My wife has been visiting me in Nigeria for the past few weeks, just for fun. She doesn’t have any intention of living here full time, strangely preferring Phuket to Lagos, but she has at least now seen what the place is like. She thinks a lot better of it than I do, mainly because it’s not too different from the chaos of Asia’s wilder parts, which she loves. Plus, now she’s gone through the arrival process at Lagos airport, and will shortly go through the departure process, coming for another trip will be so much easier. The first time is always the worst.
Anyway, there isn’t a whole lot to do here at the weekends, save sit in bars and drink and lie by the pool. True, there is something that people call Lekki market where apparently you can go and join ten thousand people in loudly arguing over the price of stuff that you don’t want to buy, but that doesn’t really appeal. And I heard that there are some interesting places to visit out in the countryside which our security department has, rightly or wrongly, banned us from visiting on safety grounds. Given a car load of contractors got shot up on the road not far from here in an ambush, leaving two expatriates critically wounded, I’m not in any hurry to defy their instructions. However, my employer has, not without a dash of colonialist flair, permanently rented for our use a private resort on Ilado, a beach area somewhere near Lagos, accessible only by boat. The deal is you turn up, book into what turned out to be a pretty nice chalet, and enjoy some time lying about by a pool, walking along the beach, playing tennis or, as we did, sitting at the bar ordering subsidised cocktails all day (and well into the night). Food is provided, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and there is a barbecue pit which they fire up and you can throw your own meat on. This we did, only the chef inexplicably delegated the cooking of our steaks to the security guard, and they ended up like Ghandi’s sandal. But there was enough wine going down to avoid anything sticking in the throat.
The ride out there was fun, mainly because the harbour in Lagos is worth seeing. I’m not entirely sure what happened here, but at some point – or maybe several points – of economic collapse a load of ship owners, or at least the captains, decided they were just going to abandon their vessels and let nature take its course. The result is that in the middle of west Africa’s busiest port enormous ships lie half-sunk, stripped of all useful parts, and idly rusting by the dozen. Some of them are slap-bang in the middle of the most obvious route from quayside to ocean. It reminded me a lot of the fishing ports around Sakhalin. Sadly, the boat we were on didn’t really allow for the taking of photos, and besides it was pouring with rain. In fact, it poured with rain right up until we arrived back in Lagos the next day, thus proving once and for all that weather patterns the world over are determined by the beach plans of Brits.
However, the rain did hold off long enough to have a walk along the beach. But the looming clouds and thunderstorms did make it seem more like a walk along Freshwater West than an equatorial tropical paradise.
The beach could also have used a cleanup. No blue flag awards here. There was an upside, though. If ever you are in desperate need for a used pair of Chinese flip-flops, this is the place to come. There were a lot of ships lying offshore, some waiting to come into harbour (no doubt checking the fine print of their insurance to see if it covered collisions with ships scuttled in the port), but rumour has it some of these have been sat there since the global crash in 2008, with skeleton crews who fit the description more literally than normal.
However, at this point I have to take into consideration the outrage my last post on Lagos generated in the comments section by various mouthpieces of Nigerian national pride who thought I should have described their largest city somewhat differently. So, in the interests of avoiding another indignant outcry, I have this to say:
“I am a racist, arrogant, imperialist whose only aim in life is to describe various places in Nigeria in inaccurate terms. I do this because I am so insecure in my life that I need to gain confidence in the only way I know how: criticising Nigeria’s infrastructure. In fact, a doctor prescribed this as the only cure. Why else would I make up such lies? Anyway, the photo you see above has been photoshopped by me to exaggerate the amount of rubbish which was lying on the beach. Were I being fair, I would have turned 90 degrees to the right and shown you the miles of pristine white sands, the rows of sun-loungers filled with dancing, happy locals and expats alike all enjoying the riches and pleasures that Nigerian life has to offer, plied with drinks by beaming, radiant resort staff who, although serving drinks today, know in their hearts that they are seen as equals by their compatriots and respected accordingly. But instead I decided to show you a false picture of a beach full of rubbish, purely because I grew up on a council estate in Britain and I need to feel better about myself by being racist about Nigeria (and the above picture, like my descriptions of Victoria Island’s drainage, is most unashamedly racist). Please consider these facts when commenting, preferably by not repeating them pointlessly.”
Right, where was I? That’s right. The beach. It was actually pretty nice out there, right on the ocean where, looking south, the next landfall is Antarctica. Huge swells come in from the ocean and rip tides and currents along the beach, along with an extremely steep bottom profile, makes swimming in the sea unwise (and forbidden for us). Turning around, you can see the skyline of central Lagos peeping over the dunes.
The coastline here was dotted with abandoned ships, much in the same way that Sakhalin was. I don’t know if there is a pattern developing here, in that everywhere I get posted features ships lying rotting along the coast, but if I find myself sent to Namibia next, don’t be surprised. It provided a certain fascination, these vessels. At what point does a captain decide he’s leaving his ship for the last time, walks out of the wheelhouse, and leaves it to take care of itself? It must be a strange feeling, if it happens like that. More likely, it lies at anchor waiting for a commission that never comes.
North Sea or Nigeria?
Later on, the weather cleared up a bit and we noticed a herd of long-horned cattle being moved along the beach. This would probably cause some annoyance on Borocay, but not on Ilado.
As the day wore on, and day turned to night, and I ran out of cliches, we got more hammered. The photo below gives some indication of how things were progressing, but I didn’t take any photos of the three-quarter empty bottle of Stolichnaya vodka which was a fair representation of how things finished up.
A great weekend, and I’ll be going back for sure.