Sunday 3 August 2014

Leaving the peace of Togo, malaria in Voodoo land and riding through the hostility/hospitality of Nigeria.

Leaving Will’s house was a lot like leaving home again. Saying goodbye to familiar faces and surroundings. I’d spent a quarter of a year there so I had grown some roots. I was ready to leave Ghana though. Out of all the countries I’ve visited so far (aside from India) it was the most annoying, and I was happy to be getting out of there. I was also due to meet up with Will again in Benin in a few weeks’ time so the goodbye was okay. I don’t like goodbyes.

After three months of comfort and air conditioning the outside world showed me no mercy when I first wild camped on my way out of Ghana. I was riding through the mountains to a remote border and started to hear thunder at around 4pm. I thought it be best to stop and pitch my tent before a torrent came. I pitched and waited… but no rain. As it got dark I climbed into my tent, finding it stifling and sweltering. By 8:30 I went outside to brush my teeth and that’s when the rain hit…
I scrambled back inside and read my book as masses of water pounded onto my rain cover. Rivers of water started to flow underneath my tent and parts started to sink into the mud. Liquefaction had set in; a condition in which water turns what was once solid ground into a watery substance. It wasn’t very wise to park my bike right next to my tent as, sure enough, the mount sunk into the earth and my bike fell into my tent! I already had my head torch on so I scrambled out immediately and wrestled with the mud and the bike, stark naked amid the flashes of lightning in the thundering rain. Thankfully the bike and tent were fine. Lesson… always use the kickstand propped up against a rock in the future!

The rain came and went intermittently all of the next day. I was riding on rough mountain roads and some parts had been washed away by the rain. I had to wade through torrents of water with my bike. Eventually I made it to the Togolese border on a road which wasn’t even on my map. The road through no mans’ land was practically a river. I don’t like riding through water as you never know if there’s a giant pot hole underneath, so I sacrificed my shoes and walked the road whilst sat on my bike. I don’t think the border guards had seen many white people coming through there as they seemed baffled by my passport. Nevertheless, it was nice to be in a Francophone country again; better food, politer people, better driving.
I made my way to Chez Alice, a renowned overland camp place where the owner, an 81 year old Swiss lady lets you camp for 1000CFA. It’s a nice place, about 15 km from the capital, Lome, which reduces the noise. I was wondering if I would ever meet another travel partner on the road. I would have liked to as I had Nigeria coming up and wasn’t fond of the prospect of making my way through it alone. Then, two days into my stay at Chez Alice, Daniel, another Swiss on a Yamaha 600 pulled into the camp… and then asked me if I wanted to go through Nigeria with him. Sometimes things do really work out for you on the road!

We stayed there for a while, sorting visas for both of the Congo’s. We had to become residents of Togo in order to get our visa for the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I’ve heard stories of people turning up at the DRC border with a visa that they got on route and then were not allowed in. One man even stayed at the border for ten days trying to get through, but because he didn’t obtain his visa from his ‘country of residence’ they wouldn’t let him through. So officially from last June I am a legitimate resident of Togo for six months.

A sample of the rains. This was flowing underneath the road. In some areas the torrent would wash the road out completely... Too much rain for me to get my camera out for that though at the time!

Daniel on his Yamaha Tenere 600 just outside of the DRC embassy.

My resident paper for Togo. Don't know how much use it's going to come in really, but it's always good to have some sort of document to dish out, baffle and then be told to go.

A dutch couple have been travelling around the world on this for years. They told me South America is like a haven compared to Africa. Open borders, people leave you alone, respect your privacy. It has got me thinking ahead to South America quite a lot.

Children! They just come out of nowhere whenever I stop to do anything!

I crossed over into Benin with no problems at all; considering I had a forged stamp and signature on the visa (fuck you again, Benin embassy of Accra!) I made my way to a place called Grand Popo, a village community on the coast that is renowned for still dwelling in the practices of their Voodoo heritage. I was also meeting Will again which was great. When you're on the road there's not many opportunities to meet up with old friends again. He arranged some beachside cabins for us to sleep in and I was expecting Dan to meet up with me within a few days. But until then it was time to see some first hand Voodoo rituals...

Meeting up with Will and Nikos again. Nikos is a Greek guy who lives in Accra (often at Will's house) doing business. I've learned in Africa it's hard to set up a business.

We met a 'guide' to take us to his Voodoo village. Upon walking up to the water we could see a number of boats, good boats! Our boat was this dug out Pirogue that needed to be emptied of water...

Will's graceful disembarkation from the boat...

The Voodoo chief himself. A very deep eyed man.

This is the ritual chamber. Full of shrunken heads and other sorts of Voodoo paraphernalia. 

Nikos decided to have a ritual performed on him. That's the actual ashes of a deceased elder that are being rubbed into his arm. 

I felt as fit as anything on this day. Been rowed around in a Pirogue, exploring villages full of Voodoo statues, seeing human ashes been rubbed into a man's arm... it was a great day. We had a good meal that night and I went to bed feeling calm and happy...
 I then woke up at four in the morning, shivering like crazy and fighting off sickness. I tried to sleep but a headache steadily creeped on and by morning I was ruined. It was quite obvious it was malaria. I stayed in bed past breakfast time and forced my way to the restaurant to tell Will and Nikos what I thought was going on. It was like walking through water... I had to put so much effort in, and this headache, forcing my face to the floor. I was ruined. It's quite amazing just how fast it came on.
 Thankfully Nikos had some strong, short treatment pills. Eight pills for three days. I vomited until I was empty before I started to take them, and Will very kindly bought me the room in the hut under the mosquito net for another night. This was our goodbye. I'd been his housemate in Ghana for three months but the only goodbye I could muster was to hold his hand from under the net. I would have liked to be able to say goodbye a different way and thank him for all the things he'd done for me, but I just didn't have the strength. Dan turned up as Will and Nikos left too, and looked quite surprised by my state when he came into the room!

Malaria face. Happy face.


After a few days sitting around by the beach in my tent I began to feel better and we decided to make our way up the country to the border crossing of Nikki - a small border which usually means less hassle. It was good to be riding and camping with someone again. I felt bad for Dan though, as I just could make his usual speed and he would have to ride considerably slower behind me. He was a good travel partner though; chilldout, mellow and obsessed with taking pictures of the moon. Benin was a really nice place to ride through too - the people there bore no resemblance to the Embassy workers in Accra, thankfully. The people were extremely friendly. Huge groups of children would gather and scream with excitement whenever we would stop, adults would wave as we rode past. It was a friendly place.

