Saturday, 26 January 2013

Decision time: Terrorist risk in Mauritania

We stayed in Dakhla an extra day due to the updating news about the situation currently spreading through the region of north-western Africa.  Terrorists from sects of Al Qaeda have been taking over northern Mali since March 2012, but over the past week have gained ground over the whole country.  The French military were called upon by Mali's government as well as the worried neighbouring nations.  The French responded, were supported morally by the UN and logistically by other European armies, and within one weekend had entered Mali to expel the extremist groups.  This made the terrorists spread out, crossing the borders of Algeria, Mauritania, and Burkina Faso, looking for hide-outs as well as foreigners to kidnap for hostages or to kill.

I contacted my embassy, and as always, I was welcomed with a big, fat waste of time and passed from one person to the next - none with the authority to give advice on where to go or what to do.  Wojtek and I had both spent hours researching, conversing, and worrying about what to do next.  We decided to take the bus to the Mauritanian border and then cross the country to Senegal as fast as we could.  The one bus that was available was at midnight and arrived at 5am.

We had the rest of the day to worry some more.  News came in that Europeans and Japanese had been kidnapped and two British been killed.  The numbers swapped and changed whilst more towns and regions were deemed unsafe.  I started to backtrack on my plan to take the bus.  Then I met a Rastaman outside a surf shop.  He was Moroccan but after his father had travelled the world, his whole family became Rastafarian.  They sat me down, poured me some tea and fed me some homemade cake (no, not that type), and we sang some songs together with my ukulele.  I had a feeling that I met them for a reason.  They made me happy after my stressful day; they were there to remind me of the faith that I have in humanity.

I got on the bus that night.  Maybe it was a stupid decision.  Yes, actually, it was.  It was such a big risk to take and I know that my family and friends would suffer much more than myself if something bad happened to me.  I convinced myself that if I cannot face this fear then how would I ever achieve anything in the future?  I tell everyone I want to make a difference in the world, so giving up when faced with a fear of a possibility is cowardly.

I was frightened for the whole bus journey; I wore my loose traditional shirt and a scarf around my face showing only my eyes.  We arrived at the border and had to wait four hours for it to open.  A man put me in a Berber tent, complete with a small mattress and pillow, where I desperately got some sleep.

The plan was to pay a lot of money for a taxi all the way to the capital Nouakchott where it was apparently safer than the rest of the country.  Upon seeing the mass of cars and trucks lined up at the border at 9am, we decided to ask a few people which way they were going.  One question later we were in a truck which was heading all the way to Senegal.



Mauritania is the real desert.  Rolling sand dunes fill the skyline, the mirage of water touches the road ahead, and herds of camels roam the land.  One thing I never expected was the number of goats; every so often there would be a small group of them, or one alone up-side-down and dead from thirst.  These were special goats though; it seemed they were bred with Dalmatian dogs.  Maybe that it natures way of adding life to the Sahara.





 I kept my hiding-clothes and headscarf on for the whole journey.  Good decision; a pick-up truck filled with wrapped up men with rifles and machine guns passed us in a hurry.  My heart almost jumped out of my mouth.  My disguise fooled them.  Either that or they just didn't feel like kidnapping a British girl that day.







Abdililah, our driver, saw my face for the first time when we stopped along the route for some food.  He knew I was scared, so went to the shop alone to collect some supplies.  He made a big tuna salad that the three of us shared.  We had some time in the sun taking in the scenery, staying on the non-person-filled side of the truck.  The desert smelled sweet, flies touched your skin every second, the sun baked my body under my thick layering of clothes.




We arrived in Nouakchott in the dark evening, where Wojtek left us, for he needed to apply for a visa for Senegal whereas I can enter freely.  The traffic in Nouakchott is the worst I've ever seen.  Two lanes were occupied by four or five invented lines of vehicles.  You want to turn left... it's ok if you are in the right-most lane.  Roundabouts serve no purpose but to confuse people.  A concrete curb was what caught Abdililah out, as he was forced to drive along it, scraping the bottom of the vehicle until grinding to a stop.


We escaped the chaos of the city, took a short break for a hot meal, then arrived in the border town of Rosso to catch some sleep in the truck before crossing to Senegal the following morning.


