We headed north in Cameroon, three of our group unfortunately contracting malaria on the way (probably caught at the coast). We spent Christmas at a nice camp at Rumsiki way up north, and then headed west into Nigeria.

Nigeria ( [2]MAP)

Nigeria is a big, populous, oil-rich, and completely corrupt country, where everything in officialdom and elsewhere runs on ‘dash’ - their word for bribes. We were stopped no less than five times within as many miles from the border by spurious police, customs and immigration check posts, all of which contrived to find something wrong with our papers, the truck, or taxes in order to earn their daily dash. Though you have to pay your way though everything, if you do it is a very efficient system, where most things work.

We spent the New Year at some Hot Springs in the north of Nigeria - a small river flowing out of the cliff, clear, clean, and about blood heat. Very nice. Then on to Kano, a major city in the north with a magnificent central market covering several city blocks where a guide is absolutely essential if you are looking for something specific. Beautiful indigo-dyed cloths from the central dyepits that have been operational for centuries - West African trade beads made in Venice 300 years ago for the slave traders - wax-dyed cloth made in Holland and exported all over West Africa for their (now-)traditional clothes.

Street stalls selling strong coffee and sweetened condensed milk made by Nestle, who have a massive presence throughout West Africa.

We were noticing the Hamatan by now - the dust-laden north wind carrying sand from the Sahara desert and covering everything from clothes to eyelashes with a fine white dust. This is a seasonal wind, and ruins the otherwise nice living conditions of the sub-Sahel region.

Then to Lagos, a huge, sprawling city with suburbs and shanty-towns that spread for tens of miles north, busy and rumored to be dangerous though I had no trouble. I visited the University for something to do, and was very disappointed in their computer department.

Benin( [3]MAP)

After Lagos we went west to Benin, by contrast a sleepy country, French- speaking and poor. We visited Ganvie, an interesting lake village in Benin, where houses are on stilts and transport is by boat. Industry is fishing, or trade/smuggling of goods with Nigeria, which also borders the lake. I also met Princess and her father Victor at our campsite - they were Ghanaian, and he lived in Accra and invited me to stay when we came to Accra, which I subsequently did.