It was good to be camping with someone again.

I pulled a Liam and stupidly left my tent pegs in my last camping place in Togo, so I got some new one's made... African style!

The smiles and excitement of the children of Benin.


This is Ron, a South African guy who's cycling every single country in Africa. He's already gone through Somalia, South Sudan and the Central African Republic! We met him just before crossing into Nigeria. He said it was all fine. I think when he finishes he will actually be a record holder. You can check out his website here;

 *Here is an excerpt taken from my as yet, unfinished, unedited and unpublished book. It's a much better portrayal than the original blog post I'd written at the time.*

We camped around a mile away from the Nigerian border, a few miles East of Nikki in the hope of giving us the best chance to make as much progress as possible once the border formalities were through at first light. We met Ron in Nikki; a South African cyclist who was riding through every country on the African continent. After already riding through war torn South Sudan, Somalia and the Central African Republic before he crossed Nigeria, he told us in honesty that it was the one place where he felt continually insecure. “Tensions and hostility have risen dramatically since the recent rise of Boko Harem” he warned us as we shared a drink. I bought a machete with the naïve hope that it may be beneficial.
 A storm brewed in the distance as we splayed our map on the floor. We were entering at the halfway point up the country, and we traced a diagonal line with our fingers to the South Eastern town of Calabar, where we could obtain our Cameroonian visas before escaping into its relative safety. We planned to avoid as many large towns as possible over the estimated seven hundred miles we had to traverse, and gave ourselves a week.

Many people had warned me that I wouldn’t be able to enter Nigeria without a Carnet. Dan was also travelling without one, yet had been managing to cross borders solely using his Guinean import permit as a false travel document. His un-official piece of paper was covered in entry and exit stamps of every country he’d travelled through since, and he’d never had pay duties. “I stamp here?” said the customs officer as Dan produced his multi-coloured Guinean TIP. Dan shook his head with a friendly smile. I thought I would try my luck with the Ghanaian import permit that was never taken off me, assuming the ambiguity of it would be enough to suffice.   
    “I’m sorry sir, this is the wrong paper. Do you have another?”
    “Oh. How stupid of me. Looks like I need another.” I said, trying to claim blind innocence. They produced a slip that are only issued for African registered vehicles.
    “How long are you planning on staying in Nigeria?”
    “We think it may take us a week to get to Cameroon. But with my bike I’m not sure…” I turned my head and indicated towards my laden bike, propped on its stand by the doorway.
   “My Jesus! You’ve come all the way from England on that!? You are a strong man. A strong man.” He scribbled over the allocated seven day transit time printed on each slip and gave me fourteen. It had seven Nigerian Naira printed on it and I went to fetch my wallet.
   “Sir, this is my pleasure. If you’ve come all the way on that, God must be with you, and it’s my duty to assist you.”
Everyone in the office came over to shake our hands and wish us good luck. The sun shone down on us as we sat on the steps outside to wait for a money changer, with our spirits lifted from these acts of kindness and hospitality. The money changer arrived, gave us a fair deal without the need to barter, and Dan and I looked at each other with the mutual feeling that we might just be okay. We rode on into Nigeria with genuine excitement circling through us.
We stopped at a petrol station to re-fuel. Due to Nigeria’s immense amounts of mineral wealth, we could get vastly more petrol for our money than any other African nation, and we filled our tanks and spare jerry cans to the brim to last us through the quiet dirt roads we were planning to take ahead. Yet just like any other African nation, the radio was turned up to a distorting, high volume, and as the seemingly eternally smiling attendant worked the pumps, a crackling thud of an irate preacher poured out of the speaker.
    ‘When I was walking down the streets of New York I literally saw the ground open up before me and swallow people whole as they listened to music with their earphones. Music is the laughter of the Devil, and all these souls were doomed to eternal damnation as they joyfully listened to the laughter of the Devil in their ears; corrupting their lives and souls!
The petrol attendant smiled and waved as we rode away. If the poisoned words of extremism from the preacher had any effect on him, he didn’t display a glint of it.
Nigeria had recently become Africa’s strongest economy, but that fact was lost into the dirt that made up the roads, the sticks and branches that made up peoples’ homes and the almost none existent infrastructure. This western region of Nigeria was poorer than most places I’d travelled through, and seemed to be lost and forgotten by the rest of the country. The locals, isolated in their land showed an intense curiosity towards us. It was a predominantly Muslim region, and grey, flat walled mosques towered over all stick made dwellings in every village. They were only matched or outsized by the ancient trees that looked to be the centre spot for business in each community.

The state of the roads gradually diminished as we ventured deeper; with deep sand, jagged rocks, uneven terrain and occasional flooded sections that appeared to soak up the dust. Up until then I’d ridden around five hundred miles off road, and my confidence at steadily negotiating my way through rock filled, sinking, contorted earth was high. I rolled over the dirt, weaving and meandering as I picked my smooth flow through the tumultuous road as I gathered speed. Dan was surprised at the rate I was covering distance, and I marvelled at my judgment at the speed at which I chose the smoothest way for my wheels, planning it all out in an instant as my eyes flickered around the ground. I deflected off mounds of dirt, bumped over rocks, followed narrow tracks that flipped in rising and descending gradients and propelled my trajectory forward until I weaved into a patch of rocks and clipped my front wheel. My handlebars shook violently from side to side, sending my bike swaying. I gripped them with all my strength; focusing too greatly on steadying the bike instead of hitting the breaks until they threw themselves from my hands. I hit the ground as fast and sudden as the sound of the bike crashing into the dirt exploded into the air. I could still hear the smashing, buckling sound of metal hitting rock echoing through my mind in those slow, transitory seconds I laid on the ground until I felt the pain shoot through my body and bring me back to the moment in an instant. I laid there motionless, waiting for the onslaught of isolated, rising agony to tell me that I’m seriously injured. My hip soared above all layers of pain and my left arm was numb. My fingers felt loose and unresponsive. I turned my head in my chipped and scratched helmet. I had fallen on jagged rocks and bounced where I’d hit the floor. My bike was still ticking over on its side, and I looked in dismay when I saw oil tricking from the engine. A local boy had seen me fall and came running over. I staggered to my feet to meet him and limped over to the bike where we both heaved it up. To my relief the engine hadn’t split, it was just the angled that allowed the oil to fall, but I worried about interior damage. The left indicator and mirror had both completely smashed off, the front fairing had cracked and shattered at its edges, my foot pedal had bent to a thirty degree angle and my front basket had entirely caved into itself. With my engine switched off and damage assessed I turned my attention to my body. My jacket and jeans had torn on the rocks; if it wasn’t for the knee, elbow and arm protection I had bought in Ghana it would have been my flesh that shredded instead of my clothes. No doubt rock would have met bone. My hip throbbed, and I looked down at my belt that had also shredded. That had saved my skin, but a deep bruise had already started to form. Dan, who had been riding in front of me came back, and as shock was still turning through me we both decided to make camp early. My bike still started first kick, and we rode into the bush where I topped myself up with dihydrocodeine and bent, glued and taped my bike back together. I couldn’t sleep on my side that night, and it would be weeks before I could turn in bed without waking in pain.

