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The Long Drive From Saint Petersburg To Moscow – True Story of a Nigerian in Russia

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by Doyin Akinnurun

The defeat of the Super Eagles of Nigeria by the Albiceleste Of Argentina was difficult to accept. A few of us went to a bar, drank some vodka and went to our hotel rooms to sleep. I woke up the next morning, took a shower and went straight to the train station with the intention of getting a train to Moscow. I have never seen that amount of people in my life, more than 10,000 people all stuffed in the train station trying to get out of Saint Petersburg. There were from my estimation 55000 Argentines who watched the game in the stadium, and thousands outside who could not get tickets.

I fiddled around with the automated teller machines to buy a ticket with no success, so I asked for help. The attendant told me no more trains and no more buses to Moscow. Everything was sold out. I would have to sit my ass down in Saint Petersburg for the backlog to be cleared. My answer was “Hell No.” I have work to do in Moscow, I’m not going to be trapped here in Petersburg taking pictures of beautiful surroundings when there is money to be made in Moscow. I asked a couple of Nigerians who were also in the same boat , they wanted to leave – but we just did not see alternatives. I insisted that we go outside and hustle for transportation. While looking for an escape taxi out of Petersburg, one naija guy came to ask us where he could get a bus-10 going to Kormuny. We replied that we didn’t know.

Naija Guy: How person go see him people, ask them for address and they refuse to show him direction.

Me: My Guy, see that turning on your right, take it to the end of the street and turn left. You can get Bus 10 there.

Naija Guy: So una sabi address before wey una dey post me.

Me: When you get to the end of the street, just make sure Siberian Tiger no dey there. Otherwise na free lunch be that. I don tell you from day one say i no sabi anywhere.

He looked at me with anger and walked off. When you tell people the truth and they refuse to accept it, you send them on a wild goose chase…lol, “Idiot of a somebody.”

After speaking with a couple of taxis, one decided to take us to Moscow, about 12 hrs drive. He wanted 20, 000 rubles, we negotiated back and forth for a while before he decided to come down to 12, 000 rubles. The taxi man could speak enough English for us to understand but there was one major headache he mentioned

Taxi Man : 11 hrs, no no – me tired. I can drive 6

Me: No problem, me drive 5hrs, you drive 6

Taxi Man : No No, Police Police

Me: No worry worry, me Police.

Taxi: Harasho! Good good. (He gave a satisfying smile)

Other naija guys: You sure say you fit drive this thing, Na 11 hours o?

Me: This no be problem, the time wey love dey sweet us, na 11 hrs from my house reach Toronto Canada. And I dey do am almost every weekend for 6 months. No worry, lol.

The taxi man was scared of what the police might do if they catch me driving. That was the least of my worries. I have been running from American immigration, Canadian immigration, and the Nigerian police (hahaha…), the least of my worries is Russian police. Worst case scenario, I pay a fine, but which address will they send the fine too? I would be long gone before the court date.

We placed our belongings in the trunk of his car, and we set off to Moscow. I was meant to take the first baton of the marathon drive. I buckled in, adjusted my mirrors and side mirrors, and about to start the car when I realized they drive stick shift (Gear). I have not fiddled with stick shifts in 2 decades. Clutch and gear method of driving is still dominant in this part of the world, they love it. After jacking up the car a few times, I got a handle of it, but I always have to return to gear 1. Tiring. We got on the highway, and shifting of gear was less and the drive became smoother. The highways were flooded with 18 wheeler trucks, with a lot of aggressive driving. I shouted at one of the drivers cutting me off.

Me: Were! (Yoruba term for mad man)

Taxi man: Laughing…. he also said “WARE”

Trying to imitate me, he had no idea of what it meant. After 3 hrs, I started feeling sleepy. Russia is the biggest country in the world with 11 different time zones, I have been moving from city to city every 2 to 3 days without much sleep because of the excitement of the World Cup. My body system was highly messed up. I reached out to my backpack, brought out some Vicks ointment and rubbed it over my eyes. No one can sleep when hot balm is on their eyes, lol.

Driving across country gives you as a tourist a proper tool to assess any country. If you find the same amenities in small rural towns as you find in the big cities, it simply tells you the government is doing a good job. And from my assessment, the roads were neat and clean, no bumpy rides. After 5 hrs, my body could not take the punishment any longer. So I stopped at a gas station to handover the second leg of the journey to Alex, the taxi driver. We bought some drinks, and of course most of these stops charge 20 rubles to pee. Instead of haggling with them, just go to the bush and pee…..lol

Alex took the second leg of the journey. He is a retired auto mechanic army officer. Should be less than 30, but almost everyone in Russia has a military training. His driving was better because he could shift gears easily than me. About 30 minutes into the journey, I had already dozed off. Fast asleep, was told I was even snoring. I woke up to a shout from Alex, I guessed one of the 18 wheeler trucks cut him off. He shouted:

Alex : WAAARE … (he was trying to say ‘Were’)

Alex: “F*** me”

Me: Alex, it is not F*** me , it is “F*** you”

Alex: okay

I thought I was better off telling him the right phrase than for him to be abusing himself.

We drove all through the wilderness and were 5 mins away from my hotel when we all in the car could smell burnt clutch. We told him we could smell something. He also noticed he was raising the gas pedals a lot to gain any distance. We deviated from the highway and parked in front of an apartment complex. He opened the hood of the car and realized the clutches were burnt.

Alex: No worry, me fix in the morning. Just need parts.

I almost gave no concern as I collected some money from the other naija guys to pay for the fare. We gave him 20,000 rubles . He counted and thanked me.

However, in as much as we were 5 minutes away from my hotel, I wasn’t going to be dragging a suitcase across a Moscow highway at 2am in the morning. That is a cause for suspicion in any country. So I brought out my phone, and ordered a taxi ride through Yandex, and the other naija guys ordered taxi too. It was a short ride but we didn’t mind. After all, no matter how hard naija is, and the disappointment of losing to Argentina, we still won’t kill ourselves na, life continues…lol.

I got to my hotel room and decided to get some rest. It had been a long day. As I laid down on bed, I remembered Alex the taxi driver, the way he spoke his half-baked English with his Russian accent, how he helplessly tried to mimic our Nigerian slang without knowing their meanings, his daunting aggression whenever he yelled back at any reckless truck driver on the expressway. I thought what would have happened if he had decided to drive all the way from Saint Petersburg to Moscow by himself. Maybe we would have stopped halfway and continued the next day. Maybe, just maybe, his clutch wouldn’t have gone bad. Well, my naija instinct kept telling me we would have found a way no matter what happened. After all, naija no dey carry last.

UBA Bank
About Emmanuel Ebimoh 104 Articles
Writer, Poet, Editor, Social Media Analyst with 9News Nigeria

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