Nigeria (Abuja & Lagos): 16 Days, 15 Nights
This is long post. I had to be detailed in describing my experience in a country I love so much that I had to get a tattoo of it on my back :). Although, I was born and raised in Nigeria, Nigerians don’t think I’m a Nigerian. I always get the ‘You don’t look Nigerian or even talk like a Nigerian’. It used to piss me off but I no longer care.
On this trip, I visit Abuja – the capital of Nigeria, 2 northern states – Niger & Nassarawa states and Lagos. I used Uber and Taxify the whole time. Taxify is the Nigerian version of Uber. Choosing the cash option on both Uber and Taxify helped. If not, most drivers will cancel your trip.
Below is my itinerary for my 16 days visit to Nigeria aka Naija.
Day 26 (July 5, Thursday): Accra – Abuja Airbnb (3 nights) Depart Accra in the morning Arrive in Abuja at noon Relax
Left for the airport in Accra early. Flight was on time. You will be asked for your Yellow Fever Card upon arrival in Abuja. I got a taxi from the airport to my Airbnb in Maitama area. When I got to the Airbnb, I almost left immediately. The place looked cleaned but had the dampness feel to it plus the internet was not working. Since I didn’t have a local number and WhatsApp was my primary means of communication, I decided to go to the MTN office to buy data for the MIFI my dad gave to me.
Later in the day, I met up with a couchsurfer – Roberta for drinks and chat at a trendy bar in Maitama area called Traffic.
Day 27 (July 6, Friday): Day trip to Niger State Zuma Rock & Guarara Falls
I was lucky prior to my trip to have discovered Motley Travels. I found out about them on a blog post by theajalabug. I decided to try them out; I was picked up by Mark (the owner of Motley Travels) at 11am. Our first stop was Zuma Rock. We went through the Golf Club by the rock and got close to the most famous rock in Northern Nigeria. The rock is famous because you can see a shape of a face. It was also rumored that a ghost/spirit exist in the rock. The rumor led to the abandonment of a hotel building beside Zuma Rock. The workers claimed they kept on hearing ‘voices’ so Hilton abandoned its almost completed building and moved to Maitama area.
After Zuma Rock, we went on to Guarara Falls. We were the only visitor there. The hike down is easy, just going down stairs. To move closer to the Falls, you would have to climb small/medium sized, sometimes slippery rocks. My pictures doesn’t capture the beauty of the Guarara Falls. It is totally gorgeous. We took a different route to leave the Falls, this route, you would have to climb fairly steep, slippery rocks. It is appropriate to wear sneakers or hiking shoes, a small backpack or fanny pack so you can climb without interference.
Guarara Falls & Zuma Rock are located in Niger State. You can see Zuma while in Abuja, it’s just on the border of Niger State and Abuja. Guarara on the other hand is further in Niger State, about two hours from Abuja. The roads are good until you get into Niger State and encounter a stretch of road under construction. It is about a 10-15 walk down to the falls once you get to the parking lot.
In the evening, I went to an old friend’s place to watch the soccer game – Brazil vs. Belgium. It was great meeting her family and re-connecting after 5 years.
Day 28 (July 7, Saturday): Day trip to Nassarawa State Farin Ruwa Falls
Decided to take another trip with Motley Travels. My couchsurfer friend – Roberta came along. Farin Ruwa is located in Nassarawa State, it is not a piece of cake but worth it. It took 2hours 50 minutes to get to the road leading to Farin Ruwa. Then another 1 hour (road in deplorable condition) to the last village where you begin a 6km walk. You will have to walk through three streams before getting to the Farin Ruwa’s entrance.
It took us 25 minutes from the last village to the 1st stream which is knee length deep (I’m short – 5’3). 36 minutes from 1st to 2nd stream. 6 mins from 2nd to 3rd stream. 10 minutes from 3rd stream to the entrance and another 15 minutes of walking and climbing to the waterfalls from entrance. The most difficult walk for me was from the 1st to the 2nd stream – that had several places that was uphill. The 2nd and 3rd stream wasn’t deep, slightly above the ankle.