I was still shaken from the crash, and as the roads became worse the further we went, I didn’t dare venture out of second gear. The going was slow. The heavens had opened during the night and entire sections of the road had become flooded. We would have to veer through the trees on either side to be able to find safe paths around. One local boy on an Indian Boxer 100cc motorcycle saw us having difficulties and showed us safe passages through the waters with masterly knowledge. We followed behind him slowly for thirty miles, and he would patiently wait for us in silence as we tried to ford through the sunken sections. We couldn’t speak each other’s language, yet his quiet desire to help us was met with many thanks. It took a full six hours of riding to cover just forty miles that day.

Once we happened upon villages the welcoming curiosity of the local people never abated. I lost count of the amount of times we heard shouts of “You are welcome!” as we rode past people. I always found the hospitality of Muslims to be unequalled by any other people where religion determines their actions. The remoteness of the area we were travelling through, meant that to these people, we were a unique sight in their otherwise, limited world. Yet the welcome we received was unequivocally honest, and we simultaneously became their guests without question. People would give us bags of pure water as gifts and when we stopped to eat in a small shack people would try to refuse money for the food we’d eaten.
 Stopping for supplies always attracted a large crowd, where we would become circled by people who had gathered around to stare. There wasn’t a shred of animosity in the air, and our smiles were returned by the leaping joys of the young to the toothless grins of the old. Yet after days of constantly been the centre of attention, being an obscure oddity started to become a little tiring. It was a strange sensation to be sat, eating the very normal food of rice and beans whilst a crowd of fifty men, women and children, from the extremely old to the very young watch with their mouths open as I ate every single mouthful. Though when I look up and see a wave of smiles sent back to mine, they wash away any form of irritation. And when I finish the meal and get up to go back to my bike, all the children from the crowd run over to me, jumping, shouting and clapping. I go to shake the hand of a little boy next to me and everyone runs to have a go. My blue eyes were always a cause for extreme curiosity with children, and some of them hold a gaze at my face before nervously touching my cheek with their finger and then run away screaming.

