Lagos, Slavery And A Lovely Lost City In The Hills — Nigeria Part 1

At the point I’m writing this, I just have four more countries left to travel to until I’ve reached my goal of visiting every country in the world. 🌍

My last four countries will be Eritrea, Turkmenistan, Mauritius, and Japan. I’ll knock Mauritius off my list in early November, and I have an invitation to visit Turkmenistan later in November. I’m planning to visit Eritrea in the meantime, and in December, I hope to visit Japan, my final destination to at last achieve my goal. 💪

Today we’ll cover my recent trip to Nigeria, starting with a little of large Lagos, an old coastal slave town and the Machu Picchu of Africa that no one knows about. Read on to discover this hidden gem!

Welcome to Lagos

Getting to Nigeria

Nigeria turned out to be an interesting trip. I wasn’t too eager to visit Nigeria, to be honest. I had already planned to visit back in March between Benin and Gabon. The plan had been to drive from Benin over the border to Nigeria, but I had trouble with my visa.

It turns out to be quite a big deal for a German to get a visa to visit Nigeria, so instead, I flew into Lagos and planned to organize a visa on arrival, which is possible but only for business. So, I got a business visa on arrival for my trip to Nigeria. I usually use a tourist visa, but this one was explicitly for business, so I was lucky that they didn’t ask too many questions. 😳

My business visa to enter Nigeria

I flew in from Equatorial Guinea. It’s quite close, so a direct flight would only take about thirty minutes, but it took me half a day because I had to fly first to Lomé in Togo, which is more than two hours away. From Lomé, I flew a couple more hours to Cotonou in Benin, and then I flew to Lagos.

The rich and poor live side by side in Lagos

Settling In

When I arrived, the process to obtain my visa on arrival was a bit time-consuming, but in the end, everything worked out. I was picked up by a couple of guys who led me through the airport and down to my guide. It was a bit chaotic at the Lagos Airport, much like the entire city. 😅

My guides finally found me and brought me to my hotel near the airport. Of course, there are huge traffic jams all over Lagos, so I got to see some of that along the way. I was staying at an Ibis Hotel in the Ishaga neighborhood.

That evening, I just had dinner at the hotel, which wasn’t that nice. They have a big problem with unfriendly, slow service in Nigeria, and not great food. The Ibis Hotel was no exception. Other than that, I have quite fond memories of the trip, and some bad ones as well.

Another Country, Another Slave Town

On my first day in Lagos, I took a very long boat ride to Badagry, a slave town on the coast near the border and capital of Benin. That was supposed to be my first stop if I had gone back in March, but now it was a day trip.

We didn’t go by road. It’s about 60 kilometers away, but it’s faster to go by boat through the protected Lagos lagoon. You can get there in about two hours by speed boat, which is faster than taking the streets and much more secure because Nigeria still isn’t that safe.

We jumped into the small speed boat and off we went, speeding past the shanty towns along the water and the harbor with the big terminals and tankers, through the lagoon past little huts and a lot of mangroves and jungle.

Out on a speedboat headed toward Bagadry

At some point, we reached Badagry and we went on a tour of the town. They have a lot of slave history there, so we visited some museums about the slave trade. The museums depicted the slave trade very well.

This sign explains that you could exchange: 10 humans for a liquor bottle, 20 humans for a mirror, 50 humans for an umbrella, 100 humans for a gun, or 1000 humans for a cannon. What is your life worth?🤔

They said that Nigeria had the biggest slave trade in history on the west coast of Africa, but I was told the same thing everywhere when I visited Sierra Leone, Senegal, and Ghana as well. I had visited all of the slave sites and this was my last country with slave sites to visit, but it was still quite interesting.

They have a big statue there of a slave freeing himself from shackles. I took a funny picture there of me in shackles too. There was a family of Nigerians and they had a good time putting shackles around my neck and so on. It was fun to play around a little there to lighten the mood.

Late revenge

More of Badagry

I had lunch at a local restaurant, and afterward, I explored a bit. I took a boat to the other side of the lagoon and walked a few kilometers to the beach.

Nigerian beach

They had another monument there called the Door of Return, which marked where the slaves were shipped off on boats to the Americas. They were actually shipped mainly to Brazil, but Badagry in particular had a lot of returning Brazilian slaves, which is why some parts of Lagos have Brazilian heritage. Lagos has a Portuguese name because the Portuguese discovered the lagoon, and there’s also some interesting Brazilian history to be found there.

Brazilian vibes

I was lucky that the weather was quite nice. The beach was also pretty nice. One side of it was dirty and full of garbage, but the other side was nice. The sea was rough with strong waves, but I was feeling hot so I undressed and enjoyed the refreshing Nigerian waves. There are not too many beaches around where you can swim, and it was quite rough, so I just splashed around and got wet.

Enjoying the waves

An Attempted Guilt Trip

We went back and I had an interesting experience with two local girls who basically blamed me for slavery. They asked how I feel as a white man whose ancestors owned slaves. They told me that I should feel guilty and they were quite harsh with me. I just said, “Look, I’m German. We didn’t have slaves, we did other things. I’m sorry.” 😂

Then we went back to the speedboat. Another interesting thing about this beach route is that there were lots of people coming through on motorbikes smuggling rice. The border to Benin is very close and for some reason, Nigeria banned the import of Thai rice. It’s legal in Benin, so they smuggle it into Nigeria because it’s better rice. We went back to the boat and went back to Lagos.