UPDATE: Hundreds of people were kidnapped and around 40 foreigners were killed in north-western Africa over five days after the French military first entered Mali. They were all innocent victims and did not deserve this. My happy, fortunate story is dedicated to the victims, and their friends and families.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Hitching the Sahara

I met my travel partner for the next part of my trip; Wojtek from Poland who I met through Couchsurfing.  We met up in Agadir, collected some supplies for our trip, got some extra rest to prepare, and I finally threw out many things from my backpack to minimise the size.

8am Sunday morning we began.  Two minutes later we were stopped in our tracks by a homeless man who wanted Wojtek to buy him a coffee.  After a short bustle, we managed to get away and make it to the road heading south.

A Senegalese man stopped for us, even though he was almost home, and took us to our hitching spot, not before laughing surprisingly at our plans to hitch through the desert as well as giving us the address of his parents and thirty-seven siblings in Senegal.

Minutes later, a man in a very expensive suit took us further on.  We didn't talk much.  He was scary because he was important.  He worked at the airport, possibly the manager, but I'm not sure.  It did feel like he took it all very seriously, as if stopping to pick up foreigners and chauffeur them around was part of his job.

All of this luck meant we had no time to stop to eat our breakfast.  So we found a spot, put our backpacks down, got our food out... BEEEEEP "Where are you going?!"  Luckily, before starvation set in, this guy let us eat in his car.  He was French (and friendly) and owned a spa business.  That's about it really.  Oh, and he told us about the terrorists currently taking over the desert towards Mauritania.  Little side note.

We waited a little longer for the next ride, and somehow ended up in a taxi.  For free.  He took us through a few towns before finding paying passengers and dropping us off.

Then our longest ride of the day came in the form of a Coca Cola truck.  Two men, two seats.  So Wojtek and I sat on the bed in the back.  They gave us fruit, bread, drinks, cigarettes to Wojtek, and in return we hid behind the curtain every time a police checkpoint came up.  That way they didn't have to answer any awkward questions about why they had two Europeans in their truck in the middle of the disputed territory of the Sahara desert.

Whilst Moroccan music blasted from the stereo, the driver danced with such enthusiasm that he didn't always have time to hold the steering wheel. [See video]

The journey continued into the night; the over sized truck drove on the narrow road with only two dim headlights leading the way in the darkest sky in the world.  To add to the darkness was the slow, bass-ridden Moroccan music now playing. [See video]

We arrived at a truck park on the outskirts of a town called Laayoune and after the drivers washed their feet and prayed, we all sat around sharing a dinner of traditional Moroccan tajine.  Wojtek and I set up the tent in a corner where the truck would shield us from the wind, and before sleeping, reflected on the incredible day we just had and were filled with excitable laughter for what tomorrow would bring.

We awoke in the morning to say goodbye to our truck friends then an easy ten metre walk took us to the road we would continue on.  Not entirely sure where we actually were meant that we took a chance on a man who said he could take us to a better spot.  He gave Wojtek a cigarette and had one himself, a beer each was next, then a block of hashish was offered.  It finally clicked that he was stupidly drunk when we arrived in the next town;
"I take you to beach. Beach is here."
We explained that we had no time and needed to go south, not to the beach, so naturally he drove us into a port filled with shipping material and armed guards.  A few handshakes and salutes explained to us that he was some type of official; a high ranking one who was obviously above the rules of drink- and drug-driving.  After a few hours of weirdness, we finally managed to convince him to drop us at the side of the road to look for our next ride.

The lack of traffic meant we waited for around an hour in the blistering wind; our eyes, ears, noses, mouths, hair, pockets, and shoes were dotted with sand that would stay with us for the rest of the day.  A car eventually stopped, driving it was a man dressed in traditional desert clothing, a full headscarf, and equipped with a long straggling beard.  With only his local Berber language to go by, I somehow managed to communicate that we were hitchhikers and where we wanted to go.  Once inside the car, our stereotypes got the better of us;
"We've been kidnapped, definitely" we thought.
He stopped in the next town and picked up a man who had lots of bicycles, then bought us a sandwich each.
"This is just too strange.  Has he kidnapped us or what?"
The police checkpoints put us straight.  Giving his identification and explaining everything to them for us, we knew that we had not in fact been kidnapped, but instead hit the jackpot with the kindest taxi driver the Sahara has to offer. [See video]

When we reached Dakhla, 540km later, he dropped off the other four men he had picked up (seven people to a four seater car) then insisted on finding a hotel for us.  They were all full, except the one nobody wanted to stay in.  We guessed that the bedsheets were changed every ten customers, and we were probably the fifth or sixth this round.  The following morning we were awoken by the gruesome sound of a man in the neighbouring bathroom snorting and spitting the snot which he had recently gathered from his own journey through the desert.  He left it all there for us to see when we used the bathroom later.