The dirt turned to tarmac as we made our way out of the rural regions of West and into the densely populated and urbanised areas of Central Nigeria. Islam had given way to Christianity. People would still gather by the roadside to stare, but now many would run away and occasionally take offence when I pulled out my camera. Ilorin; a city too big for comfort that was large enough to have its own airport was coming up on our map. We had to cross it to make our way to one of the bridges further south. Neither of us wanted to, despite the initial hospitality we’d received; a densely populated Nigerian city made us both uncomfortable.
 We looked upon the fume infested urban sprawl from the crescent of a hill. A grey and black corpus of concrete and congested roads spanned the valley below us. We pointed our fingers in a straight line towards the horizon and made our decent into its mass, trying to keep a linear line as possible. Yet we quickly became tangled within its clogging arms, and keeping our line south was lost in the spreading maze of roads. Neither of us could fathom when it would ever end. Cars jammed around us and rickety, overcrowded busses pushed through in flumes of choking smoke and crackling engines. The sun went behind the clouds and I began to taste the tension and animosity in the air as people glared at us through the shrouded windows of passing vehicles. I stopped at a pair of traffic lights and heard the shriek of a whistle and saw a policeman running up to me with his hand held high. Suspicion glowered on his face as he rushed over and grabbed my keys from the ignition. I opened my mouth to ask him why, yet before I had chance to speak he pulled my machete from my front basket and held it high in the air in a triumphant raise of accusation. My heart started to pour beats of fear as I began to realise the gravity situation when a hand grabbed me on the shoulder and spun me round. Before I even had chance to register the man in front of me he lunged at my belt, and pulled his fingers behind my trousers and underwear, and ripped out some of my pubic hair as he held me. Waves of invasive fear shot through me, and as he forcefully pulled me towards him with his firmly gripped hand, my eyes widened at the automatic machine gun hanging from his shoulder.
    “Where are your weapons!?” He screamed at me.
    “I don’t have any weapons…” I said, almost lost for words.
    “Where are your weapons?!”
    “I don’t have any. I’m just a tourists. All I’m doing is trying to get to Cameroon.”
    “Where is your passport!?”
Fear beat through me, causing adrenaline to set my veins on fire. I noticed that through instinct, I’d automatically raised my arms, and displayed my open palms in a defensive position. My ears still pounded with the sound of my heart, and as I tried to see through the vibrant blur of fear and answer his question, the traffic policeman put his hands in my bar bag, took out all my documents and handed them to the armed man. I looked at him as he stood there, wearing no uniform, no badge, just a man with a gun holding both my passport and keys. Three other armed people in plain clothes ran over and stood around us, and as the frenzied seconds ticked by, the sight had caught the attention of the locals. Hundreds of people rushed over and surrounded us. And as I faced the armed man, I felt the energy from the mass of people behind me tighten the air and suddenly burst as a man from the crowd shouted ‘what is in your bags!?’
    “You have to come with me!” Said the armed man as his eyes frantically searched around us.                       “Where!?” I shouted, as fingers and hands started to grope at my arms and pull at the back of my jacket.
  “You have to come to the station!”
 “That’s fine. Just give me my passport back and I’ll come to the station with you.”
“No! You have to follow me! I carry your passport!”
I didn’t realise it at the time, but fear can make me angry. It never used to do, yet the sight of that man with my passport brought out a fighting fear in me. If it was stolen again, my trip would undoubtedly be over, and for all the reason in me, he had no right to be clutching my precious passport. Yet the crowd behind me swelled, and as confusion and fear ripped through them. Shouting began to erupt around us. ‘What is in your bags!? Hands began to pull and tug at me. ‘What is in your bags!?’ Hands grip at my clothes and I try to shake them off. ‘Boko Harem! Boko Harem! The calls came from all around us. ‘Boko Harem! Boko Harem!’ Mob mentality infected the crowd and fingers plunged into my skin and hands gripped my arms. ‘Boko Harem! Boko Harem!’ My nervous system seizes as four pairs of hands grab me and begin to pull me backwards. I try to lunge forward, then my heart suddenly freezes as a gunshot is set loose from the man’s rifle over my head, and the three gunshots that follow are replicated by my heart like cannon fire in my chest. My stomach turns to embers and my skin grips my fingers close. My eyes search for an escape as the ringing in my ears distort my mind. The crowd has now run away for cover and the man with the gun is shouting into my stunned mind.
    “You have to come to the station now!”
    “Yes, I will. Just give me my passport and I’ll come. I am its bearer and that passport belongs to me!” I said, still trying to cling onto some form of resilience.
    “You can have your passport, or your keys!” he compromised, and held them both up for me to choose.
    “Fine!” I whipped my passport from his hand. “I’ll push my bike to your station!”
I secured my passport back into my belongings, and turned around to notice that Dan had already gone. With all the adrenaline and confusion flitting between the clenching, undulating minutes I had forgotten about him. Some of the armed men were beckoning me to follow them, and I knocked my bike from its centre stand and began to push its heavy load down the street. Crowds started to form around me again, and shouts were being fired into the air. I focused on pushing, feeling the weight of the bike lift as adrenaline began to soar further. People began to burst from the crowds and run at me, and as I focused on them I saw their direction change course as more gunshots fired and flew through the air. The crowds dispersed. I still pushed. The crowds formed again, people ran and still, more gunshots were fired.  
    “It’s too dangerous for you here!” said the armed man with my key as he ran over and hastily thrust them back into my hand.
I followed them into a compound where they slammed a set of rusty gates behind me. Dan was underneath a tree, surrounded by a group of armed men. Hordes of people still shouted as they surrounded the compound, held at bay by guards carrying machine guns. But the security that they, and the fence provided put us all in comparative ease, and as Dan and I stood astride our bikes, with our helmets off, able to talk in relative peace, their demeanour changed. The armed man now wore a genuine smile on his face, and as the chief of police came over and articulately explained himself, his men and the situation to us, I realised that the man’s actions were due to fear.
    “All these people are scared. They are uneducated, you know… Nigeria is in a crisis at the moment, and they fear strangers.” He said, as him and his men tried to calm us down. 
    “We need to search all your bags to show them that you are not terrorists and that you are who you say you are. We believe you, but we need to show them.”
A pang of fear shot through me. In my left pannier I had a medicine bag containing hundreds of opiate based drugs and Valium pills. They proceeded to search Dan’s luggage first, and meticulously went through each item he had, questioning his water purification kit, asking what his malaria medication was and even making him unroll his sleeping bag. I prompted the search of my bags as Dan was having his checked, to divert the amount of eyes scrutenously looking through my belongings. By the time they were finished with Dan, and we were down to my last, left pannier, their curiosities had been satisfied. The armed man then wrote all our details down on a piece of paper and went to go speak to the crowd, assuring them that we weren’t terrorists.
    “You need to be careful” said he chief as he gave me my machete back.
    “Here.” He gave me a scrap of paper with some pencilled scrawls. “If you ever come into contact with the police again, just tell them that you were searched by the chief of police at Ilorin and you should be okay.”
We were free to go. Yet adrenaline still gripped us both, and inner, pressing urges drove me to get as far away from Ilorin as I feasibly could. All the shouts of ‘you are welcome!’ that we heard as we rode out of the city fell on my closed ears.

We were arrested twice the next day, and on most subsequent days thereafter we were arrested between one and three times. Police and military checkpoints were becoming all too frequent, and when the charm offensive failed, or we knew it was pointless to begin with it at the first glance, we were demanded off our bikes and either taken under a tree or escorted to a police station. The piece of paper that the chief handed me in Ilorin was useless.  They were particularly interested in Dan’s huge, metal pad-locked cases that he had on each side of his bike, and would usually, to my relief, decide that we were free to go after he had been searched. One of the major aspects of travelling through Nigeria that I had feared the most was corrupt officials, yet each time we were detained, corruption was never a problem. The setback that each arrest made however, was the most troubling. Each search could take up to two hours and seeing as we were arrested nearly every time we stopped for some food, water, a break, to look at the map and on one occasion to save a bird, these delays meant that our time schedule to traverse the country collapsed. On one day we went through nineteen checkpoints. We had formed a code between us when we approached the barriers in the road, and would nod to each other to indicate whether we could make it through without stopping. On some of the heavily congested roadblocks, where lines of trucks and cars formed behind the barriers, we dared to pass on the outside of one of the trucks, giving a friendly wave to anyone who saw. This tactic proved effective on each time we decided. We could sense between us when we could get away with it.
Dealing with people in threatening uniform and bearing arms became a normal aspect to our days. The life gripping fear thrown at us in Ilorin had still not fully subsided and we were both still on a level of high alert. Each time we had to deal with an obstacle; fuel, food, water or a mere interaction, it was facilitated through a matter of instinctive urgency. It was hard to let ourselves breathe without feeling a pressing urge to cover more distance.
We stopped in a small town to re-fuel. Nigeria had now been with us for five days and we knew our routine. We had our bikes under a patch of shade away from the fuel pumps and would walk over to fill our jerry cans. A man on a small bike pulled up to a pump, filled his tank and went to pay the attendant girl. A dusty, dented and rusting white van pulled in off the road, drove into the station and ran into the man’s bike, knocking it to the floor and grinding it along the concrete before running over it with his front wheel. The owner of the motorcycle blew into a rage and ran at the van door, kicking it as he launched himself upon it. The man behind the wheel still wore his slit-eyed, nonchalant expression he had before he drove into the man’s bike, and slowly opened his door. The driver showed the same amount of capacity for empathy as there were words in the air before they were locked into each other’s raging arms. Neither of them had room to throw a punch, so they grappled, trying to force one another to the floor. This approach seemed fruitless after thirty seconds, so instead they proceeded to grab at each other’s genitals, clenching them in their hands and trying to pull one another off the ground by them. No sounds came from the grimaced faces as they twisted, grabbed and pulled. The motorcycle man then managed to get his left arm around the white van man’s neck, pull his torso down, lift with his right hand, making it look as though he was pushing the other man’s bollocks far into his rectum, before advancing to slam the man’s head into his van’s door. Friends of the motorcycle man then ran over, lifted the other man into the van by his hair, bollocks and legs, and drove off.
    “Does this sort of thing usually happen here?” I asked the girl who tended the pumps.
    “Welcome to Nigeria.” She said as she still sat on her stool, unmoved as Dan and I had been constantly taking slow, anguished steps backward. She then got up and bought us a bunch of bananas as a present before waving us goodbye in the same welcoming, genuine smile that I’d seen hundreds of times throughout my journey.


