Day 99: Into the forest

Soutpiel Safari
John & Jenny
Sat 12 Feb 2011 19:15
Day 99: Friday 11 February 2011  Afie Drill Ranch, near Ikom, Nigeria. N06 17.955  E008 59.884 Distance driven 150 km
Having made known to the Manager last night that we were not too happy with several aspects of our stay at the Cattle Ranch, we were descended on by a posse of middle managers who were very receptive to our comments and awarded us a complimentary breakfast.  We left feeling much more positive about our stay than we had been last night. 
We descended from the cool of the mountain to the steamy heat of Obudu and filled up with diesel from a decrepit pump in town. We had tried 3 other stations before we found one with diesel.  On entering, we asked the girl manning the petrol pumps, today's price of diesel.  She quoted 150 Naira/litre.  I asked the male attendant to fill the tank, noting that the dial started off at 10 litres!  I had expected an argument about quantity but he readily agreed to the dial zero error but then demanded 160 N/litre! Then ensued a violent argument about price, the female attendant agreeing that she had quoted 150 but the male demanding 160!  We eventually departed having paid 150/litre, saying that they should bring either the manager or the police, or both.  Fortunately, I had the correct change.  This is the second time we have been involved in this type of argument in Nigeria and I think the problem arises because the price of diesel varies from day to day and they cannot be bothered to adjust the price/litre on either the external sign or on the pump's register, calculating the total price on their mobile phones! 
I suspect there is another, more serious, problem.  On filling up I insist on filling the tank until it overflows and I record mileage and volume and monitor our fuel consumption between tank fillings this way.  Since we entered Nigeria our consumption has increased from an average-to-date of 25.6 mpg to around 17 to 18 mpg and I can find no technical explanation for this. There are certainly no leaks, so it is a real mystery.  Being Nigeria, I immediately suspect fraud and just wonder if the litres recorded at the pump are more than the litres actually delivered?  On the other hand it could be that the old, badly maintained and decrepit pumps are just out of calibration, but to the customer's detriment?  Let's see what happens when we cross to Cameroon!
We drove south from Obudu on a deteriorating tar road and then west 13 km on a very rough, narrow track into the rain forest to the Drill Ranch. I must say that this rain forest vegetation is absolutely magnificent and certainly the best scenery we have seen in the whole of Nigeria. In fact it is the most attractive scenery we have seen since leaving the Malian desert.  Ghana, Togo, Benin and most of Nigeria have been dried-up, dismal bushland and savannah and not at all attractive.  Here we have dense, lush forest with a variety of trees, abundant tropical fruits and lots of bird life.
The drill ranch is a conservation project to protect the Pandrillus monkey, started about 15 years ago, and is a wonderfully remote and interesting place.  More tomorrow!