We spent the rest of the day getting informed and incredibly worried about the current situation of the terrorists who were spreading from Mali to neighbouring countries, including Mauritania - where we were heading to the next day...

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Trying not to generalise

I went back to Hassan's place with some English chocolate for the girls and some printed photos for the family.  Fatima-Ezara managed to show every member of the family, every friend, every neighbour, and every teacher the picture of me and her, all in one day.  I stayed there for a few more days before heading to Rabat to get my visa for Mauritania.

I arrived at 5am so headed straight to the embassy.  However, there was nowhere open at that time to get more passport photos so because of the early closing times of the embassy, I had to give up and leave it till the follwing day.

Somebody gave me the address of a hostel in the city, so I headed there.  I got a taxi, fixed the price with the driver (which was the same as I paid to get their at 5am), then arrived at the hostel.  Then the f***ker demanded more than three times more than the original price.  I tried to argue with him.  He wouldn't let me get my backpack out of the boot until I paid the full money.  Then he tried pushing me back into the taxi saying that he will take me back to the embassy.  That makes perfect sense!?  A man walking by stopped to help and got the price down to a lower amount, then they both left.
It was still very early, so the hostel wasn't open yet.  I knocked and banged for about an hour.  Then a young guy came to help me.  I was really thankful until he touched my bum.  I frowned at him.  Then he did it again.  I said "no!" and pushed him away.  He slammed me against the wall and grabbed my crotch (over my jeans, don't worry).  He laughed in my face then walked away.  I started crying and banging harder on the door of the hostel, but had to wait another hour until it finally opened.

I really am the most liberal and un-prejudice person I know, but after the two Moroccan guys in the beginning and then the aggressive cheating taxi driver and now this touchy guy; I really have lost all my patience with Moroccan men.  Yes, I have met some very nice ones too, but in all my life and in all the places I've been around the world I have never had a bad experience, then I come to Morocco and meet four different men who treat me like I am a piece of meat, like a second class citizen.

At the time I wanted to take back what I had said about why young Shaima wears the Hijab.  But that is true for her so I can't.  For other women though, I can understand why they wear the loose cloths and cover up completely.  I knew I would feel more comfortable wearing that myself from now on.  But what type of hypocrit would I be then?  I believe in freedom for everybody, to be who you are and do what you want.  So hiding away because men can't control themsleves would be succumbing to their ways.

I really don't know what the answer is for the future of how women are treated in Morocco, after this I have no ideas myself.  Wearing traditional clothes is great for culture and to maintain identity, but in terms of wearing them just to hide away from men is ridiculous in my opinion.  In Europe, it's up to men to control their desires.  In Morocco, it's up to the women to control the mens' desires.

I have to accept that this is a different place than Europe, it's not my place to have an opinion of how people here should be.  But, for the first time in my life, I'm having a hard time adapting.

I apologise if this post offends anyone, maybe my opinion will be changed again, maybe I will look back at this post in the future and be embarrassed from my lack of knowledge and understanding.  But I wrote this now, in the moment, so please see that it is just a true account of what happened to me and how I personally feel in the days after the events.

I got my visa the next day as planned and set off to Agadir to meet a Polish guy who will be my travel buddy for the next few months.  It's the first time I will ever have travelled with others, but I am very glad for the company now an I am looking forward to our adventures together.  First plan; hitchhiking though the Sahara desert.

Missing out Morocco

On the seventh month anniversary of my trip, I was on the ferry with a stoned Danish hippie heading towards Morocco.  They are obviously much more relaxed about drugs coming in to Africa as opposed to out, because he made it without a question in sight.  I managed to get rid of him the next day; he was so stoned it was annoying!

This next part is where the title comes in.  I am going to miss it out.  It was a very personal time that is too complicated and hurtful to share here.  It involved a Moroccan man, lots of lies, and probably a marriage visa.  Lesson learned.  It's a shame I wasted those weeks when I could have been exploring the real Morocco.

I did make short trips to some cities though, having one good experience and one more bad.
The latter was with a couchsurfer, a guy who wanted to "comfort me" because of the situation I had been in.  He really wouldn't leave me alone, always trying to hug and kiss me even though I had said no plenty of times.  It was horrible to be in this situation after the last one, I really didn't know how to handle it.