Hunger called on us to find breakfast as we rode along small dirt roads the next morning. Our food stocks were low due the need to avoid stopping, and from our previous experience, we both agreed in earnest that people were more receptive of us when we travelled along the smaller trails. No towns were on our map for miles, but small, un-marked villages crept up on us often. Frequent stops had to be made as concentrating on the terrain was difficult with hunger burning into our stomachs. The roads were in the same dilapidated state as that which I had my accident on when we first entered the country, yet the sense of peace and ease that we had experienced then had long vanished. Buses would occasionally pass us, and as the ball of dust that consumed the air formed in their passing, I sometimes caught the shout of ‘Boko Harem!’ Three times I heard it, and after a man leant out of a window and shouted it at my face as he locked eyes with me, Dan and I stopped and discussed whether it was an accusation or a warning. For the sake of our optimism we decided on the latter and carried on further in search of food.
We pulled up at a village. It was of moderate size and we knew there would be some sort of small eatery within. Yet almost immediately after we came to a stop hundreds of people ran towards us, waving their arms and shouting. We were surrounded by an uproar before we could get our bearings and decide to flee. Pounding, heart thrusting fear screamed through me once more. Aggressive yells, shrieks and accusations poured around us. Hands pocked, grabbed and probed my arms, jacket and bike. I panicked and turned around to tell Dan that we should leave but his defensive smile was shrouded and distracted by surrounding shouts and arms reaching all over his bike.
    “You get off your bike and stand over here!” Demanded a man in front of me.
    “No, I have to see if my friend is okay.”
    “You get off your bike and come over here!”
    “No! We only came here for breakfast and now we feel in danger. We just want to leave. I have to leave with my friend!”
    “You get off your bike now and come with me!” He blared and punched me three times in the shoulder. My inner reasoning split, and the flight and fight reflex of adrenaline burst through me simultaneously.
    “Get the fuck out of my way or I’ll fucking run you over!” I yelled as I kicked my bike into gear, plunged the throttle and ran at him with a swiping of my arm. Some people gave chase but in seconds I was on my own in the village. Thoughts of wanted to flee the situation, to be free of danger and then of Dan darted through my mind and I circled the track around the village to ride back to him. I was now behind him. He was still on his bike surrounded by the crowd, and people quickly noticed me and my wide, fleeting eyes. Among the people who ran at me there was an old man. He carried a staff, wore a ‘hat’ and had a manor about his pose that beamed authority.  
    “Who are you and what do you want?” He confidently and calmly asserted.
    “I’m just a traveller. Myself and my friend over there are riding our bikes to Cameroon and we only came here for breakfast. That’s it, just something to eat. We’ll leave now if you want us to.”
The man said something to the few men around us and they darted around the crowd calling for silence. The man with the staff then addressed everyone amid the still present callings for order. He explained who we were and what we wanted. Some people protested, demanding that we should leave straight away and an aggravated discussion ensued. By this moment I had pushed my bike through the glares of people and was alongside Dan. We looked at each other with a shake of our heads. It was decided that we were allowed to eat, but that we had to be accompanied and must leave straight afterward. The chief and his children stood by our bikes as we made our way inside the small café and sat with the other high ranking men. Yet any thought of food was far beyond my mind, and I could only muster a drink into my tightened stomach. Dan managed to eat briefly until we were ushered outside. A man still banged on my panniers by the doorway, demanding to see what was inside as I distantly mounted my bike and then both rode away.

We decided between us that considering the levels of animosity and relative dangers that could erupt from our presence that it would be better to try and find guest houses to sleep in rather than to camp in the bush. Though as the sun set that night it was plain to see that we had no other choice. Nigeria was densely populated, and finding places to hide out for the dark hours proved extremely difficult without disturbing others. We managed to befriend an elderly couple with friendly gestures through our language gap that lived in a shack off a main road and was allowed to camp in one of the fields adjacent to their home, with a line of trees hiding us from the road. The ochre dust ridden days of our first few days in Nigeria had now been replaced with lush greens and vibrant life. Butterflies hovered over the field and cows bearing twisting, elongated horns grazed in the distance. The always expected visitor to the camp wandered over in the form of a twenty one year old farm worker. He told us that he works on a tractor two fields away from us and would like to move away to Ilorin to experience city life, but his family needed him to work the fields. Speaking to a friendly face that wasn’t insistent that we were threats worked at calming my nerves slightly. Yet having thought that I my actually die on two occasions over the previous days made for some blunt conversation on my part. Fear, and the rippling aftermaths that follow can consume your state; closing you, gripping you, pushing and pulling you, and it was the former and latter that had taken over me.
I was more concerned with studying my map, planning the shortest route out of Nigeria and getting an early sleep so I could be on my way. I awoke that morning, glanced through those few brief seconds where you don’t know where you are, and then let out a sigh that I was still in Nigeria. The farm boy came back that morning with his entire family, as he promised he would. Three generations stood in line as they watched Dan and I packing up our gear. They could speak English well, but conversations came and then fell away. There was no sense of hostility from these people, and it was only their friendly, innocent curiosity that had drawn them to us, but my previous pledge to harbour more patience had been irradiated, and being the sole Spector of endless gazes had once again began to gnaw. It was time for my seven hundred mile oil change, and after I’d cleanly funnelled the spent oil into an empty bottle I began to fill up my oil sump. Six of the men gathered around me and stared as I made every move and breath. I looked up with a smile. “Are you okay?” It was returned with nothing but the same curious eyes. I searched my mind: they work with tractors, bikes are extremely common here, mine is smaller than most, and I’m wearing dirtier clothes than they are… why is this so interesting?
    “Look, you know where I’m from it is very rude to just stare at people when they’re trying to concentrate on something…” I said, appealing for some privacy.
“Oh.” The same stares continued until they were added with handshakes and waves of goodbye as we rode away.

