I battled with myself a lot about posting this. This has to be “THE” worst trip of my life, no cap. I don’t imagine anything can top it and this is by no means a dare to the devil. Apart from it being so terrible that reliving its memories still stings slightly, I’m grateful that I can sigh over it now because I’m definitely not at the point where I could laugh over it. Another reason I was hesitant about sharing is that there are certain parts of the experience that compounded the horror that was this trip that I wasn’t sure I was comfortable sharing yet. I’m still not sure to be very honest.
The horror started on the 12th of July, 2018 (I can’t believe it’s already been a year and half as at the time of writing this). I got the worst news of my life, my dad had passed. People often say they never remember days like this when they experience something so terrible. You often hear things like I blacked out or was in a daze but that was not the case for me. I remember everything so vividly, from the way my heart rate increased to how I tried so hard to deny the news to how salty my tears tasted. I distinctly remember feeling weightless, like the bottom had been knocked from right under me and I was free floating. Basically just a dot in space. I digress guys, I don’t know if I will ever share my experience from the last time we spoke (my dad and I), death, grief, the burial and life after. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t but however i feel about it and if i do get there you’ll be the first to know.
So because of the aforementioned of course I had to be on the first ride back home and home is in Yenagoa, Bayelsa (in fact at the time my immediate family had already left for the village) and for context I work and live in Abuja. My ex-aunt (another story, lol) drove Kiki (my cousin and life partner) and I to the park, everything was last minute so we took the option available to our misfortune. And thus began the trip to end all trips. It started out well enough, I remember it was a sienna car and me and Kiki were sat beside each other at the back of the car. All through the trip I’m trying all I can to hold back tears and the images of my dad that are flooding my head. I can’t even sleep because my brain is in overdrive and all I see is his face. I honestly don’t remember the beginning of the journey till we get somewhere in Edo (the crazies always happens or starts in Edo. I just can’t with the state).
It begins with tyre issues or was it over heating I don’t recall. The driver has been struggling with the issue for a bit and because of said issue he had slowed to a crawl. We (me and Kiki) had already accepted our fate that we would get home whenever we did. All hopes of getting there at a godly hour had gone with each mile of red soil we crawled past. After attempt number one to fix this car, which was done in a remotely open place and by open I mean I could at least spot a couple of wooden shacks where people where selling things, there was also a woman selling the creamiest boiled coin and Ube (baby pears) and of course a mechanic who jejely advised the driver to ask the transport company to send another car to come pick us up because the car was bad and the repair it needed couldn’t be done in a day or at least in time enough for us to get on our not so merry way. As a typical Nigerian man who has to keep to form of his natural setting which is idiocy the driver asked the mechanic to give the car what I will call a mechanical band aid and as the James Bond that he is he will get us where we need to get to with the car.
Fast forward less than 2hrs and by that I mean an hour. What have we? Our car sputtering and jerking for life smack in the middle of the road with bushes all around us and as far as the eye can see at 5pm. If you’re familiar with Nigerian road travel or have listened to Nigerian folklore or even watched good old Nollywood flicks. You first know that a journey from Abuja to Bayelsa that you don’t plan on breaking, you definitely do not want to or should still be in Edo state by 5pm and that being stranded in the middle of nowhere with only bushes in Edo state is not something you want either. You never want to be stranded in a bush anywhere except you’re a white character in a cheaply done horror flick.
I was in the car with very interesting passengers, we were seven in all. I distinctly remember a young man who I initially profiled as weird for some reason, a girl who I profiled as crazy (the more Warri kind of crazy), an elderly lady and two other people who didn’t make any lasting impressions. So we are stuck by the side of the road, the car is not even trying to come on anymore, passengers are asking for a part of their fare back so they can start finding alternative transportation, driver is standing arms akimbo claiming to be cashless after submitting all the fares to the company at the park, other passengers are raising hell (weird boy and crazy girl) and are threatening to rip of sellable parts of the car and take with them. It was a riot I tell you.