However, not all was bad... the best part is that hitchhiking in Morocco pretty much guarantees you an offer of a place to stay.  One family who I accepted on their offer were going to Fes.  They showed me their olive farm where I helped them pick some for dinner, they even organised a whole family day out to show me the best parts of the city.  Each meal they made was so huge that by the time I had said yes to extras, for politeness, I was already in pain.  They didn't stop eating themselves, so saying no was impossible.  Only the man of the house could speak some English, so for everybody elses sake I hand-actioned my stomach exploding from being so full.  They all burst into tears of laughter then told me they loved me.

It was almost Christmas and if I have to brag, I will say that my Christmas at home with my family is the best one in the world.  After the strange episodes with the two different Moroccan guys I decided that Christmas at home was too much to miss.  I found a cheap flight from Marrakesh setting off in a few days time.

I had been in contact with a guy called Hassan in Marrakesh for a while, so he let me stay with him and his family until my flight.  Now they really were some of the nicest people I've ever known.  They took me to the houses of every single family member they had to "show me off".  They took me to their farm for a day out.  They shared some incredible food with me and in general just treated me like a princess.
The youngest girl of the family, Fatima-Ezara, was so excited to hear that I would be staying with them that she couldn't eat her lunch at school that day.  She held my hand everywhere we went and tried her hardest to remember the English she had learnt so far at school:  "What is the name of your mother?  What is the name of your father?  What is the name of your sister?...."
Shaima was the other girl in the family and was 16 years old.  I was told that she loved her Hijab (headscarf) and had been wearing one for eight years.  I had already asked many people about this subject; wondering why some women wear full Burqa, some only the Hijab, and some nothing covering their hair at all.  In Morocco, one of the most liberal Islamic countries, I was told it is the womens choice. So after meeting Shaima I understood a little more; she was one of the shyest people I've ever known.  I would take a good guess that wearing the Hijab from such a young age was her way of hiding away, and it was accepted as part of her religion and tradition.  People outside of Islam can sometimes think some strange things about this subject, but after meeting Shaima I can say confidently that, for her at least, the Hijab is just the same as a young girl in England, for example, wearing "fashionable" clothes and too much make-up.  It's a mask to hide behind.

I caught my flight home, had a wonderful Christmas with my family and visited most of my friends around the country all in two weeks, before catching my flight back to Marrakesh to continue my trip through Africa.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Heading South(er)

My next destination was Grenoble.  I was to visit one of my oldest travel friends; Virginie, who I met in Texas in 2009.
I hitched there from Zurich in about three rides.  During the longest ride, music was playing on the radio and I sat back, satisfied with myself;
"Wow, I understand every word in this song.  I'm doing so well with my languages!"
Then I realised it was in English.

My time in Grenoble was great.  Virginie and her parents spoiled me with attentiveness, laughter, and great food.
One day, her mum took me to the hairdressers whilst Virginie was at work.  Nobody there could speak English, so explaining why I had a massive naturally grown dreadlock was impossible.  They all had a minute each looking at the state of my hair, then finally the hairdresser cut it straight off!
Virginie and I had some good nights out together, had a trip to the mountains, and even went to my first ice-hockey game!

I hitched to the Ashton's farm, after a quick stop in Lyon, and it took forever!  I started super early in the morning and was still going when it was dark.  Standing under a street lamp at a pĂ©age on the outskirts of Toulouse... no chance, I thought!  Yet, I was wrong again!  I was picked up by a man in a van heading to a town very close to the Ashton's farm.  He was a theatre and film actor, and most recently was the voice of a fox in a children's film.  Yes, I got to hear all the voices of cartoons that he had ever done, it was hilarious!  It was pitch black outside, so he insisted on taking a de-tour to take me all the way to the front door of the farm.  What a kind person!
Me and Squeeky!


I spent a good few days with my favourite English/French family (and animals).  The biggest shock was that Squeeky (the one day old baby chick we bought and hand-reared) had turned out to be a giant cockerel!





