Last month, Russ and I went on a trip to the Makoko Stilt Village - a community of 100,000 people who live entirely on the water! They are really close to the Lagos mainland, but the chief's son/tour guide guy we talked to said some people live their whole lives without ever stepping foot on dry land. That's obviously not true for everyone because even just while we were there, we saw several people paddling back with a boat full of stuff you'd see at the local market. After all, I'm pretty sure you can't grow too much on the water, and you'd need to buy...almost everything, I'd imagine.
We were told that this community has been around for over 100 years, and it was HUGE! The men and older sons go out in the boats and fish. The women and older daughters go to the market and sell the fish. The guide said that almost 100% of the fresh or smoked fish sold at local markets in this area are from their community because every day, thousands of women are at the markets selling fish (and thousands of men go out each day to catch those fish).
I'd seen the community before, while driving across the bridge, and I could see that the buildings were all up on stilts, but for some reason it didn't register until our speed boat was pulling into the area that it was truly a water community. There was no land. Every family had a boat and there were narrow "streets" with "blocks", just like any normal neighborhood, except the only way to cross from one house or block to the next was by boat! It reminded me of Lake-town in the Hobbit....except with WAY more stinky trash and with buildings made of scrap wood and metal instead of charming wood structures.
I'll use the pictures to tell about the trip:
The main landmark I've used to recognize the community when I see it from afar. We went up there at the end of our tour - apparently it's one of the schools. Also, this week in a rain storm, it completely collapsed! So sad! Also sad is that the funds from our tour groups are a big contributor in paying for the school, school supplies, and a few of the teachers' salaries.
Pulling into the entrance of the village
When I suddenly began to realize everything was water and boats...
Baby sleeping - just another day of errands with mom!
overview of the area/chaos/scraps used to build with
"grocery store" on bottom, house on top
Bottom: boat in action. Top right: boats "parked". Top left: sunken boat!
VERY simplistic accommodations, but some people still had satellite TV!
Not the sturdiest stairs I've ever been on
an idea of the wood flooring in the "church building" we visited
Some houses did have little patches of dirt built up like this. I guess this would be considered their "yard"
We switched out our speed boats for wooden boats to get around inside the village. This is the other boat on our tour - the big stick used to steer and paddle was interesting
The children were VERY excited to see us "oyibos" (foreigners).
This lady just floated up to this "store" to buy some stuff from her boat - like a grocery store drive-thru!
Even in a water community, you need a place to buy cell phone minutes! There were actually tons of places like this one.
A happy little kid, and showing that each family carves their name into the boat so they can tell whose is whose
I was surprised we didn't see more of these planks to connect buildings. Seems like "walking the plank" would be easier than getting around by boat - but it would definitely be slower since you could only have one person go at a time.
Power lines are run everywhere - there are generators on land that hook up to and connect all throughout the community!
Kids kept laughing about everyone's sunglasses and making glasses on their eyes with their fingers. Maybe they've never really seen them before...?
There were SO MANY kids who jumped up and down and called out and waved to us, but I didn't take pictures of many of them because most were not fully-clothed!
Kid, dog, trash.
Bringing in gas for their generators!
The lady obviously didn't want her picture taken (oops! Sorry!) but I wanted to show that she was bringing back all sorts of goods from the mainland
The bridge I'm normally driving across when I see the village
Russ modeling in the boats :)
This was taken from up high in the school - just a sense of how BIG this village really is
one of several boat-building yards
There are different sized boats, with different prices. Most people had the small ones (like in the foreground). Our tour group went on a medium-sized boat, and this picture shows some of the BIG boats.
Heading back to land on the speedboat!
Of course, it wouldn't be a TRULY Nigerian experience if everything went according to plan, so - of course - our speed boat engine puttered out and for a leg of the trip we were limping along at maybe quarter-speed while we waited for the second boat to get back to shore, unload the rest of the group, and come back for the rest of us. :D It made the trip back quite a bit longer than we were expecting, but it was also just part of the experience...
I am really glad we got to go on this trip. Luckily it was one of the handful of overcast days we'd experienced up to that point, so we weren't completely sweaty and miserable. We are pretty limited in our ability to play tourist in this area, both because of security concerns and because it's just not really a tourist-y area, but I am so glad we got to experience this. (I'm also glad we waited to go until I wasn't so morning sick because it was a pretty stinky place!) It is probably one of the coolest things we've been able to get out and do together since we've been here.