5 October 2016

Hafiz Adewuyi

Kayaking in the Lagos lagoon

Thanks to the weekly newsletter from NTDIL (Nothing to do in Lagos) and to KayakLagos, I got to fulfil my longstanding dream to ride a kayak this Monday. It was a public holiday. Yes, Monday is the best day for a public holiday to fall on because #weAllHateMondays.

The first time I ever heard of or saw a kayak was some ten years ago.

Oh my; please permit me to rave about how I cannot freaking believe that ten years have passed since my final year in high school. OMG, I'm so old.

I was first exposed to kayaking when I went to the Citizenship and Leadership training centre at Sea school, Lagos. As part of the training, each watch (group/platoon) was assigned a time to kayak. When our turn came, I and several other students gathered at the shoreline just behind the hostel block. Of course, there was an instructor with us. There were one-man and two-man kayaks and right now, I cannot recall which type I got into. No. What I can remember from my introduction to kayaking are as follows:

  • It was very brief, too brief for my liking. I remember spending give or take, ten minutes in the water. 
  • I definitely wanted to do it again and for an extended period of time. It was one of the most awesome experiences I'd ever had. You know. I've always been a water person and the chance to be right in the middle of it and in full control of my movement through it (I can't swim) was nothing short of exhilarating.

Fast-forward to Monday, I got my chance to live that dream that was born ten years ago. I decided to look through the NTDIL newsletter on Sunday and of all the events, nothing appealed to me more than KayakLagos. I read the details and finding it was pretty affordable, I told me, "this is the chance you've been waiting for, dude"! I called up a couple of friends to join me on this jolly ride and got my ever faithful friend, Benjamin to sign up.

We each made advance payments of N3000 to book appointments for 2pm on Monday. This guaranteed each of us an hour of kayak riding time. Of course, we could easily upgrade at the venue if needed. I told myself I was gonna do the 4-hr ride which cost N6000! I spoke to Seni, the host just after my booking was confirmed via email. He told me four hours of kayaking was quite long, but then, we would see.

It did not take a long time for Monday afternoon to come. I and Benjamin hopped in the car and off we were riding from Yaba to Ikoyi. We figured the devil was trying to foil our fun plans when we ran into unexpected traffic on the Third mainland bridge (3MB). Thankfully, it was not major and took only about ten minutes out of our very short travel time. It was a public holiday and our ETA was very short as no one budgets for traffic congestion on 3MB on a day when most people are expected to stay put at home.

Against all odds which also includes almost getting lost in Lagos island before quickly retracing my steps, we arrived our destination in Ikoyi at few minutes to 2pm. Our host, Seni arrived shortly after we did and we went straight into introductions and briefing. I would say this took another fifteen to twenty minutes of our time before we finally hit the water. Seni, the husband to the American woman who owns the business came across as very kind and approachable. He's old enough to be my dad but he did not carry that typical Nigerian parent air about him. He carefully spelt out all the guidelines to us and answered all of our questions enthusiastically. He also put our minds at ease after I and Ben responded in the negative to "Do you swim", letting us know that swimming was not a prerequisite and that in the worst case, our life jackets would keep us afloat.

I didn't look at my watch but I'd say we got in the water between 2:30 and 2:40pm. Seni had advised that I and Ben go side-by-side, so we could render each other any support needed while out in the wild. Unfortunately, Ben had a bit of a rough start and as a douchebag friend who was not going to have anything stand in the way of his exploiting this opportunity to the maximum, I only hung around for about three minutes before paddling off, leaving Ben to find his way out of his rough start.

From that point on till I completed my muscle-powered meander through the lagoon, I was all on my own. My destiny lied completely in my ability to stay balanced in the kayak and supply enough torque against the water through my "Aqua bound" paddle. I made my way from the Folawiyo jetty, which is roughly opposite the Civic tower (across the lagoon) down to the Falomo link bridge. I made a U-turn around one of the mighty pillars holding up the bridge, just after waving my paddle at a friendly couple walking over the bridge.

I made for take-off point and when I got there over thirty minutes after, I saw my friend, Ben on the shore. His ride had ended already (I learned later that his session was only an hour long). As for me, it definitely was not over yet as my arms showed no signs of tiredness. I decided I was gonna visit the Lekki-Ikoyi link bridge as well. It wasn't in sight, so I had no idea how far it was. However, I had word from Seni that the to-fro journey was just an hour long.

I waved goodbye to Ben who was now doomed to wait for me at the jetty for as long as I cared to spend in the water. To make matters worse, I was with his phone. How boring it must have been, him just standing there, staring into the lagoon and hoping that I appear soon. Ben is a very patient and understanding friend and that must explain why we have been friends for this long.

Another two hours passed before I returned to the jetty from my trip to the Lekki-Ikoyi link bridge. On my way to the bridge, I passed by the Sandfill bus-stop, Oriental hotel (a group of Chinese/Japanese men were fishing from the first floor), LCC Admiralty toll-plaza, Admiralty way, Lekki and behind the Palms shopping mall at Lekki. There was definitely a lot more to see travelling in this direction than in the opposite direction (towards the Falomo link bridge). Of course, our amiable host Seni had hinted at this while briefing us earlier.

I alighted my kayak at about 6:10pm, about 3.5 hours after I first stepped in the kayak. I was fully alive in every second of my journey through the lagoon. And trust me when I tell you it absolutely did not feel like I stayed that long in the water. I cringe at the prospect of spending even half of that time driving through a road congestion. Just find the reciprocal of my happiness value after the kayak ride and that would tell you how happy I would be after just 2 hours in traffic. The degree of engagement of the body and mind makes all of the difference between both experiences.

I had my phone and Ben's in a small 'waterproof' pouch (provided by Seni) tucked into a small compartment at the side of the kayak. Just after U-turning around the foot of the Lekki-Ikoyi link bridge, I decided it was epic-picture time. So, I reached for my phone only to be met with a water-damaged phone which would not even come on. Fortunately, Ben's more sophisticated phone survived the assault gracefully. And thanks to that, I was able to take several selfies on my way back from the Lekki-Ikoyi link bridge. I'll upload a couple of them to my Instagram and at least, one to this post as soon as I get the chance.

It sure won't be long before I make another trip to KayakLagos which operates at Folawiyo Jetty on Oyinkan Abayomi drive, just off Bourdillon road, Ikoyi, Lagos. And my return will be nothing short of grand, God willing. My plan is to get up to six friends (six is the maximum number of kayaks which KayakLagos will release into the lagoon at one time) to go with me next time, so the experience is even more fun-filled that it was on Monday. I know the most fun thing would be having more people to laugh at and feel superior to. But I also hope that at least, one of my friends would be fit enough to give me a run for my money at kayaking. It sure would not be a bad idea as well if one of them has their kayak capsize, so long as they survive the ordeal, it would be totally fun to watch them scream for help.

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7 November 2016 at 03:10 delete

Please let me know when next you're going Kayaking. I'm in.

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