Katie dropped me off, this time with a little more confidence, on the road towards Spain and I was hitching again, this time towards Barcelona.  I went the long way round, apparently, and didn't touch a highway once, only country roads through the French and Spanish Alps.  This made me a little nervous a few times, as I sat on the side of the road in blistering heat with not one single car going past.  Well, sometimes there was one single car... lucky for me each one picked me up!
My longest ride was with a man called Johan.  He filled me with drinks and chocolates.  He shared his own travel stories with me.  We sang at the top of our voices to Spanish songs.  He really was the happiest man in the world.  When he dropped me off just outside Barcelona he gave me fifty euros; I refused with determination, but he wouldn't take no for an answer.  I felt like crying when he left but I can't really explain why.  It wasn't the money, it wasn't the act of giving it to me, it wasn't all the nice moments during the ride... it was his happiness and his desire to help me and make me feel happy.

I arrived in Barcelona a little later and saw an old woman begging on the street.  I gave her the fifty euros. She kissed my hand and pointed to the sky as though I was some angel from heaven, but I did it for no gratification.  That money was given to me by somebody who wanted to help me.  I felt like it would have better use in her hands.  I felt happy about it yes, but not because I felt like I had been kind but because I had passed on that happiness that Johan gave me.
My host in the city was Enric.  He was a great guy with a really good idea of what Couchsurfing is about.  We shared some nice meals and easy conversation and he even let me stay one more night even though he would be away working.
On my last day I joined in with a motorbike group heading to Tibidabo; the mountain with the famous cathedral at the top.  It was very nice, but the most enjoyable part for me was riding up and around!



Valencia was my next stop and I was hosted by a wonderful man named Adolfo.  He was brand new to Couchsurfing and had joined, first and foremost, to practise his English.  He took me out for tapas one night with his friends.  They all tried so hard to speak to me, and with that came the laughter and embarrassment for each others level of English.  One of his friend's was disabled; he had fallen over whilst skiing just a year before and was now paralysed from the neck down.  Adolfo explained how it affected them all so much, that this had happened to their best friend.  I could see they were all very strong people and even stronger friends; it was very inspiring to see.

Whilst strolling around nearby Adolfo's place one day, I found an animal circus being set up.  I looked around at everything; tigers in tiny cages, elephants with removed tusks, bulls and ostriches sharing cages... it was all awful to see.  I went to see the show on it's opening night and was even more horrified, especially when the tigers were frightened into place by the crack of a whip and the elephants were lead into standing on top of each other.

During the interval a man walked around the audience with a baby tiger in his arms.  He held it by it's collar and swung it around each time a new family wanted their photo taken with it.  FLASH! next. FLASH! next.... All I could think was how soul-destroying it would be to be born into the world and all you know is being thrown around by men and a big flash in your face every thirty seconds.
After the show I asked if I could have a job.  I thought it would be a good pursuit to join them and find out how it all really works, even find out what they think about what they are doing.  The answer was no, but it was worth a try!

I had no particular place to go next, but I had a hope that I could make it to the ferry to Morocco in one day.  How wrong was I?!  I hitched all day and into the night, making it only around 450km to some random town.  It's train station wasn't open during the night, so I went to the police station where they offered me a bench in a warm room.  Sounds... strange, but it was all innocent!

I set off early the next morning and every town that I made it to was impossible to hitch back out of.  The highways in Spain are so complicated!  I ran out of patience and decided to walk along the motorway with my sign sticking out.  After three hours of walking, a huge lorry came to a stop in the middle of the road.  I ran as fast as my blisters would allow me.  He was Moroccan and on the way home.  Luck, at last!
His place on the ferry was only for the following morning, but it was my seven month anniversary of this trip that day, so I decided to try to make it to Moroccan soil that night. Hitching on a Sunday night onto the ferry was practically impossible, so I paid the passenger fare.  That is cheating in my books, so it shows how desperately I wanted to get to Morocco for that day!

I made it! That initial idea turned into a plan, then turned into reality!  What a great feeling!

Monday, 7 January 2013

Heading South

It seems that if I stay in one place for longer than one week, my mind works overtime and I come up with an idea that blossoms into a plan.  I stayed at the alpaca farm for five weeks.  Imagine!
"It's cold in winter in Europe, maybe I'll try to go somewhere warm.  Morocco?  Yes.  Actually, from there I could go south to a few countries.  I know, I could go to the whole of West Africa!"

So there was my plan: to head South.  And here's the story of how it went.


First stop, Cati's place in the Bavarian countryside.  Got to spend some good quality time with one of my best travel friends.  Made some money cleaning a rich man's house.

