History is replete with stories of people who dared to be different. Buoyed by the exploit of Kunle Adeyanju, the Nigerian man who is travelling all the way from London, The United Kingdom to Lagos, Nigeria by road and on a bike, The Culture Newspaper scoured the history pages and brings to you a list of Nigerians and other Africans who have embarked on a long-distance trip via motorbikes, bicycles and cars. This list is however not exhaustive.
Newton Jibunoh: The Desert Warrior
Dr. Newton Jibunoh is a man of many parts. An art enthusiast and environmental activist, the 84-year-old founder of Didi Museum and Fight Against Desert Encroachment, a Non-Governmental Organisation is most renowned for his exploits of driving from London to Lagos and through the deadly Sahara Desert, a journey that took him six months.
Popularly known as the Desert Warrior, Dr Newton Jibunoh crossed the Sahara Desert (London to Lagos) three times. He embarked upon two solo expeditions in 1966 and 2000 and the third expedition in 2008 in the company of five other desert warriors.
Jibunoh says he’s had many near-death experiences while sleeping out in the desert. “Driving from Europe all the way across the Sahara, you must be ready to die,” he says.
“The Sahara was the largest desert in the world and very active — so I decided to explore it,” says Jibunoh, who was 27 at the time. Unfazed by the challenge, he drove home all alone by way of the desert — from the UK, and ultimately through the vast, unforgiving sands of the Sahara, to Nigeria.
“Driving from Europe all the way across the Sahara, you must be ready to die,” says Jibunoh, who has since travelled across the world’s largest desert twice more.
“You have to tell yourself, ‘Look, it is possible I will die in the process,’ and you must be ready for it because it’s only when you’re ready for that and you’re confronted with death — and I was confronted with death a number of times — that you are able to deal with it.
Julia Albu: From Africa To London To Have Tea With The Queen
Eighty-year-old women are supposed to stay at home, knitting or tending to their grandchildren or so we thought. Not eighty-year-old Julia Albu, she drove through Africa, breezing her way through notorious borders and military blockades by saying she was going to London to have tea with the Queen.
Julia Albu never set out to be exceptional. Her daily routine slotted neatly into what the world expects from an older woman living in a leafy village near Cape Town. Every morning she would listen to the radio, and one day the discussion turned to then-President Jacob Zuma and his extravagant taste in cars.
“I was incensed,” Albu said. “I phoned in immediately to say I was going to be 80, and my car, Tracy, was a 20-year-old Toyota and she ran beautifully. We could happily drive to London together, so why Zuma needed all these new cars was beyond me.”
Buoyed by the enthusiastic response she received, Albu pledged on air to drive to Buckingham Palace to have tea with the Queen – and before long, the seeds of what had begun as a joke started germinating.
She started the trip in South Africa, transversing Malawi to Zimbabwe Tanzania and Uganda before terminating in Cairo, Egypt due to some unforeseen circumstances.
From Cairo, Albu flew back to Cape Town, watching the continent unfold below her and pitying her fellow passengers for their sky-high perspective. After recuperating in Jakkalsfontein for a few months, Albu boarded a plane to Europe and was reunited with Tracy – who had languished for weeks in a container in Greece after crossing the Mediterranean by ferry. From Greece, she drove through Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Germany and Holland, and arrived in London for the summer season.
“Oh, I was dying to have tea with the Queen – particularly after telling the world and his wife that I was going to,” Albu says. “But it was the week of Royal Ascot and apparently, she was otherwise engaged. The English are a strange breed – I’m not sure they appreciated quite how long my journey to Buckingham Palace was.”
Remi Bumstead And Alexandra Zeitlin: From London To The Gambia For Charity
Filmmaker Remi Bumstead and producer Alexandra Zeitlin drove a bus all the way from London to The Gambia in West Africa, passing through nearly 10 countries across two continents. It might sound like a reckless journey conceived by unrealistic optimists, but there was a charitable bedrock to Remi’s quest that made it far more meaningful than a typical road trip.
A few years prior, Remi had been in The Gambia shooting a video about the life of deaf children in the country, and he learned that deaf kids in rural areas have difficulty getting to the special-needs school, which isn’t easily accessible by foot. That’s when he realized a bus could change everything.
“So, I thought, why don’t we fundraise to get a bus?” Remi told the No Blackout Dates podcast. “We’ll drive it here, and we can use the whole process to raise awareness about KADECT (Kashmir and African Deaf Children’s Trust).”
KADECT’s mission is to set up and run schools for deaf children in underprivileged areas, including paying teachers’ salaries and providing school resources, uniforms, and food. After three years, the local government assumes these responsibilities.
After years of fundraising, finding a reliable bus (named the Janga Bus) in Germany, and cramming the bus with toys and supplies for school children, Remi and Alex set off from London. “In truth,” he says, “we had no idea what we were getting into.”
They took the ferry from Dover, UK, into Calais, France, drove through France and over the Pyrenees mountains, through Spain to Tangier, Morocco, over the Atlas Mountains to the Moroccan desert, into Western Sahara, through Mauritania, down into Senegal, and through Senegal before finally reaching The Gambia.
“A lot of the borders could be pretty tricky,” he says. “Going through Europe was easy, but the Moroccan border was our first challenge. You’re not allowed to import stuff, and our bus was full of gifts and school supplies. And in many countries, journalists aren’t allowed and always get deported. With all my camera gear, that was a very real possibility.”
As it turns out, though, driving a bus from London to The Gambia with a huge “KADECT School for Deaf Children” sign on it gets you a bit of a free pass at otherwise sketchy border crossings.
“At many borders,” he says, “They were like, ‘ah, you’re doing a charity thing. Alright, we won’t check you as hard.’”