I promise you when I say the long walk (no intense climbing) was worth it. Farin Ruwa means White Water in the local language. I was impressed and beyond excited.
Note, we decided to take the longer way to the Falls, you have an option of taking a motorbike from the last village directly to the entrance but we wanted to walk J. On our way back though, we took the bike because we wanted to get back to Abuja before it got real late. We were picked up at 8am in the morning and arrived back at Abuja around 8.30pm.
Day 29 (July 8, Sunday): Abuja to Lagos Jabi Lake Park
Usman DamDepart Abuja at 5pm Arrive in Lagos at 6.30pm Shrine (only stay to 9pm)
We decided to cross out Usman Dam because it was on the outskirt of town. We (Roberta and I) met up at Jabi Lake Park. Jabi Lake is an artificial lake that a park surrounds. It was commissioned sometimes during Obasanjo presidency so between 1999-2006). Beautiful to go on a stroll, jog or run or anything active. We stopped by Coco Café, which overlooks the Lake for chat and drinks.
I got back to the Airbnb and later to the airport. The flight was delayed for 2 hours with no explanation. I’m side eyeing Air Peace! Arrived in my favorite city in the whole wide world – Lagos, AKA Las Gidi at 8.20pm.
Got home, drooped my bag, had a change of clothes and headed out to The New African Shrine to watch Femi Kuti perform. So back in University when I was in Nigeria, I used to go to Shrine every Sunday to watch Femi play at Shrine. So it felt GREAT to experience this again. Femi was going on a tour so it was my last chance anyway to watch him before he left. One of my secondary (high) school friends met up with me there.
Day 30 (Monday, July 9): Lagos Mainland Lunch at Amala Shitta 2pm (Surulere)
I wanted to relax this day so only went out to lunch at a popular Buka/Mama Put that is popular for my favorite food – Amala. Shitta is an area in Surulere. Surulere is in Lagos Island. There are several Amala joint in Shitta area but Olaiya Amala somehow became more known to people. Anyways, the food was good but way too pepperish (spicy), it felt like my mouth was on FIRE!!! The customer service sucks big time. So I most likely wouldn’t go back there.
I was told of another place in Surulere, close to Olaiya Amala called Amala Akinyemi. My Taxify driver said Amala Akinyemi had better tasting food than Olaiya so I would give that a try next time. Two of my friends met up with me there.
P.S, Buka or Mama Put means the same thing – it is a local eatery. Pretty much a local version of a fast food restaurant that focuses on Nigeria cuisine.
Day 31 (Tuesday, July 10): Lagos Mainland Nigerian Railway Compound 12noon(Ebute Metta) Yaba White House 2pm
We took a visit to The Nigerian Railway Compound. I was told there a little museum there. Railway used to be a big deal in Nigeria. It is slowly making a recovery. The guide was very helpful and gave us so much history and info. They are building a bigger museum in the Railway Compound. The Legacy Foundation did the restoration of the museum. The foundation is involved in restoring historical houses in Lagos and advocating against the demolition of historical houses. I couldn’t take great pictures here because it started raining heavily. My friend Star, her friend and my mum came along with me on this visit.
After the Railway Museum, we went to have lunch at yet another Amala Mama Put. The Amala at Yaba White House was immaculate, cheaper than Olaiya Amala and with reasonable amount of spiciness. The customer service was good. Way better than Olaiya Amala.
Day 32 (Wednesday, July 11): Lagos Mainland Kalakuta (Ikeja) 2pm University of Suya
Another relaxed day. In the afternoon, met up with my cousin – Busola to pay homeage to Fela Anikulapo Kuti. We went to his former house which is now a museum. Apparently, you are suppose to make a reservation. We didn’t know that. The security guard told us a line to use so the museum can be opened for us. The barterner working at the roof top bar in the same building opened it to us.
