Very few things give me a greater rush than food, as you probably already know. If you don’t, you should watch these to understand what I’m talking about. One of those things is unending road trips, through Nigeria’s treacherous roads in cramped buses that are guaranteed to break down at least once during the trip. My last road trip from Lagos to Enugu and back took a total of twenty-two hours to and fro. Which is 5 hours more than it should have taken.
I interrupt this transmission to inform you that Enugu is one of the most beautiful cities in Nigeria that I’ve ever been to. And if you’ve never been there, you can live vicariously through me here. Ok, carry on.
As I unpacked after my trip, I noticed that there were a couple of things I’ve carried with me religiously in my carryon bag since I started actively travelling around Nigeria in 2015. They don’t necessarily make my trips comfortable, but they do make them survivable. Apart from the obvious like phones, cameras and chargers here’s my list of road trip essentials:
Pepper spray for protection
There are certain factors I consider when I pack, the first and most important is that I’m a woman who never travels with a male companion. It’s very important for me to feel secure, which is why I never travel without pepper spray. The odds are that if I’m unexpectedly ambushed, I won’t even have time to reach for my pepper spray. But knowing I have some sort of protection is comforting to me. Here’s the great thing about pepper spray: it’s powerful enough to take down an assailant if well-targeted, but not enough to render him unconscious or worse so that you don’t end up in the middle of Ore, with a tire around your neck.
A money belt
I first learnt about money belts from my mother when I was 10. We were getting ready for a road trip to Delta when I saw her stuff a long strip of material with a wad of cash. When I asked her what it was for, she said it was back up cash in case we got robbed, so we don’t find ourselves stranded. The first time I travelled alone to Delta when I was 15, she gave me one, and I’ve carried one since then. I’ve never had to use it because I’ve never been robbed but I never travel without it.
A multipurpose scarf
Not multipurpose in a style sense, but in a utility sense. For warmth when travelling through unexpectedly cold regions, like driving through Jos at 10 pm during the rainy season. As a nose guard when travelling through dusty regions like Kaduna during the dry season and you are allergic to dust. As an extra layer of clothing to salvage your stained clothes when your period starts unexpectedly or you waited too long to change your pad or tampon.
In the rare occasion, I find myself travelling while on my period, I only wear black. I also wear a tampon and line my underwear with two sanitary pads stacked from top to bottom.
A whole lot of sanitizer and baby wipes
I’m not a clean freak, I slept in the dodgiest of hotels and eaten at even dodgier bukas. However, I’ve found that sometimes, the only thing standing between you and a horrible case of food poisoning while buying and eating food on the road is being able to sanitize your hands before you eat. The baby wipes help to provide temporary relief from the film of grit and ickiness you are bound to get coated with when you embark on any road trip longer than 5 hours. I also prefer to use them instead of tissues to clean up stains and spills because they leave no sticky residue behind.
Sunscreen is the most recent addition to my list. I only started carrying one around last year. The truth of it is that after the initial application I put on before I get on the road, I never reapply the sunscreen. But I’m adding it to this list because it’s a good habit to form and you are probably a better person than I am.
I don’t always carry a straw hat, but if I’m travelling through or to any Northen Nigeria state, it’s high up on my list of essentials. I’ve never had a heat stroke before, and after spending 5 days in Bauchi at the peak of the dry season I could certainly say the only reason I didn’t get one, was because of this straw hat and the fact that there was a bottle of water in my bag at all times.
Bottles of water
Talking about water, when I can, I try to pack my own bottles of water to avoid buying water off the roadside. This is ironic because I’d literally eat anything off the roadside from pekere to edible worm. But I’m very particular about where my drinking water comes from.
Painkillers and Imodium
Running stomachs and headaches are guaranteed during long road trips. You don’t want to buy painkillers or any sort of drugs from a place you barely know.
Meanwhile, have you heard of Jollof Road? We are touring West Africa, to find the story of Jollof and everything that travelled down with it from Senegal to Nigeria. Watch the trailer here, and watch this space, something exciting is coming.