Friday, 30 March 2007

Escape From Lagos

I arrived in Lagos around eight in the evening on Tuesday. I've been trying to escape ever since.

Lagos is a terrible place, there is no two ways about it. I've not spent a great deal of time here, thankfully, but it only takes a few hours to see how bad it is. There is nothing positive to be said, unfortunately. It is aggressive, congested, filthy, hopeless, pitiful, menacing, frantic, desperate... the list goes on. The traffic is a spectacle to behold.

Organisation is not a Nigerian speciality, hence two aborted attempts to fly out to the even more miserable city of Port Harcourt, where all the kidnappings take place. Yesterday morning I rose at 4.45am to be taken to the airport. I wasn't told where I was going or what time, just to stand in "that" queue. I stood in the queue, fighting off a hundred Nigerians to reach the harrassed attendant. There I was told very little of useful information - "Your name isn't here! Try check-in - next!" - and went to the check-in queue and fought off a hundred Nigerians to be told my flight had just left. To my surprise, my flight was direct to Port Harcourt. The airport there burnt down last year and repair work still hasn't begun, apparently, but they are now flying direct to the helicopter base.

I tried to get a new flight, but after battling yet another hundred Nigerians, was told the one for 11am was full. However, I was on course to getting the 3.30pm one, and even managed to withdraw the 5000 Neira (#20) required to change the flight, until being told I couldn't actually do this because my ticket was a corporate ticket and my company would have to do it. Or, rather, the company contracting ours, the woefully inefficient Halliburton Nigeria (I don't have anything against Halliburton per se - they were excellent in Malaysia - but their Nigerian office is appalling).

Having missed my flight and with no other flights to get, I had the pleasure of sitting in Lagos airport, unquestionably the worst airport I've ever visited, for many hours, before being told I would have to go to the office in town. A pick-up arrived, also with a colleague from my company, who I'll discreetly call "Len", and we went to the office, after spending a couple of hours in ludicrously heavy, aggessive, selfish traffic. My rescheduled ticket was for the following morning, at 7am.

The rest of the afternoon was spent getting a late lunch and having drinks with Len, and catching up on all the news. He then had to leave the get his flight home, and I got some sleep in preparation for a 4.15am wake up.

Well, this morning I duly rose, waited, and was driven to the airport, only to be told at the last minute that I didn't, in fact, have a flight. No, it was actually for the 3.30pm one. Thanks guys. On the way back, through crazy, bustling, angry, uncooperative traffic, the passage sped up only by the fact I was sharing my jeep with two angry armed police, I heard my flight may actually be 11.15am. It wasn't - as I discovered upon waiting in th hotel lobby for an hour.

Anyway, the hotel is where I find myself now - the very tired Federal Palace Hotel, with grossly inflated prices and utterly apathetic staff (I think this might be a Nigerian service trait). I hope to be getting a lift through some insane mentalist traffic at 1pm to the airport, to get my afternoon flight to the stinking, open sewer of crime-infested Port Harcourt, where I will spend my time as their prisoner in another tried old hotel, or figuring out the chaos of the Halliburton base.

Welcome to Nigeria!

Added note

I didn't make that afternoon flight, as the driver only turned up an hour and a half late - an hour and a half of me waiting in the hotel lobby - and probably only turned up at all because I phoned the Halliburton boss wondering what was going on. The driver still insisted on taking me to the airport though, just so I could confirm I'd missed my flight. I did, however, on the fourth attempt, make the flight the following morning.


Ken from work said...

Hi Niall! Not a very good attemt to hide my name!

Maebh said...

ouch ouch ouch. That would drive me mad, I'm very impressed by your calm accound of such insanity!

Ben from work said...

Hey Ken, shut your damn prick!

Nev 360 said...

Maebh, I've seen what happens to the guys who lose their calm upon going to Nigeria - they become desperate, anxious, angry, bitter, petty men. I just used all my time spent waiting reading a book about Mao.

Maebh said...

Impressive. Nev, do you need a secretary, versed in post-structuralist literary theory? I need some outside Europe adventures. I think I am suffering from a bad case of travel bug...