Book 2, Chapter 36

No excuse to stay in Benin City.

None that I can think of.

I’m surprised how fresh I feel after yesterday; even with the fan keeping me up all night.

Anyway. I’m fine. It’s all fine. It’s all going to be fine.

Plus, it’s a perfect overcast today that’s going to make for comfortably cool riding.

I force myself to saddle up and take off.

Get on with it.


It's been a pretty unremarkable day, thank Christ.

The only point of interest has been the huge lines of cars waiting hours to get petrol. There’s some sort of fuel crisis going on here; in a country with so much oil that they put oil rigs on their paper money. Go figure.

The shanty towns of yesterday have changed into well-ordered small cities. If I squint and stretch my imagination just a little I could almost pretend at times that I’m in a western suburbia.

Very un-African.

There were five and a half checkpoints for the day. I snuck past one and a half; got seen a mile off for another two, didn’t stop but didn’t exactly get waved through either; and openly and flagrantly busted two, to much yelling and excitement in my mirrors.

The “half” checkpoint was an un-uniformed man carrying an AK-47, stopping cars that were forced to slow down for a short stretch of narrow road full of potholes.

Pretty sure that's not legit...

Christ knows what he was doing to the cars that he stopped. I’m just glad he was already busy with a car when I snuck past.

I’ve still been holding my breath for each and every checkpoint.

I've crossed the Niger River.

Welcome to old Biafra.

The day ends in a place called Enugu.

I copped some light headedness today, but no full blown “episode”.

Enugu’s alright.

I shack up.


I get fucked on lunch because I didn’t haggle the price in advance; having already eaten the food, I was at the wrong end of the stick, with no leverage.

They charged me ten times what it should have been worth.

I wanted to vomit it all up on their counter... I flew off the handle, yelling daylight robbery, but they wouldn’t budge.

Lesson learnt; same way that cops shouldn't haggle for bribes after they've given me back my passport, I shouldn't haggle for food once I've already swallowed it all...

Spent the afternoon in a local flash hotel using their interwebs for the cost of a coffee. Brilliant. And air-conditioned too... Mum's freaking out back home because the U.S. have intel that a terrorist group is planning to bomb the Intercontinental Hotel in Lagos...

Reckon that’s fair enough to be freaking out over...

I’m more worried about the weather; it’s forecast for thunderstorms. All week...

Two good friends of mine got married back home, it’s happening right now, and I’m sad to miss the occasion and the celebration.

I miss my mates.


After sticking around longer than was polite after only buying one coffee, I head back to my dingy shoebox as dusk is settling to stare at a wall or read a book or something.

The lady running the joint tells me that I have to leave; I can’t stay anymore.

What? Why?

They’ve double booked the room or some shit...

For some reason my brain hits a small panic button, and I have a little bit of that fizzing, dripping dread go through my system.

My back is well and truly up.

There’s no one even staying in this shithole, for fucks sake!

I tell her that I’m not leaving - won’t leave - the other bloke will have to leave.

I smell a rat; or some scam to get me up to a more expensive room or something - some sort of extortion.

The hostess is having none of it. She won’t budge; I’ve got to go. She tells me that their rooms are all booked and I'll have to go to the hotel across the road.

She wants me to move hotels when it's getting dark.

Is she insane?

I fight, hard. She insists right back. Again and again and again and again and...

Fuck it!

What option do I have anyway?

“Righto, let's go see the other hotel then.”

“No, you take your bags. Now. First.”

Why???

I'm still smelling that rat...

“No... I want to see the room first.”

“No, you must take your things.”

I reckon she’s in cahoots with the hotel across the road, and once I get there - with all my shit - they’re going to scam me on the price. Or someone’s going to thieve my shit out on the dark streets... Ambush, mugging.

“No... That's retarded... I'm not taking anything till I see the room.”

Back and forth we go. Again and again and again.

It escalates.

As I walk out the front door into the front courtyard - without the bags - I'm fucking fuming. Pissed right the fuck off.

It's getting dark - quickly - and they're kicking me out of the hotel without so much as a fucking apology.

She's chasing me, haranguing me about the bags.

I turn right around and spray some serious vitriol.

There’s finger stabbing.

I’m sure that I’ve never spoken – yelled, even – in this tone before in my life.

Let alone to a woman.

I scare myself. For some reason I’m reminding myself of my dad when we were kids. It’s weird that I would channel him giving us a verbal lashing when we’d be in some seriously deep shit, but there you go. Analyse that...

Anyway. I’m fucking out of there - storming across the road - with my sparring partner reluctantly tailing me at a distance.

I barge into the other hotel. I want to kick the fucking door down. I demand a room.

Fully booked.

"Fuck!!"

Are you fucking kidding me. This is Enugu for Christ’s sake. Who the fuck is staying in Enugu?

I already feel vindicated that I didn't hump all my bags here just to be rejected...

On the walk to the next hotel I apologise to my ex-host for flying off the handle. Hot on the heels of the apology I also explain that I was well and truly in the fucking right due to the clusterfuck we find ourselves in now, going from hotel to hotel, in the fucking dark, and that only by sticking to what I wanted is it not even worse.

Worst apology ever.

The next hotel is a few minutes walk up the road. The price is something like 6,000 Naira. What’s that? Fuck it! It's too much. I'm out of goddamn patience for math; all I know is that it’s a lot.

I take long strides to the next hotel and leave the hostess in my wake.

The "Gutsy Motel" is a pile of shit. Truly.

Fully booked.

"God fucking damn it! Fuck this shit!!"

By the time I’ve stomped to the next joint it’s completely dark outside.

I open the front door and step in. There's no lights in this hotel, so inside it's almost pitch black.

I walk the empty hallways, feeling my way about, hand on a wall to guide me. "Hallooooo??"

Creepy.

Someone steps out of the darkness and I crap a cinder block, I scream just a little.

It's the boss.

She has a room. For 3,500 Naira. It's too much, but I'm out of options and out of time and out of light. I take it.


I move my shit in the dark and leave the other lot rather tersely.

Fuck 'em.

A day of being fucked about, really.

Though, that said, this new place I'm staying in is infinitely nicer than the other joint; my room's got air conditioning, enough room to swing a cat and just generally not dingy feeling.

The odd thing is that it's all in an old shipping container outside the hotel.

Weird.


The night pisses rain. Hoses it with violence.

Tomorrow might be a total wipe. A write off...

Oblivious | Luke Gelmi