Category Archives: Benin
Benin-Togo-Ghana: 11 days, 10 nights
Benin, Togo and Ghana were the next countries on my 6 countries adventure. Two friends came with me on this trip. This 6 countries adventure had a theme – chasing waterfalls. I made it a point to see at least two waterfalls in each country J. Below, you would find my itinerary, cost and experience in each place we visited. Enjoy!
Day 9 (June 18 - Monday): Arrive in Cotonou, Republic of Benin Guesthouse Cocotier (2 nights) Depart Lagos at 8amish Arrive in Cotonou around 1pmish
We left Lagos around 9.30am. There wasn’t traffic and we got to Mile 2 pretty fast. From Mile 2, we took a shared taxi to Seme border. We were hassled from where we got down from the shared taxi. First the health official on the Nigerian side tried to get us to give a bride saying we didn’t have meningitis vaccine record. We politely informed them that it wasn’t required. After wasting our time for like 10mins, they let us go.
We got into the departure office to stamp our passports and we were informed that it was N500 each for a passport, we tried to negotiate it with the woman officer but she wasn’t having it. She claimed she didn’t charge us at all, that our passports were ‘Virgin Passports’ and the fee should have been N1,000 per passport. We paid and moved to the next station to ‘register’ our passport. The man said the fee is N500/passport. I asked if we could pay N1,000 for the three passport, he said yes and we did. As we were exiting the Nigerian side, another health official asked to see our Yellow Fever Vaccination card, we showed it to him and he proceeded to seize one of the cards saying there was no meningitis record on it. We sat down. He saw we weren’t scared or ready to give him any money. He let us go.
We got to the Benin side, the officer by name of Goston Nestor was a complete asshole. He said because our passport was a ‘Virgin Passport’ it will cost N3,000 per passport. I told him that was too expensive, he then said N2,500 per passport, I said we couldn’t afford it. He proceeded to ignore us, I tried negotiating with him but he stopped talking to me. He attended to others and later left us to go outside and chat with his friends. We refused to budge. An older Nigerian man went to speak with him. After about 25-30mins, he finally accepted N1,000 per passport and stamped our passports. The health officer on the Benin side didn’t bother messing with us because we were willing to stay 30mins instead of paying the inflated price/fee. He probably thought we were a useless bunch.
We finally got into Cotonou around 3.30pm. We were too drained to go to Ganvie. We had late lunch, did grocery shopping and just relaxed.
NOTE: This is my first time being hassled at the Seme border. Land borders seem to create their rule on the go. No one know if the money being collected is legal. My guess is not legal. There is suppose to be a free movement of West African citizen within West Africa (Id card or passport). The agreement is not being honored by land border officials. I’ve never had to pay a fee when arriving in a West African country by flight.
The term ‘Virgin Passport’ refers to when one’s passport has not been stamped at a land border crossing.
Day 10 (June 19 - Tuesday): Cotonou Day trip to Porto Novo & Enjoy Cotonou Ganvie Craft Market (Artesian Village)
We visited Ganvie first. We took a moto bike from Haie Vive to the boat station for 700CFA/person. We negotiated a boat to take us to Ganvie. I think we paid 16,500 CFA in total for three people. After Ganvie, we took a bike to Marche Dantopka to get a bus to Porto Novo – bus was 500CFA/person. We visited the Da Silva Museum (Musee Da Silva). Entrance is 2,000 CFA/person. The tour guide was pretty great. When we returned to Cotonou, we bought our bus tickets to Tanguieta with ATT bus company (9,000CFA/person) and visited the Art & Craft market (Artesian village).
Day 11 (June 20 - Wednesday): Tanguieta Hotel Baobab (two single rooms). One night. Paid via Jumia Travel Depart Cotonou very early around 7am (9 hours journey) Arrive Tanguieta around 4pm
We woke up pretty early so we could get to the ATT bus terminal by 6.30am. The bus left around 7.15am. We made quite a few stops along the way for the bus to drop off packages. We got to Nantitigou around 7pm and at 9pm to Tanguieta. That made it a 14-hour journey!!!! The stretch of road from Nantitigou to Tanguieta was really bad.
