Nigeria – Lagos = (West Africa)^10

Lagos is undoubtedly the beating heart of West Africa.  Whatever you get elsewhere in West Africa – the smells, good and bad, the beats, the hisses, the  traffic…. you get so much more of it here.  This is Africa with the volume turned up to full – not surprising given Lagos’ status as the largest city in Africa, although no-one knows how many people actually live here.

Egusi and pounded yam – the yam was good, the egusi was not for me
Driving around the mainland shows you Lagos and West Africa in all its glory, with all its contradictions – chickens for sale in a wooden cage out the front of the the brand new gas station, a goat wandering in front of the shiny ecobank, shanty shacks squished up against gated buildings, and women selling bananas at the traffic lights to drivers of extremely expensive 4wds.   I liked the mainland, it was bonkers, and given the time I had already spent in Africa, I was acclimatised to the noise and the pushing and shoving.   I should have stayed on the mainland, but Lagos reputation for violent crime meant I had booked a hotel on Victoria Island…….

the view from Victoria Island to Lagos Island
Arriving on Victoria Island was a little like landing on Mars, or being time shifted instantaneously to a parallel universe.  It’s like a Stepford version of West Africa.  You can tell you are in West Africa from the heat, the light, the occasional waft of raw sewage and the musical lilt of the people around you, BUT everything is a bit sterile, the cars are all new, the roads have not too many holes in them, and people obey the streetlights.   I went into some of the shops and almost fell over.  Extremely expensive french delis and international supermarkets, stuffed to the gills with delicious things, all at prices which well exceeded the average ticket price at Selfridges food hall (a small total greek yogurt was $5).   These shops were heaving with well to do Nigerians, dripping with posh jewellery, often accompanied by a helper, and who had ridiculously large 4wds in the carparks to lug their purchases home.  The is a wealthy oil rich town in spite of 85% of the country living under the poverty line.  This isn’t really the West Africa I had come to know and love, so in spite of luxuriating in my hot shower today, I felt a bit lost here amidst all this conspicuous wealth.

I went for a long wander, ‘walking the mean streets of Lagos’.  I had a loose goal of visiting some art galleries and changing some money.   Its ironic that this is the first time in weeks I have needed to change dollars and I had to walk for an hour to do so.  In any other city, I would have fallen over a money changer meters from my front door and could never walk around town without hearing the perpetual hiss of ‘dollars, dollars, euros, euros’.  Nigeria’s corrupt government is not managing the currency well.  The official bank rate, that which I would pay if I withdrew money from the ATM is $1 for 315 naira.  The publicly acknowledged parallel rate, which you can read in the paper every day is 490.  It was worth the hour stroll to make everything 40% cheaper during my stay.   The average person that I met on the streets were extraordinarily friendly, and after asking a few people, I was directed to a big hotel, where I was told to ask the security guard to point me in the right direction.  Indeed he did, and a nice lebanese man sorted me out with some cash (the lebanese really are everywhere).

I made a few friends at the spar supermarket which was a bonkers riot of people stocking up for christmas.  I spent $2 there to buy enough water and diet spite to last for my stay, rather than pay $2 per bottle in the hotel (yes I am cheap).  And I made a few friends with random security guards, street side cooking ladies and a couple of policeman who stopped for a chat on my wander.  Honestly, am not sure I have ever met friendlier people.

Feminist Nigerian art showing women’s struggles climbing the ladder
I did make  it to a few of the art galleries – the Nike Art Gallery and the Red Door.  I actually preferred the Red Door – smaller and more intimate.    Lagos doesn’t really have that many sites, and apart from the art galleries, the main ‘sights’ are shopping malls, which really aren’t my favourite place to hang out.

I have always had a theory that NZers are nicer than the rest of the world as we have more space per person…., and in big cities people are grumpier because they have less space.  Lagos has utterly disproven that hypothesis!.  I love Lagos.  The people are friendly and full of life.  Without exception the people I met are chatty, smiley, friendly and welcoming.   I am looking forward to coming back to hang out with Las Gidis

December 24, 2016

Weird and Wonderful Modern Art

I have long believed that when travelling you should only do those things that you enjoy when you are at home.  As such, I feel entirely liberated from visiting fine art galleries, places of historical import and museums – all of which I will find boring.   Instead I do things in new countries that I love doing at home – eating good food, hiking, running, and enjoying modern art.  So this week I wanted to share some of the more weird and wonderful art sites I have found in my travels…

Hakone sculpture park, Hakone, Japan

You arrive at Hakone via a complicated set of small trains up into the hills from the coast between Tokyo and Kyoto.  It appears complicated as you have to transfer from Japan Rail to a private rail line, but you can find out more here.  We combined visiting the sculpture park with a stay at the very traditional Hakone-Ginyu Ryokan with a traditional hot onsen on the terrace and they served us an amazing 20 course dinner in our suite.

The sculpture park was one of my favourite places in Japan, and particularly seeing the kids clamber on some of the kid friendly sculptures.

Danubiana, Bratislava, Slovakia

Few people know about this museum, which is situated on an island about 15k downriver from Bratislava.  It is a reason to visit Slovakia!  You can cycle there, take a boat, or take a bus and walk a few km (which I did).  More details here.   Bratislava is also a lovely town to visit for a couple of days, but Danubiana was absolutely the highlight

P1020402 P1020407 P1020435

Europas Park Lithuania

The highlight here is the worlds largest sculpture made of television sets – 3000 of them.  It is a bit tricky to get here without a car, so I took two buses.   Vilnius is also a lovely town for a wander around so worth spending the weekend if coming from London.

filename-dscn1336-jpg lnk-infotree-1-europos-parkas

Other recommendations

Other places worth the effort to get to…..