to Obalende Motor Park on Lagos Island and I asked a young woman for directions. She was unbelievably helpful (we even got to bypass the long queue). Several mega-churches were passed. The impressive Third Bridge crossed over about 5kms of water (lined with stilt houses and log booms). At Obalende, she negotiated a tuk-tuk and we went to a chicken restaurant with air conditioning to talk. Rhoda, as with almost all Nigerians, was extremely religious and we had a long spiel about how great God and Jesus were. It seems they had never heard of atheists and are astounded that such heathens could even exist. They are convinced, that if they could talk to us for an hour, we would be easy converts. Hallelujah and Amen. But it was all friendly, non-threatening and we respected each other’s beliefs.
Rhoda phoned her sister who knew of a cheap hotel close to their home, so we took a taxi for the long drive to the east end of Victoria Island. After checking in (10,000N per night for two nights, a king-sized bed that we were sharing and a good shower is a good deal for expensive Lagos), she invited us to her home, a 10-minute walk down a sandy, rutted road. She shares a 2-bedroom apartment with her younger brother, next door to her sister, brother-in-law and their 3 children who all occupy the third floor of a 6-apartment complex in a compound surrounded by jungle. Her brother-in-law is the CEO of a food distribution company and her sister is the sole distributor of a line of cosmetics and they own the entire complex.
We had a long discussion with him and then dinner of boiled yam, plantain and a firery egg/pepper sauce. Mark and I ate alone at the big dining room table, dad ate at the coffee table watching Big Brother Nigeria while his wife watched him eat next to him on the couch. Despite asking her many times to eat with us, Rhoda ate in her apartment with the children as she also wanted to see Big Brother Nigeria, and it became apparent that women and children do not eat with men.
We went out to a bar near our hotel for some beer and then returned to our hotel. Rhoda appeared before 8 to ask us to breakfast where I made omelets for all of us. We eventually spent most of the day at a big ShopRite Mall and saw a movie. On the way back home we bought our bus tickets for the next day, vegetables at a big market and bush meat (there was no crocodile so we obtained roasted antelope) at a roadside stand. Dinner consisted of the antelope cooked with a picante sauce of green vegetable and pounded yams. They used a huge wooden pestle and a 5-foot mortar to pound the yam into a gelatinous mass (I thought a gentle mash with butter, some milk and salt and pepper would have been better). It was all very tasty but I couldn’t handle the huge quantity of yam served and the heat of the sauce.
We then went out for a drink, and this time, more appropriately, Rhoda was accompanied by her brother-in-law as a chaperone.
Electricity in Lagos is on for only about 5 hours per day and everybody depends on generators.
Our bus was was scheduled to leave at 05:30 and we were to be driven to the bus. But they slept in and we missed it, but God Is Good Motors (the bus company) put us on the next bus leaving at 06:30. We had the uncomfortable back seats with just enough room for four men in the 14-passenger van. The air-conditioning was barely adequate, but I read and slept and the 11 hours passed without incident. We stopped 3 times. At one, the music was so loud I couldn’t tolerate it, but the yam fries were delicious.
We were able to check FaceBook messages to find out where the truck was parked and took a taxi to the back lot of the Sheraton Hotel.
The Sheraton is the swankiest hotel in Abuja with the cheapest room, 65,000N. It has several dining rooms, tennis, table tennis, squash and basketball courts and a small soccer pitch. Wi Fi was an exorbitant 1000N for 20 minutes so I didn’t use it. The hotel is next to a large cultural market beside a large ShopRite Mall and that was about all there was to do in Abuja. We went to movies and ate meals there. Mark will eat anything but he couldn’t handle the tripe stew at the ShopRite cafeteria.
We were able to obtain our Cameroon visas (100US$) in 36 hours.
Abuja National Mosque. Near the Sheraton, I went to visit on our last morning. It is an imposing building from a distance with its four massive 120m tall minarets and 60m gold-colored dome. I had to meet with an administrator to get the OK to see the mosque that was closed until noon (I had never seen a mosque closed before). But I was able to see the plain interior through some glass doors and didn’t miss much.
On Friday, February 20th, we picked up the Cameroon visas and left town for the SE corner of Nigeria. There were no police checks for the first day on the excellent road. It was actually cool enough to need my sleeping bag. The countryside was dry, savannah/bush with no large trees. The garbage in the towns was dispiriting with a thick layer in a 10m wide swath of the ditches. Outside of the town, the ditches had been burned and with it most of the garbage. Crops consisted of only yams and cassava in this, the dry season. But there were many mangoes and palm oil plantations. The towns were typical of everywhere else south of Mauritania: furniture, metal door and window production, small lumber mills, firewood, charcoal and all the usual small businesses. There is obvious income disparity with impoverished rural areas.