We had a light diner at the hotel when we arrived. We attempted to arrange transportation for the next day to see the waterfalls and to get to Kara, Togo.
I had zero expectation for the hotel but I was impressed. It seems recently renovated.
Day 12 (June 21 - Thursday): Arrive in Kara, Togo Hotel: Hotel Marie Antoinette (Paid via Airbnb. Two rooms. One night) Tanangou Waterfalls National park (if not expensive) Chutes de Kota waterfalls in Natitingou (one hour away) Depart for Togo (I think the border crossing is an hour away)
Because of time, we decided to cut out the National Park. We left the hotel around 7am to Tanangou waterfalls via motorbike. It took about 1.5hour to get there, we paid 3,000CFA/person for roundtrip. The hike to the waterfalls was easy but slippery. It cost 1000 CFA/person for entrance.
When we returned to the hotel to get our stuff, the driver that the manager arranged for us to Togo was there. The driver insisted on 30,000CFA total to take us from Tanguieta to the other waterfalls in Natitingou before dropping us off to another driver in Djougon who will then drop us at our hotel in Kara, Togo.
We arrived at Chutes de Kota waterfalls in Natitingou, entrance was 500CFA/person. The hike was not as easy as Tanangou because of more climbing but still considered easy. After the visit, we went on the Djougon where we got into another car with the assumption that it would drop off at our hotel in Kara. Border crossing was a piece of cake. No one asked us for money, no one said our passport was ‘Virgin Passport’ & no one said we needed to have meningitis vaccination proof on the yellow fever card.
Getting close to Kara, the driver asked us for our final destination, we told him the name of the hotel again. This jerk then denied that the other driver didn’t mention to him that he had to drop us off at our hotel. We told him the deal and confirmed to him that he was there when we were asked for final destination in Djougon. He didn’t say anything after that but proceeded to drive us to the bus/shared taxi park in Kara saying we would have to pay him an extra 2000CFA for that. We refused. After a while, Shola went to negotiate with a motor bike – it was 300CFA per person for the ride to the hotel. We left the jerk’s car and went off.
The hotel wasn’t even far from the bus park – less than 10 minutes. At the hotel, we made arrangement for how to get to Koutammakou for the next day, looked for where to eat and just relaxed. It took us a while to find good food, in the end, we settled for what was available.
Day 13 (June 22 - Friday): Arrive in Kpalime Hotel: two nights at La Paillote (Paid via Airbnb. 2 rooms booked) Day trip to Koutammakou Depart to Kpalime
We left the hotel around 8am to Koutammakou, almost 3 hours journey one way. The owner of the hotel arranged the driver for us, we paid 15,000CFA for a round trip. On getting to Koutammakou, the prices wasn’t visible, they claimed it was 10,000CFA/person for a guide (which is mandatory) plus an additional 1,500CFA/person entrance fee. In the end, we paid 10,000CFA in total for guide/entrance thanks to Shola’s negotiation skills.
Koutammakou is a UNESCO heritage site and a total of 36 villages. The people migrated from Burkina Faso after fleeing pressure to convert to Islam. Their ancestors sought refuge in the mountains before building the beautiful 3 level houses.
After Koutammakou, the driver took us back to Kara, we asked how to get to Kpalime. He said he knew a driver that would take us. It cost 5,000CFA/person for a shared taxi that sits 4 people at the back and two in front. We decided to pay 20,000CFA for the 4 back people so we can be comfortable. We asked if the driver knew our hotel in Kpalime, he said Kpalime was his route so he knows it well. We began the journey at 1.30pm. We were stuck in one-hour traffic jam not long after we left Kara. The driver stopped several times to chat with his friends without excusing himself.
He tried, not once but two times to put another passenger in the back seat to make it 4 people after we have agreed to pay for the sit! We refused off course. He decided to be petty when we got to Atapame at 6.30pm, he stopped his car at a park and asked a man to come speak to us in Yoruba. The man said the driver said he didn’t know the way to Kpalime. Lies! In the end, we refused to give him the 20,000CFA. Another driver at the park was arranged to take us and we would give him the money when we got to Kpalime. In all, we were delayed 1 hour in Atapame. Finally, we made it to Kpalime in one piece at 9.30pm.
