Road Trip

By Dike Chukwumerije

If I could, I would travel everywhere by road. It’s the best way of seeing things for yourself. But things in this country are not how they used to be, so a few days before leaving, I called a driver friend of mine to ask – which road are commercial drivers taking these days? He said – Keffi. And I said – Ok. For there is safety in numbers.


And, at Mararaba, when I told the kids that we had already left the FCT, they said – How? You have to travel by road to understand that borders are fiction. Like this, one tree can be in Abuja and the next in Nasarawa. But looking at the map, you would believe the whole world was divided by lines. It is not.


In truth, there are only rivers and hills between us. And there were plenty to see on the way. At some point, enchanted by the beauty of the sun bouncing off the face of rocks flashing by, my wife turned to me and said – ‘I wonder what it would be like to go walking through the bush and up those hills’. And I answered, ‘By God’s grace, we will not find out on this trip’.


This was how we crossed the Benue River at Oweto. The children had only ever seen it on a map. On a map, it is a crooked line. But in life the Benue made them stick their heads out of the window and scream into the wind. True. This is what makes road trips worth it. And all the time you spend together without the interruption of Netflix.


And when I told them the next milestone was Oturkpo, they chorused it with one voice, ‘Oturkpo!’ And after that, I said, it will be Oturkpa. And they said – Eh? So, wait, daddy, after that, will it be Oturkpi and then Oturkpu and then Oturkpe? And I said – Honestly, you people are not well.


But, in truth, love and laughter straightens crooked roads. And, I tell you, the road from Oturkpa to Obollo Afor is not straight. True. Na so bad road take scatter our silencer. So much so that at one of the 70-something check-points you will meet between Orokam and Umuahia alone, a policeman stopped us cheerfully and said, ‘Oga, I think say na aeroplane dey come o’.


At Opi, we stopped to weld it. The mechanic moved in slow motion. Some people are like that, nothing in this world can ever make them rush. So, I told the children to go and sit on the mat in his shed. It will be a while. And while at it, imagine what it would have been like if we all hadn’t gone to school, and had instead opened a mechanic shop in Opi. My daughter thought we would make money. True. That is how stories get written.


We drove through Udi as the sun was setting. These are the hills that give birth to the wandering Imo River. By the time we got to the village it was pitch dark, so we fired up the rechargeable lamps and squeezed onto one mattress. You see? At home, the older kids would never. But this is the magic of road trips.


That we filled the hours with conversation, talked our way up and down potholes deep enough to swallow cars whole, and laughed through the gridlock waiting at Mararaba to welcome us back. Driving back into the city center, someone behind me looked out of the window and said, ‘And all these cars passing us now will be thinking they are our mates. They will not know we just drove 1000 kilometres to the Isuochi and back. Imagine?’


Na so.

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