Abuja to Desmond’s

Posted: January 30, 2011 in Africa Orbital, Nigeria
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Fruit bats off for the night

Russell writes on 28/1/11: Photos by Darren

Abuja, an abnormal city in Nigeria, as the purpose built capitol with nice wide roads and neatly laid out streets, it was a good place for visa shopping. With the lure of apparent free camping in the grounds of the Sheraton Hotel, it seemed an ideal place to rest up for a few days and go looking for the elusive Angolan visa. As normal, the reality is somewhat different to the promise given by guide books and other travellers. The hotel had just started charging for camping, and they put you right next to the hotel dog kennels facing the enormous city mosque. So, as you can imagine, after a few nights of barking in one ear and the 4am call to prayer in the other, we were looking forward to moving on.

Sunset in Abuja

Just so I don’t sound completely ungrateful, it was a cheap place to stay in an expensive city (supermarkets were more expensive than the UK) and we were guided through a neat little loop-hole: free buffet in the casino at 10pm! You have to get there on time or the gambling Arabs will have loaded up all the nice food. One night Darren and I went along to the casino with Ben and Vipka, an overlanding couple who were also camping. We had some 2$ bills burning a hole in our money belts so we went and hit the roulette tables – and promptly lost everything! So we thought we’d try our luck at the buffet, but only to discover that a buffet is like a casino, the house always wins! Also, on the Shereton grounds, Darren Found a Coleny of Fruit bats he liked to hang out with.

On the boat and over the river

With our Angolan and Cameroonian visas neatly in place we were once again on the road and heading south to our next challenge, the back-water route into Cameroon. Taking these routes always proves interesting and challenging, and Loko was no exception. Pulling up for some lunch we were immediately the centre of village interest, like they’ve never seen 2 white people dressed in dust before, and certainly not seen 2 bikes of such presence. We also didn’t expect the ferry river crossing to be quite what it was. I was thinking roll on, roll off car ferry, but when we were led down to the river bank it was soon obvious it was more like a fishing boat – how on earth are we going to get our bikes in that? Well, easy actually, the African way. Get a large number of people and just lift the whole bike, luggage and all straight into the boat! Simples. Back-water routes equal so much more fun and adventure, especially going where the 4×4’s can’t even go!


Getting closer to the Cameroon border and back on the tar, we pulled into Kasina and as I stopped I noticed water pouring out of my bike! Not again! Oil and water had been spreading itself along the side of my bike and over my leg, and if we’d not stopped I could have been in serious trouble. So, now we have 2 problems to diagnose on my bike, poor fuel consumption and water overheating. We were scratching our heads looking at the bike outside a bar, but no one came out to see if we were ok, they were too busy laughing. Then we met the Nigeria we had been used to, a kind and generous guy called Desmond. He took us to a mechanic to help us find the problem, and when they couldn’t find one, he took us back to his family’s compound where we were secure, free from hasslers and free to stay as long as we needed.


 Running through a series of theories and tests on the bike it took us another 2 days before Darren noticed something different about my radiator cap. All this kafuffle was down to a small disc that stopped coolant going from the radiator into the reservoir! We’ve learnt to persist until a correct diagnosis is found, because covering the symptoms with a bodge will lead to more trouble. Thankfully, with the bolts, washers and spring from a biro we had, Darren managed to make a functional radiator cap, a correct bodge at least! So a huge thank you to Desmond and his family who looked after us, fed us and showed genuine hospitality, you were greatly appreciated.

Remember guys, click on pics to enlarge.

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