The hotel was cozy but no WIFI or hot water for shower L.
Day 14 (June 23 - Saturday): Kpalime Sightseeing - 3 waterfalls, mount Agou
In the morning, Star & Shola went into town to buy breakfast & a Sim card so we could access internet. There in town, they met a Rasta who would act as a guide and take us to Kpime waterfalls for 1,500CFA in total for guide fees. The owner of the hotel also introduced us to a tour guide – his prices were ridiculous – something like 10,000CFA/person as guide fee plus transportation cost. We elected to use Rasta.
Rasta came for us at 12noonish, we adjusted the plan to include Wome falls. Everyone said Yikpa was too far. We went to Kpime first, motor bike ride cost 1,000CFA roundtrip to Kpime. The entrance is 1,000CFA/person. The hike had a bit of steep climbing but not impossible. After Kpime, we went back to Rasta’s shop to drop off Star. It was around 3.30pmish. Unfortunately, it started raining really heavily so we had to postpone Wome to the next day.
Because of time, we decided to cross out Mount Agou.
Day 15 (June 24 - Sunday): Depart to Hohoe, Ghana Hotel: Comfort Stay - Paid via Airbnb. One night. Two rooms booked. Arrive in Hohoe, Ghana Wli & Tagbo Waterfalls if time. If not, visit next day
Since it rained heavily and we were unable to go to Wome the previous day. We went there in the late morning. It took about an hour on motorbike to get there mostly because of the really bad road. We had to pay a 2,500CFA permission fee at the military post and 500CFA/person entrance fee. The motor bike cost 2,000CFA/person roundtrip.
Wome is a beautiful place. The walk is not long but there are 177 high uneven stairs. After Wome, we went back to town to get a shared taxi to Hohoe. We were pronouncing it Ho ho but the town is actually pronounced ho-hoi. Because of the way we pronounced it, people assumed we were going to Ho (pronounced ho ho). We didn’t know this; hence we were put in a shared taxi going to Ho at around 5.21pm. After we crossed the border at Kpedze, we got into a car we thought was going to Hohoe. We only realized the mistake when they took off the sign on the bus that had Ho.
Anyways, we were told that we couldn’t get a bus going to Hohoe that we would have to go to Ho. We got to Ho at 6.25pm and waited until 6.50pm at Ho bus terminal, we got a bus going to Hohoe. We arrived in Hohoe at 9.20pm.
Day 16 (June 25 - Monday): Depart to Koforidua, Ghana Hotel - Ages Lodge: Paid via Airbnb. One night. Three rooms Arrive in Koforidua
Luckily for us, we were able to arrange a taxi service with the taxi driver that dropped us off to our Airbnb the previous night. We agreed to 90 cedis for the driver to pick us up in the morning, take us to Wli and Tagbo falls and drop us at the Hohoe bus terminal. He came to pick us up to Wli Waterfalls first. The entrance for Wli is 50 cedis for the 3 hours hike to the lower and upper falls. Wli has two falls – you can walk to the lower one and view the second one after a really steep climb.
It’s 40 mins easy walk to the lower falls which is absolutely gorgeous. Then another 30mins uphill walk to the viewing platform for the second falls. I found that uphill walk quite difficult. Twice, I had to sit because I felt extremely dizzy and nauseous. Maybe because I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast the previous day but it was a hard hike for me. Made it to the two-viewing platform and started the descent.
After Wli, we went to Tagbo Falls. The entrance was 20 cedis for Non-Ghanaians. It is a 45minutes walk from the entrance. Another beautiful place. Because our driver was on Ghanaian time, we set out to Wli later than we wanted and he was 2hrs late in picking us from Wli to Tagbo. This meant we didn’t get to Hohoe bus garage (almost an hour drive from Tagbo to Hohoe bus garage) until 7pm. We were able to get on the last bus to Koforidua at 7.07pm. Arrived at our hotel in Koforidua at 1am.
