Oh Lord, where to begin the inaugural post for my #RoadKill series. So this is a story of my first time travelling at night (not internationally), how I managed to get away with paying #4,500 transport from Lagos to Abuja and how I almost died of a heart attack.
This tale takes off from the crawling streets of Ojota on a damp Sunday morning. So I had spent the last three days having such a splendid time in Lagos. I attended a wedding, which was the primary reason I travelled. Hung out with friends, experienced some of the heralded goodness that is Lagos nightlife and also had some time lazing in bed all day. It was a much needed and anticipated break from the Abuja rains. Did I forget to mention that I slayed at this wedding? You know I did, see receipts below.
Sunday morning began bright and early, it’s 5:30am, I’m packed and ready to head to the bus park. As someone that is not new to the road travel life, I knew my ass had to be out and on my to the park by 6 to catch the first bus. For some context, I was leaving from Ifako Agege to Ojota park. I had also spent the duration of my time in Lagos hosted by my friends family who were also the host of the wedding I attended.
So I’m ready to head out and my friend’s mum who I call Mrs B, gives me some food packed to go, a knapsack filled with drinks and wedding souvenirs and oh the way my heart sang when she pressed her hands into mine and I felt the neatly folded notes of money she was squeezing into them. I said my many thanks with a courtesy as you do with Yoruba elders and you know that knee went down especially thinking of all the goodies I was leaving with. My uber was waiting outside, earpiece plugged, cash for transport on hand, my phone fully charged, a novel in my bag, snacks readily available. Hell, I was ready to conquer this trip.
On getting to the motor park, it wasn’t a popular brand company which was my first mistake, I admit that. I get confirmation from my friend who says she has used the car company a couple of times so I was good. I enter, book a ticket, pay half the price (which was divine guidance because I normally would have paid full upfront) and I wait with two other passengers who are already waiting for the bus to fill up. I occupy myself and before you know it it’s past 9, one guy came and lucky for him he hadn’t paid so as time passed he left the bus. The other two passengers who were also female were getting antsy so we all spoke amongst ourselves and decided to ask for refunds so we can use another car company to go.
Meanwhile all around us, cars and buses going to various places had filled up and headed out. Omo, that’s how these Yoruba park guys changed it for us o, unlucky for me I don’t speak yoruba so i had to depend on the other girls to plead our case. These people refused, that we can go if we want but they don’t do refunds. They said we should hold on passengers are coming, it is because it’s a Sunday and the weather isn’t great bla bla bla. We went back to wait, I started contacting a friend to come pick me up after church and I was ready to let the money go because a girl was hella pissed and lowkey scared.
Like a joke it got to twelve and we were still just three people in this bus. Two other guys came and they somehow convinced them to join us that if we can get to be 9 passengers or if it gets to 1pm we’ll start heading out. If you didn’t get it earlier we were travelling to Abuja, which is a 10-12 hour trip on a good day. It got to 2pm and the guys got upset and after exchanging words with the bus park people to no avail, they went to a nearby police station. After making them pay to make a statement the police then told them there is nothing they can do, that they don’t involve themselves in “park” matters. I laugh in the mess that is the Nigerian security system. I was already resigned that this will be a night journey.
Finally, after two more people were probably conned into boarding the bus we finally started heading out of Lagos by 3pm, joining Lagos traffic created by throes of people leaving their various places of worship. By this time I’ve already finished my lukewarm wedding party Jollof and a drink. Ears blasting with music, heart dismayed, I positioned myself well and was ready to sleep the whole journey away. Less than two hours into the journey, I’m awakened by noise. The bus has stopped somewhere in Ogun state to load more passengers.
People come down to relieve themselves, buy snacks, etc while I just sat there frustrated. These people that should be making do for lost time are here casually just wasting even more time. After picking passengers, the conductor turns to me and asks me for my balance of the fare (I had paid a deposit of #4,500 and the total fare was about 7,500). I didn’t answer for almost a good 10mins, dude kept ranting. I didn’t know when I blew up and let all the anger loose, thankfully the OG passengers from the park all came to my defense. I was adamant that I wasn’t paying him any money or until I reached my destination, if at all. Some bickering here and there and we continued on our journey. The conductor left the car before we left Ogun state but not before reminding the driver to take the balance from me.
It all went relatively smoothly. I was a bit panicky here and there but relatively smoothly all in all and I was just falling in and out of sleep until it was about 8pm and we were either in Ondo or Osun state. It’s pitch black and we are passing through narrow inroads and the driver stops and picks a random passenger from the road who is carrying just a nylon bag. The panic that set in as he got in was way out of orbit, and he was sitting in the same row as I was with just one person between us. I started having flashes of all the one chance stories I ever heard and the Nigerian films I’ve watched. My mind was working overtime, I had so many questions. Like why are you on the road by 8pm to board a vehicle going to Abuja, why do you not have any proper luggage, what is in said nylon bag, are they tools to use and kill us, is it jazz?
I kid you not, I watched that man like a hawk for a straight hour, he bent his head as if in prayer after he sat and my mind was no, nope this is just a ruse for us to think he’s on our side. He started making odd cryptic phone calls and my mind was like yes, yesss he’s calling his cohorts who have been strategically placed somewhere to stop us and possibly mug or kill us. I finally had to force myself to sleep because between that and my fear of the night driving (you can’t even see oncoming vehicles, plus all the trailers driving at night, my gosh!) I was about to give myself a heart attack. We didn’t make any stops or I probably slept through them if we did and it went mostly uneventfully until we finally reached Abuja.
This driver stopped us at Zubwa (for those who don’t know it’s the outskirts of Abuja), so far out from the main town. And it was bloody 4am. Where were we expected to get a car from? As the car stopped and I got down, while the passengers were arguing with the driver, I was approached by the only cab man that was there asking where I was going. I told him, though it wasn’t the route he was going to, it was along the way and he could drop me at a popular roundabout where I could easily get a car from. I quietly left the arguing trope and made my way to the car, paid my fare and sat. There was space for one more person so when it got occupied we left. Eventually this cab ended up taking me to my house with a slight increase to my fare and after talking to the rest of his passengers. I always wondered how the rest of the people from that trip managed cause the cab I entered was the only one plying the road at that time. The whole journey was such a panicky stressful mess and not one I ever want to experience again. I did get home by past 5 in the morning and I was just grateful to be safe.
Have you ever travelled at night before? Do share if you have #RoadKill aka travel horror stories. Do you think I was being overly dramatic and panicky?