Since he wasn’t working at the museum. He wasn’t able to give us any information. We simply walked about the 3 level museums, taking pictures and reading from the clips to get some of the info we wanted. We ended the visit at the Roof Top Bar. We gave the bartender a tip and the security guard a tip as well for telling us what to say to get the museum opened for us.
We stopped at University of Suya close by to try out the suya. Suya is the most famous street food in Nigeria. My opinion is Nigerians in the diaspora made University of Suya popular because I have tasted better suya.
Day 33 (Thursday, July 12): Lagos Island Awolowo Museum (Epe) Lufasi Park (Lekki Epe expressway, Abijo) Freedom Park (Lagos Island) Bogobiri (Ikoyi)
A really busy day. We (my mom and I) left home on the mainland around 9.30am because morning rush hour traffic on the major bridge connecting the mainland to the island would have cleared by that time. Two hours later, we arrived at out first stop – Lufasi Nature Park. It cost N1,000/person. It is a small park but beautiful. A guide will walk you through. The animals present there are rescued animals. There’s a play area for children, an artificial lake and picnic area.
After the park, we moved on The Awolowo Institute of Research and Policy Center. Chief Obafemi Awolowo is one of Nigeria’s founding father. I grew up hearing about him, he died in 1983 – two years before I was born. His house in his home state (Ikenne Remo, Ogun State) is adjacent my family’s house. Awo as he is popularly called lived on in many people hearts. Anyways, it only felt right to pay homage to Awo. The beach is right in front of the museum!
This museum was where he was imprisoned for a month. Awo spent a lot of time going to jail. His jailers were the various Nigeria Military Head of State who were pissed at his efforts (along with others) to regain democracy of Nigeria. He was initially prisoned at a prison in Broad street, Lagos Island (now known as The Freedom Park) before he was moved to this place in Epe because they wanted to isolate him. Epe, then was only accessible by water so they thought it was a great place to hide him from the public. They were wrong, they had visitors from all over, and the people of Epe came to visit him. The then military government moved him yet again because he was receiving too many visitors. He was moved to Calabar when he was later released. We paid N1,000/person for entrance.
We moved on to Freedom Park in Lagos Island. Entrance is N200/person. I always find Freedom Park peaceful and a great place to people watch. There is always a performance there. There is an Art Gallery, a museum, food court, mini eatery and a stage on ground. There were shooting a movie when I was there. My mom left me there to go visit my grandma. I people watched until it was time to go to Bogobiri.
I was tired by the time I got to Bogobiri around 6pm so I couldn’t wait for the live music performance at 7.30/8pm. I love Bogobiri, I used to hang out here a lot when I lived briefly in Nigeria from 2012-2014. The Art around the place is fascinately. They have an hotel there as well. Thursday night is for live music. The last Tuesday of the month is for Taruwa – spoken words. Cost is N500/person for Thursday and Taruwa.
Day 34 (Friday, July 13): Lagos Lekki Market The Backyard (VI)
I went to Lekki Art and Craft Market to buy somethings. They have really great stuff there from bags (leather or Ankara) to paintings to cravings to dresses (Ankara print).
Later, met up with a friend at The Backyard. Oh, how I love this place. It has now become my second favorite after Terra Kulture to hang out. Ambience is great, décor is excellent. Food is not cheap though. We left before 5pm to beat the afternoon rush hour traffic. You don’t want to be stuck in Lagos traffic, it has the power to make you reconsider your life!
Day 35 (Saturday, July 14): Lagos Makoko (meet 8am at Makoko land) Lekki conservation park (Lekki) Terra Kulture
Another busy day. We visited Makoko – a community on water. The community has been around for almost 100 years now. It was founded by various tribes from southwest and south-south area of Nigeria. These tribes are known to be skilled Fishermen hence the need to live by the water. The name Makoko came from the word ‘Mahoho’. The community had a practice called Mahoho where they publicly shamed people caught stealing or involved in adultery before expelling them from the community. They would put those accussed of these two crimes in a boat and go around the community shouting the person’s name and the crime the person committed. Outsiders who came to the community to buy fish and other sea food saw the practice and would refer to the community as ‘the place where they do Mahoho). It later evolved to Makoko.