Day 17 (June 26 - Tuesday): Koforidua sightsee & depart to Accra Hotel: Downtown Osu - Paid. Booked via Airbnb. Two nights. Two beds Boti Waterfalls Akaa Falls Asenema falls Umbrella Rock Aburi Botanical Garden on the way to Accra Arrive in Accra late
The hotel helped us arrange a taxi to take us to Boti and Akaa Falls. The idea was the taxi would drop off at the Koforidua bus terminal after Boti and Akaa Falls then we would get a bus going to Accra and get off at Asenema which is in Akpong on the way to Accra. Anyways, the taxi driver didn’t know the way so we ended up in Akpong where Asenema Falls. We took that opportunity to see Asenema Falls, it’s by the road, only a 5 mins walk. There was no fee.
After seeing it, the driver was given the right directions to Boti Falls. Cost was 20 cedis for Non-Ghanians and 10 cedis for Ghanians. Easy walk, you will have to go down 255 stairs but you don’t feel it. Really beautiful. After the Boti, we took the easy way to Umbrella Rock. You can elect to do a 45mins hike there or a 10-15minutes drive so we took that option. After the drive, you would still have to walk about 10mins.
Driving back from the Umbrella Rock, we stooped at Akaa Falls which is on the same road. We paid 10 cedis in total for 2 people. There was no price listed and we claimed to be Ghanians. The walk is similar to that of Boti but not up to 255 stairs. We were the only ones at the Falls.
Because of time, we decided to cut Aburi Gardens from the list. We made our way to the Koforidua Bus Station and began the 2hrs or so journey to Accra – our last destination J.
Day 18 (June 27 - Wednesday): Accra, Ghana Sightseeing
We didn’t do any sightseeing in Accra. All three of us had visited Accra several times before. We just relaxed, did laundry, eat and celebrated the end of this adventure.
Day 19 (June 28 -Thursday): Departure * Kunbi departs for the airport around 12.30pm * Star & Shola departs for Lagos in the morning
Star and Shola left the Airbnb around 5.30am to begin their road trip back to Lagos. I slept in and left around 12noon to the airport for my flight to Sao Tome and Principe.
My Overall Review:
I knew that I didn’t want to do this trip solo which was why I invited two friends. One couldn’t make it and the other – Star, invited her other friend Shola. It turned out to be a great trip with them. They have mad negotiating skills especially Shola. She was in charge of negotiating taxi fares. Star was in charge of food. I just chilled Lol. Shola was nicknamed the mountain goat because she climbs just like a mountain goat lol. We created great memories.
The worst experience on the trip was the experience at the Seme border and the driver situation from Kara to Kpalime, Togo. But they weren’t experience that had the ability to ruin a trip. The big cities of Benin, Togo and Ghana but challenge yourself to see the other parts of those country.
Thanks for reading J
Diary of my West African Road Trip…..
Traveling across West Africa had been on my mind for a while now. It became intense when I moved to Nigeria in Sept 2012. For one reason or the other, this desire remained just a dream (although I had visited Ghana in 2011 and traveled to Rep. of Benin (several times) and Togo since my move to Nigeria, It still wasn’t the same as road tripping from Lagos, Nigeria to Dakar, Senegal. Anyways, at the end of December, I decided to finally do this road trip. I didn’t make it to Senegal (limited time and money), I covered 4 countries and 8 cities/town in 11 days. This will probably be the longest post I’ve written so go grab a bowl (or 2) of popcorn and a bottle of soft drink.
December 30th: I arrived at the motor park/bus station (Mile 2) at 7.20am, the car to the border left immediately. One hour later, we arrived at the Seme border. I had a smooth, hassle free border crossing at the infamous Seme border (Nigeria – Rep. of Benin). I was in shock at the Aflao border (Togo-Ghana) –this border has about the same (if not more) numbers of hustlers as Seme border, only difference, women hustle at Aflao. “You will be silly not to give me your passport & I’ll get it stamped for you” said one of the hustlers. FYI, you will be making a grave mistake giving your passport to anyone that is not a uniformed immigration or custom official.
At 2pm, I’m in a bus to Abidjan. Now this is when the adventure began. We had the most annoying bus driver ever. He would stop so often and wouldn’t tell us why. During this journey, I was chatting with a friend, below read the conversation – that’s the best way to enjoy the painful 11hrs trip from Aflao border to the Ghana-Ivory Coast border.