After the large city of Makurdi, traditional small, round thatched huts dominated the villages for a few hundred kilometers. Except for the plastic chairs, it could have been the 1500s. Long horned cattle and goats were common.
Nigeria is as religious as Ghana with many evangelical churches in every town. The police checks resumed and there were two long ones in the same town. For the first time, we all were personally checked with our visas and passports. Just down the road, a second one checked two passengers personally and asked several silly questions. One demanded 50,000N and Steve bargained down to 10,000. He was able to placate one check with Pellegrino water that they mistook for wine.
CALABAR (pop 500,000)
Tucked into Nigeria’s southeastern corner, the capital of Cross River State has a rich history and is well worth a trip. Originally a cluster of Efik settlements, Calabar was once one of Nigeria’s biggest slave ports, and later a major exporter of palm oil. A popular stopover for travellers heading to Cameroon, this tourist-friendly city has an amazing museum and two excellent primate-conservation centres.
Calabar Museum. Housed in the beautiful old British governor’s building overlooking the river, the museum has a fascinating collection covering Calabar’s days as the Efik kingdom, the slave and palm-oil trade, and the colonial period.
We did not go to Calabar. Because the Ring Road in Cameroon was on almost everybody’s list, we went north and then east to enter Cameroon.
DRILL RANCH WILDLIFE SANCTUARY
This is one of Nigeria’s most attractive tourist attractions. Home to a colony of rescued drill monkeys and chimpanzees, it is in the Afi Mountains in Cross River Province in the south east of Nigeria.
In Calabar is the Drill Monkey Rehabilitation Center, home to Oregon-based Pandrillus, one of Africa’s most progressive primate-conservation bodies, which places emphasis on local education to combat poaching and the bushmeat trade. Spending time with Liza, Peter and Tunje at the Calabar headquarters is fascinating. where they take in orphaned drill monkeys and prepare them for release into the wild.
The drill is native only to Cross River State in Nigeria, the southwest corner of Cameroon and the island of Bioko in Equatorial Guinea. It is one of Africa’s most endangered monkeys – the biggest threat comes from poachers who hunt it for bushmeat. Often, after having killed a nursing mother, the poachers will sell the babies for pets – something they become increasingly unsuited for as they grow – and it is these infants, seized by authorities or given in by members of the public, that are rehabilitated in the center. They also take in chimpanzees in similar circumstances. These are both large animals with the strength of 8-10 humans and they often become dangerous.
The Afi Mountains lie in the land of the Boki people, and Drill Ranch works to make wildlife conservation benefit Boki. They are the areas largest private employer. They provide tools and employ youths to improve and maintain roads and bridges. The vehicle surcharge helps this essential work. They buy produce from local farmers to feed the animals. The 250N daily tariff is paid into a fund for Pandrillus Green Grant annual competition for eco-friendly projects for by indigenes of Afi Mountain communities. The fees thus support better livelihoods and conservation in this part of Boki.
The forest, although second growth, was last logged in the 1950s and is relatively mature.
The Drill Ranch also manages the Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary near Cross River National Park. Created in 2000, this is one of Nigeria’s highlights, with a rainforest-canopy walk and close primate encounters.
From Obudu, we drove south on Okom Road 45km to Wula village and then on a tarred road through Olum village, then another 7km to Buanchor village. We forded the Kala River and parked the truck as it was too heavy to cross two small bridges on the 5km rough track to the sanctuary itself (weight limit on bridges and culverts is 3 tons per axle). Peter from the sanctuary arrived in his ancient Land Rover to take tents, camping stuff, dishes, utensils and food to the sanctuary. Some walked and others took motorcycles down. They charged 2000N per camper and 8000N per room in their “luxury” cabins. The only other fee was 250 CFA for the Afi Mountain Community Development Fund and a 250 donation for the maintenance of the canopy walk. Steve had told us that we also were to give a 5000N donation and they were very surprised by our generosity. Bruce was very generous and gave 100€. They need to improve their business model as their only planned income is from the cabins and camping. They supply showers and a gas and wood stove for cooking in a large open building with nice low tables and lounging chairs. There is no food here.
Besides Peter, the Sanctuary was staffed by Shaylah, a very pleasant women in her 30’s who had been volunteering at the sanctuary for over a year. She was from Bend, Oregon where Pandrillus has a Chimpanzee Rehabilitation facility and where she had worked for 6 years. She was the financial manager and looked after all the guests.
The sanctuary has rehabilitated over 86 lone drill monkeys into 6 social groups, now bearing a new generation, and over 500 drills have been born at the project. Release of drills back to the wild is planned in the future. They not infrequently escaped the enclosures and there was no attempt to recapture them. Drill monkeys are magnificent animals. About the size of chimpanzees, they are stocky and a grey colour with a great black face. The mature males have the most vivid sexual colouring: a bright red penis with the red extending in a band along their groin and extending down their thighs. Their scrotum is medium blue and their rump is blue blending into a pink around their short tail (monkeys have tails, primates don’t). I had never heard of drill monkeys before but was very impressed.
