Showing posts with label war zone. Show all posts
Showing posts with label war zone. Show all posts

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Faces of Africa (Africa Day 25 May 2014)

Africa is probably the continent with the most nicknames but is a landmass revered by some, feared by others and dreamt about by many. Nowhere in Africa would you feel like you’re in another part of it, it’s that unique. In this diversity of its appearance, are the diversity of people that make up the Africans - people born and bred on this continent and call it home. A continent about which the question “Where are you from?” is often answered with “From Africa…” or “I am African.”

Yes, I am African (with a mother from Zambia and father from South Africa, as African as it gets!) as well and love this continent where, as per my own motto I accorded it “...the only thing that is consistent, is that nothing is consistent!” This post is a short celebration of this amazing continent.

With the advent of technology, mobile phones have found their way into the hands of powerful, rich right down to the subsistence farmer and fisherman.
Hard manual works remains a very real part of most people's lives in Africa.
Water, like elsewhere, a precious and treasured resource and innovative ways are found to have it available as fit as possible for human consumption.
 Of course, the wildlife is probably one of the aspects that Africa is most famous for!
Gladly the traditions, including traditional dancing of many are being retained not only for tourism/visitors but also for future generations.
Africa does of course cater for the adventurous and the adrenaline junkies on (amongst many locations) the great Nile River in Uganda.
Wars and rumours of wars are sadly what some perceive as a "normal" part of Africa.
Many will warn you about the dangers of this Dark Continent but, bring your flashlight along - open your mind and embrace what Africa has offer. One warning from me though...BEWARE that Africa will get into your blood and not let you go!
When the day ends in Africa it is with such splendour that "African Sunset" has become a well-coined term with all travellers and Africans alike. Then quoting the National Anthem of South Africa (also a well-known song throughout Africa);

Nkosi sekele iAfrica
God bless Africa


Tuesday, 20 May 2014

This is a War Zone!!

(Extract from my diary of my trip from Harare, Zimbabwe to Bamako, Mali 2011 - soon in eBook "10(k)m to Mali")

“...adversity favours the versatile…”
History of the World” - Andrew Marr

3 Sept 2011 (Banki, Cameroon to Kari, Nigeria)
My passport was processed by 7:30am and I set off with Lawan to the Nigerian side. The passport took awhile, not because there was a problem with my visa but because the visa said “30 days” and “transit” and apparently it was law that transit visas were not allowed to be valid for longer than 7 days. The long hanging around and constant opening/closing of the passport I think was in lieu of extra money (that I never paid) for which I would then get the 30 days. Anyway, 7 days it was then.

Then the Health Officer took me to his office with my Yellow Fever Certificate which he told me was fine but his office needed something. Oh ffs! My Nigeria visit was not off to a great start. He said that “officially” he needed to do a health check but he could see I was healthy and also had several other vaccinations. This was the 1st of what I realised appeared a common trait of many Nigerians of stating the obvious as many times as you could bear and then at least one more time!
I still had to wait for the senior Customs officer who would process the carnet and although there were 2 customs officers there, they were apparently not “allowed” to process it. It was just after 7:40am and the guy eventually turned up around 8:20 after I’d had two large mugs of delicious local tea. We then set off and also with the wife and (her baby) of a cop who was getting a lift to Maiduguri.
Route as per GPS from Banki, Cameroon to Kari, Nigeria via Maiduguri

It was slow going winding around bad sections and then also a section past yet some more trucks that were stuck on the road. The 1st 20km probably took us almost 3 hours to do and weren’t even near Bama yet - this also made me realise that staying over at the border was a really good idea. The road gradually got better in that there were less potholes but this also meant the mad Nigerian drivers could show-off their lack of care for any other vehicle passing or approaching for that matter. Also a heap of barriers where an array of uniformed (and un-uniformed) people hung around with their AK47’s slung over their shoulders. The array was made up of police, traffic police and security police (in civilian clothes). All were quite friendly except the traffic police who seemed to go out of their way to be twats of note by shouting about random issues they made up re safety equipment.

 Most of the stopping by police though were friendly chats and I think more out of curiosity or for conversation than for anything else. That was when I could understand their english though, sometimes I had no idea even what language they were speaking before it turned out that it was indeed english or some odd form of it anyway.

About 30km before Maiduguri, Karen called and said that Ousman had arrived at a bus-station in Maiduguri and I should get the guy with me to call him and in french find out where he was. It was one city I was not going to be hanging around or just simply driving around. It turned out well though with the particular bus station Ousman was at, being along the road we’d be entering on. Entering the city we went through 3-4 heavily armed and sandbagged control points with soldiers in full combat gear and also a variety of automatic weapons pointed at us, including at least one larger calibre at each one - this was a war zone!

Author Note (2014): Maiduguri has since gained even more coverage and notoriety in the international media as the base of the "Boko Haram" group and extremist violence. According to locals, a few hundred people had lost their lives in the 2 weeks preceding my arrival in the city. The recent abduction of a large group of schoolgirls is just the latest of a string of events that have focussed the world's attention on this region.

At the bus station we managed to find Ousman and then Lawan negotiated with a taxi to lead us via the safe routes (this changes every day!) to the other side of the city and out onto the main road to Bauchi and Kano. From here the road got even better and eventually a little bit less roadblocks although the traffic police didn’t get any friendlier.

In Potiskum we filled up with fuel before setting off for Kari, our target for an overnight stop. We reached the town/large village just as the sun went down and very quickly we’d secured a safe parking spot at a service station. The security guy and the manager sorted some water for us to wash and use for the toilet before we walked into the village and got some meat and yam for dinner.