Next stop, Prague.  Hitching there meant I could experience the countrysides of the Czech Republic.  I walked for a while and the pain of my backpack was completely outweighed by the beauty of the scenery.  On my last ride into the centre, I bumped into another hitchhiker for the first time in my life.  We got to the city together, met his Syrian girlfriend, then discovered some sights together.  What a lovely little international group that was!



I had two hosts during my stay: Lydi, an anarchist living in a kind of organised squat and trying to change the world; and Anna, an artist in every sense of the word (painter, drawer, pianist, guitarist, singer...).  Two very interesting, and very different, people!

My first full day in Prague started in the square famous for the revolution of 1989.  I started by circling this square.  How do you circle a square, you may ask?!  By walking up and down continuously for more than an hour, Eugene the Ukulele in hand, looking at every corner and every step whilst fighting for courage to sit down and play some music.  I sat down, eventually.  Fear: overcome!
One minute felt like a lifetime.  Two minutes felt like ten lifetimes.
"I should just get up and leave.  I'm not good enough.  This is silly."
After what felt like 10000 lifetimes (some maths for you to do there), an old man bent down and threw some coins into my case.  His old, bloodshot eyes looked into mine and he mumbled something I couldn't hear.  He made me think of my Grandad at home.
There I was, singing and playing 'Let It Be' by The Beatles (from my hometown in England), in the huge public square famous for the revolution of '89, with someone just like my Grandad giving me some money.  That moment will stay with me forever.
Paul


Vienna was next.  On the way there I got dropped off by one man on the emergency lane of the highway.  The cars were going so fast I knew I would be there for a long time.  But within ten minutes somebody screeched to a stop just ahead of me.  He was a happy man and his name was Paul.


Busking in Vienna didn't go too well.  It was too loud and busy to find a good place to play.  I gave up and spent my time with my Couchsurfing host Nicki. We walked to the top of a hill and saw a foggy view of the city, then got lost in the night in Schoenbrunn Palace Gardens and had to listen to an ordinary woman secretly practicing singing opera.





Whilst hitching to Salzburg I met the man who is responsible for 90% of the world's agricultural knives (he was so rich he bought me a luxury breakfast), a woman who looked very much like Barbara Streisand, and a skydiving instructor called Gurt.





Salzburg is definitely one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to.  I took more pictures in this small town than I take in months anywhere else!  My CS host Katrin (one of only 319000 people from Iceland - pretty rare to meet one come to think of it!) took me out in the evening with her friends.  We drank beer, lots of it.





Lake Chiemsee was next.  I had been told by every German I've ever met to go here.  I was a little late in the year though... the weather was rainy and foggy; I couldn't see a thing.  On the up side, a stayed with a man called Luke who was a real-life version of Bear Grylls.  He gave me a knife and a survival book as a souvenir.




I was supposed to be going to Innsbruck after that, but I was let down by a CS host last minute.  I changed my plans and headed to Zurich but had nowhere to sleep so went to the airport.  But then I got a message off a guy from CS called David, originally from Nigeria.  He picked me up then a few minutes into the ride home said:
"Some people get scared of black people, you ok though? You sure?"
David
Broke my heart a little, that did.
I only intended to stay for one night but ended up staying for four.  David and his friend Roland showed me the true meaning of Nigerian hospitality.
David explained to me how hard it was for him when he first moved to Europe alone.  Nobody said hello, nobody even looked in your face;
"It doesn't hurt to say hello.  It doesn't cut your skin.  There's no blood.  It's just a word"
I completely agree with him.  In the "rich" countries of the world people are scared of each other.  It's so apparent coming from a place where people have no possessions to a place where people have "everything".
Roland
David and Roland loved my travel stories too, especially my plans for Africa.  Roland kept telling everyone we met:
"She gonna visit Africa and hang with the people.  She don't want no hotel or car, she gonna see the real place."
When I left, they both woke up at the crack of dawn to drop me off at a good hitchhiking spot.
"You sure you gonna be ok?  If you still here later we will pick you up."
"No, no, don't be silly, I will be ok, stop worrying!"  I replied.
Then I was stood there in a highway service station at rush hour with two big Nigerian men jumping and excitedly giggling;
"If you got that, that... that heart, then you gonna make it!  You gonna make it!!"
After that, Nigeria was made a definite on my list for Africa.



I hadn't made it yet, there were still two big countries to get through!  That will be in my next post...