Drill Ranch also provides a lifelong home for orphan chimpanzees in Nigeria. They are kept in large, completely natural enclosure with an electric fence. There were about 11 adult chimpanzees and two babies. All the supposedly sexually mature male chimps had had vasectomies but a young male was able to impregnate two females (they thought he was not sexually mature).
There are four subspecies of chimpanzee. All the ones here belonged to the same subspecies but had regional variations in colour and appearance. The one Equatorial Guinea chimp was grey and had a more elongated face. The Nigerian chimps had a blond tinge and rounder faces.
The chimps started a loud chatter and acted aggressively when we approached for the noon feeding. Some threw fruit and stones at us but the electric fence stopped most of the rocks. Chimps are extremely sexual – the alpha male was sitting and several females backed onto him with the screw lasting a few seconds.
The animals are fed three times a day with a variety of fruit: bananas, papayas, cooked coco yams and avocadoes. The fruit is thrown over the electric fence. We were able to watch two feedings.
The Kache Bano Canopy Walk-A-Way. This canopy walk was built by a Canadian company but was heavily damaged in a 2012 landslide. Close to the Drill Ranch, we walked the first section to a large platform high above the forest floor and a stream. We didn’t see any other animals.
The Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary is maintained by the Cross River State Forestry Commission. Protection and research is sponsored by a partnership of NGOs with government. After generations, Afi’s gorillas, chimpanzees, drills and other endangered species are extremely shy and need many more years of good protection before they will be easily seen. Afi’s gorillas belong to the most endangered subspecies – the Cross River gorilla.
Afi Mountain is listed as an “important bird area” for Nigeria, and the migratory swallow roost at Boje us one of the largest in Africa. Bird watches are welcome.
It is also possible to hike into the sanctuary. Backpacks, mosquito net or tent and food are required and a guide is compulsory. All can be arranged through Drill Ranch in Calabar.
This was a wonderful experience and well worth the effort and minimal cost. It shows how inhumane keeping both drills and chimps as pets is. Adults are poor pets and dangerous. Volunteering here would be a great experience. It is one of the few free volunteer projects in the world and lodging and food is free. Shayla had spent almost 1 ½ years here and thought it a wonderful experience. But her education and interest in life are primates, had worked with them in Oregon for 6 years and already had loads of experience.
Address: Drill Ranch Calabar, HEPO Box 826, Nsefik Eyo Layout, Marian Rod. At Atekong Drive, Calabar, Nigeria.
Phone: +234 803 592-1262
Observations about Nigeria and Africans
Eyeglasses. It is amazing how few Africans wear eyeglasses. My estimate would be less than 1%. And I doubt they all wear contact lenses. Even old people don’t wear glasses. You also rarely see sunglasses – the only ones are cool guys on motorcycles. I guess the sun never bothers their eyes.
African hair. African women go to unusual extremes in hair style. They don’t like their frizzy hair and many women, especially when going out, will straighten their hair. Hair salons may be the most common business n Africa and they basically only deal with relaxers and straightening products. I personally prefer it when they leave their hair natural. Many young (unmarried women) have their hair very short. Usually natural styles involve braiding and the variety is amazing. Unfortunately this often results in traction alopecia – the tight braiding results in hair loss most commonly in the frontal area. Afros are rarely seen.
Probably even more common are hair attachments. These are most commonly woven (the Ghana weave) into their natural hair and are long lasting hair pieces. They can be straight hair pieces or frequently unusual braids.
Almost all men have short hair but shaving the sides and having short braids or Iroquois-type cuts are also seen.
Smoking. The frequency of smoking must be the lowest of any group in the world. In Ghana, smoking in any public place is illegal. People are quite intolerant of the smell of tobacco smoke.
Children. We see a lot of children out the window. Some will be playing football on a tiny patch of dirt with all manners of small balls. I once saw a kid pulling a toy, wood locomotive and car with a long string. But by far the most common is to push around a rubber motorcycle tire with a stick. This is a solitary activity and seems to provide a lot of entertainment. How privileged and spoiled our children are. We rarely hear African children cry.
We left the Drill Ranch after only one night’s stay and drove the next morning to the Cameroon border.
Nigerian/Cameroon Border. The border crossing is at Mfum, Nigeria over the very pretty Mfum River. It took 2 hours and two forms. Each of us had to be present at immigration.
The town on the Cameroon side is Ekok and immigration required another 2 hours. An immigration officer came up into the truck and rifled through every locker. Two minutes down the road, a police check took 30 minutes as all passports and visas were checked.