Me: Lord, this bus driver is f***ing annoying. He keeps stopping for no reason! Oh sh**! The border is 12hrs away! Can’t believe I didn’t do my research
Friend: So sorry. Tell him you will curse his new year in Yoruba if he doesn’t get his sh** together and drive non-stop.
Me: D Igbo and Ivorian guys already cursing him lol. Imagine we have to donate money to bribe Ivorian military at checkpoint! I’ll have to sleep at the border. I should have just gone to Accra for the night instead. Oh well.
Friend: So sorry mama…Chai!
Me: Our bus driver is officially crazy, dude just stopped to play lottery. We still on the road -met bad a** traffic. I must learn French!
Friend: Lol, I like him. He’s like sc**w these passengers!
Me: We still 3hrs or so away from d border o. And he just stopped to wash his face
Friend: lol, sorry am laughing. 18hrs of travel time
Me: Imagine! and no scenery, just mud houses and overgrown weed. Y do I do this?
Friend: #lanigeriana, #cote’dvoire, #nomad, #ambuiltforthis
Me: hmm. Our driver just asked for chewing gum o!
Friend: Lol, why do I feel like am following a very funny comedy?
Me: D dude is something! One can’t even sleep, not with d way he presses d brake. Passengers have requested loud music. That will keep all of us, including the driver awake. D best part, the driver just asked us which way to he take! WTF!
Friend: Am praying for all of you! This guy don craze, confirm
Me: Imagine driver stopped again. He went to eat bread & egg >:O. It’s past midnight, we in a dead town and he just doesn’t care.
We finally arrived at the border at 1am, off course it was close since 6.30pm. Along with other passengers, we stayed at a canteen (border eatery shack) sipping tea and watching Nollywood (Nigerian movies) until 6.30am when the border reopened. At this point I was dirty, hungry and lacking sleep.
December 31st: The border crossing was the worse so far, as soon as we got to the Ghanaian part, people started running, pushing and acting real immature. Finally it gets to my turn, I show them my passport and vaccination card, everything ok but I had to pay 2 Ghanaian Cedis. Ok, no problem, I can afford to ‘give’ them that. Moved to the Ivorian side, first they search all your luggage/bag – you bring everything out one by one, one of the army guys refuses to let me go for 20mins saying I’ll be his wife. Guess he saw I wasn’t in the mood for BS, he let me go. I reach the vaccination area, guy takes my card aside and sends me to another person. This person goes on to say I don’t have meningitis vaccine card! Really, only yellow fever is required, but for reasons known to only them, they wanted to see the meningitis vaccination as well. Mofos tried unsuccessful to force me take the vaccination. I refused, after 30mins of argument, he let me go. Then on to the immigration section where they had the nerve to inflate normal fee by 500% just because my Nigerian passport was issued in New York. He (the official) told one of the Ivorian guys on my bus I looked rich!! Really guy, if I was rich, trust me I wouldn’t bother with borders, I would fly!! At that point, I was ready to say f*** it, I’m going back. In the end, some Ivorian guy paid a third of the fee they wanted. I’m now extremely pissed & hungry. After 28hrs on bus travel (includes wait time at border), I arrived in Abidjan and fell in love immediately.
Note: at all West African borders I’ve crossed, officials always ask for a fee (usually equivalent of USD$1). No one knows if this fee is legal or not especially for West African citizen (there’s a free movement agreement). Anyways, everyone pays this fee because really $1 is nothing. However, when they start demanding more than that, you insist on the $1….
Abidjan is now my favorite city (after Lagos off course) in West Africa, I wouldn’t mind living here. The food is delicious. The people are awesome and I simply connected with Abidjan. Later in the evening, we went to Assinne, a lake town 2hrs from Abidjan to spend New Year Eve. The lodge we stayed at was amazing, a paradise that I wished I could call home. Now, I know where to go to take solace whenever I feel down or have mid-life crisis. We (my host & I) spent the remaining evening cooking & chatting by the lake. I fell asleep before midnight, missed most of the firework display. I didn’t mind, it was the best New Year eve for me thus far.
Jan 1st: spent a good part of the day at the beach and returned to Abidjan in the evening. We hung out with friends of my host at a bar. Ivoirians love to enjoy life, the vibe was good, people were happy. It was a pleasant evening.