This community was brought to limelight when a young talented Nigerian architect constructed a floating school. All of a sudden, several foundations was created by outsiders and several NGOs began raising money for the ‘poor people of Makoko’. I don’t know if the people of Makoko identified as poor people. It didn’t seem like it. The community was refered to as a slum on water and other names that the people of Makoko did not call themselves. In turn, the people became hostile to outsiders. You can not just go to Makoko nowadays. You will permission from a community member and big cameras are not permitted. Even with your phones, be cautious when taking a picture, people do not appreciate you pointing your camera at them. They will cuss you out.
There is only one primary (elementary) school in the community. The school cannot accommodate all the primary aged children in the community. It is in need of resources and an extension. Unfortunately, the floating school collapsed. It was rumored that one of the fishermen took one of the anchor that supported the floating school hence it’s collapsed. We asked Noah, the community leader, he said the floating school was just a model that was not meant to support many people.
One of the noticeable thing is the dirt and plastic in the water. Noah – the community leader claimed there was a sewage in the area that pushed the plastic into the community. Might be true, but we saw people in the community throw their trash in the water. They don’t see the trash and plastic issue as a problem so oh well.
We stopped by to get lunch before going to Lekki Conservation Center. It cost N1,000/person for entrance and another N1,000/person if you want to do the canopy walk, which is the longest in Africa. We decided to eat our lunch in the car since the monkeys at the center have gotten too bold. The canopy walk was exciting for some of us and scary for others. Star was hilarious – almost like she was crawling. If you are afraid of height, this might be a problem.
After the canopy walk, we sat to drink coconut water while we waited for my other friends running on Nigerian time.
We ended the day at Terra Kulture. I LOVE Terra Kulture. No way, I would be in Nigeria and not go there. There is a bookstore, study area, Art gallery, restaurant and space for plays, concert and conference. Pretty much, my type of place. We dined on fried sweet potatoes, fried yams, fried dodo (plantain) and off course palm wine.
Day 36 (Sunday, July 15): Epe Epe Mangrove
We left Lekki around 10.30am and got to Epe about 1.5 hour later. Epe Mangroves – what can I say? Simply serene and peaceful. It was a canoe ride and we visited a village on the other side of the mangrove. Upon getting off the boat, I fell into a swamp knee length. For a minute, I thought – wow, so this is how I will die? Lol.
After the Mangroove, we went to the Fish Market. We bought some prawns. We wanted to buy snails, but it was so expensive.
The last stop was the local brewery, well it’s just where a guy who migrated to the area 10 years ago produces his local gin. The local gin is called ‘Ogogoro’, made from fermented palm wine.
Day 37 (Monday, July 16):
Dedicated to running errands and brieftly visiting some folks.
Day 38 (Tuesday, July 17): Lagos Mainland Jevnick restaurant- Ikeja GRA
Since I like food, met up with two friends for lunch. I tried an soup from the South-East part of the country. Delicious!
Relaxed for the rest of the day. Chilled day
Day 39 (Wednesday, July 18): Lagos Hard Rock Cafe Roots (Ikoyi)
Took my cousin along with me. I wanted to check out Hard Rock Café. It has a beach in front of it. Great view. Ambience cool. Food and drinks over priced.
Stayed only an hour before going to Roots Restaurant and Bar to meet up with a few friends. My last outing before departing Lagos. Great conversation and food. I realized why I am much happier and less prone to anxiety in Nigeria. I surround myself with strong, amazing women. That night at Roots, I felt grat being in the mix of these awesome women. I don’t have this type of support in the U.S.
Anyways, it was a great night out.
Day 40 (Thursday, July 19): Anti-social behavior loading
Pretty much, packed and finished pending errands.
Day 41 (Friday, July 20): Kunbi departs
Flight left at 1.40pm for Cairo. My parents wanted me to leave the house at a ridicously time. I HATE waiting at airport. In the end, we left at 10.30am. Got to the airport at 11am – no traffic! Flight left on time. Arrived in Cairo at 9pm.
