There are a lot of roads in Nigeria, and much of Africa for that matter, that don’t show up on maps. To call them roads is going a bit far. They are unpaved tracks, often no more than a few feet in width, which depending on the geology may be composed of sand, mud or stones, and sometimes a combination of the three. The occasional passing motorbike will be the only real vehicle using one of these by-ways, which connect small villages surrounded by farmland. Only the largest of such villages might show up on a map, and it is by referring to their name that incredulous locals will point the traveller in the right direction – hopefully. In the rainy season many of these tracks will be impassable, or at least take twice as long to travel.

Make way

When Hiromu and I rolled onto such a track a short distance from Yankari National Park, and soon began having to push the bikes when the tyres sunk into the sand, neither of us expected another 250km and five days of travel would lie ahead before re-connecting us with tarmac south of the Benue River in Taraba state. I had been searching for quiet back roads away from the busy highways and here they were.

River crossing

A helping hand

The reward for our struggles came from the people. It seems the more time I spend in Nigeria, the more my experiences contradict the negative reputation the country and its people have. The kindness of strangers over the last week, be they Muslim or Christian, farmers, school teachers, village chiefs or even district ruling emirs, ensured we always had a safe place to sleep (mostly camping beside schools) and were well received in places, that judging by the reaction of the children, rarely, if ever, see a foreign face. Even the armed and non-uniformed ‘road tax’ collectors manning check-posts in the forest savannah put on a smile and relaxed their brusque attitude at the sight of us coming through.

Village women in Plateau state

A few days ago we arrived in Jalingo, the capital of Taraba state. To the south of the city a range of mountains are clearly visible. They extend several hundred kilometres and more towards and into Cameroon. Judging by local reports of the road condition it might well be another long slog to the border, assuming we can find it. Good preparation for what lies ahead in Central Africa I think.

Observing the Benue River

Pied Piper

Back roads of Bauchi state

River crossing

Cow crossing

Fulani hat