It’s great to be back on the road again or should say I say on the sea? We almost missed the Ferry to Tiko, a small town on the coast of Cameroon. When we called ‘Achouka’ the ferry company, the day before, they had told us that the ferry usually leaves Wednesday mornings by 6am. Well we got there by 6 and the ship was almost leaving.
As we drove into the port, the pandemonium hit us. The ship’s horn was tooting loudly, the crew were running around and screaming loudly while hurling giant bags of luggage on deck. Passengers rushing unto the boat, dragging their luggage. Just being there was tiring. A massive contrast to the peaceful, serene atmosphere of 6am, Calabar.
Realising that we were late, we rushed to the ticket office where the sales guy tried to convince us to pay for a first class ticket for 9000 naira. I refused thinking that the guy just wanted to sell his VIP tickets and wondered how bad a 2nd class seat that cost 6000 naira must be.
Well I needn’t have wondered too long because a few minutes after going through immigrations, paying 500 naira to have my passport stamped with the immigration officer loudly scolding us for coming late, a mad dash onto the ferry with our heavy bags in tow, we got on the second class deck.
One word: utter chaos. Ok, that’s two words but who’s counting? Anyway, that’s the only word that comes to mind trying to describe what greeted us as we got on the deck. Bodies lying on the floor, corridor, seats, gangway; bodies everywhere. No standing space not to talk of sitting space. On top of all this was an oppressive heat and disgusting smell of unwashed bodies cooped up together for a while.
Did you say ‘hell no’? Well, that’s exactly what we said as we did an about turn back down the stairs towards the ticket office to change to first class tickets. Alas we couldn’t be left off the boat as it was already leaving the shore. Not to be deterred, we marched to the VIP lounge and took our seats. As we sat down, I turned to Oluchi and said, ‘the only way anyone is getting me out of this deck is buy using a forklift and even with that I’d be kicking and screaming!’
The VIP deck was as different from the second class as pounded yam is different boiled yam. They were worlds apart. For one, the air conditioning worked. Secondly, there were no bodies lying on the floor and lastly there were many unoccupied seats! SOLD!
Afterwards, I asked myself what lessons I had learned. Lesson number 1: Never believe Achouka when they tell you the ferry leaves by 6am because you may miss it.
Lesson number 2: Always believe the guy who is trying to sell you a first class ticket otherwise you may end up standing all the way on an 8-hour boat ride and paying more money than you would have paid on the shore because the ferry has already left.