Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Nigeria 2012 - Day 2 (1/22)

I had set my alarm for 4 AM the night before, but I couldn't sleep past 1:30.  After a little writing and then some more tossing and turning, I finally got up for good at 3:30.

We were in the lobby at 5 waiting for our driver from the day before, who agreed to take us to the domestic airport.  However, when he didn't show up by 5:15, we took a taxi provided by the hotel. Unlike the Jeep SUV the day before, this was a sedan, and we had to fit 3 suitcases and 2 grown men in the back seat - needless to say, a tight squeeze. Luckily, the ride was less than 5 minutes.

At the old domestic airport some men (who almost made touting seem like a legit profession) helped us unload and carry our bags in. They then weighed our luggage that was to be checked, which came in at 108 Kg. This was 48 Kg over the limit of 60 that the 3 of us were allowed (at 20 each) by Arik Airlines.  The excess fee was 400 naira (currently trading around 160 naira per dollar) per Kg over the limit, so we would owe 19200 naira. They offered to take care of our situation (presumably including a bribe for some Arik personnel) for 15000 naira, which my parents refused after some fuss.  Unfortunately, when we checked in the official Arik weigh-in came in at 110 Kg, and the agent told us that she couldn't do anything about it when my parents prodded. Ma tried some hardline negotiating, including walking back to the seating area, but it was ultimately unsuccessful, and we had to pay the full 20000 naira.

The flight to Enugu was scheduled to depart at 7:10, but it was delayed due to the weather - the Enugu airport does not have an instrument landing system, so 5 Km of visibility is required. Thankfully, the 50 minute flight in the Boeing 737 was mostly unremarkable.

In Enugu I noticed a couple of interesting items at the airport.  First, the pilot did a U-turn on the runway after landing - apparently the entire tarmac consists of the runway and the connecting approach.  Second, I was told by my parents that the luggage conveyor was a new addition to the airport this year (so you can probably figure out how modern the airport is). As usual, a tout helped us collect our luggage and take it out to the taxis. We again crammed all our luggage (5 suitcases, 2 carry-ons, and my 2 backpacks) and ourselves into a Camry - this time, though, Pa and I could almost breathe normally in the back. We were taken to Modotel, a 15-minute trip, where my dad typically stays when he is in town.

After checking in around 11, my dad hired his usual driver to take us to his uncle Vincent's compound, where his house is built. The place was about 10 minutes drive away, though much of that was consumed trying to sidestep the obstacles of a terribly kept road. When we arrived, Pa instructed the driver to pick us up at 6 PM, noting that we did not have a working cell phone (his SIM card had expired).

Vincent (aka Big Daddy) and Julie were surprised to see me as my parents did not told them that I was coming along. They were gracious hosts despite the fact that they has been without electricity for 3 days.  We spent some time conversing with them and then went to look at the progress made on my father's house next door. The gigantic house is almost livable on the main floor, though much still remained to be done, especially on the second floor. By the time we were done looking around the 3 of us were tired and hungry.  We tried to call the driver to come pick us up, but were unsuccessful. While we waited we were served some fruit (bananas, oranges, papaya) and water, and Vin eventually called someone he knew to take us back. We were back at the hotel around 4, and I passed out in my room soon after. But not before an episode that saw the 3 of us nearly get stuck (without a phone) in a tiny elevator, despite a warning from a lady that the elevator could not handle all of us. The elevator seemed to stop short of the second floor, and the door didn't open. We all freaked out a bit, but my impatient dad was somehow able to get it moving again my selecting the ground floor and then jumping up and down (a scary move that I normally would not recommend).  After getting back down, he took the stairs up while I rode with Ma in the other elevator.

We slept until almost 7, when my dad woke me up because they were ordering dinner.  They got me some rice and stew, while they had yam and stew.  We ate and talked for a while then I went back to my room to go to bed around 9.  I also experienced a couple of the brief power outages my parents had warned about - none lasted more than a couple of minutes.

Some pictures from the trip:
 

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