The rains of West Africa had been mounting for some time. I had been studying its course whilst I was at Will’s, and had hoped to pass under it through Togo and Benin as it moved west and I moved east. But it was Nigeria where we would feel its permanent presence. Clouds had gathered ahead of us, forming a dense mass of dark blue as electrical energy tingled in the air that burst above us as we rushed for our rain gear. I had to tilt my head down so I could see in my visor-less helmet as the rain rushed toward my eyes. My backpacking raincoat was useless against the torrent and I soon became dowsed in water. The wind ripped under it as I sat on my bike, causing chills to pinch my skin until I shivered as I rode. It had only been twelve days since I came down with malaria and I wasn’t to full strength. We spotted a small chop house and pulled in to see the rain off and replenish ourselves. There was a cauldron of food in the back sat atop a layer of burning embers, sticks and ash. We bought some food from the cauldron and I sat by it trying to warm myself up. I never expected to shiver so violently from the elements this far into Africa, but the cold in my body would not give way. I stretched my hands out, trying to harness the heat after we had finished eating.
    “You have to go now. You have finished your food.” Said the previously friendly woman. I tried to plead, explaining that I needed to warm myself up.
     “No, you are strangers and you have finished. I don’t want strangers in here.”
    “Can I buy something else so I can stay?”
    “No, strangers are not welcome here. By God’s grace I do not trust you and you have to leave.”
 My bike had fallen in the mud outside, smashing off my glued mirror. Another lady came over from a chop house while I was picking it up and invited me to stay by her fire. She and the other woman had come over to us to offer us to eat in their place when we first arrived. I should have chosen her smile. I thanked her, but decided to ride on dejectedly.
The rain was still pelting as night descended. We were now in the Southern reaches of Nigeria and finding a place to camp among the swelling population seemed pointless to attempt. We tried at a church but were turned away because we were strangers. After many hours of riding into the night we eventually found a hotel. Our belongings were searched for bombs and weapons before we were allowed in. After haggling the price down it was more than double than what I’d paid for accommodation since I left home, but there was no other option. We asked if we could share a room but was promptly told that it was illegal for two men to share a room, even if there were two beds. Yet we enjoyed the secure freedom of four walls and a roof and studied the map over many cigarettes, reassuring ourselves that we only had two more riding days to reach Calabar.

Grey concrete now replaced the green. Towns and cities were connected with heavily ridden highways and well maintained roads. The affluence and wealth of Nigeria was now apparent and we wondered that now we were on a main route that we would be treated with less suspicion. This was the case, but it also meant that we were now targets for thieves. We came to a cross roads and headed in the direction of Calabar. A whistle blew with the shout of ‘Stop! Police!’ A man wearing a high-vis vest ran over to me followed by five other men. We quickly realised they weren’t police but before we could ride away they took the keys from our ignitions and demanded money. I turned around to look at Dan. His face of agitated disgust mirrored my feelings. After facing angry mobs of hundreds, these six men, although inducing a blood pumping fear, had little effect in the submissive state they were trying to produce from us.
    “You give me money now!”
    “You are in violation of a traffic law and you need to pay a fine!” He was still trying to hide behind his fooling pretence.
    “No you’re not. Just give me back my keys!”
The argument continued on like this until another crowd started to form around us, and I saw the unusually welcome sight of a policewoman.
    “What is the problem here?” She said with some degree of authority.
    “This man’s stolen my keys and is demanding money for them.”
The men barked at her and she collapsed inside herself.
    “You’re on your own mister.” She said, and as she walked away she took any form of authority away with her, and left us alone within the total disrespect for law that these men had. Angered at the situation, the fear and adrenaline that had swirled through me the past week now manifested itself into a defiant rage.
     “I’m not giving you a fucking thing!” I belted at him and lunged with my hands, prising my keys from his clasped palms. In my life I had never been in a real fight before, and never rose to anger out of a situation where I’d deal with it physically, but within this unknown rage I stood up to the three men in front of me, ready to take on their anger with mine. In that moment the only way they would get anything from me would be to try and take it physically, and they understood I wouldn’t back down. I turned to Dan who had his hand out.
    “Just give me back my keys.” He said, shaking his head. He was calmer than I, and showed not a shred of fear, which under most circumstances is better than reacting with anger.
    “Just go!” said the original man, slamming his fist on my back box.
    “Not until you give my friend back his keys.” Dan’s calm demeanour had washed onto me. Dan had his keys handed to him.
“Just go!” screamed the man, bearing an obscene amount of anger and frustration on his stupid face. Another group ran at us that day, but we’d learnt our lesson not to stop for them, and instead chose to retort with a prompt ‘fuck off!’

The rains fell from the sky, deafening the air, rebounding off the road, and catching us in the middle in a half-drown, sodden existence as we rode. We were one hundred miles away from Calabar in the town of Ugep and were taken by a sign brandishing ‘Royal Guest House.’ The father and son, Bukola and Osaro were happy to put us up for the night, and it seemed to never cross their minds that they may have had to search us for bombs. They were both calm people, and it was refreshing to be able to sit and talk with people that didn’t hold hostile, suspicious tendencies towards us. We sat up late with them, talking about the troubles we’d encountered as we shared bananas and papayas. They were both deeply saddened about our experiences, and were troubled by the exasperating times their country was going through.
 The rains had stopped by morning, and we packed up to set out to Calabar. Yet as my bike was still refreshingly starting with the first kick, Dan’s bike, ran for three seconds and then died completely. We worked on it until afternoon before we conceded to stay for another day. Though having more time to enjoy some much needed warm company and the basic bucket shower was a welcome fall back. The courtyard in front of the guest house attracted throngs of people selling nuts, fruits, the boys shouting ‘pure water!’ as they carried buckets on their heads, or just the curious people that came to see the two travellers and their bikes. Bukola and Osaro were popular characters, and the seemingly perpetual joints that were drifting smoke from Osaro’s hands put all the youths who came to visit into laughing, blurry states.
 Though due to the basic stores in the town, Dan was unable to fix his bike. We made plans to meet in Calabar after a truck had been arranged to carry Dan’s bike It seemed suspiciously easy, but we were both certain we would meet up within a day or two. As I was securing my bags the following morning a young man who I’d briefly met the previous day came into the courtyard.
    “I will follow you.” He stated as he stood by my moped.
    “You can’t follow me.”
    “I will follow you.”
    “Do you know where I’m going?”
    “I will follow you?”
    “You know I’m riding this all the way to South Africa. I don’t think you can just follow me.”
    “I will follow you.”
    “You need visas for every country, a bike with the correct paperwork and a tent if you plan on living alongside me.”
    “I will follow you.”
    “And once in South Africa I need to find a way to South America where I’ll meet my girlfriend and ride with her up to Canada.”
    “I will follow you.”
    “And once in Canada we will be living there for a year with working tourist visas and share an apartment together. Are you going to do that with us too?
    “I will follow you.”
    “You can’t just invite yourself into my life. Do you even have a bike?”
    “I will sit here.” He pointed to my dry bag, stuffed to the brim with my roll mat, tent, cooker and other gear, draped with two tyres and a jerry can tied around the top with cable ties as it squeezed into the space where the end of the seat used to be before I sawed it off.
   “Please stop talking to me.”

