Day 97-100


BEN 7th -10th March 2007, Benin

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Day Ninety Seven 7/3. Auberege Du Grand Popo, Grand Popo, Benin
6°16.76'N 1°49.88'E. Miles today 28, Total Miles 9017
What a pleasure of a border crossing at Hilakondji. In and out in 40 minutes. That's gotta be a record for us. With the scenery a lot like that of Togo and the crab sellers now being replaced by women selling packets of red spicy prawns, we kept to the coast and drove to the beach town of Grand Popo. There are voodoo festivals here every weekend and I am not sure if it's a good thing or not that we might miss it. Benin has a chain of posh auberges that let grubby overlanders camp in their grounds and so we set up camp with an undisturbed view of the sea and really yellow sand and made full use of the pool. The loos and showers are a bit of a walk away and a bit skanky (the restaurant ones are better). The town boasts a good selection of restaurants and craft workshops and in fact, we ended up buying a super cool wooden statue of a pregnant African woman. I somehow managed to bargain the price right down purely on the fact that I was South African. The woodcarver was delighted that we were both Africans and one and the same. Robs now a little worried about being surrounded by all this feminine fertility! We later enjoyed another helping of Red-red and plantain and a few rounds of Bao and fell asleep to the crashing of waves. Auberge du grand popo
Day Ninety Eight 8/3. Hotel La Detente, Porto Novo, Benin
6°28.15'N 2°36.95'E. Miles today 129, Total Miles 9077
Another last swim in the pool and we got chatting to a crazy Dutch woman travelling around West Africa for three months. She had such funny stories to tell and we fell about laughing talking about the way of life in Africa on the road. Drove further along the coast and stopped at the former slave town and voodoo centre of Ouidah. We walked the 4km "Route des Esclaves" which was the original route the slaves had to walk down to the beach to climb aboard the boats to Brazil and America, taking their voodoo culture with them. Well, we certainly did our own amount of suffering in the stifling heat. After the full 8km in the midday sun, we were both pretty knackered. Oh, did I mention that for the last 2km we were accompanied by a rather large and noisy group of cadeaux-demanding children. I swear one of those kids will be up for running the country one day. He was pretty persuasive in his demand for 100 francs, making full use of the pointed finger so popular amongst the politicians of yesteryear. The schools all finish at midday here, so wherever you are, be prepared to be bombarded by them. Its so funny how they even if they are only carrying one book, it still goes on their head! We continued towards Porto Nouvo and this found us driving right through the centre of the capital of Cotonou. Hmmm…more scary driving…but we popped out the other side and arrived in Porto Nouvo unscathed. Hotel La Détente agreed to let us camp in wait for it….. the carpark for €1,50pp. Very skanky toilets but a nice bar and a good spot right next to a mini stilt village, which Benin is so famous for. We tried unsuccessfully to organise a pirogue trip to the nearby larger stilt villages but to be honest, we were quite happy with the mini one right in front of our tent. It made for fascinating entertainment watching the residents come and go by boat. We paid a quick visit to the Museum da Silva, which is an old Afro-Brazilian house and was actually very interesting despite our speedy tour-guide, Joy. Later, we discovered a great cheap little local spot in town for dinner called Javo Promo. Yummy chargrilled meat and potatoes and cheap Le Beninoise beer. Door of no return

Route des Esclaves
Day Ninety Nine 9/3. Hotel Guedevy 1, Abomey, Benin
7°11.97'N 1°59.78'E. Miles today 129, Total Miles 9206
Spent the morning taking in the superb view from our tent of the bustling activity of our mini stilt village. Drove north on a good road to the town of Abomey. Well, just I was thinking what a good road it was, it turned into a pretty grimm one into the town and it also took us right through the centre of the voodoo fetish market. More monkey tails, batwings, monkey skulls, serpents heads and warthog skins than you can poke a stick at. Very, very freaky. With the prospect of heading into the nemesis of Nigeria tomorrow, we decided to treat ourselves to a hotel room for the night and stayed at the Hotel Guedevy 1 for €23. But wow, dodgy French telly, aircon and hot water…what a treat. Found ourselves mindlessly watching French cartoons and being really happy about it! Had some Chicken Yassa (lemon and onion sauce) and boiled yam for dinner with more cheap Le Beniniose beer. Hotel Guedevy 1

Scafolding at Hotel Guedevy 1
Day One Hundred 10/3. Benin and Nigeria border at Illara
7°24.79'N 2°44.53'E. Miles today ?, Total Miles ???
Decided to make a move on and just as well, as the day ahead turned out to be pretty special. As we drove through Ketou, we suddenly found ourselves right in the middle of a voodoo ceremony with hundreds of people surrounding us and screaming at us to stop and banging on the car. I will admit that this was the first time I have really been scared in Africa. More so I guess, as I had the chief masked voodoo guy on my side and he was brushing my arm with some weird monkey tail like thing. Rob the Brave just put his foot flat and we managed to part the crowd and sped outta there. The road to the border was diverted onto not the greatest of roads with a number of seemingly pointless checkpoints and vehicle searches. "What's that?" says one official pointing to Robs army coloured chair. "It's a chair!" "But whats that for?" "It's a chair, mate! You know for camping." We wait patiently, while he calls his superior over. "What's that?" "It's a frigging chair!!!!!" We eventually got to the Benin border and came across immigration first. Silly mistake! As after we had been stamped out of Benin, we asked them where the customs was to stamp our carnet. Hmmm…..there wasn't one…..we had to go back to Ketou (yup, back to the voodoo nightmare place along the shitty road….where my monkey tail friend was surely waiting….yay!) We contemplated replicating the stamp with a potato again but figured we had no choice but to go back and luckily, they let us go but only because I exaggerated and said we would go to jail if we didn't get the stamp. (If we don't get our exit stamps for each country, we lose our hefty deposit in the UK.) After arguing with another official about where the customs was, (he had the cheek to tell me I had to go back to college as I couldn't remember what the Benin flag looked like. I know I was wrong but you try seven countries in a row and see what you remember, mate!) we drove cautiously back towards voodoo-ville. Luckily….somehow…the customs was nowhere near the monkey man! We had to wait for this official to finish his lunch and after all that, I could have done a better job with a potato! Back through all the numerous checkpoints for the third time and now just being waved through, we cautiously approached the Nigerian border…… Fuel run
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