May 15, 2011

Made it to Yankari and back ALIVE. I’m not going to lie, I was a bit nervous about this weekend trip before we went. The drive is about 6 hours and Yankari is in Bauchi State, which is where a lot of the political violence in Nigeria had been occurring after Presidential Elections last month. Yankuri is, fortunately, far from where the actual violence occurred, but it was just that Bauchi State is associated with all of the conflict….so it just made me a little nervous. Also, Jess “our leader” who lives here has made the drive multiple times with her husband and two girls and had prepared us before leaving that we would probably be stopped at the check points along the way. Check Points: basically two guards wo have barricaded the road off and take bribes for you to get through. Did I mention the guards have huge rifles? yah…creepy. So that was also another added worry, especially because Yankari is north of where we are now and their are chances of hostilities towards Americans the more North you go (as I mentioned before the North is predominantly Muslim). I am not saying there are hostilities, just that the chance is a little greater. The majority of the Muslim population here is extremely friendly and they love Americans. In fact, our driver Dahiru, is Muslim and is probably the most genuine friendly person I have ever met in my life….more about him later though, he really deserves his own blog…he is awesome.
So, back to the trip…
We headed out on Friday around 10am, fit 11 people in the van, with little to no air conditioning, and 100+ degree weather. Again, appreciation for something as simple as air conditioner. I will never complain about being hot again, especially during the drive as I watched men push wheel barrels with 12+ gallon jugs of water from one side of a huge hill to their village on the other side. Not to mention, the water is not clean, so this really is only the first step to being able to actually drink it. The amount of work that goes into a day for most families here is ridiculous, especially in the heat….and many only make a dollar a day, if that. Most children also spent their days working to add to family income instead of going to school.
Sorry, I keep getting side tracked, but there is SO much I want to say…there just isn’t enough time! After getting on the road we stopped at two places looking for gas. There are a large number of gas stations here, although most of them are either shut down, or out of gas. If there is gas in a station the line is usually at least 100 people long. Something I am going to look more into when I get back to the states. Nigeria’s number one natural resource is oil….yet there is a huge shortage…hummm, interesting. Most of it is also exported…but it makes me think. What if the roles were reversed and our (as in Americans) number one natural resource (that was necessary) was pretty much taken from us? The divide between the wealthy and poor in this country is incredible, and actually sickening.

So, we made it to Yankari safe, and all the check point guards let us through with no problem. They actually were happy to see us all in the van. Driving through all the villages along the way was surreal. As we drove by everyone would look in at the van at us…for many of them is was the first time seeing a westerner, or even a white person. I would wave from the car and kids would jump with excitement….I promise….I’m really not that exciting:-)
Because we didn’t get there until later we ate dinner at the restaurant in the “resort,” believe me, it was FAR from that, and then head down to the warm springs….and WOW I was not expecting this in the middle of Africa. I thought I was in Thailand again.The spring was beautiful, and the water was cool. It was so nice to
feel refreshed after being in the hot car ride for six hours.
Now for our “Safari:”

Let me tell you something I have learned during this last week. You
cannot think you are going to be on time for anything in Nigeria. We
had planned to go on 2 safaris on Saturday, one at 6:30am and one at
3:30pm…to try and get a variety of animals sightseeing in, also to
escape the heat of the day. SO, 6:30am rolls around and we find out
guide, yet the truck and driver seem to be missing. He has is walkie
talkie and is speaking in Hausa, so we really have no idea what is
being said. Finally 7:15 rolls around and a small truck arrives with
a total of 7 seats. we decide we are flexible, I mean you have to be
here, and decide to scrunch in. This truck does not sound the
greatest….black smoke coming out of the back, rumbling, etc. About
2 minutes into the drive the driver stalls and this continues for the
next 45 minutes, not to mention the car also just keeps dying randomly
while we are out in the bush. Every time it died the driver and guide
hopped out and poured some sort or yellow liquid into the engine and
after several ignition tries, it would finally start up. We are all
trying to keep our best faces on; we ARE in Nigeria and smashed in the
back of this pick up truck (I really don’t think it was any of our
idea of what our first safari would be like)…but really tried to
make the most out of the experience. About 45minutes in and little
sight of any animals the guide says okay..we are going back to change
the driver…he isn’t your driver, he can’t drive stick. WHAT?! they
basically didn’t want to tell us our actually safari driver/larger
truck was running later, so they stalled by taking us out on a fake
safari for 45 minutes….oh boy. We get back and abut 30 minutes
later, 2 hours after the time we were SUPPOSED to leave, our LARGE,
real looking safari truck came, with a driver who ACTUALLY knew how to
drive stick. We we all just so excited to have out own seats. I felt
like I was on the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland…okay maybe it was
a tad more realistic. 🙂

Here are some photos I snapped:

After the Safari we headed back to the warm spring, although it was
much different than our experience the night before. Apparently a lot
of locals come during the day on weekends and I am pretty sure all of
Nigeria was there on Saturday! It was great because we were able to
interact and swim with locals, but it was also extremely overwhelming.
Again, many of them have never seen white people, so they all wanted
to touch us and take pictures with us in the water, out of the water,
sitting down, jumping in…it was exhausting. Candid pictures were
even being taken of us while we were swimming. I seriously think I am
in over 200 random Nigerian’s photos. I guess I got a little taste of
what it may feel like to be famous…and it is not fun. They were
great though too, we played volleyball and jumped off the trees into
the spring. The monkeys pictured are the baboons that pretty much roamed around our hotel. They chased my friend megan for her yogurt covered peanuts and she basically had to throw them so they didn’t attack her. HA, hilarious. this was on the drive back to Yola dad, this one is for you.


6 Responses to “Yankari”

  1. Hey Birthday Lady! Your pics remind me of the movie Jumanji… I love it. 🙂

  2. Oh this is from Jenna! 🙂

  3. Mary Anne said

    Oh Lauren! This post is amazing. I can’t believe all you are seeing, doing (and not doing) and the fresh perspective you have. Hope this was a memorable birthday for you! We miss you and love to read your amazing experiences and thoughts and see the photos. Thanks.

  4. DAD said

    What a great B-Day for you in Africa. Thanks for the note on the long horned something. I will ID
    that beast later. Please stay away from the Baboons
    because they can do some real harm quickly without
    notice. Can’t wait for your next update.

    Love, DAD

  5. christine said

    Looks like you are having a great experience! Hope you had a wonderful birthday yesterday! You need to let me know what weeks you have off in july – looking to book a trip ASAP!! Email me!! love youuuuu!

  6. Is that water for real!?!?! What an amazing place to spend your birthday! So wish that I was there to celebrate with you!!!
    love, whit

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