This Woman (Pelumi Nubi) Drove from London to Lagos in A Tiny Car – All by Herself! | PICsVideo

Tamara Hardingham-Gill, CNN

*(CNN) — On January 24, content creator Pelumi Nubi, who grew up in London, set off on a solo drive from the UK capital to Lagos, Nigeria in her beloved purple Peugeot 107.

Over two months and a terrifying car crash later, the 29-year-old received a hero’s reception as she arrived in the West African country’s largest city on Sunday after traveling through around 17 countries, including France, Morocco, Senegal and Sierra Leone.

“It’s been an incredible adventure, filled with beautiful surprises,” she said in a statement shortly before completing the epic journey.

Nubi, who was born in Lagos, explains that it’s long been her goal to “showcase that travel can be easy, safe and doable,” particularly for Black female solo travelers like herself.

Pelumi Nubi (Courtesy Pelumi Nubi via CNN Newsource)
Pelumi Nubi, seen in Kenya before undertaking her London to Lagos challenge, hopes that her travels will inspire us to pursue their dreams.(Courtesy Pelumi Nubi via CNN Newsource)

Incredible adventure

After seeing the story of Kunle Adeyanju, a Nigerian man who rode from London to Lagos by bike, she began looking into whether any Black women had attempted the journey by car and couldn’t find any record of any.

This particular route was very personal to Nubi as she was keen to connect the two places that she considered as home.

“Each time I went home, I just kind of flew over these places,” she tells CNN Travel, explaining that although she’d traveled to around 80 countries, she hadn’t “done much exploring” in other parts of West Africa and was curious to see more.

While Nubi had previously gone on a road trip around Namibia in a 4×4, and traveled from Ghana to Lagos and back on public transport, her experience of overland travel was relatively limited. In 2023, she traveled to Lake Como, Italy by car as a “trial run.”

“This is a lot bigger in terms of cross continent travel,” she adds.

Although 4×4’s tend to be the go-to vehicles for overland journeys, Nubi explains that, as she knew that the trip to Lagos would be very costly, it didn’t seem logical to spend even more money on a new car.

She ultimately decided to use the reliable car she’d had for five years.

“[I thought,] ‘I have a car, why am I going to buy another car that I’m not familiar with?’ So I just kind of embraced it,” she adds.

In order to ensure that her vehicle would be suitable for the 10,000-kilometer journey, Nubi had it specially modified, adding a bed and a kitchen facility inside.

“That took about a month, trying to fit everything into a Peugeot 107,” she says.

Pelumi Nubi (Courtesy Pelumi Nubi via CNN Newsource)
Content creator Pelumi Nubi, seen in Morocco, spent over two months driving from the UK capital to Lagos, Nigeria. (Courtesy Pelumi Nubi via CNN Newsource)

After spending around a year preparing for the trip, she set off from London in late January, heading to France, Spain, and then Morocco.

“When I crossed into Morocco, I literally broke down crying,” says Nubi. “And it wasn’t sadness.

“It was just this overwhelming feeling of [realizing,] wow, I overcomplicated this process in my head. I really thought it would be more difficult than it was. And it made me wonder what else in my life I was overthinking.”

Frightening setback

From Morocco, Nubi drove through the Sahara Desert, considered the largest hot desert in the world, to Mauritania and says that the experience was nothing like she’d thought it would be.

“I was thinking that it [the Sahara] would just be like sand dune, but it was a whole town,” she says. ”It was actually one of the best routes I drove through.”

Once she reached Mauritania, Nubi continued on to Senegal, and then The Gambia; Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ghana.

However, the journey wasn’t without its challenges, some more serious than others.

After being delayed at the border on entering the Ivory Coast, Nubi hit a parked truck while driving at night.

“It was definitely terrifying,” she says. “It [the truck] was parked in the middle of the road. No hazard light. I went sliding into it. I’ve never had an accident in my life, so it was like, ‘What the heck just happened?’”

Thankfully, she wasn’t hurt during the collision, but her vehicle was severely damaged.

Pelumi Nubi (Courtesy Pelumi Nubi via CNN Newsource)
Pelumi Nubi’s beloved Peugeot 107, seen in Paris, France, was given the nickname ‘Lumi.’ (Courtesy Pelumi Nubi via CNN Newsource)

While she considered finishing the journey with a different car, Nubi ultimately decided to wait for her Peugueot, which has been nicknamed ‘Lumi,’ to be repaired and continue on with it for the duration.

“There was just this bond,” she says. “She’s seen me on the hardest days. I’ve cried in her. I’ve screamed with joy in her.”

The accident delayed Nubi’s arrival into Lagos, as did the various border delays, including a 48-hour wait to enter Liberia, that she experienced along the way.

“The borders were tougher than the accident,” she says. “Thank God I wasn’t injured in the accident, but the borders were just heartbreaking in terms of the lack of freedom of movement within the African continent.”

After leaving the Ivory Coast, Nubi headed to Togo and then Benin, before arriving at her final destination, Lagos, Nigeria on April 7.

While she’s enjoyed the “audacious” journey immensely, Nubi admits that it was lonely at times.

“Yes, you’re meeting new people, but you miss your mom’s cooking and your bed,” she says.

Bigger picture

Nubi, who has been chronicling her journey via her Instagram and YouTube accounts, has been overwhelmed by the support she’s received throughout and says that her online community kept her going during some of the toughest times.

“This has been a solo trip, but it’s really gone bigger than me,” she says. “And then after the accident, it felt like it couldn’t end there. There were just so many people riding on the journey to finish.”

Nubi has had teacher’s getting in touch with her to tell her that their students have been following her journey closely and parents sending her supportive messages from their children.

“The engagement with the society and the people that have rallied me on has just been incredible,” says Nubi. who partnered with American company Osprey early in the journey. “Amazing, amazing memories that I wouldn’t be able to buy or put a price to.”

By putting the spotlight on West Africa, Nubi hopes to be able to help “change the narrative” in terms of the way the region is viewed across the world, and was thrilled to be able to showcase sites like the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro in Ivory Coast, thought to be the largest church in the world.

“In terms of holiday destination, this is possible,” she says. “There’s viability. It’s not just hot and lines, is really just changing that narrative globally as well.”

As for her future plans, she’s contemplating a road trip from Lagos to South Africa. However, Nubi is planning to leave her beloved car behind this time.

“She will be living her best life in Nigeria,” she says, adding that she’d love it if Lumi was put in a “little museum” and potentially inspire future generations.

Pelumi Nubi (Omololu Olurinde @loluphotography_ via CNN Newsource)
Pelumi Nubi – The 29-year-old arrived to a hero’s welcome in Lagos. (Omololu Olurinde @loluphotography_ via CNN Newsource)

While she believes that she’s now the first Black solo female traveler to have driven from London to Lagos, Nubi isn’t hugely interested in such titles and says that this was never her goal.

“It was very much [about] inspiring people. In terms of, ‘You think London to Lagos is impossible? I’ve done that.’

“It was about the bigger picture. The accolades are nice but it doesn’t scratch the surface of what I was trying to achieve.”

Nubi is looking forward to spending time with her friends and family, many of whom traveled to Lagos to meet her at the grand finale, as well as having the opportunity to celebrate in style.

“I just proved to myself the strength I have within me,” she says. “So it’s a proud achievement personally.

“But I think it expands way past me, and that in itself is just so joyful.”

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