Jan 2nd: attempted to purchase a train ticket to Burkina Faso. It would be my first time taking the train in Africa; I was pretty excited so you can imagine how sad I was when the train people said they had not resumed service for the year. I had to get a bus ticket instead. The rest of the day was spent hanging out with jolly people.
Jan 3rd: I left my host’s house at 6.30am because the bus was leaving at 7am. We get to the bus station, no bus. Bus agent tells us to hold on. 8am, still no bus. At 9.30am, bus was ready to leave. I got a rude shock, it wasn’t a coach/luxurious bus like I assumed, rather a mini bus. I paid 24,000CFA (USD$50) the previous day for a direct bus to Bobo, Burkina Faso. But I saw people paying 5,000 (USD9.30) for the same bus. I was getting confused, couldn’t clarify since I don’t speak French. When we got to a city called Bouake after several hours, everybody (except me) gets down from the bus, and then I was completely confused. I found someone that speaks somewhat English and told him where I’m going to, they take me to another minivan type of bus going to Burkina Faso. Okay, I didn’t have to pay anything but others paid 10,000CFA (USD$20). Basically, I was ripped off in Abidjan because I paid $20 more than the actual cost. We left Bouake at 3.15pm. At Bouake, I became somewhat self-conscious because I barely saw any female without her hair covered. They were also dressed extra conservative, it was very different from mode of life in Abidjan where liberal was the norm.
Another shocker – luggage, sacks of rice, onions, corn, maize were put on the floor of the van in such a way that you would have to put your legs on them instead of the floor – making it pretty uncomfortable. From Abidjan to Bouake, there were several military-police checkpoint, while I was awake; we were stopped by about 10 of them. They all were given ‘tip’ by the bus driver. The military or police officer didn’t move from their stand under the shade, the bus driver would have to park by the side of the road and go give them the money.
From Bouake onward, military stops/checkpoint increased, after a while the military guys also asked to see passport/travelling document, they delayed but eventually collected money from non-passport holders (only at one checkpoint, they collected money from all passengers). Finally at 11.20pm we arrived at the border :). Border control still opened!!! 🙂 :). My passport was stamped at 11.29pm. At 12.20am, we passed yet another Ivory Coast border control- all passengers had to get down to show stamped passport etc. The border control area was like an open market place – anything, everything was for sale. Vendors and travelers had their touch/flash light, buying & selling. I attached myself to a family; one of them spoke fairly understandable English so he was my quasi translator. At 12.55am, we at the Burkina Faso side, my passport was stamped by 12.57am. WoW!!! The immigration officer was a pleasant old man, far better than all of the Ivorian immigration folks.
We were on the road to Bobo in no time. However, at 3.35am, one of the tires busted :(. It took about 10mins to fix it and we were on the road again. Sadly an hour later, another tire busted – why don’t these bus operators have good spare tires? Well, there was no more spare tire so from 4am to sunrise at 6.30am, we slept in the bus (all 24 passengers) in the middle of nowhere. Man, it was cold (harmattan session) but I was grateful I had my pashmina scarf and sarong with me. At 7am, the bus driver was able to hitch ride to get the tire fixed. In the mist of all these inconveniences, one passenger was blasting Naija (Nigerian) music, everyone including the old men & women were singing along to wizkid, chop my money, limpopo, kukure etc. I guess the music pretty much calmed everyone. Driver is back at 9am and finally we on our way to Bobo. Aah, Bobo is just 40mins away from where the bus stopped! Imagine!!!
Jan 4th: Tried to get a room at a popular guesthouse but none was available :(. I was referred to another one, no hot water for shower and I was the only guest there. Decided to go sightseeing, Bobo is supposed to be the cultural capital of Burkina Faso; however I wasn’t feeling the city at all. I went to the Grand Marche, got a sim card and activated my blackberry phone. Made a sudden decision to leave Bobo so went back to the guesthouse (still the only guest), took a taxi to the bus station and got a ticket for 2pm to Banfora. At the bus station, I met a Polish lady – I was soooo excited to talk to someone in English. On getting to Banfora, my new friend & I decided to spend the night at a nearby lake and I would join her in the morning for a tour. Her tour guide took us to a ‘hut type’ hotel by the lake. I had never slept in a hut house so I was looking forward to the experience. The lake (Lake Tengrela) was peaceful and exactly what I needed to relax. My hut room was bare, simple but comfortable. The toilet at the hut hotel was pit latrine (a hole in the ground kind of). Shower was cold bucket bath. The meal was delicious.
