A Tourist Trip To Lagos: Population, Weather and Victoria Island
Lagos was a chaotic ball of confusion and aggression. The temperatures aren’t as skyrocketing as Abuja, but it felt more enthralling. The heat was overwhelming to a point I couldn’t tell the difference between my skin, the sweat and the clothes that I wore; it was the same thing. Lagos is the most populated city in Africa with over 21 million people living in a city that cannot accommodate everybody’s needs. At the sun’s peak, the hustle and bustle of the city were buzzing full of life; touts eagerly calling pedestrians to enter their buses, vendor street women getting the attention of on-lookers to buy their exotic West African dishes and men shouting in hostile tones to one another. As a tourist in the middle of the humid economic capital, coming from a calmer country, I thought these words cut through the air like a knife and people were about to fight; blows swinging violently in the air.
We had been travelling in a minivan, in Kenya, it’s called a ‘matatu’, but in Nigeria was called a ‘bus’. It was a rickety old vehicle with wooden planks in the replacement of cushioned chairs making it a very uncomfortable journey. People were squeezed together like sheep in a pen. We had been stuck in traffic for nearly an hour on the way from the Mainland of Lagos to Victoria Island. Victoria Island had a two-way bridged road to and fro the destination to cater to all the cities people which heightened the congestion. After slugging it out on the highway, we finally got to the Lekki Conservation Centre.
Lekki Conservation Centre was one of the tourist hotspots in Lagos and cost 2000 Naira per person for the entrance fee. Surprisingly it was quite empty, this is exactly how I liked it. It was a luscious green swarm of marsh isolated from the mania that is Lagos. It felt like we were transported to a jungle paradise. There was a wooden pathway in the middle of the marsh where monkeys roamed around the path, interacting with the tourists. Ebube, my pen pal, shielded me from the monkey menace that was trying to ravage women’s bags for food.
Echoes of birds cooing in the tree branches, the wind gently blowing in the thick air and the sun’s rays filtering through the leaves on the trail. The water was brown and dark, ripples coming murky and unknown creatures below. The water was filled with thick trees growing in between one another in a thicket that made the atmosphere feel like the wilderness unleashed. Some parts of the water were light green coloured with algae that neatly layered the surface with broken branches and thick tree trucks sprinkled upon the waterbody. Bushes were sprawling with weeds, sprouts and greenery from all angles and directions; hazardous signs lay lurking in the distance, “BEWARE OF SNAKES AND CROCODILES” they said. The mixture seemed effortless and random; the beauty of nature explored.
Lekki Conservation Centre is home to the highest and longest canopy walkway in Africa. This suspended structure is 401 metres long. It gives a panoramic view of the forests canopy at its highest height of 22.5 metres above the ground. As a lover of heights, I rushed at the chance of running up the canopy walkway while Ebube on the other hand, didn’t share my enthusiasm. He slowed us down on our journey but eventually found the courage to take one fateful step after another, trying not to look down as he walked. The canopy was grey like a net with meshes as handles holding up the contraption. The more people that got onto the canopy, the more it started to swing from side to side like an unstable bridge that was just about to collapse. Most people think that looking down is very scary, but this is quite the contrary, I find it easier to find your balance when you’re so high up in the air.
At this point, we were one with the eagles that soar majestically in the sky. We could see trees from the top down instead of bottom-up. The marsh was now a stranger to us replaced by the view of dense leaves, birds’ nests and the heat of the sun. We were submerged in an ocean of green leaves as far as the eye could see. I stretched my hands beyond the mesh railing and soared my arms out into the freedom of the sky, to fly as the majestic eagles do. The unsteady balance of the to and fro bridge was becoming comfortable; my senses grew adroitly sharper. A calming feeling of halcyon floated in the air and grew on me, I was free.
Moments flew by and what once seemed like it would take a lifetime to finish was over before Ebube and I could comprehend. We followed the jagged path to an open field containing human-sized classic board games; checkers, chess, ludo, snakes and ladders. Since chess is my favourite, we had to play. The pieces were placed in a shelter hidden away in solitude from the sun. Ebube and I quickly picked up the pieces; sweat dripping down our overheated bodies like a Turkey in an oven. I picked the white pieces while he got the black pieces. I stood behind my players; all the pawns, knights, rooks, bishops, queen, a king that stood in my line of command being led strategically into the battlefield. Soldiering forward which each move, my pieces fought a good fight and ended up victorious. The game was won by the whites and the blacks were caught in checkmate and had to surrender.
I wish I could say that the night-time was cooler than the day but that would only be a lie; the city never slept. There were stands with food vendors dilly-dallying up and about to meet their customers’ orders. Restaurants with tables sprawled about with large flat-screen televisions to watch football lay positioned on the street to attract more consumers. The best chicken shawarma tasted in a long time coming from the street side of Lagos. Street food in this populous city ruled the day because it was cheap and easily available. Electricity shortage happened on an average of ten hours each day. Most of the waking hours are spent in darkness; the best investment for every Nigerian home, business, hotel and store is a generator. The humidity reigned in the night just as it had in the daytime, sweat sticking onto your moist skin while you slept.
The next day, we visited Elegushi Beach, home to many beach bars on the yellow sand; multi-coloured stands with bright paints of yellow, blue, green and orange. There were small Ferris wheels arranged adjacently for kids with the Nigerian flag of green and white on the bank of the Atlantic Ocean. Young and eager beach boys approached Ebube and I waving their merchandise in the air. Horse riders, sweet sellers and photographers swarmed us with a million questions; pushing their agendas so eagerly that we began to get overwhelmed. We quickly told them that we were okay and simply wanted to enjoy the beach. Little boys insisted that they wanted to rap for us in exchange for a coin, but we politely declined.
The water was warm, kissing my toes with every welcoming tide. The forwards and backward motion calmed me down, it was like the heat suddenly reduced immensely. Ebube went to the rocky pier to relax. It was in this moment that I understood that Lagos was a port city; ships were lined up past what the eyes could see, horns bellowing in the distance. It was a calm day in the Lagos that had previously been unleashed to me, the breeze blew, accompanied by a smoothie in hand, enjoying the lovely view.
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