I set out today to walk a part of the city I had not previously visited in order to expand the area of my map - the one I am compiling because I can't seem to acquire one from anywhere else. I headed for Muritala – possibly the busiest road in the city – grid-locked at a police-controlled intersection where rush hour traffic does anything but! Judging by the looks I was getting, either my flies were undone or they don’t see many ‘oybos’ round here. I got talking to two guys who were just sitting in the shade on sacks of grain because they had nothing else to do. One was an out-of-work construction engineer who pleaded for me to help get him to the UK.- failing that, to give him something – ‘anything at all, it doesn’t matter how little’. I had nothing to offer, venturing out with just a pencil and notebook, neither of which I thought they would have had in mind.
So I wished them luck and walked on, shortly passing a taxi which had driven into the roadside ditch and was now listing completely at a 45 degree angle (possibly only 40 degrees) . Several young men were in the ditch with it inspecting the suspension –or maybe wondering if it had actually had any!
I was planning to do a circular walk, but with no maps to guide me ....! I took a right and walked along Fate Road, enclosing more of my circle by walking east, I hoped. Someone in a car stopped to ask where my vehicle was and why was I walking and did I want him to take me somewhere? I assured him all was well and explained my cartographic mission which really needed to be carried out on foot.... ‘and you need the exercise’ he added.
‘Thanks!’ I thought, as he pulled away, ‘I’ll have you know I am at least one trouser size less now than when I first came out here!’ I strode off purposefully in case he was looking back through his rear-view mirror, so he would see me in athletic stride, belieing my age and apparent obesity.
I decided to take the next right which by my reckoning would half enclose the circle and lead me back towards the inner city. Fifteen minutes later I turned into a pleasant street where, lo and behold, I could see on the skyline the rear of the Kwara Hotel, not far from home. My sense of direction was still intact unaffected seemingly, by my body mass or the utter lunacy of trekking in the late morning heat. Coming up the road towards me was a herd of bony, white cattle with fearsome looking horns that could shred a tyre, no problem, trying to nibble the roadside weeds and neatly trimmed hedges in this fairly affluent suburb. Their drover seemed a fairly laid-back guy, weilding his stick with less energy than a sloth with a hangover. Slowly they moved up the street, turned into a leafy crescent and were soon out of sight.
I hadn’t realised that I had been gaining in height – or rather altitude – I am still somewhat vertically challenged, personally, and would welcome a few extra inches! I came to a spot where I had a nice view down to a small dam and lake where flocks of birds – egrets I think – were paddling. Framed by glades of banana and paw-paw, this green oasis in the dusty harmattan smog was a sight for saw eyes. A nice place for a picnic, possibly, but you never know what is lurking in the undergrowth and a little way down towards the lake was a huge bloke with a machete - I decided not to ask!
After a short breather (which I didn’t really need!) I continued, keeping the hotel in my sights, until I realised my circle was more complete than I had thought. Another right took me down a dusty track and into the ‘Flower Garden’ – a tangle of tropical forest left undisturbed apart from a few squatter families. It looked as though it would be ’mosquito city’ in the evening; this is where all those bats were heading from that we saw last week. The track led me into a lush valley, across a rickety wooden bridge made of planks, and up the other side into Sabo-Oke. On this final leg of my walk I met a white-robed gent who, clearly seeing his opportunity to make a quick buck, took out of his shoulder bag a small drum and hooked drumstick and started beating out a rhythm for his one-man audience. After a couple of dozen beats and with no sign of a tip forthcoming, he held out his hand for money. I lamely praised the level of his expertise, was tempted but refrained from mentioning X factor, made a weak apology and continued uphill, arriving back just before my brain reached boiling point!