Dubai: Meet the first woman to drive solo from the UK to Nigeria, all in a tiny Peugeot 107

Determined to drive all the way to her birthplace of Lagos, her journey involved wild camping for almost 74 days, and a harrowing car crash

By Harriet Shephard

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Photos: Supplied
Photos: Supplied

Published: Mon 6 May 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 May 2024, 3:27 PM

Pelumi Nubi has always enjoyed travelling, but this January she embarked on her most exciting, and potentially risky, journey yet.

Born in Nigeria and raised in the UK, the 29-year-old has just become the first woman in the world to drive solo from London to Lagos.

Intended to help her learn more about her African heritage, the epic 12,000km road trip saw her travel through 17 countries in 74 days, all whilst wild camping to save money.

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Involving five to six hours of driving per day, perhaps the most remarkable element is that she did it all in a tiny, 11-year-old Peugeot 107.

A story of resilience

“I wanted to show the world what you can achieve through resilience, determination, and making the most of what’s available to you,” said the Dubai resident.

“When I first started planning the trip, I imagined I would do it in a 4x4. But it was already proving to be an expensive project, and I couldn’t afford a new car. So, I decided to do it in my Peugeot, which I’d kept back in London since moving to Dubai in 2023."

Affectionately known as Oluwa-Lumi, a phrase that translates to mean “it’s God that lights my path”, Nubi kitted out her car with a custom-built fold-out bed and kitchen area.

Requiring over Dh9,000 worth of petrol, and a lot of careful planning, the journey was tough, but filled with amazing new people and places.

“The drives were completely draining. Most people who do long journeys like this have a support team, but I was totally on my own and in charge of all the logistics. Sometimes I was so tired I would just stop by the side of the road and nap,” she explained.

“There were many times when I thought Lumi wouldn’t survive the terrains, but we got there. It was the most incredible journey of my life. I set off wanting to inspire women to dream big, create representation, and highlight the beauty of Nigeria and West Africa for the world to see. I think I've achieved all that."

The many highlights of her trip include sampling the food of Senegal, relaxing on the beaches of Gambia, and exploring Sierra Leone.

She described: “I’d visited Nigeria before, but just to visit family. I’d never had the chance to explore West Africa properly and I just loved the music, the food and the whole vibe."

"Riding the sleeper train through the desert of Mauritania is another memory that will stay with me forever. Africa often gets overlooked by some travellers, but it has so many incredible landscapes and experiences to offer. It was a very special trip.”

Life-threatening crash

However, a horrific car accident just past the border between Liberia and the Ivory Coast almost caused her journey to be cut short.

“The border patrol kept me there for nine hours after I refused to pay a crazy, fabricated fee. When it was finally sorted, and I was driving away in the dark, I crashed into a truck that was parked right across the road with no lights on."

“It all happened so fast, and it destroyed the front of the car. It was terrifying and I didn’t speak the local language either. Thankfully, I had a SIM card and was able to call my family back home. But I guess this is the risk you take with travelling, things are bound to go wrong at some point.”

One local young lady who helped Nubi at the accident scene stayed with her in hospital for two days, and another local let her stay in their house for ten days while her car was being fixed.

“The kindness I received from strangers was extraordinary,” she noted.

“So many went out of their way to help me. Another man in Guinea who just happened to be passing spent hours helping me navigate some of the rough roads. He was moving whole rocks for me, and I would have been completely stuck otherwise. It was a nice reminder of all the good that exists in the world.”

Inspiring others

Along with owning a travel business in Dubai, Nubi is a travel content creator. Through documenting every step of her drive, her Instagram followers grew from 12k to 300k in just three months.

When she eventually arrived in Nigeria, she was greeted at the border with a government escort of ten cars. Her welcome party was attended by 5,000 people, and she has been appointed an official tourism ambassador for Nigeria.

“I never expected such a welcome. It was like a carnival when I arrived," she explained.

“But my story transcends age, race and religion, and it seems to have resonated with so many people. I’m now working with the government to grow Nigeria’s tourism industry, and just last week I donated my car to a museum in Lagos. I hope it will become a historical monument, and a symbol of resilience that will inspire people for generations to come.”


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