Jan 5th: Next morning, we went to a waterfall – Karfiguela Falls. One word to describe Karfiguela is Astonishing! We also visited Fabedougou Domes, really cool place. I couldn’t do any more sightseeing because I had to catch the 1pm bus to Ouagadougou (Ouaga). I arrived at Ouaga at 8pm. I slept off not too long after I arrived at my host’s place.
Jan 6th: The day was spent exploring Ouaga with my host, trying to find an ATM that worked for Mastercard and chatting with my host’s family. I also bought a bus ticket to Kumasi, Ghana for the next day. What do I think of Ouaga? Well, it’s a lot quiet compared to other capitals in West Africa. It’s not the cleanest city but it’s big on arts & culture. I wished I had more time in Ouaga, if I did, I would attend the elaborate Friday ceremony, visit Thomas Sankara’s grave and explore the artistic hot-spots.
Jan 7th: I’m up early again because bus leaves at 8.30am. I knew I made a mistake on getting to the bus station and seeing the very old bus I would be departing with. I was advised by one of the bus agents to ‘secure’ my seat. I didn’t understand him but went ahead anyways to put my bag on a seat. I then attempted to buy another ticket with a more fancy bus operator but no seat available. I resigned to my fate of enduring a long uncomfortable smelly bus ride. At 9.50am, the fancy bus is leaving, we are still there. I get on the bus to take my seat, this dude then had the nerve to put his smelly jacket on the bag I put on my seat, saying he got there before me. I moved his jacket and sat down, he started cursing me in his local language, I couldn’t be bothered because I knew nothing would make me vacate the seat for him. At 10.15am, the bus is ready to leave; no less than 20 people are standing because off course, they sold more tickets than available seats. Another 15mins delay at the petrol/gas station because of a disagreement between two passengers. I just knew this was going to be a very longgggggggg journey.
The Fulani dress man sitting beside me insisted on conversing with me even though I don’t understand his local language. I pretend to fall asleep, I wake up from my pretend sleep and he picks up from where he stopped talking. I smile and say ‘oui’ to everything he says.
Piece of advice – whatever you do, don’t take SKV international bus company from Ouaga to Ghana, it is the most uncomfortable cramped bus ever. Instead take Imperial Express (they leave 3 times a week (tue, thur and sun), their bus is comfy, with AC). STC is also another option, it is probably the most comfy, and cost is more than other but worth it. They leave mon, wed & fri. Buy your ticket a day or two in advance.
We crossed the border before 9pm, it was one of the most hassle-free thus far.
Jan 8th: We arrived at Kumasi, Ghana at 5am; I proceeded to get a bus to Cape Coast. We got into Cape coast at about 8.30am. I visited the Cape coast castle – sad history. It was the biggest slave holding place in West Africa. The majority of Africans stolen during the slave trade were shipped off from Cape Coast. Today, it is a sleepy fishing town and houses one of Ghana’s biggest universities. I met a Chinese girl at the castle, we did the tour together and I rode with her to Accra. At the entrance of the castle, you will be harassed by young hustlers to ‘donate’ money to some charity school helping boys stay in school. They are very persistent and would even suggest you give USD$20 to the said charity. Question is, are they legit or just preying on tourists?
I intended on spending the night in Accra and returning to Lagos the next day. I had visited Accra before in 2011; I didn’t like it so this was me trying to give Accra a second time to impress me. Well, I still wasn’t impressed so I took a car to Lome where I would connect to Cotonou. Since it would be my last night on the trip, I wanted to spend it in a very special city and Accra wasn’t it. The car to Lome was the most comfortable transport so far on this trip. We got to Lome and I connected to Cotonou.