Calabar was a large, modern city, and the accommodation prices were adding to the mounting expense of sleeping within walls in Nigeria. Though as the rain continued to fill the air outside, having a fully equipped room with an adjoining bathroom was welcoming as mould had started to grow on my clothes from constantly been in the damp, tropical heat. I was surprised to find that what remained of my belt had turned into a fury, green lifeform as I wore it.
 Dan later wandered into the foyer at night as I was talking to the receptionist, his dreadlocks were dripping with rain.
    “You’re a bit late. Smooth journey?”
    “No! After measuring the bike, the guy with the truck who was adamant it would fit turned up with this tiny thing, and it was obvious at first sight it wouldn’t fit. Then he went to go get his friend and never came back. I had to put it on a random lorry to get here. The military guys at the checkpoint near the guest house were very nice though.”

I felt safer in Calabar than I did in any other place in Nigeria, yet I still felt uneasy walking around at night. Rain had been beating down for seven days straight and the storm drains around the city had burst into murky rivers and yellow waterfalls as they carried the litter and filth from the streets with them. Potholes began to form from the rains effect on the poorly built roads and pavements, and the streets became dangerous for the ill footed. An old woman walking towards me gripping carrier bags loaded with goods slipped and fell through a hole in the pavement where three slabs had collapsed. Men walked past her as she struggled with her bony fingers on the jagged concrete before I managed to run to her. I gripped the papery skin on her hands and lifted her out of the hole. Her bags had spilt, and as I was collecting up her food and belongings for her she kept muttering the words ‘God bless you, sir.’ I asked if she needed help carrying her bags home, but when she looked at me I saw embarrassment in her eyes on my part. She gripped my arm in a thanking gesture and limped away.

Having already acquired our Cameroonian visa from a consulate wearing a Simpsons t-shirt, we were still stuck in the limbo of mounting hotel costs as Dan had still been unable to fix his bike. Yet Elias and Christina had put us in touch with a ma they had stayed with.
 Babson was a professor of visual arts who lived in a single story house in the suburbs. He was very affluent by Nigerian standards but could still only afford a modest home, yet he did have the luxury of been able to afford a home cinema. Most evenings he would have children from the neighbourhood over to watch films on his overhead projector. He was happy to take Dan and I in whilst Dan worked on his bike, and forwent the homosexuality fearing law of the government and showed Dan and I our room with the single, double bed. Babson was a level headed, good natured, intelligent man who had a relaxed, comedic demeanour.
 I had been planning to change my chain and sprockets with a set I bought in Ugep whilst I was staying at Babson’s, but as the law of unforgiving circumstances with my bike and I were still rolling, it had snapped two miles from Babson’s house as I was following him in his car. I had to leave it by a restaurant under the guard of his friend. “Don’t you worry about your bike, we’ll get it here by tonight.” He said reassuringly. “There are either two options. We can either learn magic and, boom, your bike is here! Or you can just let me take care of it for you.” He hired his friend’s pick-up truck and flatly refused when I tried to pay. The bill was larger than I’d spent on the hotel.

The Nigerian government had recently banned the use of large motorcycles in the Cross River State which we were in. This caused major problems for Dan. He was an engineer by trade, and was good with his hands. But as he was reduced to opening up his engine in a state where parts were unobtainable, with the hope of been able to spot what he needed to have shipped, his situation became desperate. Babson had a contact in Lagos who may have been able to help Dan, but it would be weeks before he could, and as the days ticked by, it became evident that we would have to part our ways, and I made the decision to ride to Cameroon where we hoped we’d meet. I had already changed the dates on my entry stamp in my passport and import permit, and they were now beyond the possibilities of false extensions. He had the blessings of his ambiguous travel document on his side, yet I knew how frustrating it was to have a broken bike. I didn’t enjoy leaving him behind  

Within the space of a week, the clear, one hundred mile stretch of road North to Ugep was now decorated with two burnt out trucks that had collided with cars, and a single, misshapen, gouged and broken body that lay by the side of the road. I felt slightly unnerved about making the final stretch of Nigeria alone, but after all the trauma Dan and I had faced, I felt as prepared as I could be for what may come. I wasn’t prepared in terms of money, however, assuming I had enough for fuel and to spend the night in transit at the Royal Guest House in the two day journey to Cameroon. I didn’t have enough. Upon seeing my dwindling wallet, Osara, through his glazed eyes kindly gave me a discount on the room, and I was obliged to break my post malaria pure water rule and drink the water he and his family had collected during the rains. My stomach never protested, and it tasted far better than the sterile water wrapped in plastic.
I made two traffic offences as I made my way out of Nigeria the next morning, The first was merely 500 metres away from the front door of the guest house where I ran through a faded and almost illegible stop sign painted on the road. The policeman manning the road promptly arrested me and told me I must go straight to jail before appearing in court to pay a hefty fine. My visa was due to expire the next day, and I had literally no Nigerian currency to my name, so I was curious, more than anything, to find out what the initially irate policeman would do with me. He shouted, almost red in the face at first, and after I apologised, and accepted what must be done, almost none caring due to my visa predicament being handed to them should they hold me until it expired, he calmed down; his face mirroring my distained apathy. Another crowd started to form.
    “You see these people here? They are watching you because you have done something wrong.”
    “Nah, people always gather around whenever the police stop me.”
    “Who are you and what are you doing here, anyway?”
    “I’m an artist from England, and I’m riding this bike around Africa for ideas. And right now I’m on my way to Cameroon for breakfast.” I said, relaxed.
    “Well, on this occasion I’m going to let you go. But if you’re doing this again… straight to jail!”