Lagos Harbor

Back in Lagos, we visited a local museum, but it was closed for the weekend, so we went to see some other things instead. We would be back a week later, at which point I would take a full city tour of Lagos.

Visiting Abeokuta

Early the next morning, we started our trip through Nigeria. We essentially stayed in the very populous southwest of the country because everything else is deemed unsafe. Even there, I had to have a soldier with me, which would get interesting.

On the first day, we drove to Abeokuta, which is around 3 hours from Lagos, not far from the Ogun River. Abeokuta is interesting because they have a big rock in the center which is kind of like a monolithic hill, which is one of the first things we went to see. They actually have elevators going up the rock, which are interestingly built, but we chose to climb the rock instead.

Climbing the rock

It’s called Olumo Rock, and it has an interesting history. The mountain had a female guardian who was the oldest person in the world, but she died three months before my arrival. Apparently, she was 140 years old, which is not really verifiable, but that’s how they promote the rock. Before that, the rock used to be utilized as a natural fortress when local tribes were at war.

Despite all the steps, it isn’t really too hard to climb the rock. It has some really stunning vistas of Abeokuta, which is an interesting city with some rivers, hills, and nice churches. Apparently, they have Africa’s first church too, but they also say that in every country.

I barely broke a sweat. 😅

There were nice views and nice history. It’s a holy site for the Yoruba religion. There are many Yoruba people living in the U.S. as well. It’s one of the main tribes in southwest Nigeria, and I enjoyed getting to see more of Yoruba culture over the next couple of days.

In Abeokuta, we also visited some other stuff including a fetish market with animals like rats and monkeys. They have dried animals that people buy to grind into powder and drink, or even eat. There are lots of other weird things there to see.

Are you hungry? 🤣

I like that kind of stuff, which I had seen before in Togo and Benin, and was interesting to see it again. It’s disgusting but quite interesting to see what they do with those animals. There are some cool animals to see too, of course.

Whether you want your animals alive or dead, you can find them here.

We also visited a local souvenir shop and saw a place where they make wooden Yoruba figures. Then we drove to the hotel where I spent the afternoon and night.

Arriving in Idanre Hills

The next day we continued to Idanre Hills further to the east. It was quite a drive through the countryside with lots of roadblocks. On the way, we picked up the soldiers to protect me, which almost went terribly wrong.

Idanre Hills is a beautiful region, perhaps one of the most beautiful in Africa that I encountered. It’s even been nominated for the shortlist of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It has amazing limestone rocks, similar to Rio de Janeiro but without water. Between those rocks lies the scenic city.

Gazing up at Idanre Hill

It’s very rural in this region. They don’t have a big hotel there, and they don’t have Wi-Fi or very good internet, but my guide managed to find me a local sim card to work so that I could take a couple of consulting calls. We didn’t do much more than drive there that day because it was very bad weather, cloudy with a lot of rain. We had planned to walk up the rock, but we ultimately decided against it and did it the next morning instead with much better weather.

Rainy day 🌧️

That afternoon I just chilled at the hotel. I slept, worked, and had some consulting with bad internet, but I could take my calls from outside. I had to sit on my balcony the whole time I was working because it was the only place where I could get a signal.

A Lost City in the Hills

The next morning we climbed up the Idanre Hills. There are something like 700 or 800 steps. It took us about 20 minutes to walk up, and we saw five rest stops along the way. There were some nice birdseye views of the town of Idanre down below.

Looking down on the city below

Atop the hill, you can find the lost village of the Yoruba. The people now live below the hills, but they used to live on top of them, and they still come up from time to time for ceremonies and whatnot.

A modern village below the hills sacred to their ancestors

The limestone hills make for some beautiful scenery as they stretch back farther than we could walk. There were caves and interesting rock formations, so overall it was a pretty interesting area to see.

Beautiful views in every direction

The weather looked bad in the morning, but we ended up being lucky as it cleared up, and we enjoyed a blue sky while we were there. There was lots of water everywhere, but it was very muddy, so my shoes got quite wet. 💦

A muddy trail

We visited a plateau and my guide explained to me how the people live there and how they’ve protected themselves from foreigners with very elaborate defense strategies. We saw the remaining huts that people used to live in, some interesting rock structures, some kind of script that experts are still trying to identify, and some other things.

Walking around, you can find the remains of an ancient palace with shrines, the old court, and burial grounds.

The old palace was in decent condition.

There is also an old school that was left behind by British colonizers. They also have a palace there with intricate wooden figures that were interesting to see.

Some Yoruba culture

It actually reminded me more of Machu Pichu than Africa. I’d never seen something like that on this continent before. It was quite a nice palace, albeit in ruins, but still a pretty nice spot.

An African gem

It was pretty remote and practically empty as we were the only people there. I went with my regular guide, who was my driver, and a local guide, and together we had fun exploring the area. Idanre Hills is not really in any guidebook. No one seems to know about it, but it’s an African treasure, and more people should go visit.

I recommend adding Idanre Hills to your bucket list.

Join me next time to explore the rest of Nigeria and hear about how I was almost killed on my trip to the largest Black nation in the world.