Borderline problems

February 28, 2020

After my visit to the monastery with its waterfalls and the Solar Sisters I was a bit reluctant to leave this beautiful and quiet place. But, the Eastern part of Nigeria was promising with quieter roads and the prospect of getting in the mountains gave me some energy to continue. 

Royal visits

The road took me more up North with some headwinds. Combined with the slightly hilly regions it got more difficult and realised I was still near the Sahara. Therefore the winds blow mostly from the North and some kind of fog seemed to be there most of the day: Sahara dust! 

One day I was cycling and a car stops and comes to talk to me. He introduces himself as being the King of one of the Kingdoms I will cycle through. He invites me to come over to talk and have some food, and so I do. A great surprise to be visiting His Royal Highness Dauda Haruna Umaru Tiisintai of the Suntai Chiefdom. He gives me food, we chat and then I continue my journey. Just before I leave he tells me to visit other Kings on my way. One of the other kings died recently but I can still sleep in his lodge because some servants are still there. The next day I visit His royal highness Alk. Zubairu Hamman Gabda Muhammadu Sambo of the Gashake Kingdom. I get to sleep on one of his domains and he takes great care of me. I get to see his horse and when leaving to go up into the mountains he offers me some money for the road, which I can’t refuse!

Up to the hill

The Mambilla plateau is the last obstacle before Cameroon. It takes me up to 1800 m on a steep (most of the part is 10% average) and winding road. I’m very happy this section is asphalted and I get into my climbing rhythm again. The climb is hard but beautiful and many people cheer me on the way up.

Once on the plateau, the climbing isn’t over. It’s a constant up and down and in Gembu I decide to take the road to Dorofi. That’s a small smuggling route with mainly dirt tracks. Absolutely stunning scenery and I get a feeling of being in the Alps. It’s a tough road with many steep parts, downhill isn’t relaxing and going up takes tons of effort. One hill I need to get off the bike and push. There a guy stops his motorcycle and helps me push it, very grateful because it was not an easy task! The atmosphere is really relaxed and people waving and greeting in every village.

Borderline intimidation

Once in the border town of Dorofi I try to find a safe place to sleep. It is the border zone with Cameroon and because of the conflicts this is a “red zone”. They bring me to a bar with some “rooms” where I can sleep safely. A couple of hours later the army and an immigration officer come to me. The immigration officer is really angry and says I have a big problem. I try to ask why but don’t really get an answer. I try not be impressed, which is hard when these guys are standing around with their guns. Then the army officer takes me in the bar and explains me that it is not safe to sleep.

It feels that they’re trying to confuse me and get a “good cop, bad cop” story on me. I stay calm and the immigration officer wants to see my passport. When he sees my passport it seems I even have a bigger problem. There is something wrong with the stamp they gave me when entering (one of the numbers was wrong he said, while everything was correct and legal). I’m sure I did nothing illegal and tell him that if the migration officer gave me the wrong stamp when entering, he should call him and not put the responsibility on me. Then he told me they could bring me to Gembu, with my response “no problem sir, I’ll just have to call my embassy from there”. 

Cooling down

Things seem to calm down and then the military officer starts to talk to the people in the bar and around: “you can not just host these guys, white people here! They can be spies, or anything else. If you go to Europe the police does the same things,…” and many more lies about people and a place they know nothing about. They try to scare people and then take me to the immigration office (in Dorofi).

There they tell me that all is fine. That being after my threat of calling the embassy and showing some recommendation letter of a friend of a very well known organisation. Then they start talking that if anything would happen to me they will burn down the bar! That seems completely crazy to me and we discuss the options while they try to confuse me. He explains me there’s something wrong with the stamp and that he is just helping me in case the Cameroon immigration will say something about that! A big lie off course, like the Cameroon immigration will know what Nigerian entry stamp would be correct…

It’s a nightmare!

They try to scare me more and tell me I shouldn’t sleep there. They say that the bar is dangerous and I have to sleep in the immigration office so the army can protect me. I don’t have much choice and I go for my bicycle and cycle in the middle of the night to their office, with armed escort. 

That night I slept extremely bad, I sleep in the immigration officer’s room on my mattress. He is in his bed sleeping with his machine gun next to him. In the middle of the night he wakes up screaming with his gun! I wake up, he shouts something and falls asleep again. Seemed like a bad dream he had but it didn’t make me feel very comfortable. 

In the morning I set off to the border with Cameroon, thinking how disgusting it was as a last experience in the otherwise beautiful country! Hoping Cameroon will be better again…. Besides this incident I really liked Nigeria and its people. It is an impressive country and the things that scared me the most was traffic. I actually never felt unsafe, but on the other hand I never camped in the wild here just for my safety…

New hope

I enter Cameroon easily, although it’s a demanding track again, especially after a night like that! Once I reach customs I can change some money and explain my story there. The officer there offers me to buy water for me and I set off into Cameroon. It feels different, people it’s less crowded, less chaotic and more relaxed, but it’s still not easy to cycle. It goes up and down and I feel getting exhausted!

Every day I feel very tired and I’m looking forward to Yaoundé. Matthias lives there and will host me. He was in Belgium some days before and will bring some goodies that my mum and my girlfriend arranged to get to him (thank you so much you all!!! I enjoyed the candy, letters, beer,….). What a teamwork and I’m looking forward to the small gifts (including my spare credit card which got damaged) and definitely to some rest, food and social contact! I feel very drained both physically and mentally and then I realise I went quite hard the past weeks. Covering 5200km in 6 weeks from Dakar was a real rush, especially to get in time in Nigeria for my visa!

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