I hadn’t adjusted my rear break enough after I changed the chain-set at Babsons', and it was overly loose. A police checkpoint was ahead with a line of slow moving cars moving towards it. I was riding too close to the car in front of me, a policeman suddenly threw his hand into the air, the car slammed on its breaks and I rode straight into the back of it, sending my rear panniers flying from the rack right in full view of four policemen. Whistles were blown, eyebrows were raised and palms were rubbed as the four policemen placed me under arrest. Again, I was told I must go to jail, appear in court and pay a hefty fine. Against the four of them, I decided to go on the charm offensive, apologising profusely whilst attempting to make friends with them through humility and lack of pride against their judgments.
    “Have you eaten today, sir?” asked the policeman with all my papers.
    “No. I’ve run out of Nigerian money and I need to get to Cameroon in order to buy breakfast.”
    “Well that is very stupid of you, because you cannot ride like this so carelessly. You need to eat before you are riding your bike.”
    “I know, I’m sorry.”
    “Well… I should arrest you, and you should go to court… but seeing as today is Happy Sunday and we are celebrating, I will let you go. But if you ever do this again… straight to jail!”
I had just ten more miles of Nigeria left. The border town of Ekok was the only border open in South Eastern Nigeria due to the rains closing the other, small jungle track crossings. This meant that bandits, thieves and the infamous ‘stickmen’ of the region had now taken to solely patrolling this road out of the country. I had encountered fake road blocks before, where a groups of young men in Benin had secured lines of rope to trees by the side of the road and would lift them up when they saw us approaching. Although the perpetrators carried sticks, a brief argument and a quick escape when the rope was down set us loose. Yet I never imagine that I would encounter them so prolifically this close to an international boundary. I saw the tell-tale signs; the rope across the cracked concrete, the small shack by the side of the road, and then to my dismay, a group of three men brandishing sticks with nails hammered into them. I find it hard to comprehend the reasoning and nerve behind my reaction now that I reflect from the normality and safety of my home. But in that moment I abandoned all consequence, all reserve and placed the magnitude of what might have been into the recesses of my mind which were only opened, or shrouded by the continuous vehement existence of fear of my present days. I saw the rope lift from the road, and as it became the barrier on my horizon I slammed down on the throttle and tucked my body into myself; I was going to ride through without stopping, whether they lowered the rope or not. They were thankfully not serious about causing grievous bodily harm, and I left them shouting into the fading distance of my mirrors as I soared through.
Another two road blocks were manned by people with planks of wood, punctured with nails that they would throw into the road to rip your tyres. We had ridden though these before in Nigeria also, but they were preoccupied with trucks as we meandered our way around, where shouts were only raised when they noticed us too late. I made my decision and tucked into the right, making them throw the spikes into only one side of the road as I slowed down. And when it was firmly decided that I would stop, I veered to the left and spun round them before they had chance to throw the other.
 Come the other spiked road block, they had already thrown both sets of spikes into the road, and I had to ride into the safety of the trees to make my escape. On each set of these spiked blockades there was one man wearing a pair of handcuffs on his belt, trying to façade some degree of authority, yet the ignorance on their faces and anger emanating from their eyes revealed their true intentions.

I was angered by the incompetence of the Nigerian government. Not only did it frustrate me how they could let such blatant lawlessness and attempted robbery be acted out so close to their international boundaries, but that the country was rife with crime, lawlessness, terrorism and corruption in itself. One ununiformed man at the border, who I couldn’t tell what his job was tried to bribe me to get my passport back. I took it out of his hand as he held it up whilst asking ‘who the hell do you think you are?’ and walked out shaking my head. I was frustrated by it to the point of recklessness. Yet here I realised, that this glimmer of my own reserve breaking from outside pressures helped me to comprehend the aspect of what I found most enduring out of Nigeria; fear. It was fear that was the culprit of most of the hostility towards us, a fear driven out of insecurity, and an insecurity that should have been dealt with by the government.

 Before I left England, I confided in my uncle that I was scared about crossing Nigeria. He reassured me in his calm, intelligent and experienced voice that ‘Nigerians are wonderful people, and you will see...’ His words sang true in many people that I met, and some of them rise above most as the utmost kind, generous and selfless people I met on my travels. But for many of them, they have been infected with undue amounts of fear and pain over the past years, corrupting their lives, layering agony and reflecting grief as they try to live out their existence. It is a sad situation.

The machete I bought just before entering Nigeria. It was never used. I must say though, that is the scariest face I've ever seen!

Rough roads! There were parts that were far worse than these but we were too busy/tired trying to get through them to get the camera out.

The friendly yet very curious people of Western Nigeria.

The bird that I untied the plastic string from its legs before the police came and took us away. The police didn't understand why I was doing it...

This guy's called Aba. He saw me struggling trying to get the nuts out of my original sprocket (well, they had been in there for nearly 25 years!) and he took time out of his DHL job to ride it to a mechanic to get them loosened. He didn't expect any money either. After a while on the road you begin to know who you can trust as a second instinct.

 It was a breath of fresh air as soon as I crossed into Cameroon and to not have that constant niggle of impending danger in the back of my mind... as well as people treating me like an actual genuine person with no malicious intent. Upon arriving at the border a huge storm hit... and on my map it showed that the road in front of me was impassable in the rainy season. I took refuge in a small cafe in the border town, waiting for the rain to stop... but it was clear that it was going to be an all nighter. I looked into the backroom of the cafe and asked the guy cooking eggs if I could sleep in there for the night. He seemed a genuine guy and didn't have a problem with it. This is the sort of thing I like about travelling in Africa; beyond all the annoyances and the hassle you can find genuine people who will help you out almost everywhere. I doubt you could sleep in a store room in many places in Europe if you just rolled up there and asked!

My bedroom on my first night in Cameroon.

The road on the morning after. I actually got stuck in this. That was a literally a sticky situation.

Camping wild and alone in Cameroon. I've found complete peace with doing this.

A mountain local. The people of the mountains in Cameroon reminded me a lot of the people of the Himalaya.


Riding at 2500 km above sea level... literally through a cloud!


  1. Well done on a great adventure. I own a c90 and have visited west Africa but would not want to mix the two! This will make a great book. Stay safe.

  2. Thanks mate! You're the third person who's mentioned that I should write a book now... One will be written when I get to Canada and settle down for a bit.