Egypt Air has a service where they would put you in a hotel if your layover is 6 hours or longer. Well we waited 3 freaking hours for them to process this. We walked into the hotel in the airport past midnight. I didn’t have expectation for the hotel since I found out it was Le Meridien. I didn’t enjoy Le Meridien in Giza but this one is updated.
While waiting for hotel to be processed at the airport, I meyt some interesting characters. Well, let be back track to the flight from Lagos. I was seated by this Syrian guy who went to visit his girlfriend in Nigeria and vacation there. He said they met online and she is Nigerian. I asked where he lived and he said in Syria. I asked about the war and he said something along the line that Syria was ok. I was confused. He said he would connect to Beirut from Cairo and cross the border to Damascus where he lives. I subpected he wasn’t telling me the full story because it is just simply rare that he would leave a war torn proven (asd told by western media) go vacation in Nigeria and return to a country that has an ongoing civil war.
My doubt was later confirmed when we were talking about salaries in various countries. He said the salary in Syria has always be trash but in Nigeria, you can make good money. So I suspect he went to work in Nigeria and took the money home.
Now back to the airport. A Nigerian that relocated from London to Abuja in a time where most people are relocating abroad. He was just frustrated and tired of living abroad. I could connect with him on that. I wanted to exchange contact but was too frustrated with waiting.
Met a girl who was having trouble boarding her connecting flight to Canada. Canadian’s version of Border Control re-interview people with visas to Canada at Cairo airport before letting them board the flight. The girl had just USD400 with her, no credit or debit card, hotel booked & paid, told the border agent she didn’t know anybody in Canada (a lie that her Travel agent told her to say) and she was spending 20 days in Canada. The border agent wasn’t convinced because how can USD400 substain you for 20 days in a place who don’t know anybody. In the end, I don’t know what happened to her. She looked really sad and worried the last I saw her.
Met a guy going to Utah for his PhD in Ecology on a full scholarship #blackexcellence #naijasmart. This is his first trip to the U.S. I exchanged contact with him because why not.
The last guy I conversed with. Regretted that by the way. It began as a normal conversation. We actually talked about the girl with the issue with Canadian Border Patrol. He mentioned he was going to Dallas with Spirit Airlines from LGA. I made a joke about not getting to his destination. Then something changed when he asked what church I went to. I said I don’t practice Christianity or any other organized religion. He was shocked like most Nigerians. He wanted to further the conversation on that topic, I declined firmly. This was then it took a creepy turn.
I was handed over the room keys for the 10 people in our group of Lagos-Cairo flight. He asked me to give him a room next to mine. I ignored him. Unfortunately, our rooms ended by each other anyways because I had to put a mama and her kids in a room by each other. Anyways, I latched closed my room. At 5.30am, someone was knocking at my door. I don’t it couldn’t be hotel staff because I had the ‘Do Not Disburb’ sign on the door handle. I peeped through the hole and saw him. I went back to sleep. He called my room, when I picked up I didn’t say anything when I heard his voice, I disconnected the phone cord. I left my room at 7.05pm to go down to breakfast. He was waiting forme he said at the lobby. I left him there to breakfast. Took my time, he was gone when I went back to the lobby. Like most Nigerians obsessed in getting at the airport way too early, he left. Thank God. I didn’t make it to the gate until boarding started. Unfourtunately, I passed by him on the way to my seat on the plane.
So there is my theory. I believe he saw me as vulunerable, as someone he could take advantage of because I’m religionness. He probably assumed because I had no religion, I had no morals or ethics. And he probably wanted to test his limit. He has a wife and son by the way.
Day 42 (Saturday, July 21): Began the long flight to New York City (11 hours 40 minutes).
Nothing eventful. Made it safely to JFK and headed to my hotel in Newark.
Day 43 (Sunday, July 22):
Arrived in Dallas at 8.30am. Moved my stuff from the storage unit to my new apartment. And got ready for work the next day.