Saturday, 11 April 2009

24: Going to seed in Abuja

The days are blending into one interminable wait here in Nigeria's capital, Abuja. I've established routines and am beginning to feel institutionalised. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest comes to mind, although this time it's set in Abuja, in a collapsing tent at the back of the Sheraton. I'm not sure I will be able to face the outside world again.

Days begin in the pre-dawn hours when the national mosque, several hundred metres away, rouses me from my sleep. I climb out of the tent and before a morning audience gathers at the breakfast bar in the hotel, I take a wash - the bar overlooks the outdoor shower that we're allowed to use and is beside the swimming pool. We don't get into the pool itself because that would blow our daily budget straight out of the water, pun intended, before we've even tracked down a rice and beans lady. I thought we might have been threatened with eviction notices by this point, but the novelty of cycling through Africa still seems to have some charm and our sob story about waiting for Peter's new passport and our mythical Angolan visas still persuades those with the power to let us be. And we are very grateful. We've slowly accumulated bits and pieces of furniture. An old dining table. A couple of rotten bamboo chairs rescued from incineration. We'll start building the walls around our patch of land under the mango trees any day now.

In the meantime our daily rituals evolve around trips to the 'rice and bean lady' and the 'noodles and egg man', whose illegal stalls are clumped around the public toilets outside the hotel's entrance. Across the continent, illegal street hawkers often face harassment from officialdom. Yesterday morning Peter witnessed the town council arriving in a pick-up truck with a nonchalent, machine-gun toting policeman and they began confiscating food and property from the hawkers, which can apparently be retreived upon payment of a 1000 Naira fine, thereby further reducing their already miniscule profit margins.

Besides consuming food and swatting mosquitoes in the evening, reading and the internet feature high on the things to do. I found a book stall after a couple of days and have become a gold-card customer in the space of a week, rotating Grisham and Ludlum novels on an almost daily basis. There are few other author's to choose from - so I now dream about courtroom battles and the CIA. We went to the nearby cinema once, for the novelty, and saw Marley and Me, but it was so cold inside with the air-conditioning on full blast that we haven't been back. Hopefully our Angolan visas will be ready to collect sometime next week and we'll be back on the road again.

As I've been going to seed here in Abuja, I've also made some changes to the blog (changed the address and title to the highly original 'The Slow Way Home'), as well as deciding that now, in the midst of a global economic recession, there really isn't a better time to do a long trip, blow all the savings, and pedal my way back home through the Americas and Asia. A personal rite-of-passage, if you like, or as many family members might argue - a convenient way to evade looking for a proper job for another couple of years! Very exciting times indeed. I've also decided that the trip is a great opportunity to do a little (well hopefully a lot) of fundraising, and after much thought I've selected the Peter McVerry Trust as the recipient of the money raised. I've created my own fundraising page on the mycharity.ie website where donations can be made. The Trust works primarily in the Dublin area, supporting young homeless people. Father Peter McVerry has long been a great inspiration to me whenever I've listened to him speak or read his writings, as he provides a voice for the homeless and marginalised and challenges those who have the power to make changes to do so. All donations will allow the Peter McVerry Trust to continue to support the many young homeless people that they assist and bring new hope to and create new possibilities for.

Abuja, Nigeria

Trip distance: 13, 566 km