Eastern Zion train
Getting to travel during the Christmas season particularly to the eastern region of Nigeria is like the children of Israel crossing the red sea. So for a long time I had deliberately avoided spending my Christmas holidays in the east but on this occasion, it was unavoidable because there was a little trouble to settle at home. My uncle wrote to invite me for a special family meeting to which I must attend and to which no excuse on earth would ameliorate the consequences.
So a day before my take off, and not being a frequent traveler with public transport for over ten years, I did a survey of all the notable transporters located at the Jibowu end of Yaba. Concerned with good service, integrity and safety, I found out that it was a difficult for me to make a decision. Confusion and fear set in, and to fly at this season of harmattan, worsened my anxiety. So I wanted to back out of the trip completely and possibly send a message to my uncle that both transportation and air travel is risky at this period.
At home, I quickly decided to kill fear and take the risk. The spirit of travel took over and by the next morning of Thursday 19th, I was at the Jibowu Park of a popular transportation company, carefully rebranding its services and provided travelers the option to travel at a cost for a particular comfort and vehicle configuration. Because I was in pain having broken my arm and shoulder, I went for the most luxury and possibly expensive on the rack and I found out that a lot of people avoided this type of ‘zion train’ because of the cost. It took quite some time for us to take off from Jibowu and by 7:30 of that Thursday morning, we did. The driver was courteous and friendly but I was far ahead thinking of possibly stories and pictures that will emerge from this land trip. From Sagamu to Benin, Asaba to Onitsha and to Owerri the most creative ‘go slow’ and security lock down became the real feature of the Eastern Zion train experience. Did I enjoy it?
All I found out was that the situation was a reality that anyone on that route between now and January and possibly for a long time to come must live with. The police, the army, Road Safety, the Customs and the Civil Defense were all friendly and I did not notice any harassment. Though the ‘stop and greet’ on the highway by the security agencies could be seen as harassment to those who were in a hurry but to me, it was all part of getting to know the mindset and hospitality of these Nigerians in uniform who left their homes and families to stand guard in the sun and the chilling night to protect Nigerians from hoodlums, kidnappers and armed robbers.
It was fun all through though the long stretch of vehicles showcased another dimension to travel at this period to this part of Nigeria and to those who possibly did not enjoy being in the locked down, the Road Safety would tell you that incidents of car crash or accident was not prevalent compared to when the roads where left unmanned by security paratroopers.
By Saturday 21st, I was back in Lagos, the same transport company surprisingly which tracked me, wanting to know about my welfare and if I enjoyed their services. ‘Gbam’ I found myself in LUTH, looking for solutions to my painful fractured arm and shoulder. What was my experience? Next year, a piece on medical tourism will feature on this column.
Google and my travels
Sometimes in November last year, Google sent me a track summary of my travels round the world. Initially I thought it was a scam, but on reading through the well-articulated tracking report of my travels, I was shocked but at the same time took note that somebody somewhere is following me about everywhere. Are there lessons to learn? I don’t think I will share this with you because I don’t know who will be recording it. But in summary, it is good to know that my travels round the world were good enough to attract the attention of Google. Who again is after me? Time will tell.
In the next few weeks, my special peep for the industry not excluding what happened in the outgone year will be published in this column. How far have we gone on our travel and tourism dreams, what did we do right and wrong, who is doing what and where, the role of government and private sector, great event, poor event, the media, the bystanders and latter tourism day saints?. Who are the exceptional industry influencers worth emulating, what they did and what they will do in 2020? Are the Nigeria governors with us on our tourism expedition? All these you must look out on “I’m not Nostradamus”