Getting Ready to Enter the Danger Zone!

“So you’re going to South Africa? Aren’t you scared? People get shot there every day!”

“Did you hear about the plane that crashed in Libya? It came from South Africa!”

“I heard of a guy who went swimming in South Africa, and almost died from a parasite infestation!”

Yes, I’ve heard all that. Every single day. In fact, of anything anyone says to me about travelling to South and West Africa, 98% is warnings. I shrug it off, people are always scared of what they don’t know.

But then it hit me – what if I’m being overly confident? What if I’m one of those persons who hide their head in the sand and refuse to see the dangers? Maybe. But I don’t think so. I guess only time will tell.

As I said to Eduardo, I’m not really scared of getting sick or being mugged. I hope it doesn’t happen, but it won’t be the end of the world. It won’t stop me from eating street foods, travelling to remote locations or interacting with the locals. Getting kidnapped is another story, however, so the thought of going to Northern Mali and crossing the border into Algeria through the operating grounds of the Al Qaida does raise a red flag.

Then again, when we’re there, curiosity might overpower the sense of fear.

I’m not promising nothing. And I’m not scared.


Lagos – Staying Safe in the ABC Bus Station

It’s engraved in my DNA to have no fear. Or if I’m feeling skittish, to face the fear and overcome it. So however many stories I had heard of Lagos being dangerous, I just didn’t believe it could be so bad. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, Eduardo is different.

On the bus from Cotonou to Lagos, Eduardo chatted with the man next to him.
“In Lagos, you cannot leave your house after dark.”
“There are so many young people taking hard drugs, that when they rob you, they would just shoot you and kill you.”
“I would invite you to stay at my house, but I’m afraid someone is going to see you and will attack me because I have white friends.”
“When you get to Lagos, you have to stay in the bus station over night, because it’s not safe to take a taxi at night.”

Of course Eduardo listened to all this, and believed it. When two nice ladies from Abuja told us they were also staying in the bus station over night, to catch a taxi in the morning, it sealed the deal. I was furious. But having just arrived in a country that is rumored to be one of the most dangerous in the world, you would be stupid not to listen to the locals.

So, we had another real African experience and slept on the hard metal benches in the bus station together with fifty or so locals and millions mosquitoes. Eduardo tried to get some sleep on top of his backpack. Many people just slept on the floor.

In the middle of the night it started raining hard. The roof of the “ultra-modern”, recently built (in 2006) bus terminal, was leaking. The toilets overflowed. Outside, the streets started filling up with water.

At 9 a.m., after more than 12 hours in the bus terminal, when the rain finally stopped, we finally managed to wade through the water to hail a taxi. By that time, the flooding was so bad, that water came through the doors of the car and we had to lift our feet to keep dry.

But we were safe.

Better safe than sorry? After that night from hell, I would say I was both safe and sorry.