Yellow Mitsubishi: Touring Nigeria one bus ride at a time
It started with one tweet. Okay, a tweet and a dream, but one tweet, really. I don’t remember the exact words but it was something about wanting to travel, go on road-trips around Nigeria. Then came the retweets. More retweets that I’d ever gotten in my entire Twitter career up till that point (yes, it is a career. Get with the program!!!!).
An idea was formed. A lot of people shared my dream. We could do it, make a group thing out of it. Another tweet – “who’s interested in joining a travel group for road-trips around Nigeria?” Or something like that. Boom!!!!!! We had a crowd, trimmed down to fifteen. Who knew so many people would want to travel?
Then came the planning. Where to go? What to see? Where to stay? Who had a bus? A lot of research and many phone calls later, we had a plan. We’d start small – Badagry Slave Harbor and Olumo Rock in one weekend seemed doable. A little comfort wouldn’t hurt; Whispering Palms to the rescue. Our first trip was born. Yay! We would see the world, one bus ride at a time.
On the 29th of March, 2014, eight (8) people met at the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos, to embark on what would be our very first road-trip as a group. We had made arrangements with a bus driver to pick us up from there without actually seeing the bus. I was running late when the first call came asking exactly where at the stadium we’d met up. That’s when it hit me, I had no idea what the bus looked like. So I called the driver, “Oga, where are you and what kind of bus are you driving?” I got my reply, a Yellow Mitsubishi.
It was almost evening by the time we got to Badagry. Locating the State-owned gallery was not difficult. Our guide, a skinny, strictly-business, fast-talking type, seemed to lack a sense of humor but that was fine… we had more than enough of it to go round. For some reason, we weren’t allowed to take pictures at the gallery but…. Errm…. Shhhh! WE ARE AFRICANS!!!!
Much has been said about the emotions a trip to any slave harbor would make you feel, but words do not really do it justice. As we looked through pictures and art works at the gallery, slavery become real. More real than it had ever been for any of us. You’d feel a lot of emotions, but chief among them would be anger. Anger at the kind of sick sense of superiority that would make anyone put another human through such an ordeal. Anger at the fact that these slaves weren’t even seen as human in the first place. Anger at the other Africans who participated and profited from the trade. Such sickos!!! But this is not a history class…
We took a boat ride to the “point of no-return” from where the slaves are loaded into ships and sent off to… well… a life of pain. The ride itself was hilarious! The boat was one of these motor-engine type canoes (I have no idea what they are actually called and I’m too lazy to research it), that I kept feeling would throw us off any minute. I LOVE boat rides, anyway, and still totally enjoyed this one. Although, I think we hit a bit of a snag on our return trip when the thing took forever to start. I don’t remember. I was too busy having a good laugh.
There’s a part of this experience that involves a looooooonnngggg walk. Perfect, if serene walks are your thing. And sobering as well, imagining you were about to be sold off and had to take that walk. In all, it was a terrific experience.
By the time we got to Whispering Palms, it was late and all we wanted was food and a bed. We got both! Dinner was good, more so because of the company, although it took forever to arrive. Ever noticed how meals automatically taste better with the right crowd? Yes, again, EPIC! Or maybe we were just really hungry. Haha!
Imagine a large room with four other amazing girls (or guys, depending on who’s reading this), talk about a slumber party, of sorts. Or sleep. Anyway, it was a good night.
By morning, it was time for a bath, breakfast, and the second-leg of our journey. Although, some of us had time for a quick swim and tour of the resort which in itself isn’t half bad. It’s quiet and there’s a mini zoo, so you actually have stuff to see. I spied a tennis court as well. The service isn’t half-bad (especially if you’ve encountered worse – and being in Nigeria, I’m sure you have).
The journey to Abeaokuta from Badagry was about two hours long. Again, you don’t notice the time when you’re with the coolest people. We got to Olumo rock, paid a small fare at the gate and went in for a tour of the art gallery (and a history lesson). Again, pictures are not allowed inside the gallery for obvious reasons (obvious, in the sense that the art pieces are for sale and the artists would rather buyers get them directly from the gallery than from ‘sharp guys’ who have imitated their work thanks to overeager tourists who provide pictures of the original work… make sense? Errmm….). We were gracious enough to buy some cheap not-so-expensive art work. You’ll get really cool and creative art pieces there at various prices, anywhere from N2000 to over a million bucks.
There are two ways to get to the top of the rock: an elevator ride (meh!) which would take seconds, or the steps. The dude at the gallery advised us to use the “ancient paths” which the original rock dwellers used. It definitely was more adventurous… but not for the faint-hearted. The view from the top of the mountain made the climb so worth it!!!!!! Perfect for a picnic.
There are several groups of tour guides at various points along your way to the top of the rock. Each, more than willing to give history lessons. Our favorite guide was definitely the young man who went with us from the gate to the very top of the mountain, offering a helping hand to the ladies (and guys *wink*) in rock climbing, and taking pictures! We were more than willing to tip him when we were done.
By the time we got back to Lagos at about 6.pm, we had made awesome friends and were already excitedly planning the next trip. But we needed a name for the group. After several minutes of suggestions, someone said the obvious: what bus were we using for our very first trip again? A YELLOW MITSUBISHI.