Kwame Tapiwa Muzawazi: 21 Countries By Car
Nothing about Kwame Tapiwa Muzawazi is ordinary – not even his name.
In 2010, at the age of 26, Kwame set out from Poland on his biggest adventure yet, a marathon educational tour across 21 African countries.
He was forced to skip four on the planned route but eventually visited 17 countries over six months: Morocco, Western Sahara, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Congo Brazzaville, DRC, Angola, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe – bringing his educational trips to a grand total of 21 countries (including the earlier four) in 7 months.
A team from the Jagiellonian University was prepared to accompany Kwame on the trip. Unfortunately, bar one member of the team, photographer Andrzej Staron, they got cold feet one week before the trip, frightened by scary stories about Africa they were told at a send-off party!
They had fitted out a Nissan Patrol 4×4 for the trip. Kwame christened it Africanus II in honour of one of the earliest pan-Africanists, James Africanus Horton, whose path-breaking book, Vindication of the African Race, captured the imagination of the young Zimbabwean, who think the issues raised by the book are still relevant today.
Thus, on 29 March 2010, after a raucous official departure ceremony in front of Jagiellonian University’s Collegium Novum building, Kwame and Andrzej, drove from Krakow in the south of Poland near the border with the Czech Republic, and put 4,000 km on the clock in one week, driving through four European countries – Germany, Belgium, France, and Spain – before boarding a ferry at the Spanish port city of Algeciras for Morocco, where the real trip began.
Nicholas Afedi Donkoh: Ghanian Epic 4,900-Mile Road Trip From Paris To Accra
Twenty-nine-year-old mechanical engineer Nicholas Afedi Donkoh drove all the way from his house in France to his hometown in Ghana to prove a point: that everyone deserves an adventure.
“I just wanted the world to know that it’s not only white people who can go on such trips but we blacks, too, can do that as well,” he says.
There was a secondary purpose also: “The whole idea was to make Ghana more popular and also make Ghanaians all over the world proud.”
In an exclusive interview with CNN, Donkoh says he bankrolled the trip himself, denying earlier reports that he received sponsorships while revealing he spent nearly $2,400 just on fuel.
Before setting off, Donkoh tinkered with his BMW 7 Series to boost performance.
“I increased the horsepower from 400 to 450 so that the car could move a little bit faster,” he says, adding that a trip to the Chambre de Commerce in Paris was required for all the necessary travel documents and permits. A bit of self-care was also called for, with the driver kick-starting an exercise.
Then there was the terrain. In all, Donkoh says he lost seven tires to the road. At night he sought out gas stations in lieu of a room. “I initially planned to stay in hotels, but things didn’t go on well, so I had to sleep in my car. It was only in Burkina Faso that I spent the night in a hotel,” he says.
Despite the obstacles, he says it was still “a nice experience. I even met some Ghanaians in Mauritania who invited me over for a bowl of our local fufu dish in their home. I met amazing people during this journey.”
Midafternoon on Sunday, July 16, Donkoh crossed from Burkina Faso to Paga in Ghana’s Upper East region.
Kunle Adeyanju: Cross Countries Travel Of A London-To-Lagos By Road Biker
Kunle Adeyanju, a Nigerian and Rotarian on April 19 embarked on a charity ride from London to Lagos – a distance of about 12,000 kilometres. Kunle is not new to the world of adventure. He is an explorer and has rich experiences in outdoor and adventurous sports in addition to being an entrepreneur, motivational speaker, blogger, cyclist and biker. He has visited over 70 countries and cycled from Lagos to Accra, Ghana and back.
He has also skydived, and bungee jumped and summited Mount Kilimanjaro – the highest mountain in Africa at a height of 5,895 metres (19,341 feet) and the highest single free-standing mountain above sea level in the world – twice and ran several marathon races.
On this historic adventure from London to Lagos, Kunle did his homework and got himself a Honda CB 500X motorbike – where X stands for the adventure model, designed for on-road and off-road capabilities – in London that cost him 6,500 pounds sterling (about N5.1 million).
The bike weighs about 200kg without any add-ons or accessories. It has a tank capacity of 17 litres with a range of 490km depending on the riding style and weather conditions – wind and temperature. The bike has been giving a performance of 26km/litre which means 15 litres can take the biker from Lagos to Warri.
Adeyanju who is currently in Cote D’Ivoire, embarked on the trip to raise funds for charity.
“This road trip will take me to the remotest points of the earth that will test my will, strength and character,” Adeyanju shared in one of his posts. This was his confirmed route plan: London – France – Spain – Gibraltar – Morocco – Western Sahara – Mauritania – Senegal – Gambia – Mali – Cote d’Ivoire – Ghana – Togo – Benin – Lagos, Nigeria.
Ajala The Traveler: Diary Of A Globetrotter
In the 1950s, a Nigerian known as Mashood Adisi Ajala Olabisi got worldwide attention for his travelling adventures.
The renowned globe-trotter visited 87 countries in six years and mostly on his bicycle, but sometimes used a motor scooter.
In 1972, Olabisi also known as “Ajala Travel”, was described in many Nigerian songs as Africa’s greatest traveller, with Nigerian music legend Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey singing about his exploits.
Born in Ghana in a polygamous household, Ajala later moved to Nigeria to school and went to the US at age 18 where he started his travelling adventures in the 50s.
In 1952, he decided to embark on a cross-country tour of America with just his bicycle and agbada. He would cover 2,280 miles in 28 days starting from Chicago and ending in Los Angeles.
In 1957, he began his one-man odyssey around the world.
In all, he reportedly visited eighty-seven countries in the course of his six-year jaunt around the world (ranging from North America to Eastern and Western Europe, through Africa and Asia and as far east as Korea, Indonesia and Australia).