Nigeria, August 20, 2008
Never run in noxious clouds of moped exhaust
When I travel, I like to start my day with a morning run. Not only does this let me sightsee at speed, I enjoy watching different cities wake up while I plan out my schedule for the day. I usually go for a 5 kilometer run, wandering where I please to be guided home by my Garmin Forerunner 205.
This morning, in Kaduna, I was almost guided to my grave thanks to the many suicidal scooters in Nigeria. But not how you might expect. I was never in danger of being hit, or even side-swiped by a scooter.
No, I was brought to my knees in a fit of couching and hacking by the clouds of scooter exhaust that filled the air and my lungs with toxic blue carbon monoxide. I though I left the hotel early enough to miss the morning rush, but one wrong turn had me running through a high-traffic market, perfect for mopeds to billow toxins into my body.
In less than 5 minutes, I went from confident strider making my 8-minute miles to crying with burning eyes as I succumbed to the air pollution from hordes of scooters. Chinese-made with oil-burning two-stroke engines, the scooters had me hoping for even sewer air, just to get a decent breath of clean oxygen.
And then I went down on one knee, lungs too filled with exhaust for me to even walk. A shirt across my face did not help, I had to leave the main road and recuperate in an alley before I could brave the river of air pollution again.
Even then, I could only walk until I made it to a grassy, green area where I was blissfully free of the scooter attack, filling my lungs with clean air. I also filled my mind with the lesson to be learned from coughing, choking Kaduna:
Beware the Nigerian scooter driver. They can kill you many ways to Sunday and with exhaust, twice on Tuesday.