Breaking News.....: Africa Phase 2 Ends! Yeah, It's all Over!

"Into Africa" More than a Motorcycle Adventure
Howard Fairbank
Fri 18 Apr 2014 15:25

Well I never imagined it would end like this, but then when Fate gets involved there will be an unexpected outcome!


The last week in London has been very challenging, but a very different challenge to the wild west of Africa.  Immigration Rules and Bureaucracy has got the better of me, and I have called it quits on Africa Phase 2. Initially the news was devastating, but as I went through all the options, my soul made me see that Fate was having a leading hand in changing my course.  


The Nigerian Immigration people in London stymied me….! Yes, in hindsight, I should have expected this, but after my success with securing a Nigerian visa in Libreville, Gabon, I assumed London would be easier, just more expensive.  On leaving Nigeria, I had even checked out with the Immigration people at Lagos airport, that applying for a new visa would be no problem, and my return a formality. In preparation for the visa application process, I had a new invitation letter from my Lagos hotel, photographs of my bike waiting for me in Lagos and the whole story of my leg, all nicely spelt out. Compared to Gabon, I genuinely thought this would be a mere formality!  But that single assumption was the critical flaw, that has cost me my expedition……


I spent all of last week trying to convince the Nigerian Immigration people to give me a visa, but my efforts never converted into success. I was turned down on the basis that I did not have residency status in the UK. I was told I have to return to Australia, and apply there. (This because I entered Nigeria on my Australian passport.) In my frustration, I even asked both Australian and South African Consulates to assist my plight, but was turned away with, surprisingly,  unsympathetic ears. Trying another angle I tried to get a simple transit visa, to allow me to use my, paid for, return air ticket, to pass through Lagos, not leaving the airport, and onto Cotonou, Benin.  I would then apply in Benin, and hopefully like Gabon, they would issue me the visa. They wouldn’t allow me this either, maybe another blessing in disguise, because by now I was probably a black listed applicant. It seemed like everywhere I looked for a creative solution, they closed the door, and without the slightest sense of empathy.


In sitting down and working through my realistic options, and understanding the constraints on my time, I was pushed to concluding that quitting was the only real choice my soul would accept. I had to be listen to my soul, which was screaming out loudly, that it was not having fun, and protesting as to why hard slog, endurance,  and unconditional commitment to a goal, had such unfair bias on the decisions. The personal learning had been exponential, but had levelled off, and Africa had lost its charm, somehow I was seeing more and more of the Africa’s dark side. Maybe I was only looking for that, but I was pretty sure I wasn’t beyond rationality…. The inspiration was missing, and everywhere I went I was presented with pictures of struggle, destruction, visionless growth, corruption, exploitation, rape and pillage, and above all, Nature’s wonderful creations were seemingly absent, replaced by man’s, aesthetically, uninspiring, and environmentally disastrous mess. My soul was now shouting loudly, questioning me, demanding an answer:


Why on earth do you REALLY want to carry on…?


I had to acknowledge that this was a very fair and legitimate question, and that only an answer close to my inner truths would lead me to the right decision. This was not the time for superficial responses.


The intensity of the whole expedition since I left Cape Town in April 2013 had been extreme and truly amazing, those experiences that get quoted as “A one in a life time, life changing experience”. That I have no doubt about, but where was I on this extended experience journey? It couldn’t continue at that intensity of learning. I had to be honest with myself and admit that recently the learning had tapered off strongly, becoming, redundant validation, of what had already been learnt. Within my mind, the learning thought process, was being replaced by increasing African cynicism, and even worse a developing anger at how humans could have let a whole continent get to this state? There was no specific blame, we know the situation is complex, this was just a sense of helplessness, and one that time has run out, and that problem is too far advanced to be corrected. I’d seen enough, and my beliefs and views would not change with more experience, nor variety, there was clear common thread through the whole expedition, just the specifics were varied. It felt like it was time to change the course of my enlightenment and development, but was this just taking the easy route?


Every since I January when I did the deal to buy my new yacht in French Polynesia, I have had a gut tearing conflict going on inside. My soul longs for the life on the ocean, and knowing there was a six month wait, with an African struggle in between, was always going to be a challenge. I thought I’d managed it all pretty well, but I sense inside me, the soul knows that the focus for the next journey of learning must start now, and maybe Africa has become a distraction. Adding to this was a commitment I had made to my friend Imi, that we would go and do another canoeing expedition in early June, before I headed off sailing. Maybe I had too many new ripe fruits around me, and the Africa fruit was becoming less palatable, before I finished it!   I had to judicate this, and ensure I wasn’t flipping to the all to prevalent, instant gratification, route option…..  


Was I reacting to my fears linked to my Lagos ‘mugging’? Was I reacting to my fears about motorcycling? Was I reacting to fatigue from the stress of constant challenges, and being ‘on the road’? How much was my leg injury clouding my decision making? If I lied to myself about the answers to these questions, I would pay for it dearly in the future, with those restless recurring feelings of cowardice and not stepping up when the ultimate dedication and commitment is required. That commitment and dedication needed to achieve something of very significant personal height value? I’d achieved huge personal height in Africa so far, but how much more height could this expedition bring? I pondered all these things, early morning coffees, walking on Hampstead Heath, trying to get as close to the truths as possible, until I sensed I was there…..


I find that these aren’t easy situations for decision making, because at a superficial level, it’s easy: Lying to oneself is usually not even recognised. Yet at a deep level, near the truths, the conflicts are very real, intense, and often seemingly insoluble. So quick decisions seem the expedient way to go, and free of torment, but it’s never as simple as that!  The deeper one goes, the more this stuff really forces one to the core of why one is doing this expedition. Over the years I have learnt to spend a lot of time upfront defining this “Why” and having clear goals that importantly for me, must exclude goals that are dependent on the validation by others. If these goals have been properly set, conflicts can be run against them as a test of mission validity, usually ‘forcing’ out the right decisions. In real tough situations, sometimes, the missions goals are the thing that needs to be changed, but fortunately this one wasn’t about that…..


So day by day, I inched closer to a truth based decision, which a few days ago, led me to TERMINATE, Africa Phase 2, at Lagos. There are now lots of consequences falling out from this decision, and I’m busy dealing with those now. I’m reluctantly accepting that I’ll probably never see my bike again! I’m trying to find it a new, loving owner, of my choice, but even trying to give something away for free is treated with suspicion in Nigeria! I think I’m there, but in the wild west, it’s not done, till the dust has settled!  In the next few weeks will post up what has happened with the bike, and where I am off to next…….  


Anyway, I bit of a personal download (again) from me……


I hope you have enjoyed the adventure as much as I have, and I have really enjoyed posting my thoughts, which adds another level of richness to the whole experience.


I am planning to have a final “Into Africa” e-letter go out in a few weeks, and this will be more of a big picture overview of the whole 12 Month expedition.


Cheers for now, and I hope you connect to your own adventure dreams if you really want to……! If not just enjoying having them as dreams, you won’t have to deal with the potential challenge of terminating them! Haha!