I didn’t get to Cotonou until 10pm. Glad my favorite restaurant was still open. I had my first real meal of the day and a glass of white wine to celebrate the end of my road trip. Then proceeded to my favorite guesthouse – Guesthouse Cocotier; since both the guesthouse and the restaurant are just two streets apart in the Haie Vive area of Cotonou, it was safe to walk to the guesthouse from the restaurant – Restaurant Livingstone.
Jan 9th: I visited friends, went to my favorite arts & crafts market and simply enjoyed Cotonou. At 3pm, I took the car to the Seme border. As usual, I crossed in a breeze. Five hours later at 8pm, I arrived to my house. After several hours in uncomfortable buses and sometimes stressful border crossings, it felt great to be back home (I actually did miss it Lagos).
Would I do a road trip again across West Africa? Oh YES, but this time, I would learn French and a few phrases in the dominant local language of each country. It sure helps to speak the language; it opens up doors that would be closed to non-speakers. Was the trip worth the stress? For me, I would say yes. I guess I wouldn’t see it as stress rather as new experiences. I’ll always have a story to tell when you mention Rep. of Benin, Ghana, Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire) and Burkina Faso. 🙂 I’m almost a pro at crossing borders now 🙂
Apart from sleeping in an hut by the lake in Burkina Faso & spending NYE in a lake house (#itwasparadise) in Cote d’Ivoire, other highlight was the love shown to me by the people of these countries just because I’m Nigerian. I was told by many how they love Nigeria and Nigerians and wish to visit some day. Everywhere I went, Nigerian music was the norm……
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The Road to Benin….
My vacation in the Republic of Benin was a much needed one. After 3.5 months in Nigeria, I really needed a time out – Benin was it! I went overland from Nigeria to Benin. It was my first land border crossing in Africa and I was sort of nervous. But it went well. I didn’t have to do much; the international bus I took from Lagos to Cotonou got our passports stamped. I guess that is one of the benefits of the ECOWAS agreement between West Africa countries. The journey took 6 hours. I did not go alone; my Nepali friend came to visit in Nigeria so we went to Benin together.
Cotonou is my favorite city in Benin thus far. Although it is not the capital, it has way more things to do than Porto Novo (the capital). We stayed in a nice guesthouse in Cotonou – a room with double bed cost 12,000 CFA per night, bathroom is shared. We did a lot in Benin. We took day trips to various cities including Ouidah, Abomey, Porto Novo and Lake Gauvie. The good thing about Benin is that these cities were between 1-2 hours apart.
One of the most impressive sights I’ve seen so far in my travels was in Benin – in a city called Gauvie. This city is located on a lake, that is the houses, schools, churches, mosque, salons & everything is built on the lake. Even the market! In the market on the lake, women showcase their wares in their canoes and folks come to them to buy. The history behind the village on the lake is phenomenal. During the slavery era which the Dahomey kings participated fully and captured people to be sold into slavery, many villagers escaped and founded a village on the lake. This prevented them from being captured since the Dahomey soldiers were forbidden from going close to lakes, rivers and streams.
Other activities I enjoyed included visiting several museums, the point of no return and the former Dahomey kingdom of Abomey. I was also happy because things were so cheap in Benin. I felt like a millionaire every time I exchanged my Nigerian Naira to the Benin CFA. I don’t speak French but language wasn’t much of a barrier since I spoke Yoruba (my native language & also a widely spoken local language in Benin).
We met up with a couchsurfer; she is so beautiful and cool. She went to the city of Ouidah with us and along with the Senegalese guys we met at the guesthouse, we went ‘clubbing’. I put ‘clubbing’ in quotation because apparently in Benin, people prefer to drink than dance. So there is not much of a club, it is usually a bar or lounge with a little dance floor space.
Two things unique to Benin – (1) Fuel/Gas/Petrol is sold on the side of the street. They are put in jars of various sizes on a table. I saw only two or so gas/petrol station and these weren’t your typical station. It was just one pumping machine in a small craved out section by the street. (2) Taxis are rare to come by. The preferred mode of transport is the zem (motorbike).
In all, I enjoyed my one week vacation in Benin and I hope to return soon.
I will still blog about my experience in Nigeria since my move in Sept 2012. So much has happened and I’m not quite sure how to begin writing. But I promise, I will post something in the next 2 weeks.