At this point, seeing that nothing could be done and time was of the essence, passengers started flagging down cars for lifts that will take them to the closest town where they can board another vehicle. Mind you, we were actually only halfway through our journey. The cars that managed to stop were charging exorbitant prices just to take you to a nearby town and remember we got no refunds from the driver so we were left with all we had with us. Ohh now I remember, another passenger was a corps member with a lot of luggage. I remember her being in tears which was very much warranted.
Anyways some passengers from our vehicle had found lifts or paid the hefty price charged like the elderly lady and the corp member. I still don’t remember the last person. We were four left, me, Kiki, crazy girl and weird boy. Next thing I know, weird boy (who I have now re-termed ‘crazy’) had flagged down a trailer and it actually stopped. A whole 16 ass wheeled trailer, and no I don’t mean the hilux trucks or what they call “diana”. I mean the ones that carry cows and transport produce inter-state. Crazy girl and boy in fact had already explained our plight to the driver, and were ready to hop aboard. Meanwhile the only available seats inside the trailer where filled of course and there were two hausa men on the trailer bed. I and Kiki had to make the decision whether or not to join them because our first instinct was not to but the other option available to us was waiting alone by the bushes with our driver or attempting to get another lift. We decided there was safety in numbers and crazy girl and boy where just the energy we needed at this time. So hop aboard we did, you don’t want to know the struggle that was climbing unto this trailer. I’m thankful for small mercies that it was empty in the first place and not filled with animal faeces. Ohh and crazy boy and girl kept to their threats and took parts of the car to sell. I can’t remember what crazy girl took (she initially wanted to take the engine but it was tied down) but I know crazy boy took the spare tyre from the car. 😂
Let me not dwell on when Kiki posed the thought that what if the hausa men with us where herds men and kidnapped us and I didn’t have any peace after. I just kept staring at them to see if I would notice the outline of any weapons. While calculating how badly my bones will break if they attempt anything and I have to jump down from the trailer. If the pain will somehow numb the pain from the gaping hole in my chest that was losing my dad. Or was it the fact that I stood for more than an hour on this trailer bed because it was too uncomfortable to sit. Or the constant slaps from the wind and how tightly my face has stretched from trying not to cry and denying that this had to have been the worst thing that happened to me.
We still had a good 6 hours on our trip before we got a lift from the angels that came in the form of a trailer driver. Not a full three hours on the back of this trailer thinking it can’t get any worse, what do we see, it starts to rain. For once I could say that I smelt the rains coming like I was a character from an Achebe novel. Being so high above ground level will do that to you. And this was no drizzle, it was falling in sheets. Luckily there was a large spare tyre or rather a regular sized trailer spare tyre and a tarpaulin so we all squeezed ourselves onto the tyre and some people on the floor and used the tarp over our heads.
Luckily the rain stopped but the chill was there to remind us of what was. This kind trailer man eventually drove us to Warri where if I remember correctly crazy boy alighted. He was then kind enough to drive us to where we could get a car to Bayelsa. It was 10pm at the time already. We and crazy girl damp and cold to the bones then boarded cars that took us to Bayelsa. Kiki and I finally got home by midnight. Now that I am writing this it doesn’t sound as gruesome as it actually was but best believe it was a nightmare. I was aching physically, emotionally, cold to my tits, annoyed. I still can’t believe I ever traveled by road again after this trip.
I remember how we swore up and down that when we got back to Abuja, we would take police officers to the transport company to get our refund. Situations surrounding the trip mostly weakened our morale but the one thing I will never do is use that transport company again.
These are some of the experiences that crush my faith in Nigeria, how do you just gamble with people’s lives like that? The inability to be thorough and efficient even in handling the little we’ve been given to manage. Why do you not check your cars before you put them on the road and put peoples lives at stake? I’m grateful for the kindness of strangers and fortitude of mind.
T.N : Thinking about it now, with so many police and army checkpoints littered across the roads constantly harassing individuals and motorists. Not one stopped the trailer for any checks. What if we weren’t there of our own free will?
What has been your worst travel experience?
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